Obscurity to over-demand: Cokoriko breaks French covering record
Haras de Cercy stallion got off to a strong start with his first runners
A stallion who many British and Irish breeders and pedigree enthusiasts could be forgiven for not having heard of broke the record for number of mares covered in France this year.
Cokoriko was visited by 234 mares at Haras de Cercy, surpassing the previous high of 226 set by Rajsaman at Haras de la Cauviniere – now Montfort et Preaux – in 2015. Last year's busiest stallion in France was Dabirsim, with a book of 198.
Popularity runs in the family for Cokoriko, as his own sire Robin Des Champs was a previous record holder in this category with 180 mares covered at Haras de Saint-Voir in 2007.
What makes the fevered demand for Cokoriko's services remarkable is that he is primarily a jumps sire and yet his oldest crop are only three: so at the start of the year he would have had very few runners.
However, as Andree Cypres of Haras de Cercy explained, breeders jumped on the bandwagon thanks to a bellwether runner for the sire.
“He was supposed to be a National Hunt sire but at the end of last year, in December, he had a first two-year-old runner – Lisa De Vassy – and she won first time out on the turf at Salon de Provence, showing a good turn of foot and stamina,” she said.
“Then she won again at Cagnes sur Mer, and in March she finished third in a Listed race at Saint-Cloud. The notable thing was that her mother did nothing and she has a poor pedigree overall – so everyone thought, oh my god, he's upgrading his mares.”
Momentum behind Cokoriko continued to gather when his first runner over jumps, the Francois Nicolle-trained Polirico, won first time out at Compiegne in early March and made it two out of two at Auteuil a month later. On his third and last start to date he was a head second in a Listed hurdle back at Auteuil.
Cypres said: “Polirico appeared to have a really impressive stride and by then Cokoriko had had a debut winner on the Flat and a debut winner over jumps, so there was a lot of buzz about the sire and it actually became a struggle for our stud manager to accommodate all the breeders who wanted to use him.”
In these very early days of Cokoriko's stallion career, he already has two other winners from a three-year-old crop that would have been expected to peak much later. They are Fan Fan La Tulipe, another out of a mare with uninspiring form, who scored at Saint-Malo for Pascal Journiac last Wednesday; and French Bird, who won an AQPS fillies' Flat race for trainer Emmanuel Clayeux and owner Fanny Cypres, daughter of Andree and Cercy president Jacques, in May.
Cokoriko may not have been a household name in Britain and Ireland, but a case could have been made for his stallion prospects.
As well as being by Robin Des Champs, he is a half-brother to the high-class hurdler Ceasar's Palace out of a half-sister to the dam of Willie Mullins' outstanding young racemare Benie Des Dieux. The dam is by Nikos, who gave us the likes of Master Minded, Cenkos and Nakir, while her mother was in turn by Cadoudal, the source of Big Buck's and Long Run.
Cokoriko raced only at four for trainer, breeder and one-time owner Jean-Paul Gallorini, being retired early due to a fetlock injury. However, in his short career he did demonstrate he was out of the top drawer by beating the multiple Grade 1 winner Milord Thomas by three lengths to take a Listed hurdle at Auteuil, with none other than future Cheltenham Festival hero Un Temps Pour Tout in third.
“He ticked every box on paper and when we went to see the horse at Gallorini's in October 2013, we just fell in love,” Cypres said. “We knew we had to have him.
“He is around 16.2½ hands tall, has a nice head and good conformation and he moves well. Really, you would struggle to fault him on anything.”
Cokoriko never lacked support, breeders perhaps placing their faith in the Cypres family's fantastic track record in launching stallions. According to France-Galop he has a first crop of 91 three-year-olds, 65 two-year-olds and 68 yearlings.
His rise to fame has brought Andree Cypres personal satisfaction and some relief, as she explained: “Each year I go to Cheltenham and my British and Irish friends ask me which of our stallions they should use; who will be the next Nikos or Video Rock.
“For the last few years I've been telling them Cokoriko, because I really believed in him. There are several who trusted me and are very happy now they have a young horse by the stallion.”
Cokoriko may not be on the tips of tongues to the west of the English Channel, but his name will no doubt become more familiar as his talented young offspring are imported to race for the usual acquisitive owners looking for festival horses in France.
Cypres estimated around ten astute British and Irish clients sent mares to him this year.
Figures compiled by France-Sire state that Dabirsim was the second busiest stallion in France of 2018, with 188 covers.
Next came Siyouni on 178, Doctor Dino on 155 and Recorder on 152.
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