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INDEPENDENT HORSE RACING NEWS
Maurice, Extreme Choice and Rebel Dane highlight a star crop of stallions which are set to shape Australian breeding and bloodstock for generations to come.
Maurice, the powerful and majestic Japanese miler, broke new ground on the track and now is destined to do the same in the breeding barn as he closes in on a historic achievement as the first Japanese-bred stallion to win an Australian Sires Title, in his case, Champion Second-Season Sire.
To those outside the breeding and bloodstock bubble, the concept of awarding a title to a horse for being best in class in their second season may seem a bit of overkill.
But if the Champion First-Season Sire mantle speaks to a stallion’s ability to produce precocious ‘fast and forward stock’ of which the market is so enamoured, the second season title is often a mark of versatility.
Maurice’s record this season, with two crops from his Australian base at Arrowfield Stud, speaks to him being exactly that. In dual Derby winner Hitotsu, he has the best three-year-old stayer in the country, while he also has one of the top two three-year-old sprinters: The Everest-bound Mazu.
His progeny have earned over $7 million in Australia this season – 36 winners from 69 starters -– including 32 of them from his three-year-olds. In the race to be crowned Australia’s premier sophomore stallion, Maurice leads Capitalist, who has had 63 winners from 167 starters, by $1.7 million, having narrowly been foiled by Duramente in the battle to be crowned Japan’s Second Season stallion in 2020.
As a result, Arrowfield has lifted his service fee to $82,500 for the upcoming Australian breeding season, the second highest of any horse in its esteemed roster.
Maurice’s achievements in Australia need to be viewed in the context of the competition he faces. The class that Maurice finds himself in is historically the most successful crop to this point of their careers, ever.
Maurice at Shadai Stallion Station (Photo J. Fukuda/Shadai Stallion Station)
The pace was set from the moment their progeny hit the track last season. Three of that crop, the Newgate sires Extreme Choice, Capitalist and Flying Artie, notched first crop two-year-old Group 1 winners, something that had not been achieved in 11 years. Extreme Choice led home an unprecedented Newgate trifecta in the Champion First-Season Sire rankings with his $3.4 million in progeny earnings, a record for a freshman sire.
And while the quality was strong at the top end, there was also considerable depth. A record nine first-season stallions had first crop two-year-old winners last season.
That theme has accelerated with the same group of sires in their second season. An extraordinary 22 second-season sires have had an Australian stakes winner this year. To give that record number some context, the average number of sophomore stallions to have black-type success each season over the past decade in Australia has been 14.
What is also apparent is not just the depth but diversity of stallions. Those 22 stallions with stakes winners are themselves by 18 different sires, the vast majority of them ‘outcrosses’, meaning they are not from the Danehill-line which has been so dominant in Australian bloodlines for the past 30 years.
The diversity in backgrounds extends far beyond their pedigrees and there are several remarkable stories of early success.
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Chief among them has been Not A Single Doubt’s son Extreme Choice, who has been sub-fertile through his first few seasons, producing relatively small crops of fewer than 50, but who is setting all sorts of records when it comes to the racetrack success of his progeny.
From 40 runners in total, he has seven stakes winners, among them Group 1 winners Stay Inside and She’s Extreme, for a stratospheric stakes-winners-to-runners ratio of 17.5 per cent.
In an age where scarcity has become the best marketing, Newgate has positioned him as the rarest of articles, a record-breaking Champion stallion, who because of his fertility issues, has very limited access to him. He will be the most expensive sire in Australia in 2022, with a service fee of $275,000.
It’s an unprecedented move totally justified by his achievements to date and the laws of supply and demand.
Extreme Choice, standing at Newgate (Photo: Newgate)
Then there is Rebel Dane, whose daughter Fireburn catapulted him from breeding anonymity to centre stage after she won both the Golden Slipper and the Sires’ Produce for trainer Gary Portelli in dashing fashion.
He too has had small books, but due to lack of profile, not lack of firepower. He has had just 17 Australian runners this season, with seven winners.
The impact of Fireburn can be measured in the fact that while last year, Rebel Dane served 49 mares at $8800 at Glen Eden Stud in Victoria, this year, having moved to Australia’s most historically significant stud, Widden, he already has nearly a full book of mares and will stand for $27,500.
More recently has emerged Tarzino, who from his base at Westbury Stud in New Zealand has produced the winner of the South Australian Derby, Jungle Magnate, and the winner of the Queensland Oaks, Gypsy Goddess. That’s two Group One winners from 31 Australian starters.
All in all, the progeny of that crop of second-season sires has won, to date, 64 stakes races this Australian racing season, with 44 individual stakes winners.
Brenton Avdulla on Fireburn. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)
It’s quite an amazing base to build on but the arrival of this golden generation was well-timed and arguably much needed.
Australia’s recent top sires are closer to the end of their careers than the start. I Am Invincible, who is on track for his first overall Champion Sire title, is rising 18, while the winner of that title last year, Written Tycoon turns 20 on August 1, as does the previous four-time champion Snitzel.
The past few years have seen the changing of the guard in Australian stallion ranks with the deaths of Redoute’s Choice, Sebring and Choisir, and the retirement of Not A Single Doubt. The likes of So You Think, Toronado and Zoustar have risen to fill the breach, but there was a real need for strong signs from the rich array of young stallions coming through the ranks.
We have that with this record-breaking crop. A somewhat unlikely collection of stallions, with a mix of international and colonial pedigrees, but with the runs already on the board to shape Australian bloodlines for the next generation.
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