Winner machine looks set for another blockbuster year
James Thomas examines another exciting crop of juveniles for the Tally-Ho inmate
Those of us without access to a crystal ball would have struggled to predict that Kodiac, who retired to Tally-Ho Stud in 2007 without so much as a stakes win to his name, would have become a sire of world record-breaking renown just ten years later.
However, predictable or not, that is exactly the position Kodiac finds himself in as he heads into 2018. He supplied a staggering 61 two-year-old winners in 2017, a tally that sailed straight by the previous high mark of 51 winning juveniles set by Sunday Silence in 2004, at a strike-rate of 52 per cent.
Kodiac's ability to sire fast, hardy and precocious stock with clockwork regularity has seen him rise from humble beginnings to become one of the most in-demand stallions around. And with modest beginnings, having started out at stud at a fee of just €5,000, comes modest mares, so it should not be underestimated just how far Kodiac has come from that debut book.
Yes, there was adequate quantity in those early books, but no one could argue that Kodiac had the privilege of quality. He covered 412 mares during his first four seasons at Tally-Ho, and among that number were just 31 stakes-placed runners (less than eight per cent) and a mere seven black-type winners (less than two per cent).
But he very quickly proved himself to be the kind of sire every stallion master dreams of, one capable of upgrading his mares.
Those on-course results were mirrored by a positive response in the sales ring, with his 2011 yearlings averaging £22,305 - and fetching up to £110,250 - for horses bred off as little as €4,000.
He may have started off at a chickenfeed covering fee, but it was easy for breeders to make sense of Kodiac's success. His race record may have been rather patchy - he finished a close fourth in the 2006 Prix Maurice de Gheest, albeit he had been beaten in handicaps the previous year - but his prowess at stud was underpinned by an exceptional pedigree.
He is, of course, by the global breed-shaper Danehill - responsible for sire sons such as Danehill Dancer, Exceed And Excel, Fastnet Rock, Redoute's Choice and Rock Of Gibraltar - and is out of the Prix de Diane heroine, and blue hen, Rafha. Moreover, during Kodiac's final year of racing, his closely related half-brother Invincible Spirit supplied an astonishing 35 two-year-old winners with his debut crop, a world- record tally for a freshman sire.
KODIAC - THE FACTS AND FIGURES
Pedigree 17yo b Danehill-Rafha (Kris)
Stands Tally-Ho Stud, County Westmeath
2018 fee €50,000
2017 yearling average £108,790
If those early seasons paved the way for Kodiac's rise to stardom, then 2014 is the year that he got his big break, on the racetrack, in the breeding shed and in the sales ring. That year's juvenile crop was conceived during the covering season after his debut two-year-old runners had suggested he was a sire worth following, and contained a host of talents that confirmed Kodiac was indeed a stallion of rare merit.
The highlight of that breakthrough crop was Tiggy Wiggy, who won six of her eight starts at two and rounded off her campaign with an electrifying performance to land the Cheveley Park Stakes. She was joined by three more stakes winners in that juvenile crop, Patience Alexander, Dewhurst Stakes runner-up Kodi Bear and Terror.
During that same year Kodiac covered the largest book of his career at a new high fee of €10,000 – 236 mares, 124 of them winners, 33 stakes-placed and 16 of them black-type winners. It was, of course, from this book that his record-breaking 2017 two-year-old crop emerged.
His yearling average also took another leap, up to £62,250, while the Niarchos family set a new high mark for one of Kodiac's offspring when paying 460,000gns for the filly Thrilled.
That book, which provides 2018's two-year-olds, was covered at a fee of €25,000. And while that is by no means expensive by bloodstock standards, the quality contained within it is a world away from the mares he served during his debut season at stud.
Kodiac covered 234 mares in 2015, 129 of them winners (55 per cent), 42 of them black type-getters (18 per cent) and 21 who struck at stakes level (nine per cent). He also received nine Group winners, and in a neat illustration of the jump in quality contained within his 2015 book, that is the same number he covered in his previous eight seasons at stud combined.
Among those numbers are mares from the likes of leading owner-breeders such as Shadwell, Ballylinch Stud, Newsells Park, Moyglare Stud, Lady Rothschild and Rabbah Bloodstock.
The significant increase in quality did not go unmissed by buyers at the latest round of sales, as Kodiac posted a new record yearling average of £108,790 for 139 lots sold in 2017 - with 47 fetching six-figure sums. He also had his priciest ever yearling change hands, with MV Magnier, Mayfair Speculators and Peter and Ross Doyle going to 925,000gns for the half-sister to Group 3 winner Now Or Never.
Other buyers who secured expensive yearlings by the Tally-Ho linchpin include the Hong Kong Jockey Club, who bought the colt out of Inyordreams for 450,000gns; Shadwell, who went to €500,000 for the colt out of Wonderful Town; and Charlie Gordon-Watson, who went to 320,000gns for the filly out of Carved Emerald.
Given that Kodiac has made his name as an excellent source of two-year-olds, the number of high-achieving juveniles with siblings by the record-breaking sire is eye-catching.
In 2018, Kodiac is set to be represented by two-year-old siblings to the likes of Lowther Stakes heroine Queen Kindly, Norfolk Stakes hero Radiohead, Mill Reef Stakes winner Toocoolforschool, Champagne Stakes scorer Vital Equine, Windsor Castle Stakes victor Extortionist and Redcar Two-Year-Old Trophy winner Darkanna, to name but a few.
A number of Kodiac's sons and daughters who helped to propel their sire to the upper echelons of the stallion ranks also have brothers or sisters due to hit the track in 2018, including dual Group 2 winner Adaay, Flying Childers and Windsor Castle Stakes winner Ardad, the Listed-winning Riskit Fora Biskit and the Listed-placed Bear Behind.
And with more owner-breeders coming on board with Kodiac in 2015, it will also be fascinating to see how he clicks with mares whose progeny have progressed well with time, with the dams of Massaat and Martlet set to be represented by two-year-olds, while Barney Roy's half-sister - a 400,000gns buy by David Redvers - also rates an exciting prospect for this season and beyond.
From the moment Kodiac's first two-year-olds hit the track it became apparent that he was something out of the ordinary, and with the son of Danehill due to stand his second consecutive season at €50,000 in 2018, his trajectory shows little sign of slowing.
Given how far he has come already, it is hard to know quite how high Kodiac can go, but with his better-bred crops only now emerging, there's a chance he is only just getting started.