War Command's performance a pivotal pointer to War Front's legacy
Nancy Sexton on the Claiborne resident who has several sire sons at stud
Few horses continue to court as much opinion as War Front. His meteoric rise to the world’s elite at Claiborne Farm, hastened by Coolmore’s belief in him, means he is never far from the international spotlight, and tales of breeders stretching beyond the advertised fee to acquire no-guarantee seasons has only served to enhance his exalted reputation.
Now 16 years old, War Front is serving his second season at a career high of $250,000 as the sire of 16 Group or Grade 1 winners among 68 stakes scorers from 651 foals of racing age. They are heady statistics against the backdrop of today’s big-book era but in this business such a high bar can also act as bait to detractors.
In War Front’s case, critics in this part of the world have questioned the ability of his progeny to train on effectively. Perhaps it is a sweeping generalisation in light of the achievements of Declaration Of War and Roly Poly among others, although it is not necessarily surprising with the unproductive three-year-old campaigns of Air Force Blue, War Command and Hit It A Bomb still fresh in the mind.
It will be fascinating to see how US Navy Flag, who danced every dance during his busy juvenile campaign, fares this season, one that also features the debuts of two-year-olds from War Front's second $150,000 crop.
This season, however, promises to hinge on much more than just soldiers on the ground for War Front.
Much of Danzig’s legendary status stemmed from the legacy moulded by his sons and daughters. Hopes that he would develop into an influential sire of sires received an early shot in the arm when one of his first sire sons, Green Desert, got off to a similarly swift start at stud (first-crop star Chief’s Crown did ultimately sire Erhaab and Grand Lodge following a slow start).
And now War Front is at a similar crossroads as War Command’s debut crop takes to the track and the first runners by Declaration Of War, Data Link and Soldat turn three.
War Front can already be termed as a Grade 1 sire of sires through The Factor, who spent five seasons at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky.
From War Front’s first crop, The Factor was brilliantly fast on dirt and synthetic for Bob Baffert, although we now know that in terms of aptitude he was pretty atypical of what his sire throws. Well managed by those behind him at stud, he captured the imagination of the marketplace when his first crop hit the sale ring, with 13 of his first yearlings realising in excess of $250,000 – good returns off a $15,000 fee.
With that sales season in the books, The Factor’s fee was increased to $25,000 before he had even had a runner, a decision that looked partly vindicated when one of his first two-year-olds, Noted And Quoted, won the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita. Another representative, Multiplier, won the Grade 3 Illinois Derby.
However, Noted And Quoted, who failed to win in six starts following the Chandelier, and Multiplier remain the only Graded stakes winners by The Factor, although he is responsible for nine stakes winners overall. He was leased to the JBBA Shizunai Stallion Station in Japan for the 2018 season and it will be interesting to see what direction the rest of his stud career takes.
Better known in this part of the world is Ashford Stud’s Declaration Of War, Coolmore’s first son of War Front to stud for whom there would appear brighter prospects.
Closely related to successful American sire Union Rags and strongly supported during his initial season in Ireland, Declaration Of War has a real Classic candidate in Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere runner-up Olmedo, the French champion juvenile of 2017, as well as an intriguing 2,000 Guineas entry in Richard Hannon’s Orange Suit, a half-brother to Simple Verse who won his sole juvenile start at Newbury last September.
Anglesey Stakes winner Actress, one of a number of Declaration Of War three-year-olds in training at Ballydoyle, and St Hugh’s Stakes winner Eirene also bagged black type in Europe last season. His American-based runners include Speed Franco, who outgunned the highly regarded Frankel colt Gidu to take the Grade 3 Dania Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park in February.
Declaration Of War is a taller model than his sire and himself blossomed as an older horse. It would seem he has a number of unexposed three-year-olds waiting in the wings, so it is reasonable to expect that better is to come.
He and The Factor lead the way among War Front’s early sire sons, a group that also include Claiborne Farm’s Data Link and Woodford Thoroughbreds’ Soldat, neither of whom set the world alight with their first juveniles last year (albeit from low fees).
At $25,000, Declaration Of War is also the most expensive of the 24 sons of War Front listed at stud worldwide. Fellow Ashford resident Air Force Blue, who covered 153 mares in his first season last year, isn’t far behind on $20,000, while Airdrie Stud’s Grade 1-placed Summer Front would appear value at $10,000 following the rousing reaction to his first foals last November.
Japanese breeders, meanwhile, have access to the line via Grade 1 winner American Patriot, new to Darley Japan this year.
For now, however, attention turns to War Command, one of two sons based in Britain and Ireland alongside Whitsbury Manor Stud’s Due Diligence.
War Command seemingly has plenty in his favour – an excellent two-year-old who won the Coventry and Dewhurst Stakes, he is related to influential sire Silver Hawk and has over 100 two-year-olds (including four that sold for six figures as yearlings) to represent him in many of Europe’s top yards.
Having come to hand early himself, War Command will be expected to hit the ground running. Either way, as the jury remains out on various other sons, his performance this season may well end up as a pivotal pointer to the way War Front’s legacy unfolds as a sire of sires.
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