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INDEPENDENT HORSE RACING NEWS
Newgate Stud’s young sire is the boom stallion on the Hong Kong block but a marked drop in coverings last year points to problems that could make his yearlings and next crop of foals precious commodities.
Deep Field’s rapid rise to being an in-demand sire for the Hong Kong market was again justified at Sha Tin last Sunday when his son Voyage Bubble won the Hong Kong Classic Mile, but a twist of fate means his offspring could be even more precious commodities through the current yearling sale season.
The Deep Fields are thinner on the ground this year and thinning further.
“The horse was taken out of service this season, late in the season, due to his lack of success in getting mares in foal,” said Alan Bell, who owned Deep Field on the track and retains an interest in the still young stallion.
Bell could not say whether any issue with the sire’s fertility would be a continuing or worsening problem, or if whatever the exact issue is might be reversed. Tests are still ongoing.
Deep Field has stood at Newgate Stud since retirement from the track as a lightly-raced Group 2-winning, Group 1-placed sprinter, and commanded a 2022 fee of AU$88,000 (US$62,000).
Lankan Rupee defeats Deep Field and Brazen Beau in the G1 Lightning Stakes. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Rumours about the son of the late Northern Meteor’s struggles in the breeding shed – fertility or a waning libido, depending on the source – have been rumbling for some time, and the numbers don’t lie.
The 12-year-old’s latest crop, born in 2022, was his lowest yet and numbered just 87 foals on the ground, a marked drop from the 129 born in 2021, and down significantly on his peak of 185 foals in 2019 from 246 mares covered the previous year. But of more concern than that is the fact that Deep Field covered only 69 mares this season.
And his latest crop fertility rate of just 69.7 percent also tells a tale, being down from a peak of 86.1 percent achieved with his 2018 coverings. Even if Deep Field maintains a rate of around 70 percent, he will have less than 50 new offspring on the ground by the end of the next foaling season.
Neither Bell nor Newgate Stud’s Henry Field is convinced that a scarcity would inflate the prices of Deep Field’s offspring by any significant degree.
“I think what will always make a difference is that they keep on performing, especially in Hong Kong, and whether it’s a sprint trip or up to a mile, they’re very effective horses, very trainable horses; he’s a very good sire for Hong Kong,” said Field.
Newgate boss Henry Field. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)
Bell, who purchased Deep Field as a yearling for AU$400,000 (US$282,000), pointed to the stallion’s already impressive Hong Kong record, notably Voyage Bubble’s success and the 2021 G1 Hong Kong Sprint victory of Sky Field.
“I think the horses will sell on their merits, irrespective of what is to come in the future: I think it doesn’t matter whether there’s a lot more coming or none, what’s around is highly desirable for Hong Kong,” he said.
As if to prove the point, Hong Kong trainer Jamie Richards vied with the Hong Kong Jockey Club for a Deep Field colt at New Zealand Bloodstock’s Karaka sale on Tuesday. Richards retreated out of contention as the club’s agent Craig Rounsefell eventually sealed a bid of NZ$450,000 (US$289,000), but the Kiwi handler went back to the fray and purchased another of Deep Field’s sons for NZ$400,000 (US$257,000) to fulfil an order for one of his Sha Tin stable’s clients. He thinks scarcity might have some effect on desirability.
“He’s a proven sire, he’s had a Classic Mile winner on Sunday and there are perhaps not many of them left to be produced, so that certainly has an impact,” was Richards’ take.
“I think there were a couple of Kiwi guys playing on him to pinhook him, which at that sort of money is a bit of a risk but is probably driven by the fact that there’s not many more of them around, and he’s a proven sire in Hong Kong.”
Deep Field’s first Hong Kong success came almost exactly three years ago when Californiadeepshot debuted one late-January night with a blitzing 1200-metre win around Happy Valley. It has been onwards and upwards from that point to this: Deep Field has so far had a total of 65 horses registered to race in Hong Kong and 49 are still in training, including 14 as-yet-unraced.
Californiadeepshot bolts in at Happy Valley for Karis Teetan. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)
First-season Hong Kong trainer Jamie Richards. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)
He has had 28 individual winners of 66 races around Sha Tin and Happy Valley and last season he was second to Per Incanto in the Hong Kong sires’ premiership with 14 wins to 18. Better than that, he topped the table insofar as earnings went, with a whopping HK$51.6 million (US$6.5 million) banked; and he was 13th in the Australian standings with his runners having earned close to AU$9.7 million (US$6.8 million).
Bell said that the Hong Kong success is no coincidence.
“You’d think these things are fluky but we had a very concentrated strategy to try and promote the horse to the people that we know in Hong Kong because he had all the attributes that could make a very good stallion for Hong Kong,” he said.
“He has got a very deep pedigree, a predominant sire’s pedigree and that’s very important; he’s a good individual with great bone and very powerfully built. And they’re very phlegmatic horses, they don’t rev up, they don’t get excited, they are very calm and business-like; they get better with age, and they’re very robust and sound so they’ve got great racing aptitude.”
Last month’s Magic Millions Gold Coast sale saw 43 Deep Field yearlings sell at an average of AU$221,395 (US$156,185); Newgate Stud itself sold 13. At Karaka’s Book 1 this week, five Deep Fields sold for a combined NZ$1.26 million (US$810,300) and the most expensive trio all were Hong Kong-bound as Bryan Kwan joined the HKJC and Jamie Richards in securing a prized purchase.
After Karaka comes the Inglis Classic Sale where Hong Kong interest is expected to intensify. The Sydney auction is offering 16 of Deep Field’s progenies and only eight are colts – most desirable for Hong Kong where geldings dominate – three of which are offered by Newgate.
“We’ve specifically targeted some of our best Deep Field colts to go to the Classic Sale because it’s been a sale that a lot of very good horses for Hong Kong have come out of,” Field said. “We’ve made it our business to target the Classic Sale with those buyers in mind.”
The Hong Kong love affair with Deep Field might be heading towards an enforced permanent separation if the horse is unable to produce the goods any longer, but already an emerging stallion is suggesting he might step up.
Star Turn winning at Caulfield. (Photo by Pat Scala/Getty Images)
Vinery Stud’s Star Turn was another Group 2-winning, Group 1-placed sprinter that raced in the Bell silks. The nine-year-old has only seven horses on the ground in Hong Kong. Five of those have raced and four are winners, including the Group 3 victor Cordyceps Six.
“The demand has been there, definitely, and the enquiry is constant, people calling up asking if there’s a Star Turn they could buy for Hong Kong,” said Bell. “It’s the same as the Deep Field enquiries in a lot of ways.”
But Deep Field is not finished yet, not quite. There are still yearlings to sell and foals to be born – how many more after next year, if any, remains to be seen – and the Classic Sale will tell us if the creeping rarity factor will prompt keen Hong Kong buyers to dig that little bit deeper to get their horse.
What Hong Kong owners want: five buyers describe the attributes needed for Sha Tin
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