From young guns to sires on fire: hunting out value among the 2021 covering fees
James Thomas selects some temptingly priced stallions for next season
It could be argued that it has never been more imperative for breeders to secure value for money from their nomination fees.
After a fairly sobering round of sales and with much uncertainty having hung over 2020, many suggested covering fees would need to come down. But, in plenty of cases, tariffs have not dropped to the extent hoped for.
However, there is undoubtedly value out there. Here are my selections for the stallions from a variety of categories who look a fair bet at advertised prices.
New to stud in 2021
Mohaather's introductory fee of £20,000 at Shadwell's Nunnery Stud appears to offer breeders a lot of bang for their buck. The son of Showcasing produced a performance out of the top drawer to land a vintage renewal of the Sussex Stakes, in which he displayed a superb turn of foot.
He also won the Summer Mile and landed Group races at two and three, namely the Horris Hill and Greenham. He also boasts good looks and a deep pedigree, notably being a sibling to Grade 2 scorer Prize Exhibit and the dam of Accidental Agent, while you will be hard pushed to find a better mover retiring to stud for 2021.
Hailing from the successful Pivotal sire line and as a Group 1 winner who finished runner-up in the 2,000 Guineas, Derrinstown Stud newcomer King Of Change looks fairly priced at €7,000.
The son of Farhh beat a host of Group 1 winners when landing the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, and was also second to Magna Grecia (now stands for €18,000) in the Newmarket Classic.
First foals in 2021
As a high-class two-year-old who developed into an even better three-year-old, winning the Derby, Darley's Dalham Hall Stud resident Masar looked a snip at an introductory fee of £15,000 in 2020. Despite having received a warm reception during his first year on duty, that price has come down to £14,000 for 2021.
Firm foundations are in place as his debut book contained 146 mares, including 35 black-type performers (24 per cent) such as Group 1-winning trio Be Fabulous, Punctilious and Shalanaya, and the dams of Beckford, Elm Park, Loxley, Polarisation and Rekindling.
Tally-Ho Stud has a knack of unearthing sires capable of throwing two-year-old winners - and lots of them. Recent examples include world record holder Kodiac and leading first-season stars such as Red Clubs, Sir Prancealot, Society Rock, Zebedee and, most notably, Mehmas.
Inns Of Court could be another in that mould, being a five-furlong Group 2 winner by sire of sires Invincible Spirit. Breeders who use Inns Of Court next year will produce a yearling they can sell in the wake of his debut runners hitting the track.
Given he covered a book of 218 mares in year one, there seems every chance the exploits of his first two-year-olds will have caught buyers' attention come the 2023 yearling sales, which means his 2021 fee of €5,000 looks well worth a punt for those breeding on a commercial basis.
First yearlings in 2021
Saxon Warrior, Coolmore's son of Deep Impact, was a top-class two and three-year-old, winning the Racing Post Trophy during an unbeaten juvenile season followed by the 2,000 Guineas.
He has also got his second career off to a bright start, with his debut crop of foals earning rave reviews and realising as much as 280,000gns at Tattersalls and ¥41 million (£2930,000/€322,000) at the JRHA Select Sale.
Having covered a total of 331 mares across his first two books, among which are 88 (27 per cent) stakes performers, he looks well up to building on his early momentum, all of which makes a 2021 fee of €20,000 - down from €27,500 - look appealing.
Havana Grey's first crop of foals also gained plenty of fans among those on the ground at Tattersalls, where 25 of his sons and daughters generated an average of 22,460gns - almost three times his introductory fee of £8,000 - and a high of 130,000gns.
The Group 1-winning sprinter has solid numbers behind him, covering 145 and 130 mares during his first two years at Whitsbury Manor Stud. There seems plenty in his favour, meaning a trimmed fee of £6,000 looks very reasonable.
First two-year-olds in 2021
Using a stallion in the same year their debut runners hit the track comes with risk attached, as if their two-year-olds flop their fee - and the value of their subsequent progeny - will almost certainly drop.
But where there is risk, there can be reward, and if you land on a stallion whose runners grab the headlines the demand for their young stock will soar.
The likes of Almanzor, Churchill and Cotai Glory have plenty going for them in terms of numbers of two-year-olds and early sales ring results, but arguably the most appealing option from a value perspective is Kildangan Stud's Profitable, who stands for €10,000 next year.
The King's Stand Stakes-winning son of Invincible Spirit has 130 two-year-olds to run for him, while his progeny are with trainers such as Clive Cox, Richard Fahey and Karl Burke.
Shadwell signed for five of his six-figure yearlings, which contributed to an average of £41,443 (close to four times his debut covering fee), all of which suggests Profitable can get his second career off to a bright start.
Dubawi's influence as a sire of sires is increasing, thanks in no small part to Night Of Thunder and promising newcomer New Bay. Another son, Time Test, can help enhance Dubawi's reputation when his first crop hits the track next year. The National Stud resident's young stock have so impressed breeders that he actually covered his largest book to date in 2020, while his yearlings fetched up to 150,000gns.
With some well-bred juveniles in training with the likes of Richard Hannon, Roger Varian and William Haggas, plenty of winners could flow. If so, a fee of £8,500 will look generous.
First three-year-olds in 2021
There is no doubt Mehmas has been this year's standout first-season sire by just about every measure, and given he has had 55 - yes 55 - winners, 12 black-type performers and Middle Park Stakes hero Supremacy, a reset fee of €25,000 will understandably be considered a gift by many.
However, Mehmas's runaway success has meant a few of his contemporaries' exploits have gone somewhat under the radar, not least Belardo. Indeed, no first-season sire supplied more Group winners than Belardo's trio of Isabella Giles, Elysium and Lullaby Moon, and with ten other successful sons and daughters on the board, an unchanged fee of €10,000 almost looks too good to be true.
Given he produced his best effort at four, when winning the Lockinge Stakes, and considering the soaring popularity of his own sire, Lope De Vega, there is every reason to believe there is more to come from Darley's Kildangan Stud resident.
Rathbarry Stud's Kodi Bear did not have quite the same level of quality or quantity of mares that Belardo and Mehmas had in their debut books, so it looks noteworthy he has still been able to supply such encouraging early results.
He has been represented by 17 winners across Europe, including the Stonehenge Stakes scorer Cobh, who leads a record of five black-type performers. At just €6,000, he could become a real ally to commercial breeders in coming years.
First four-year-olds in 2021
Ballylinch Stud's stallion roster boasts serious sire power, with Lope De Vega firmly established as a member of the elite and New Bay looking a decidedly bright prospect. But those two are not the only rising stars among their ranks, with Make Believe having also shown himself to be a young sire of considerable promise.
His headline act is Prix du Jockey Club hero Mishriff, who rates a potential star of 2021, while he has also supplied high-class talents Believe In Love, Ocean Fantasy, Rose Of Kildare and Tammani.
Moreover, a punchy 42 per cent of his British or Irish runners recorded an RPR of 80 higher in 2020, a figure that sees him in exclusive company with some of the stallion ranks biggest names. All told, a fee of €15,000 looks very fair.
Highclere Stud deserves plenty of credit for introducing their '50/50 terms', giving breeders the flexibility to pay for 50 per cent of their nomination fee when the progeny reaches its target price at public auction as a foal or yearling.
Stud resident Cable Bay has already supplied talents like Liberty Beach, Collinsbay and Jouska, and with some bigger and better-bred crops in the pipeline, a fee of £8,000 at the 50/50 terms makes a lot of sense.
More established sires
Bated Breath has long been established as a rock-solid option for breeders and had a particularly productive 2020.
He sired his first top-level winner when Viadera - one of his 38 stakes performers - won the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes, while he also saw his most expensive yearling to date, a 290,000gns colt, contribute to an average of £45,090. Despite all that, his fee remains at a fair-looking £12,500.
Similar comments apply to Ballyhane Stud kingpin Dandy Man, who boasts a profile befitting a higher fee than the €15,000 he is available at. He has sired three top-flight winners, and 41 black-type performers in all, including leading juvenile filly Dandalla, while this year's foals realised up to 190,000gns.
Coolmore's Zoffany has also had a fine year, with Thunder Moon winning the National Stakes and his highest-priced yearling fetching 580,000gns.
Moreover, he finished eighth in the British and Irish sires' table, ahead of a few genuine heavyweights, yet commands a reduced fee of just €20,000 next year.
With big crops in the pipeline, Zoffany ranks as one of the most reliable and best value sires around.
Others who warrant a mention at a fee that comfortably undersells their prowess, on the racecourse and in the sales ring, include Yeomanstown Stud's Camacho, who is available at €5,000, and Tweenhills' Havana Gold, who has his biggest and best crop of juveniles running in 2021 yet is priced at just £7,500.
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