Mastercraftsman has stock to go to work with
Mastercraftsman: has plenty of exciting two-year-old prospects
PICTURE: RP GRAPHICS Mastercraftsman has stock to go to work with
By Martin Stevens 1:51PM 22 MAR 2017
CAST your mind back to the spring of 2014. David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband were the dominant figures in British politics; Brexit was an obscure term that, mentioned without context, would have been met with a puzzled look; and Intense Focus might have been considered an up-and-coming sire. It is only three years ago – yet somehow it all seems like a different world.
Looking back, no doubt, we could find hidden clues to the way things were going to unfold. And that could certainly prove true of the facts and figures from the 2014 breeding season, as a signpost to those stallions entitled to make a good showing with their two-year-old progeny during the approaching campaign.
The likes of Galileo, Dubawi and Invincible Spirit were all firmly established as outstanding sires by then, so it should be business as usual for them. But what of those who were still on an upward curve?
Taking stallion fees as a measure of reputation is not, by any means, always a reliable one as stallion masters are liable to overcharge or, less commonly, underestimate the popularity of their horses. But looking at those whose prices soared after a good year on the track for their progeny in 2013 gives a guide to who should excel this year with runners conceived in the afterglow.
Mastercraftsman was given the biggest fee increase of any stallion in Britain or Ireland between 2013 and 2014 in percentage terms. He went from €12,500 to €35,000 after heading the first-season sire lists both in terms of number of winners and prize-money earned, with wide-margin Racing Post Trophy hero Kingston Hill demonstrating he could transmit class.
Breeders evidently had faith that Mastercraftsman would flourish at stud, as he covered a bumper 188 mares in the months before his first two-year-old runners emerged. But his book swelled again in the following season and the redoubled confidence in him is reflected in the year-on-year increase in the number of black-type winners he covered: up to 45 from 20.
Among the well-bred Mastercraftsman two-year-olds to look forward to this year are Dabble, a half-sister to Pretty Polly Stakes winner Thistle Bird and Australian Group 1 performer McCreery; Saving Grace, a half-sister to Oaks third Lady Of Dubai; Master Diver, a colt out of Phoenix Stakes third Lottie Dod with Sir Mark Prescott; Kingdom Brunel, a brother to Amazing Maria; and The King, a half-brother to smart sprinter Lightning Moon with Jessica Harrington.
The fee history of Iffraaj has more peaks and troughs than the value of sterling against other currencies over the last year. From an introductory €12,000 it fell to half that in 2010, the year he broke the record for the number of two-year-old winners in his first crop. Strangely, the crop bred on the €6,000 fee turned out to be his best, as it yielded the fillies Chriselliam and Rizeena, both Group 1-winning two-year-olds in 2013, as well as Hot Streak, runner-up in the Middle Park Stakes that year.
After those results, the fee for Iffraaj rose to €25,000 in 2014, when he covered 161 mares (from 73 in 2013) including 30 black-type winners (from six). Among the resulting offspring who could this year burnish the sire's fine record with two-year-olds are a brother to Iffraaj's first-crop star Wootton Bassett and a sister to Rizeena, as well as half-siblings to Foundation (Major Partnership, a colt with Saeed Bin Suroor), Halfway To Heaven (Scooter, a colt with Roger Charlton) and Persuasive (Improve, a filly with William Haggas).
With high-class older horses Jungle Cat and Ribchester still in training and good recent results in the southern hemisphere including New Zealand-bred son Gingernuts' victory in the Rosehill Guineas on Saturday, along with all those well-bred youngsters in the wings, it could be a perfect storm to carry Iffraaj into the elite of the stallion ranks by the end of the year.
Dark Angel's reputation was already on a steep ascent in 2013, when his son Lethal Force won two Group 1 sprints and Exogenesis, Heeraat and Lily's Angel also scored in Pattern races. With a subsequent fee increase to €27,500 from €12,500 he actually covered fewer mares in 2014 – 161, down from 191 – but the book had a higher concentration of quality, with 25 black-type winners up from nine.
Weatherbys lists five Dark Angel two-year-olds in training with Sir Michael Stoute, among them a colt out of Musidora Stakes winner Liber Nauticus named Hidden Depths and a half-brother to Sweet Solera Stakes second Midnite Angel bought as a yearling for 700,000gns and called Final Set. That turn of events would have been hard to imagine when the stallion was retired to stud at the end of his two-year-old season at a fee of just €10,000.
Dark Angel's studmate Camacho is another name we should hear more of this season. The half-brother to exciting young sire Showcasing had been dropping out of favour by 2013 when he was leased by Yeomanstown Stud to stand across the Irish Sea at Mickley Stud. But Yeomanstown promptly brought him home and gave him a bump in fee to €7,500, from just £2,750, after he took everyone by surprise by fielding five individual two-year-old stakes winners that year.
He covered 107 mares in 2014, up from 44 in the preceding season, which should give him a more sizeable squad of juvenile runners.
Dandy Man should also have more and better-bred juvenile runners this year, while the flashy pedigrees belonging to New Approach's latest crop of runners will reflect the fact they were born after his debut-crop offspring Dawn Approach and Talent won Classics and Libertarian finished second in the Derby.
Intense Focus should have a good year with his two-year-olds, with an increase in quantity and quality in his book after supplying Middle Park Stakes winner Astaire in his first crop in 2013, although that appeared to be a false dawn as Astaire remains the sire's only European Pattern winner and he has since left the Ballylinch Stud roster.
Better books do not always mean better results. Many breeders will still harbour bitter memories of Fasliyev, one of the most egregious cases of a stallion flattering to deceive. We may also need to exercise patience to see improved performances, as sires are often rewarded for a bold show with their early offspring with more classically bred mares whose runners will need more time.
But the sires listed in the table (below) have the ammunition to succeed with their juveniles this year and it would be disappointing if Camacho, Clodovil and Mastercraftsman were to go the way of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband.
STALLIONS WITH BIGGEST FEE INCREASES IN 2014
Stallion 2013 fee 2014 fee % increase 2013 book 2014 book BTW covered 2013 BTW covered 2014
Mastercraftsman €12,500 €35,000 180 188 221 20 45
Iffraaj €10,000 €25,000 150 73 161 6 30
Camacho £2,750 €7,500 136 44 107 0 2
Dark Angel €12,500 €27,500 120 197 161 9 25
Dutch Art £18,000 £35,000 94149 114 25 21
Dandy Man €4,000 €7,500 88 146 165 5 3
Intense Focus €5,500 €10,000 82 127 78 3 7
Clodovil €7,500 €12,000 60 98 82 3 1
New Approach £50,000 £80,000 60 126 122 54 67
Teofilo €35,000 €50,000 43 153 151 32 30