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INDEPENDENT HORSE RACING NEWS
Bren O’Brien takes a comprehensive look at the stallions which will have their first runners at the track in Australia this racing season, a list highlighted by the multiple Group 1-winning trio The Autumn Sun, Trapeze Artist and Justify.
For many racing fans, The Autumn Sun’s track career was all too short. Nine starts for eight wins, five at Group 1 level, left many asking for more, but a shot at the G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes, where his true greatness would have been tested, was aborted because of the considerable colossus of Chris Waller stablemate Winx in what was her racetrack farewell.
His career closed with a less-than-authoritative win in the Rosehill Guineas, about 40 minutes before Winx’s penultimate start in the George Ryder Stakes and three days before the death of his own sire Redoute’s Choice. Had the latter event not occurred, it may have been a different decision, but in the highly commercial world of breeding, the opportunity was taken to retire him for the 2019 stud season.
The upside of that is that in 2022/23, we get to see his first two-year-olds on the track, with considerable expectations of them given the quality of their sire and the quality of mares he was matched to in that first season. Of his first crop of 110 foals, seven are out of Group 1 winners, and a further eight are siblings to winners of Group 1 races.
The yearling market earlier this year assessed his first crop at the very top end, with an average of just over $300,000 across 76 yearlings. No first-season stallion in Australian history has grossed more in yearling sales.
An examination of The Autumn Sun in the flesh confirms what his pedigree would suggest. He is the perfect combination of Australian speed and European quality. The combination of the blood of his grandsires Danehill and Galileo has powered global racing success for much of the 21st century and you can see both influences in the young Arrowfield stallion.
Waller has 12 of The Autumn Sun’s first crop in his stable in what is an endorsement of what the man who knew him best thinks of his progeny. Eight of those already have names, including the colt Omelette, the son of Group 1 winner Egg Tart, and the filly Hemera, who is out of another Group 1 winner, Brazilian Pulse, and was purchased by Star Thoroughbreds.
The top-priced The Autumn Sun yearling, the colt out of Duchess Kate purchased for $950,000 at the Easter Yearling Sale, is in the Kris Lees stable, while Matt Laurie has a collection of three of his high-profile two-year-olds, two fillies, out of Champagne Run and Girl In Flight, and a colt, out of Gold Anthem, which cost a combined $1.6 million.
The burning question for now is whether his progeny will be up-and-going two-year-olds. The Autumn Sun was a Group One-winning two-year-old, but he didn’t debut until Anzac Day (April 25) and his elite victory came over 1600 metres. His profile as a racehorse in terms of maturity and distance would indicate he threw more to his Aga Khan-bred dam Azmiyna, an unraced daughter of Galileo.
The Autumn Sun at Arrowfield Stud (Photo: Arrowfield)
The two-year-old query could also be cast over Trapeze Artist, who like The Autumn Sun won the stallion-making Golden Rose, while he added the TJ Smith Stakes and the All-Aged Stakes later in his three-year-old season and the Canterbury Stakes in his four-year-old campaign.
He did win a Group 3 race as a two-year-old but his best was in his next two seasons in the track.
He was the highest-priced first-season stallion, standing initially at $99,000, although that was cut to $88,000, and he is the best credentialled son of the four-time champion sire Snitzel to stand in Australia.
He got 180 mares that first season, more than any other freshman and the result was 131 foals. An even 100 of those went through the yearling sales ring, averaging just short of $175,000.
He didn’t get the same top-end mare quality as The Autumn Sun but he certainly looks to have left his mark in terms of influence. Nearly 36 per cent of his foals carried some of the brown colouring he inherited from his dam Treppes – the usual ratio is 25 per cent – and many of them also carrying his white blaze.
Perhaps one indication of the forward nature of his two-year-olds is that at this stage he has more named than any other stallion, 30 in all, including the fillies Trap The Code and Just Easy and the colt Ezelove, who are all out of stakes-winning mares.
Just Easy is with the same trainer as her sire, Gerald Ryan, now with partner Sterling Alexiou. That pair also has the colt Snatchreilly. Among the other trainers to have multiple named Trapeze Artist two-year-olds on their books are Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, Annabel Neasham and Chris Waller. His highest selling yearling, an $850,000 colt now named Trapeze Warrior, is in work with Phillip Stokes in Adelaide.
Tye Angland and Trapeze Artist win The All-Aged Stakes in 2018. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)
Trapeze Artist at Widden (Photo: Widden).
Justify famously never raced as a two-year-old becoming the first Kentucky Derby winner in 148 years to have not featured in his juvenile year, so that obviously places a question over what we can expect from his own first-crop Australian two-year-olds this season.
Working in his favour is the impression his first crop have made in the Northern Hemisphere, where he has had 11 winners, including four stakes winners.
He stood for a private fee in his first season in Australia, widely believed to be $66,000, putting him at a discount to both The Autumn Sun and Trapeze Artist. He served 149 mares, producing 99 foals, among them colts out of Group 1 winners Atlantic Jewel, Srikandi, Savvy Coup and The Party Stand as well as a filly out of Global Glamour.
Coolmore rolled out the best of their Australian mares to him, and spent liberally at the broodmare sales in 2019 ahead of his first season, including $2.25 million for Maastricht, the dam of Loving Gaby, $2 million for Srikandi, $1.55 million for Global Glamour, $1.45 million for Invincible Star and $1 million for Savvy Coup.
Physically Justify is notable for two things, his size – he stands close to 17hh – and his striking chestnut colour with a white blaze. In his 99 current two-year-olds, there are 41, or 41 per cent, with chestnut colouring. The general population rate for chestnuts is 18 per cent.
As for the size factor, the general feedback through the yearling sales is that that aspect has been inherited in his progeny. That may lend itself to think some of them may take some time. Enthusiasm for his first crop at the yearling sales was very good, with an average price of $246,784 across 65 lots.
For what it’s worth, 18 of his progeny have been named to date. Among them are Jurisprudence, who is out of Group 2 winner Eckstein, and Heads You Lose, who are both in the same China Horse Club colours which Justify carried to victory himself in his career.
That pair are joined by a trio of as yet unnamed Justify two-year-olds in the Waller stable, with that trainer known for his patience with his younger horses.
Justify winning the 150th Belmont Stakes and completing the Triple Crown. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Justify at Coolmore Stud (Photo: Coolmore)
According to Arion, there are 60 stallions with their first crops hitting the track in Australia and New Zealand this year, so the competition for first-season honours is set to come from far and wide.
Written By, Trapeze Artist’s barnmate at Widden, looks the one most likely to make an impression this season. The hulking son of Written Tycoon was the Champion Australian 2YO Colt of his year, winning the G1 Blue Diamond and was the first colt home in the Golden Slipper, finishing fourth.
History tells you that Champion 2YO colts make the best sires in Australia, including the likes of Luskin Star, Canny Lad, Sebring and Pierro, and physically and on pedigree, this guy fits the bill of one which will make a quick impression.
His progeny averaged $131,728 through the 2022 yearling sales, an impressive five times his first-season service fee, and his progeny have found their way to trainers such as Chris Waller, Bjorn Baker, Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, Michael Freedman and Tony and Calvin McEvoy.
A pre-Christmas two-year-old winner himself, he has had 24 of his 101 two-year-olds already named. Including among them is high-priced Magic Millions yearling Maktabi, who is with Waterhouse/Bott, and the Waller-trained/Star Thoroughbreds-owned Autora.
Darley’s Harry Angel is another sire of note with his first Australian runners. The champion sprinting son of Dark Angel was a Group winner at two who hit his peak at three and his progeny are expected to be similarly fast.
The market took a shine to first Australian yearlings, going up to $460,000 for them, with an average of $125,000. He has had 12 two-year-old winners from his first Northern Hemisphere crop already and they may be more forward then would be expected from a European sprinting pedigree.
Godolphin supported him with some very nice mares in that first season and as a result, James Cummings has plenty of Harry Agnel quality in his stables. He has six named two-year-olds by Harry Angel, five fillies and a colt.
Written By at Widden. (Photo: Widden)
Harry Angel at Darley. (Photo: Darley)
Aquis’ Brave Smash has already had 18 of his 69-foal first crop named, and while his profile might suggest his stock will peak at three, rather than two, the Lindsay Park-trained filly Universal Harmony might be one worth keeping an eye out for early on.
Grunt has a big first crop of 140 coming through from his base at Yulong in Victoria, 21 of which have been named, while Lean Mean Machine, who also spent his first season in Victoria, has a first crop of 89 to come through.
Showtime may have played the support role to The Autumn Sun at Arrowfield, but got his fair share of quality mares and has 89 two-year-olds, while Real Steel, a Japanese-bred son of Deep Impact who had just the one season at Arrowfield, has 52.
The smoky for first-season achievements might be Bolt D’Oro, who stood just one season at Spendthrift Australia. A Grade 1 winner at two and placed behind Justify at three, he has had 12 winners, including two stakes winners in the United States from his first crop of two-year-olds. While he was quite a handful in the breeding barn, he had a first Australian crop of 51, eight of which have already been named.
Spendthrift may no longer be operative in Australia, but it’s worth noting that two of their former stallions, Gold Standard and Overshare, performed well beyond expectations with their first-crop two-year-olds last season.
More than just a stallion – A Vinery legacy like no other
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