Our pick to lead this year’s crop of freshman sires is the WinStar stallion Fed Biz.
After making his racetrack debut in November of his 2-year-old year (finishing 4th that day), Fed Biz broke his maiden second time out, with a day to spare in his juvenile season. He won his first start at 3 in February, picked up his first stakes victory in August of that sophomore campaign, then was a Graded winner, Grade 1-placed, and a track record-setter at both 4 and 5. He showed stakes form on dirt, all-weather and turf, and scored his biggest victories both setting the pace and coming from behind.
Although he strikes many as more of a classic influence, Fed Biz’s sire, Giant’s Causeway, is actually a two-time leading juvenile sire (and a son of seven-time leading juvenile sire Storm Cat). Fed Biz’s dam, the Wild Again mare Spunoutacontrol, was a winner at 2 and is a half-sister to multiple Group 1-winning 2-year-old Minardi, as well as to Myth, the dam of 7-for-7 juvenile Johannesburg, who won Grade/Group 1 races in four different countries that season. Johannesburg, like Fed Biz, is by a son of Storm Cat, and he went on to sire Grade 1-winning 2-year-old Scat Daddy (himself a prodigious early-maturing influence, in turn). Another sibling to Spunoutacontrol is Grade 2 winner Tale of the Cat (by Storm Cat), who went on to sire Eclipse Champion 2-year-old filly She’s a Tiger and undefeated Grade 1-winning juvenile Lion Heart, despite not racing at 2 himself. And although Spunoutacontrol’s sire, Wild Again, won the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic and tended to be more of a classic influence, his son Offlee Wild was the leading freshman sire a few years back.
Fed Biz will have 105 juveniles to represent him this year, which stacks up well against the rest of his class. His introductory stud fee of $12,500 (he’s now at $10,000) was not near the top of the division (Will Take Charge led the way at $30,000), but the CI (Comparative Index, a measure of mares’ success as producers) of his mates was second only to Will Take Charge among this crop of Kentucky sires, while his mates’ CPI (Class Performance Index, a measure of mares’ success as runners) was third to Will Take Charge and Atreides from that group (Atreides has half as many foals, conceived on a $6,500 fee).
The percentage of Fed Biz’s first book of mares that themselves won at 2 is not astronomical, nor is the percentage of those mares’ foals to have won at 2, but his mates have produced 3.4% stakes winning 2-year-olds among their foals, which is closer to the top of the list.
Perhaps most telling for Fed Biz’s prospects of success is that his five 2-year-olds to sell at auction so far this year have achieved a median of $335,000, by far the highest of any member of this stallion crop. That those five sales have come from just eight offered bodes well, also, especially given that two of the three RNAs were at $160,000 and $220,000 (though it should be noted that RNA prices are not always indicative of or even necessarily close to a horse’s actual value). These strong sales results are not new to Fed Biz, either, as he had 57 yearlings change hands last year for a median of $75,000, while his first weanlings to sell (20 of them) had a median of $48,500. (Fed Biz himself was a $950,000 sale yearling.)
It’s not just the prices, but also the buyers of Fed Biz’s foals that inspire confidence about his chances of success. The top class outfits that have purchased Fed Biz offspring at auction so far include the well-respected agents Mike Ryan and Dennis O’Neill, leading New York trainer Linda Rice, and owners like WinStar’s Maverick Racing, Rockingham Ranch, Richard Santulli’s Colts Neck, the Lieblongs, Samantha Siegel, and Bill Parcells’ August Dawn Farm.
We looked at many of Fed Biz’s yearlings ourselves last year, and they were a uniformly athletic and racy bunch – not the biggest of horses, but well-balanced and well-muscled. And the biomechanics analysis expert Robert Fierro, in a pair of BloodHorse Pedigree Weekly newsletters from 2016 and 2017, has suggested that Fed Biz and his foals offer a blend of “power” and “stride” elements reminiscent of Giant’s Causeway himself (and not something he’s necessarily passed on to all of his other stallion sons) which will make them well-suited as milers.
For us, all of this points to Fed Biz topping the freshman sire list at the end of this year.
Our projected top three is rounded out by Airdrie’s Cairo Prince and Strong Mandate at Three Chimneys.
Cairo Prince has been this group’s commercial darling since day one. He started out at a $10,000 fee, was bumped to $15,000 after his first weanlings went through the ring (median of $80,000 for 20 sold), and increased again to $25,000 for this year after 75 of his yearlings achieved a $115,000 median. So far in 2018, six of his juveniles have a $227,500 median at the sales (though from thirteen through the ring, so his 46% clearance rate isn’t ideal).
The Cairo Prince yearlings that we saw last year were uniformly leggy, balanced individuals with plenty of scope, but without being heavy-bodied in any way, so it would not be a shock to see them in lots of winner’s circles this year. Especially given that Cairo Prince himself was a Graded-winning 2-year-old, by Grade 1-winning 2-year-old Pioneerof the Nile, who has already sired Eclipse Award-winning juveniles American Pharoah and Classic Empire from his first few crops. Cairo Prince’s broodmare sire, Holy Bull, was a Grade 1 winner at 2 and sired the likes of Eclipse Champion 2-year-old Macho Uno and Grade 1 winner at 2 Confessional.
Cairo Prince will have 120 first-crop foals to represent him this year, and their dams have a strong 28% of their foals that have won at 2, with 4% stakes winners at 2 – both numbers placing Cairo Prince in the top trio of this group. His mates’ 1.59 CI and 1.59 CPI are not as high as some of his rivals, but he has a large number of his 2-year-olds out of mares by Storm Cat-line sires, who are typically noted for their speed and precocity – not to mention that it’s a cross that has produced both American Pharoah and Classic Empire. So there’s every reason to think that the Cairo Prince juveniles will be precocious, as well.
As for Strong Mandate, he became just the second Grade 1-winning 2-year-old sired by Tiznow (who was the leading freshman sire of his season on the strength of his daughter Folklore’s Eclipse Championship season) when he won the G1 Hopeful (Sporting Chance has since duplicated that victory last year), after breaking his maiden by open lengths earlier in that Saratoga meet. He subsequently finished 3rd in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and was retired after suffering an injury early in his 3-year-old season.
Standing for $10,000, Strong Mandate has achieved very strong sales results with his progeny so far – 17 of his first weanlings sold for a median of $37,000, including a $270,000 individual and another that brought $100,000. He had 47 yearlings change hands last year with a median of $50,000, but fourteen of them brought six figures, including an $825,000 individual (the same filly that was the $270,000 weanling, actually). And this year with his 2-year-olds in-training, six of ten offered have sold for a median of $150,000 – all excellent numbers for a $10,000 sire, who also covered more mares last year in his third book than he did in his first year at stud.
We loved the Strong Mandate yearlings as a group last year – they were big, scopey individuals, albeit with more mass to them than the Cairo Princes. And while his first mates’ CI was an underwhelming 1.39, they did have a stronger 1.74 CPI. Thirty percent of the mares won at 2 themselves, with 23% of their foals having won at 2, including 3% that were juvenile stakes winners.
Strong Mandate has 87 first-crop foals to run this year, and many of them are out of mares by Storm Cat- and Mr. Prospector-line sires, both of which impart precocity as a general rule, and both of which have had success with Tiznow. So we think there’s every chance that Strong Mandate’s progeny will show the same precocity that he himself did, even if they should continue to progress as 3-year-olds.
Three other freshman sires that we think worth mentioning are Verrazano, Noble Mission and Goldencents.
Verrazano didn’t actually start at 2 himself, though he did come out for the first time on New Year’s Day of his sophomore season.
He romped that day, won his first four races, and six of his first seven (he was 14th in the G1 Kentucky Derby). As a 4-year-old he ran in Europe for Aidan O’Brien, placing in a pair of Group 1s there on turf. He will have more juveniles this year than anyone else (141), and his mates had a strong CPI of 2.01 (their CI was a perfectly acceptable 1.52). Of his mates, 23% won at 2 and 25% of their foals have won at 2, which are solid enough percentages. He had a $55,000 median with his first weanlings (22 sold), a $60,000 median with his first yearlings (73 sold), but this year his 2-year-olds have only a $65,000 median for the five of twelve that have sold. As a big, stout horse, you’d think his offspring might need some time – though the yearlings we saw last year were not uniformly big, stout horses like Verrazano himself. But Verrazano’s sire, More Than Ready, is an excellent 2-year-old influence, and Verrazano is out of a Giant’s Causeway mare. With so many runners to work with, and standing at a place like Ashford, it would seem foolish to write Verrazano off just yet.
Noble Mission was 2nd in his only start at 2 (in Europe), broke his maiden and was a Group 3 winner at 3, but really hit his best
stride at 5, when he won three Group 1s at 1-1/4 miles in France, Ireland and the U.K. That might not sound like a recipe for success as a juvenile sire, but Noble Mission is a full-brother to the top 2-year-old, and now leading sire, Frankel, by the best sire in Europe (including of 2-year-olds), Galileo. Noble Mission covered an outstanding book of mares at Lane’s End (112 first-crop foals, from mares with a 1.63 CI and 2.44 CPI). Twenty-nine percent of his mates won at 2, 19% of their foals have won at 2, including 4.4% juvenile stakes winners, the best of this bunch in Kentucky. His first weanlings sold well ($60,000 median for eleven sold), but the yearlings didn’t improve on that ($62,000 median for 41 sold). However, his juveniles this year have done well, with four of five through the ring selling for a $112,988 median. We liked the looks of his yearlings that we saw last year, though they were not all of a type – something that was also said of the first Frankel foals, though that didn’t stop them from winning once they reached the races. With turf racing ever more popular in the U.S., including juvenile turf races, Noble Mission seems a sneaky proposition to have a strong first year.
Goldencents will have the second-most first-crop representatives out this year (125), and was himself a very talented 2-year-old.
He was the first big horse for his sire, Into Mischief, now standing for six figures and last year’s leading sire of 2-year-olds. Goldencents didn’t cover the most impressive first book of mares, but, as we mentioned, there were a lot of them, and 26% of his mates’ foals have won at 2, with 3.4% of them being juvenile stakes winners. And given the precocity of his sire-line, we wouldn’t be shocked to see Goldencents towards the top of the freshman sire list, even if they haven’t generally impressed the judges at the sales so far.
We should also note that Will Take Charge, who covered the best book of mares of anyone in this crop (2.09 CI, 3.03 CPI, including 35% that won at 2 themselves, with 28% of their foals being winners at 2), has had outstanding sales results all along, as well. He’ll have 110 2-year-olds to represent him this year, but for our money, even if he can become the first son of Unbridled’s Song to really hit as a sire, his progeny are much more likely to succeed at 3-years-old and up, rather than at 2.