The sophomore sires who soared in 2016
Almanzor: flew the flag for his second-season sire Wootton Bassett
PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos) The sophomore sires who soared in 2016 By James Thomas 4:38PM 22 DEC 2016
WITH so much emphasis being placed on a stallion's first crop of runners their second season can often be much like a breakthrough band's second album: difficult.
Many a dream has been dashed between a sire's first juveniles gracing the track and the end of the season with their first three-year-olds, as is highlighted by a number of this year's sophomore bunch having already been moved on to pastures new in 2017.
But there have been a number of sires this year that have managed to return results worthy of examination with their first two crops.
Royal results for Wootton Bassett
Wootton Bassett, a Group 1-winning son of Iffraaj, sired just 17 foals from his first crop having retired to Haras d'Etreham in 2012, and by the close of play in 2015 had produced six winners from 16 starters, a solid if unspectacular start to his stallion career.
But among that number was Almanzor, who went on to set the 2016 turf season alight with scintillating displays in the Prix du Jockey Club, Irish Champion Stakes and Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot and who would propel Wootton Bassett to the head of the sophomore sires' list.
By virtue of Almanzor's exploits his sire has amassed a prize-money haul of more than £2,442,000, of which Almanzor contributed £2,249,274.
It is not only the fact that Wootton Bassett sired one of the best horses seen on turf since Frankel. That he managed to do so off a covering fee of just €6,000 reminds breeders that you do not always need to spend a small fortune to produce a horse worthy of being called a champion.
On the back of Almanzor, Haras d'Etreham have more than trebled Wootton Bassett's fee to €20,000 for 2017, up from €6,000 in 2016. In light of his success in 2016 it will be interesting to see what Wootton Bassett can produce once he is granted better chances.
It was not all about Almanzor though, as Wootton Bassett also supplied Do Re Mi Fa Sol, who rounded off her 2016 campaign with a five-and-a-half length success in the Listed Prix du Grand Camp at Lyon Parilly.
Zoffany emerging as an elite sire
Big things were expected from 2015 champion first-season sire Zoffany, particularly after a first crop that contained 32 winners, three of them at Royal Ascot. But his success in 2016 came in a different form, with early two-year-old types making way for Classic performers and progressive sprinters.
While Wootton Bassett's year was centred around the brilliant Almanzor, Zoffany's talents have been advertised by a host of runners, including a trio who achieved a peak Racing Post Racing (RPR) of 115.
His crowning achievement in 2016 was siring his first Group 1 winner, with Ventura Storm landing the Premio Jockey Club at San Siro in the familiar pale blue and orange colours of Middleham Park Racing. The three-year-old colt, who achieved a career-high RPR of 115 when finishing runner-up to Harbour Law in the St Leger, has since been bought privately by Astute Bloodstock and will now head to Australia to be trained by David Hayes.
Earlier in the year Architecture had run with great distinction to finish runner-up in the Oaks, where she ran to 115 in chasing home Minding, and Irish Oaks, behind Seventh Heaven. The Hugo Palmer-trained filly, who was bought by Lael Stables after her Epsom effort, also finished third in the German Oaks at Dusseldorf to register a trio of Classic placings.
The other Zoffany offspring to achieve an RPR of 115 highlights the versatility as a sire, as those middle-distance performers were joined by the dual Listed-winning sprinter Washington DC.
Washington DC's best performances actually came in defeat, when second to Take Cover in the King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood and runner-up to Marsha in the Prix de l'Abbaye on Arc day at Chantilly.
With a supporting cast including German 2,000 Guineas winner Knife Edge, Athasi Stakes winner Dolce Strega and Listed winners Light Up Our World, Zoffany finished 2016 with a total of six stakes winners, more than any other European second-crop sire.
Having proved that he can supply Royal Ascot-winning juveniles, and that his stock are well up to training on into Classic challengers, Zoffany may have done enough to put himself in the running to cover some of the more illustrious mares belonging to Coolmore and outside breeders.
Classic performer for Canford Cliffs
While he may have lacked a real standout performer, Coolmore's Canford Cliffs still had a respectable sophomore season. His second crop of two-year-olds contained Salouen, who may have taken five attempts to break his maiden but by the conclusion of the campaign has finished placed in two Group 1s, the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere and the Racing Post Trophy, and had achieved an RPR of 111.
His three-year-olds also managed to hold their own, with Harlequeen finishing third in both the Oaks and Irish Oaks, Al Jazi landing a Group 3 and the progressive handicapper Wall Of Fire claiming the valuable Melrose Stakes and Mallard Stakes.
He may not be at the height of fashion, but with plenty of covers under his belt in the last three breeding seasons there looks every chance he will continue to throw up a steady stream of talented performers in the coming years.
Dream Ahead's French connection
It was announced last week that Dream Ahead was being leased for at least one covering season to Haras de Grandcamp by Ballylinch Stud, and that looks a shrewd move given that both of his stakes winners in 2016 came on the continent.
The Al Shaqab-owned Al Wukair landed a Deauville Listed race for Andre Fabre in October and, having already proved his stamina for a mile, must have given connections hopes for a Classic campaign in 2017. His other stakes winner came in the shape of Basileus, a Listed winner and Group 3-placed colt in training with Stefano Botti in Italy.
Although trained by Richard Fahey in Malton, North Yorkshire, Dream Ahead's best performer by RPRs in 2016 was Donjuan Triumphant, who gave game chase to Signs Of Blessing in the Prix Maurice de Gheest, to earn a peak rating of 115 and to help keep Dream Ahead's name on the radar of French breeders.
Of course Dream Ahead himself enjoyed arguably his finest hour in France, when defeating Goldikova by a head to land the 2011 Prix de la Foret to take his Group 1 haul to five races.
With his fee at Haras de Grandcamp having been set at €12,000 and just enough firepower to keep his name in lights, it will be worth following the trajectory of Dream Ahead's stud career in the coming seasons.