One of the most enjoyable aspects of any new Thoroughbred racing season is trying to predict which freshman stallions are likely to wind up at the top of the heap come year-end. Below are our thoughts on which contenders are most likely to wind up as the Leading Freshman Sire of 2023.
- Maximus Mischief is a son of the five-time leading juvenile sire Into Mischief, and was himself an unbeaten 2YO after bringing $340,000 as a 2YO in-training at Timonium. Though his signature win that season came in the 1-1/8 mile Remsen-G2, he also broke his maiden first-time out going wire-to-wire at just 5-1/2 furlongs by 8-3/4 lengths. And if you go back and watch the replay of that maiden win, the speed with which Maximus Mischief breaks and immediately opens up a multiple-length lead is pretty incredible. As tall a stallion as you’ll find in Kentucky, that makes his precocity and speed all the more remarkable, and Maximus Mischief’s foals have tended to favor him in looks and build (a trait which he shares with Into Mischief, who is also a dominant-breeding bay who tends to throw to the lighter shade of the color with plenty of chrome). His yearling sales were very solid (95 sold for an average of $54,479 off a stud fee of $7,500), and while his 2YO in-training numbers have been a tad underwhelming so far (29 sold for an average of $64,793), we’re not back-tracking now. Maximus Mischief has 142 juveniles to represent him this year, which is good for fourth-most of all those in the class, and we fully expect that there will be plenty of them coming to hand early enough for him to lead the way this year by number of winners. However, given their size and scope, they won’t just be flashes in the pan and should stretch out successfully, which will give Maximus Mischief every chance to top the Freshman Sire List by earnings, too.
- Omaha Beach raced three times as a 2YO without managing to win a race, but he hit the board in all three of those starts and was twice beaten by no more than a neck. He continued to develop at 3 when he showed himself to be one of the most talented and versatile horses of his generation. He has the pedigree to back it up, being a son of War Front and out of a Seeking the Gold mare from one of the best female families in the stud book for the last decade or so. Both of those Claiborne stallions were influences for precocity, and we think that bodes well for Omaha Beach’s chances at stud right off the bat. The highest-priced first-year stallion of this intake (at $35,000), his sales figures have reflected that relative expensiveness, as well: 88 yearlings averaged $189,475, while his 20 2YOs to go through the ring so far this year have averaged $273,750. His 173 juveniles are more than all but two other freshmen, and while their prices suggest that they won’t be pushed to be out super early, it will be no shock to see a handful of high-class winners by Omaha Beach at Saratoga and Del Mar in the second half of the year.
- Audible, like Maximus Mischief above, is a son of Into Mischief and he is out of a dam by the Eclipse Champion 2YO Gilded Time. Audible brought $500,000 as a 2YO in-training before going on to take 2-of-3 that season, both wins coming at a mile. He continued to mature early into his sophomore season when he captured the G3 Holy Bull and G1 Florida Derby. A gorgeous specimen with plenty of size and scope to him, Audible has 182 juveniles to work with this year and they have sold very well all along: 123 of his yearlings changed hands last year for an average of $141,780, while he’s had 19 juveniles sell so far in 2023 for an average of $132,711. It is a tad concerning that several of his 2YOs offered this year brought less than what they sold for as yearlings (or RNA’ed when re-offered), but he has had a handful of impressive results and we think his profile offers plenty of reason to believe that he’ll come out with numerous winners who should mature as the season progresses.
- Flameaway hails from perhaps the only current sire-line that might be able to challenge that of Into Mischief in terms of precocity, namely that of Scat Daddy (and of course, Storm Cat is the tail-male great-grandsire of both). Flameaway broke his own maiden first-time out in May of his juvenile season, going just 4-1/2 furlongs over Woodbine’s synthetic, and then he went on to score stakes victories that year on both dirt and turf. He was a dual-surface stakes winner again at 3 prior to running in the Kentucky Derby, and his precocity, speed and versatility made him very popular when retired to stud for $7,500 (he has 133 2YOs to his credit this year). His 84 yearlings sold last year averaged $43,048, which isn’t too shabby, but the fact that he has had 19 2YOs average $78,526 so far in 2023 (with six having achieved six-figure prices) bodes very well. They should be quick and early but also with room to develop, and he could be one that makes more noise than his stud fee would have suggested (which wouldn’t be the first time, as Darby Dan launched Dialed In to a surprising Leading Freshman Sire title a few years back).
- Following the exploits of the high-priced Gun Runner two years ago, and then the three-way battle between Bolt d’Oro, Justify and Good Magic in 2022, all of whom retired at stud fees of $25,000 or higher, we believe that some of the less expensive first-year sires could challenge for the title in 2023, and Enticed would be a sleeper pick along those lines. Though a tall, big-bodied horse by a stallion who has been more of a classically-inclined influence in Medaglia d’Oro (and out of a G1-winning 3YO by a HOTY at 4 in Mineshaft), Enticed was nevertheless a 2YO debut winner at Saratoga before placing in the G1 Champagne and winning the G2 Jockey Club Stakes from all his juvenile starts. MDO has had several sons make noise with their (first) 2YOs, most notably the aforementioned Bolt d’Oro, Violence (who sired last year’s Eclipse Champion 2YO Forte), Maryland’s leading first-crop sire Golden Lad, as well as the reverse-shuttling Astern, who had some under-the-radar success here before Darley kept him in Australia year-round. Of his 109 2YOs, Enticed had a handful sell for six-figures as yearlings to some respected judges, and then he has improved his average this year to $69,531 for 19 sold (including a pair for $200k each to Mike Ryan and three others for six-figures) from a yearling average of $33,856 (73 sold). While we don’t expect to see them winning the early season sprints, they should be a factor as the season progresses and especially as the races stretch to two turns.
Honorable Mention. Though he likely does not have the numbers to compete for the title (40 2YOs to his credit this year), Copper Bullet was first or second in all four of his juvenile starts, including a maiden win at 5 furlongs in May, a 2nd in the G3 Bashford Manor, and then a win in the G2 Saratoga Special. He is by a precocious influence in More Than Ready, and out of a mare by the precocious influence Unbridled’s Song, and his connections put in place a unique plan for his first season at stud, whereby mares had to meet certain specific qualifications to be allowed into his book. His nine 2YOs to sell this year have averaged $113,889 with three of those bringing $175,000 or more, and we’d expect some good-looking winners by him this season.
Finally, we would be remiss not to mention G1W Force the Pass, who stood in Maryland at Anchor & Hope Farm for Wasabi Ventures Stallions, and has his first 2YOs hitting the track this season. Those 37 juveniles include several that have been retained by our friends at Wasabi and who have been pleasing connections at the Middleburg Training Center, and they were well-enough received at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Yearling Sale to give some hope that he’ll have a few decent runners out of the relatively small bunch.