In search of youthful promise

In Part 1 of a two-part series, John Boyce considers which of this season’s leading sprint two-year-olds could become successful future sires

Sourcing new stallions is always a huge challenge for independent studs. The big owner-breeder operations will inevitably retire their better credentialled colts to their own farms and indeed chase after any others that they deem worthy of a place at stud. Is it any wonder then that so many other stallion business models tend to be relatively short term in nature and attempt to exploit speed and precocity?

The odds of striking gold are low, but success can and does happen more often than we think. As the European Pattern bestows prestige on precocious speed by grading a host of two-year-old races at five and six furlongs, so it’s inevitable that many independent stud farms have sought to exploit this end of the market. 

Typically, these stallion studs will have to be content with trying to make stallions from second-tier racehorses – at least in terms of ratings. But just look at today’s success stories. What have Wootton Bassett, No Nay Never, Kodiac, Dark Angel, Mehmas and Havana Grey got in common? None had a Timeform rating of 120 or higher. So as long as you believe in the phenomenon that like begets like, then there will always be opportunities at stud for the sprint Stakes-winning juvenile colts.

Havana Grey is one of many highly successful sires who didn’t achieve a rating of 120 or higher during their racing careers

Havana Grey is one of many highly successful sires who didn’t achieve a rating of 120 or higher during their racing careers

So what colts among this year’s two-year-olds would interest independent stud farms? True to form, it is sons of the sires mentioned above that have been doing well this term. Wootton Bassett, with the promise of a considerable boost from the mares he has attracted since moving to Coolmore, would be a welcome potential future sire of sires for most commercial breeders. 

Let’s not forget that Wootton Bassett was an unbeaten Group 1-winning juvenile who failed to train on as a three-year-old. So, in fact, it is no surprise that he’s already supplying quality two-year-olds. Over 50% of his 36 Stakes winners earned their Stakes winning status as two-year-olds. Moreover, the average winning distance of his progeny aged three and older is 8.8 furlongs, which is significantly shorter that the average for his mares’ other progeny of 9.2 furlongs. So Wootton Bassett is more of a speed influence that perhaps we give him credit for, particularly after we witnessed his top-class son Almanzor dominate at a mile and a quarter. And don’t forget his own sire Iffraaj was a good sire of two-year-olds with a stamina index of 8.4 furlongs, while the winners by his broodmare sire Primo Dominie averaged 7.4 furlongs.

As things stand, his Group 1 Phoenix Stakes and Group 2 Railway Stakes winner Bucanero Fuerte has a Timeform rating of 118p which places him behind only City Of Troy among this year’s European juveniles. As a full-brother to the Timeform 121-rated and Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye winner Wooded, Bucanero Fuerte was well bought at €165,000 from the Deauville August Sale last year, the same venue that recently auctioned his Dubawi half-brother for €2.4 million. 

When finishing third in the Group 2 Coventry on his second start, Bucanero Fuerte was behind another good Wootton Bassett when Coolmore’s River Tiber scored a narrow victory. Since then this son of the unraced Arcano mare Transcendence has finished third in the Group 1 Prix Morny but he promises to do better on faster ground than he endured that day. Like Bucanero Fuerte, River Tiber was acquired from the yearling sales, in his case from Tattersalls October Book 1 at a price of 480,000gns. He hails from the immediate family of Group 1 Phoenix Stakes winner Surdiman.

Another top ten Wootton Bassett juvenile is the Ballydoyle-trained Unquestionable, who ran Bucanero Fuerte close in the Group 2 Railway Stakes and was the beaten favourite in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes. On his best form, he deserves a Group victory.

Vandeek ran out a comfortable winner of the Group 2 Richmond Stakes before going on to achieve Group 1 glory in the Prix Morny

Vandeek ran out a comfortable winner of the Group 2 Richmond Stakes before going on to achieve Group 1 glory in the Prix Morny

Havana Grey is the sire that keeps on surprising us. As if last year’s achievements – when he sired 42 winners and five Stakes winners – weren’t enough, the son of Havana Gold has arguably done even better with his second-crop youngsters, siring his first Group 1 winner in the shape of Prix Morny winner Vandeek, now undefeated in three starts, including the Group 2 Richmond Stakes, and rated 115p by Timeform. It wasn’t until Vandeek showed some ability at the Craven breeze up that he made serious money for his connections, realising 625,000gns having previously sold for just 42,000gns as a yearling a few months’ earlier at Tattersalls’ December sale, and 52,000gns as a foal 12 months before that. His winning grandam is a half-sister to the Group 1 Prix Robert Papin scorer Balbonella, herself dam of the top-class Group 1-winning sprinter Anabaa and Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches heroine Always Loyal, who also features as the grandam of Shonan Adela, a Champion Two-Year-Old Filly in Japan.

Havana Grey is also responsible for Group 2 July Stakes winner Jasour who accounted for subsequent Group 2 Gimcrack scorer Lake Forest by a comfortable two lengths at Newmarket. A graduate at £85,000 of Goffs Premier Yearling Sale at Doncaster, Jasour is bred for speed being out of an unraced Bahamian Bounty daughter of three-time winner Twilight Thyme, a half-sister to none other than dual Group 1-winning sprinter Twilight Son and three other Stakes winners. And a Group 2-winning son of Havana Grey will do nicely for many a commercial farm, particularly if he can give a good account of himself at Group 1 level before the season is done.

The other hot property among sires of juveniles this season is No Nay Never. This son of Scat Daddy has already sired six Stakes winners this term, featuring three at Group 2 level, his son, the aforementioned Lake Forest, being the highest rated at 109. With a Group 3-placed El Prado dam whose half-sister bred Group 1 Irish 2,000 Guineas and Criterium International winner Roderic O’Connor, from the family of Champion two-year-old filly and Group 1 Cheveley Park heroine Durtal, Lake Forest has obvious appeal as a potential stallion.

The Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes winner Lake Forest (No Nay Never) hails from a family with Group 1 connections and has obvious appeal as a potential stallion

The Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes winner Lake Forest (No Nay Never) hails from a family with Group 1 connections and has obvious appeal as a potential stallion

The Norfolk Stakes winner Valiant Force is the only other Group 2-winning juvenile sprinter we haven’t mentioned so far. It remains to be seen whether this son of A.P. Indy stallion Malibu Moon and the first foal of an unraced Quality Road mare from three-time Canadian Stakes winner Blue Heart, who cost Amo Racing $100,000 as a yearling, has the right pedigree type for Europe. Certainly, if he can put his disappointing fifth-of-nine effort in the Group 1 Prix Morny behind him on better ground, then who knows?

In Part 2 of our appraisal of this year’s speedy two-year-olds, we will review some of the Group 3 winners and update any new Group 2 scorers.


Date  Race  Grade  Racecourse  Dist  Winner   Sire 
20-Jun-23  Coventry S.  G2  Royal Ascot  6f  River Tiber   Wootton Bassett 
22-Jun-23  Norfolk S.  G2  Royal Ascot  5f  Valiant Force   Malibu Moon 
02-Jul-23  Railway S.  G2  Curragh  6f  Bucanero Fuerte   Wootton Bassett 
13-Jul-23  July S.  G2  Newmarket  6f  Jasour   Havana Grey 
03-Aug-23  Richmond S.  G2  Goodwood  6f  Vandeek   Havana Grey 
12-Aug-23  Phoenix S.  G1  Curragh  6f  Bucanero Fuerte   Wootton Bassett 
20-Aug-23  Prix Morny  G1  Deauville  1200m  Vandeek   Havana Grey 
25-Aug-23  Gimcrack S.  G2  York  6f  Lake Forest   No Nay Never 

About the author

John Boyce

John Boyce grew up on a stud farm and is a bloodstock journalist and former editor of Pacemaker and of The Thoroughbred Breeder. He was part of the Darley/Godolphin team from 2001 to 2022 as Group Marketing Head and then Group Head of Research. He is currently a partner in a data analytics company based in London.

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