How Kodiac went from workmanlike to world-beater in ten years
Martin Stevens analyses the Tally-Ho Stud resident's rise through the ranks
This article was first published in November 2017
Timing is everything, they say, and it is no exaggeration to suggest that if it weren't for the co-incidence of Kodiac reaching the end of his racing career at the same time his family fortunes took a sharp upturn, he might never have been given a chance as a stallion ; one who would ten years later surpass the world record for two-year-old winners in a single crop set by the legendary Sunday Silence.
In any other year an older horse who had failed to win a stakes race would likely have struggled to find a stallion position at all, let alone at one of Ireland's most commercial operations.
But Kodiac's fourth season of racing – in which he did manage a fourth in the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest – came in 2006, the same year that his half-brother Invincible Spirit sired 35 two-year-old winners in his debut crop, a world record for a freshman, including the Group 2 scorers Captain Marvelous and Conquest.
The fact that Kodiac's parents were the breed-shaping Danehill and the Prix de Diane heroine Rafha likely further encouraged Tally-Ho Stud to take the plunge and stand a non-stakes winner. It certainly had to be the pedigree that tempted outside breeders to overlook his patchy race record and support him with mares in his first season, when he was introduced at a fee of €5,000 as Invincible Spirit's price rocketed to €35,000 from €10,000.
In his first season at Tally-Ho Stud in 2007, Kodiac covered a book long on quantity but short on quality: 111 mares, of which only four were black-type winners themselves in their own racing careers. To put those figures into some perspective, Iffraaj, who retired in the same year as Kodiac at a fee of €12,000 and would better Invincible Spirit's world record of first-crop two-year-old winners, covered 147 mares and 16 black-type winners.
Kodiac covered only eight fewer mares in his second year at stud, although the number of winners among them fell sharply from 51 to 29. He then suffered the fate of many inexpensive up-and-coming sires: a difficult third season, exacerbated by the fact it occurred in 2009, in the depths of the crash in bloodstock prices following the recession. That year he received only 54 mares, of which 14 had won themselves, and zero stakes winners.
The first glimmer that Kodiac might exceed expectations for his stallion career was a good set of sale results for his first yearlings – an average price of around £16,000 (in 2009, generally a shocking year for sales) and three standouts selling for €40,000 or more.
Commercial breeders must have liked what they saw of the stock by the sire at the sales as in 2010, the year his first two-year-olds would hit the track, he covered his biggest book yet: 144 mares including 59 winners, still no stakes winners though.
Those first two-year-old runners soon vindicated the increase in numbers. There were 17 winners in Britain and Ireland by the end of 2010, not including his best early representative Stone Of Folca, who failed to grace a winner's enclosure but was a neck second to the Invincible Spirit colt Zebedee in the Molecomb Stakes and was not disgraced despite finishing down the field after an ambitious attempt to take on his elders in the Nunthorpe.
Two other first-crop runners, Bathwick Bear and Sweet Cecily, were admirably honest and tough ambassadors for their sire, notching Listed victories among 11 and seven starts respectively at two.
No wonder, then, that in 2011 the fee for Kodiac was increased to €6,500 from €4,000 and he was sent 165 mares, 73 of them winners themselves, with the tally of stakes winners up to ten – more than in the preceding four seasons together. He was gaining momentum.
Two more stakes winners – Kohala and Star Kodiak – arrived on the track that year, along with an improved yearling average to around £22,000, and by 2012 Kodiac was busier again, covering 190 mares.
A quiet spell on the track ensued in 2012 with only one stakes winner and that coming in America courtesy of Indigo River, though the sire was entitled to one as this was the year his smallest crop, conceived in 2009, were two-year-olds. Breeders kept the faith in 2013, supporting him with 166 mares despite the lull, albeit just two stakes winners among them hinted that, for some, the jury was out.
If there were any doubters, or at least breeders not yet quite prepared to give Kodiac the chance of covering their better mares, the exploits of his progeny in 2013 would have won them round.
Elleval finished second, between progeny of War Front and Raven's Pass, in the UAE Derby and there was also the valuable York sales race winner Haikbidiac, the talented sprinters Riskit Fora Biskit and Smoothtalkinrascal, and exciting two-year-old Washaar.
His yearling average that year doubled – helped by the market having recovered from the previous decade's slump – from the preceding year to around £37,000.
A pivotal year
In the afterglow of that success, Kodiac covered the largest book of his career in 2014 at a new high fee of €10,000 – a blockbuster 236 mares, 124 of them winners, 16 of them black-type winners. This, of course, was the ammunition that gave the sire his record-breaking haul of two-year-old winners of 2017.
You might say 2014 was the pivotal year in Kodiac's career, as the juvenile crop conceived in the breeding season after his first two-year-old runners had hinted he might be something special yielded four stakes winners – Patience Alexander, Kodi Bear, Terror and his most familiar flagbearer (and only Group 1 winner to date) Tiggy Wiggy.
It was also the year that his yearling average shot up again, to around £59,000, with his ascent into the upper echelons of the European stallion ranks anointed when the Niarchos family paid 460,000gns at auction for one of his daughters.
More high-class winners have flowed since then, notably a Royal Ascot two-year-old double with the Goffs UK Breeze-up Sale joint-top lots Ardad and Prince Of Lir in 2016, while this year a new aspect of Kodiac's brilliance has been revealed through the middle-distance talents Best Solution and Danehill Kodiac, first and third in the Group 3 St Simon Stakes.
His yearling average has climbed higher and higher, to £64,000 in 2015; £76,000 in 2016 and £98,000 this year, while the stud fee has been on a similarly upward curve in that time, from €25,000 to €45,000 to €50,000. He has covered 73 black-type winners in the past three seasons.
More to come
Kodiac has gone from a workmanlike stallion to world class in the space of ten years. In another decade we can expect his stock to have risen even further. We can forgive him for having just the one Group 1 winner at the moment, as even his record-breaking juveniles were bred off a €10,000 fee, but it would be bitterly disappointing if his more expensively bred crops did not produce plenty more.
Kodiac's sire sons are likely to be well supported, as his stock in trade are early bird runners and fast horses, the type pinhookers and trainers love, and there will be hope the likes of Adaay and co will follow suit. His pedigree – by Danehill out of a Classic winner – also entitles him to be more than a useful broodmare sire, although only Sweet Cecily among his daughters has so far produced a stakes performer, the American Listed third Sweet Dragon Fly.
One last thought on Kodiac: his rise to stardom serves to illustrate once again the uncanny ability of Tally-Ho Stud to engineer a successful stallion career. Since Kodiac had his first runners the stud has also been the launchpad of Red Clubs, Sir Prancealot, Society Rock and Zebedee. When one of theirs fails to fire, such as Bushranger or Chineur in recent years, you can rest assured it wasn't for the want of being given every chance.
KODIAC CROP BY CROP: THE STATS
2007 (first season at stud)
111 mares covered, of which...
51 were winners themselves (46%)
4 were black-type winners (4%)
78 foals produced, of which
33 became winners (42%)
4 became black-type winners (5%)
2008 (second season at stud, as first foals were born)
103 mares covered, of which...
29 were winners (28%)
3 were black-type winners (3%)
65 foals produced, of which...
33 became winners (51 per cent)
3 became black-type winners (5 per cent)
2009 (third season at stud, after first foals had sold)
54 mares covered, of which...
14 were winners (26%)
None were black-type winners (0)
32 foals produced, of which...
18 were winners (56%)
1 was a black-type winner (3%)
2010 (fourth season at stud, after first yearlings had sold)
144 mares covered, of which...
59 were winners (41%)
None were black-type winners (0)
98 foals produced, of which....
66 were winners (67%)
2 were black-type winners (2%)
2011 (fifth season at stud, after first two-year-olds had run)
165 mares covered, of which...
73 were winners (44%)
10 were black-type winners (6%)
112 foals produced, of which...
69 became winners (62%)
8 became black-type winners (7%)
2012 (sixth season at stud, after first three-year-olds had run)
190 mares covered, of which...
87 were winners (46%)
6 were black-type winners (3%)
145 foals produced, of which...
84 became winners (57%)
8 became black-type winners (5%)
2013 (seventh season at stud, oldest crop aged five)
166 mares covered, of which...
81 were winners (49%)
2 were black-type winners (1%)
124 foals produced, of which...
57 became winners (46%)
9 became black-type winners (7%)
2014 (eighth season at stud, oldest crop aged six)
236 mares covered, of which...
124 were winners (53%)
16 were black-type winners (7%)
189 foals produced, of which...
50 became winners (27%)
5 were black-type winners (3%)
2015 (ninth season at stud, current yearlings)
234 mares covered, of which...
129 were winners (55%)
21 were black-type winners (9%)
195 foals were produced
2016 (tenth season at stud, current foals)
232 mares covered, of which...
138 were winners (60%)
31 were black-type winners (13%)
173 foals were produced
2017 (11th season at stud, currently in-utero)
196 mares covered, of which...
99 were winners (51%)
21 were black-type winners (11%)
How Racing Post Bloodstock reported Kodiac's record-breaking year: