Posts

Yes, Sire: The Top Royal Ascot Stallions

Every year during late June, Royal Ascot showcases the very best of British - and, increasingly, global - racing. As well as the heritage, the social aspects and the racing, opportunities abound for colts to advertise their worth as potential stallions when their track careers are over.

Curiously, perhaps, the leading Royal Ascot sire of recent generations never graced the meeting, though he did win the King George and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at the course a few weeks later, in 2001. I refer, of course, to Galileo, who was between Derby victories at Epsom and the Curragh when the Berkshire jamboree was playing out.

Here's how the sire table stacks up since 2009 (ten renewals of Royal Ascot, and therefore 300 races in total):

Top Royal Ascot sires, 2009+

Top Royal Ascot sires, 2009+

 

Galileo

In the interests of completeness, it should be noted that prior to the start of the study period, Galileo was already on the scoreboard with a Queen's Vase winner - his inaugural Royal Ascot stallion strike - courtesy of Mahler in 2007, and a brace of Jim Bolger-trained fillies, Cuis Ghaire (Albany) and Lush Lashes (Coronation) in 2008.

Just a further Queen's Vase victor followed in the next two years before, in 2011, the racing world was set alight by a couple of colts who had met the year before on their respective racecourse debuts. The winner of that somewhat above average (cough) maiden was a chap called Frankel, and he was no more than a half length too good for a lad named Nathaniel.

Both Frankel (St James's Palace) and Nathaniel (King Edward VII) enhanced their burgeoning reputations with wins at the Royal meeting, the unbeaten-in-fourteen-lifetime former enduring the closest finish of his career (debut aside) when less than efficiently ridden to get the better of Zoffany.

The smart filly Maybe also prevailed in 2011, beating the boys in the Chesham, a juvenile race over seven furlongs.

A year later and Frankel was flying the flag for Galileo once more, this time in the straight mile Queen Anne, one of the most exhilarating performances I've ever had the privilege to witness in the flesh. Just a wow moment, even now.

At a slightly less rarefied altitude, Gatewood doubled Galileo's 2012 score in the Wolferton Stakes.

A blank in 2013 was followed by a single in 2014, Telescope bagging the Hardwicke for Sir Michael Stoute.

And then the floodgates opened. Royal Ascot 2015 witnessed a hat-trick for the pre-eminent stallion, courtesy of Curvy (Ribblesdale), Aloft (Queen's Vase) and, most notably one of this year's freshman sires, Gleneagles (St James's Palace).

In 2016, a nap hand was completed by Churchill (Chesham), Kinema (Duke of Edinburgh), Sir Isaac Newton (Wolferton), Sword Fighter (Queen's Vase) and Order of St George (Gold Cup).

Two years ago, it was another treble thanks to Idaho (Hardwicke), Winter (Coronation), and Highland Reel (Prince of Wales's); before a double last season in the Ribblesdale (Magic Wand) and, for a fifth time no less, the Queen's Vase (Kew Gardens).

Phew!

There are a couple of noteworthy sub-texts to the overall Galileo figaro's (sorry, couldn't resist).

Not many two-year-old Galileos are mature enough to race so early in the season but, from the eleven to do so in the last decade, two won (both in the seven furlong Chesham). [NB As mentioned above, Cuis Ghaire also won the six furlong Albany Stakes in 2008]

Aidan O'Brien has trained 94 of the 184 Royal Ascot Galileo runners since 2009, which is as close to half as doesn't matter. He's bagged 13 of the 20 wins, which is as close to two-thirds as doesn't matter. O'Brien has further backed that up with 37 of the 60 placed horses, again pretty close to two-thirds.

Your first 30 days for just £1

The bad news for those of us who like to wager is that, no matter how you cut it, there's no profit to be had from this super sire... with one possible exception: Galileo has sired five winners of the Queen's Vase, four at the old two-mile trip and the most recent of the two at the reduced 1m6f range last year. Backing all Galileo progeny in the Queen's Vase would have netted a profit of 30.83 points on 22 bets. Alas, that is all down to a single winner, 33/1 Sword Fighter, and is thus a most unreliable angle for all that a far shorter-priced Galileo may again prevail next week.

 

The three D's

A mate of mine has a saying. In betting, he preaches, all you need is the three D's: discipline, discipline, and discipline. While that is a key factor, there is more to life than discipline, just as there is more to the Royal Ascot stallion roster than Galileo.

Here, the D's are Dubawi, Dansili and Danehill Dancer. Which is actually four D's now I think about it.

Dubawi

In any other era, Dubawi would have lorded it over his progenitor peer group in the way that 'the big G' does. Even in that one's considerable shadow, the Darley flag-bearer wields vast power. His 13 Royal Ascot winners in the past decade is second in the table, yielding a small profit for blind backers (who are these people?).

The battle lines between Coolmore and Darley have been drawn and repeatedly retraced over the past two decades. Evidence exists all over racing's landscape, none more so than in the microcosm of those skirmishes, Royal Ascot.

Dubawi's numerical deficit in terms of winners is mitigated somewhat by a higher winning strike rate. However, just a single Group 1 winner - Al Kazeem in the 2013 Prince Of Wales's Stakes - attests to the gulf in class between these captains of their industry.

 

Backing Dubawi progeny outside of the top grade is a no brainer 'in', and it would have yielded 12 winners from 79 bets for an SP profit of 28.63 points (circa 50 points at exchange prices). That said, last year's 1 from 16 (-10.5 points) would have dented confidence.

As an aside, we can see from the above that dodging Galileo's outside of Pattern class (1 win from 54 starters) looks a very smart strategy, his Royal runners seemingly either very good or, well, not very good.

Dansili

Dansili is perhaps a slightly less fashionable stallion, though clearly one capable of producing smart racehorses: the likes of The Fugue and especially Harbinger were capable of brilliance on their day. From a betting perspective, Dansili has more entries in the handicaps than the aforementioned super sires and that hurts his overall statistics.

Focusing only on Pattern runners, Dansili has eleven winners from 58 runners (+10.23). Again, though, he's 0 from 13 in the last three years, which tempers enthusiasm.

Danehill Dancer

And the D's are concluded by Danehill Dancer, whose strike rate of nearly 16% is impressive. He has very few runners now, having died in 2017 aged 24. Three interesting snippets are that his eleven winners in the past decade include three dual scorers (Qemah, Duntle and Forgotten Voice); seven of the wins were by fillies (Qemah and Duntle two each, plus Osaila, Lillie Langtry and Memory); and eight of the wins were at a mile.

 

More Recently...

Although the top sires have longevity, all around them fashions change almost from season to season. So it is worth homing in on a shorter time window, in this case the last five years, to see if any patterns are emerging.

King of the hill remains Galileo (14 wins), but Dubawi is joined in second place by Scat Daddy (seven wins apiece).

Again we're in double territory as both Lady Aurelia and Caravaggio notched twice for this very high strike rate stallion who sadly died in 2015, aged just 11.

Shamardal, whose team is headed by Blue Point, and Sea The Stars, captained by Stradivarius, are next best on five wins, with Frankel, Mastercraftsman, Zoffany and Invincible Spirit on four.

Those nine stallions were responsible for 54 of the 150 winners at the last five Royal Ascot festivals, from just 414 of the 2409 runners. That's 36% of the winners from 17% of the runners.

Leading Royal Ascot sires, 2014-2018

Leading Royal Ascot sires, 2014-2018

 

The least successful

It is always dangerous making predictions on the basis of small datasets but such is the lot of the punter. A horse has only a few (relatively) runs in its career, a stallion throws only a few Royal Ascot runners, and I've backed only a few Royal Ascot winners!

So, in spite of it making little sense to data philosophers like Taleb, we plough on in search of micro angles which may - just may - have some crumb of legitimacy (or luck, the outcome being the same) about them.

To that end, consider the case of Cape Cross, one of the finest stallions of his generation. Three winners in 2011 seemingly heralded the start of a glittering career at the Royal meeting. Another winner in each of the next two seasons kept the dream alive but, since 2014, it's been an unbroken run of defeats, 37 and counting for the Darley A-lister. In fairness, plenty were at huge prices and a couple did run second, but a place rate of 19% is some way below the level of most of those in the table above.

Other 'name' stallions on zero wins in the last five years include Mount Nelson (23 runners), Rock Of Gibraltar (19), Zebedee and Sir Percy (18 each), Tamayuz, Arcano, Azamour and Medicean (all 17), Lawman (16) and Dandy Man (15).

The quartet of Bahamian Bounty (14), Royal Applause (13), Pastoral Pursuits and Dream Ahead (10 each) have failed to record even a placed runner in the last five years.

Any of that might change next week but, on balance, it's better to be aware of such numbers than not. It might save us a quid or two.

 

The Last Word

Galileo is expected to retain his stranglehold on proceedings next week, though there will likely be little nourishment from a wagering viewpoint. Dubawi, especially outside of G1 class, is worth a look in spite of his clunker last year; and so too may be Mastercraftsman and Zoffany.

To add these to your Query Tool Angles, select:
DATE - Month: June (change 'to' date to 30th June 2029)
RACE - Course: Ascot
RUNNER - Sire: Dubawi, Mastercraftsman, Zoffany (plus any others you like the look of)

Next, click Generate Report. Then go to the ANGLES tab, enter a title (say, Royal Ascot Sires) and click 'Add Angle'. Voila!

As the five day entries come in you'll see potential runners in the Angles tab (when you've selected the appropriate angle); and then from the 48 hour declaration stage, you'll see qualifying runners listed both on your QT Angles report and behind the blue QT Angles numbers on the racecard. See the User Guide for more info.

Good luck!

Matt

Tuesday Musings: Sorry I’m Late…

A week and a day ago I predicted an action-packed four days in Ireland for the three old boys, writes Tony Stafford. The actuality was far more than that, starting with a quirky night at Newbridge, one of the country’s truly authentic small greyhound tracks, through the delights of Leopardstown, Shelbourne Park (dogs again) and The Curragh, and ending with a photo-call with the peerless Galileo at Coolmore stud.

The easy way to cover it would have been to dwell on Champions Weekend on Ireland’s two principal racecourses – even if The Curragh is still in the to-be-built phase of its multi-million redevelopment – and then the concluding part yesterday at the world’s premier stud farm. In the event other individuals made just as much an impact on me as the established stars.

Women in the media and on television do have a far better chance of success now than even one generation ago, and I predict that someone I’d never met before 9.30 p.m. on Saturday is going to make a major impact on British, never mind Irish, racing television in the coming years.

Step forward Sarah Kinsella, a 29-year-old farmer’s daughter from near Swords in North Co Dublin. She’s single-minded, and from the little I’ve seen and the volumes I’ve heard for the most part as some serious players on the Irish horse scene passed by at The Curragh the following afternoon, she’ll be a player.

“Saw you on RTE 2 last night, you were great!” was an approximation of the general reaction to her first ever broadcast. She was the form expert on the hour and a half live show crafted around the two semi-finals of the Boylesports Irish Greyhound Derby at Shelbourne, just along the road from Lansdowne Road where a little earlier Leinster had completed a 52-14 win against the Dragons.

Sarah’s credentials it seems were manifold. For the past 15 years, as she related to us, after joining as a guest of the ebullient Leon Blanche, BoyleSports PR man and top representative at the track she has been a regular. She was in like-minded company. Harry Taylor and I both had thousands of days at the greyhounds in the era far off when there were more than 20 tracks in London alone.

Alan “Ginger” Newman will have clocked up a good many more as a track bookmaker for well over 50 years. “When Romford gets going properly again I’ll be adding to the numbers”, he says, dismayed but never crushed by the sport’s decline. “At least it seems Corals are finally putting some money into it.”

There was no sign of obvious decline, certainly on semi-finals night, at Shelbourne, where the main sponsors helped boost the overall prize pool to €300,000 and winner’s prize for next Saturday when Sarah will again be behind the mic, to €140,000 – figures that would not be out of place up the road with the horses. The restaurant was buzzing, the food excellent and the crowd reminiscent of those former glories at White City.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Ms Kinsella told us she writes a dog racing column in the Irish Star newspaper. In agreeing she could describe herself as a professional greyhound tipster, she evoked memories of my own role at the Greyhound Express around 1967-69, easily rekindled by the challenge of a page of a dog race line-up – not that I deciphered any on Saturday!

Sarah also works at the races for a bookmaker and on Sunday, though not on duty, she phoned through a €20 winning bet to her boss on Moyglare Stud Stakes winner Skitter Scatter at a best-priced 9-2. Next stage after Saturday night will be a move away from the 50 acres of beef cattle and greyhound rearing for a job with Ben Keith’s Star Sports team in London. In the meantime she’s looking forward to selling – at a thousand a pop she hopes – the ten pups (five boys, five girls) her own classy racing and coursing bitch <name lost in translation> has produced from US import and Cheshire-based stud dog, Pat C Sabbath.  She says her pride and joy followed a Friday night win in a €1500 final with victory two days later in an important coursing stake – one that her father (70 last Sunday) tried to win for 30 years without achieving it.

Already the phones are buzzing on both scores and it is not difficult to imagine her bubbly personality enlivening the sometimes pedestrian RPGTV offerings over the coming winter. She assures me she finds the winners, too.

The night before at Newbridge, close to The Curragh, we joined Aidan Walsh as he completed a 43-year continuous sponsorship of the Texacloth Juvenile Derby Open. Walsh was there with wife Caren and it was good to renew acquaintance with them and another York August regular, Charlie McCreevy, former Irish Finance Minister and for more than eight years a director of Ryanair, with which firm, owners of Gigginstown House stud, we flew to our jaunt. I asked whether he thought €7 for a cup of tea and a cut-down bottle of Pepsi Max (presented in reply to a request for a diet coke) was reasonable. I expect him to bring it up at the next board meeting. Go to it Charlie!

Ballydoyle got both St Legers over the weekend, Kew Gardens with an emphatic brushing aside of the expected challenge from the favourite Lah Ti Da at Doncaster and then the equally-convincing success of Flag of Honour, much too good for Joseph’s Irish Derby winner Latrobe in a race where the three-year-olds took centre stage for once.

The home team came out second best in Saturday’s two biggest races but both Alpha Centauri, unable to peg back the tough Laurens in the Coolmore-sponsored Matron Stakes, and Saxon Warrior, denied by Roaring Lion in the Irish Champion Stakes, finished with career-ending injuries. Certainly when Saxon Warrior quickened so dramatically from an already-superior position so close to the finish, it seemed impossible he could have been caught.

The clue came on the head on after he had been caught in the last strides. All the way through the last furlong he was edging into the rail and there was nothing Ryan Moore could do to prevent it. His tendon injury will mean yet another brilliant colt will be going back to Coolmore.

On Sunday, there was no more popular winner than Skitter Scatter, a first Group 1 triumph for Patrick Prendergast, latest representative of the family that, through Paddy from the late 1940’s, provided most competition to Vincent O’Brien. Skitter Scatter was ridden by Ronan Whelan and I managed to get a word with him during his understandably-euphoric progress back to the weigh room.

Ronan, his father Tom, and agent Larry Stratton, clubbed together to pay 42,000gns for Ray Tooth’s foal homebred by Garswood – Lawyers Choice last November, and when I mentioned it to him – after appropriate congratulation – he was quick to say “Sod’s Law <his three-year-old half-brother retained for racing by Ray> won well at Ffos Las on Thursday.”

In reply to my enquiry about how well has he done in the interim, Ronan said “He’s twice the size of today’s winner, anyway” and he is looking forward with some anticipation to Tattersalls Book 2 where he is due to go through the Park Paddocks ring once more.

One further generation will also be there for the foal sale the following month. This year’s offering, a flashy chestnut full-brother to Sod’s Law consigned by Andrew Spalding’s Hedgeholm Stud, will not be harmed if one relative follows up at Ascot in two weeks and another takes the fancy of the bidders later in the month.

Going back to Ireland for the first time in a while, it was impossible not to notice the industry of the two principal television presenters there, Gary O’Brien and Kevin O’Ryan, the latter there on Sunday with agent father Bobby, a one-time Jim Bolger head lad.

Kevin is a major jockeys’ agent with ten Flat and a select couple (Davy Russell and Jack Kennedy) of jump jockeys on his list. He also happens to be a brother-in-law of Aidan O’Brien – both are married to daughters of Joe Crowley.

One of his jockeys is Chris Hayes, firmly in the top flight now and further boosted by the impressive win of Madhmoon in the Group 2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes on Saturday. I’d not really spoken to Chris since the day – as he readily recalled as 2005 – when he came over to Hamilton as a 16-year-old to ride a very modest filly for me.

He came to Brian Ellison’s attention that day and Brian liked what he saw and wanted him for a couple the next week at Beverley. As Chris remembered: “He thought it would help if I rode an outsider of his in an earlier race to get to know the track. He won at 50-1 while the other two disappointed.” Chris, or Chesney as he’s universally known for his one-time ultra-youthful resemblance to one of Coronation Street’s child stars, still rides many of Ellison’s Irish raiders.

The meeting with Galileo in his paddock yesterday was so evocative for me. Neil Magee came out to show him to us and said how remarkable it is that he has matched his late sire Sadler’s Wells’ achievement of producing 73 Group or Grade 1 winners. “Nobody thought it could ever be equalled. Surely he’ll set a properly unbeatable number before he finishes.”

Monday Musings: £23k per second

What, if anything, are your memories of Royal Ascot 2006? A slightly incongruous question seeing that it’s almost ten and a half years ago, but a few elements of the fixture are indelibly stamped on the admittedly-failing memory, writes Tony Stafford.

The first concerns Royal Hunt Cup day, the Wednesday, when the race winners included Soviet Song (in the recently instituted Windsor Forest Stakes), Ouija Board (Prince of Wales), and Red Evie, thrillingly with a late trademark run under Jamie Spencer in the Sandringham Handicap.

That was her fifth of seven successive victories for owner Terry Neill and the Michael Bell stable and a winning bet for your correspondent. Two days later, arriving early, I sat for some time with the late George Ward, getting around eventually to breeding. I suggested he should try to book any suitable mares as soon as possible for the following year to Derby winner Galileo as I was sure Coolmore would be putting up his covering fee.

George said that the in my mind bargain figure was still way beyond his reach for the type of mares he owned. After I finished my drink and left, I moved along the second floor of the main stand to Coolmore’s box. I knocked at the door and asked the attendant whether I could have a quick word with John Magnier.

I was told he was speaking to his daughter so could I wait a moment, and then was ushered in, through a packed throng of people just finishing lunch. I can picture exactly where we exchanged the few words, which after introductions were to the effect: “Hello John, I’m not sure you realise what you’ve got with Galileo. He has eight runners, all three-year-olds, on this card today, from his first crop. That must be almost a mathematical impossibility.” He probably did, but I felt I had to mention it.

None of the eight managed to win that day, although Red Rocks and Sixties Icon, second and third in the King Edward VII Stakes for Brian Meehan and Jeremy Noseda, and The Last Drop, 17th of 19 in the King George V Handicap, were to fill the first three places in the St Leger three months later, Sixties Icon turning the form around at York – Doncaster was closed that year.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Red Rocks, third at York, went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf that autumn. In all there were five sons of Galileo in that St Leger along with two more by his sire Sadler’s Wells, two by Montjeu and one each by Desert Prince and Lomitas. Of the eight, only one was in the care of O’Brien, but that soon changed, as did the stud fee, quadrupled from the €37,500 in 2006 to €150,000 the following year. The 2006 St Leger 1-2-3 obviously helped, but the dramatic acceleration was made inevitable by the subsequent unbeaten juvenile season of second-crop colt Teofilo who did not make his debut until the following month.

Returning to Red Evie, after a couple more wins the following year, she was offered at the December Sale, but was led out unsold at a million guineas. Coolmore later acquired her privately and whatever figure Terry Neill eventually secured, it was clearly a fair profit on the 58,000gns he paid for her as a yearling to Timmy Hyde’s Camas Park Stud. Since then Red Evie has been routinely covered by Galileo and her third produce turned out to be Found, long regarded by Ryan Moore as a potential champion.

Yesterday at Chantilly, Found confirmed that status with an emphatic triumph as she led home an extraordinary 1-2-3 for O’Brien and Galileo four-year-olds with fellow multiple Group 1 winners Highland Reel and Order of St George filling the places. Major owners often take plenty of criticism for their policy of prematurely packing star three-year-olds off to stud, but this trio and other predecessors like St Nicholas Abbey show this operation is much more selective.

When, as with The Gurkha this year, injury interrupts a stellar career, stud is the only option, but the riches available in the major international races mean more and more top animals will be staying in training at four and above. Multiple entries in big races is nothing new for O’Brien or the sire, but for once Galileo had fewer challengers for Europe’s showpiece than Dubawi, his great but now well-held rival, who was responsible for four.

I’ve been unsuccessful in my admittedly sparing attempts to find track records for Chantilly, but Found’s time of just inside 2min 24 sec seems fast as it’s a shade under 12 seconds per furlong. The Juliet Rose won the previous day’s Group 2 for Nicolas Clement in seven seconds more!
Earlier in the summer I pointed out here that Aidan O’Brien’s British exploits in the week between the King George (Highland Reel) and Goodwood’s Nassau Stakes (Minding) brought more prizemoney than any English trainer had earned for his patrons in the entire year.

Yesterday, the O’Brien Trifecta brought a total of £3.36m, again more than any English trainer has so far earned in the UK, none having yet broken the £3m barrier. For the Coolmore partners, this was representing a prizemoney return of more than £23,000 per second for the 2min23.61sec (more than five seconds faster than the Racing Post standard time).

O’Brien now has 18 Group or Grade 1 wins worldwide, with nine in the UK, three in France, five in Ireland and Deauville’s Belmont Derby win in the US. More seem certain to follow, starting possibly with Churchill in the Dewhurst next weekend; several obvious chances on Champions Day and the guarantee of a major challenge at the Breeders’ Cup in Santa Anita next month.

At the moment it’s at least £15million and counting and yet the trainer consistently attaches most of the credit to everyone at Ballydoyle and Coolmore, not least: “The owners, who send me such lovely horses to train.”

Only four of the seven other trainers who supplied Galileo colts (and one filly) that 2006 Royal Ascot day are still active, but I’m sure Messrs Meehan, Noseda, Channon and Weld must be wishing that Coolmore did not have quite such a stranglehold on the best of them.

I missed Newmarket on Saturday where Alice Springs (Galileo) made yet another step up the O’Brien in-house ratings with a fluent success in the Sun Chariot Stakes, instead favouring Ascot, where the highlight was Shalaa’s successful comeback after being off since winning last year’s Middle Park Stakes.

He’ll be back for the big sprint on Champions Day where John Gosden is equipped to clinch second place in the trainers’ title. We’ll be back there too for the Balmoral Handicap with Ray Tooth’s homebred, Dutch Law, despite his slightly disappointing close-up 11th in Saturday’s Totesport-sponsored handicap after looking a real contender two out.

Yesterday, Hughie Morrison reckoned: “Charlie <Bennett> got a little excited, but he’ll have to be more patient over a mile. Dutch Law looked great this morning and I’d love to run him. When do you get the chance to run for a share of £250,000?” In the case of Aidan and the team, Hughie, pretty much every day of the week. By the way, if Morrison’s Sweet Selection gets in the Cesarewitch on Saturday, I reckon she’s a handicap certainty.