The biggest moment in a stallions career comes when his first 2yos hit the track. It is at that pivotal moment when all the hype, advertising, on-track accolades, and pedigree fade away as the hooves hit the dirt and they are judged by the results of their progeny. Like a Hollywood Blockbuster, careers are often made in that opening first impression. This is even truer today when Breeders are reluctant to give a stallion time and so much emphasis is placed on large books of runners. Without the mares, a stallion has little chance to succeed.
2019 is loaded with big names and this year’s first-crop sire championship is fascinating. Here are the top 5 through today:
- American Pharoah $1,102,104
- Constitution $977,851
- Competitive Edge $864,219
- Khozan $782,848
- Palace Malice $709,726
American Pharoah, the first Triple Crown winner since the 70s, isn’t much of a surprise at the top. The mighty ruler of the Nile (and Mississippi?) has made an impact in both America and Europe with his offspring. Backed by Coolmore, AP has 162 2yos, 47 of them runners. Of those 14 are winners, 3 are stakes winners and he has one graded winner. He has come up just short in several G1 contests the most recent this weekend when American Theorem finished 2nd in the G1 American Pharaoh. It seems only a matter of time before Pharoah locks down his first G1 winner.
Interestingly, an injury may well be the deciding factor in this race. Constitution’s top 2yo, the filly Amalfi Sunrise, was retired due to illness complications which left her lungs scarred. Amalfi Sunrise looked like a surefire G1 winner – possibly the likely favorite for the BC Juvy. Can Constitution overcome her loss and catch the Pharoah? Constitution has 42 runners from his 123 2yos equaling AP with 14 winners he has 2 SWs and 2 GWs. Gouvernour Morris and Tiz the Law are two to keep an eye on. Constitution reminds many of the leading sire from the 2002 first-crop class, a little horse standing for $10,000 from a top sire (Forty Niner) called Distorted Humor. Breeders will likely see both AP and Constitution making an impact on the breed for years to come.
Competitive Edge is something of a surprise at 3, in fact the next three stallions all are somewhat surprising and bear watching. You’ve heard me talk about Khozan before at 4 (his colts just finished 2nd and 3rd in the Florida bred In Reality). Palace Malice picked up his first GSW at Belmont in the Pilgrim with Structor. The real surprise there is the Pilgrim is a turf race. Structor, who broke his maiden at Saratoga, is 2/2 and will likely be heading to the Breeder’s Cup Juvy Turf. I didn’t expect Palace Malice to throw precocious runners and I certainly didn’t expect him to have GSW on turf so soon.
The biggest disappointment so far is, unfortunately, a stallion I had enormous expectations with – Honor Code. One of the best combinations of pedigree and performance to be retired in recent years, the last star from A.P. Indy is off to a staggeringly poor start ranking 18th with only 5 winners from a tepid 28 starters with 111 2yos. Commissioner at 14 and with a stakes winner to his resume is actually the better A.P. Indy son right now. Other 10K+ stallions struggling are Tonalist at 16 (his offspring aren’t selling well at auction either) and Mr. Speaker at 23.
More complex is the position of Liam’s Map at 8 and Carpe Diem at 9. Both stand in that 20K zone, both have 110+ 2yos. Liam’s Map is currently being carried by his one big runner, G1 Hopeful winner Basin. In fact, LM only has 5 winner’s thus far. This has a lot of warning signs for me. Basin’s mom, Appenzell got a millionaire for Rockport Harbor so she’s potentially doing a lot of the heavy lifting here. Carpe is popular with breeders, he is getting large books and it’s more of a wait and see with him. Personally, I prefer Not This Time or Brody’s Cause for 1/4 of the stud fee, but he’s worth keeping an eye on. Bayern at 6 and two Tapits, Tapiture 7 and Race Day 10 round out the top ten.
Going forward, who should the breeder be interested in incorporating into their SIM bloodlines? I don’t need to tell you about the value American Pharoah holds. He’ll be an elite sire in the SIM for the next decade and you can’t go wrong using him. He’s shown he can get precocious runners, his offspring are setting sales records (recently the hammer came down at $8.2 million at Keeneland for a 2yo) and he is a superior addition to any barn. Constitution looks like the real deal and is setting himself up to be the best son of Tapit at stud. He clearly looks capable of throwing big-time horses and it’s very likely he will be making a ton of noise on the Derby trail next year. I have already gotten multiple stakes winners from Constitution in the SIM, in fact he has been more successful for me than American Pharoah. Those certainly aren’t typical results and I may just be unlucky with AP (or lucky with Con) but it does tell me Constitution already has a decent SIM rating and while I don’t expect him to be upgraded for 2020, should his offspring do what I feel they are capable of achieving next season an upgrade for 2021 certainly seems likely. I honestly don’t know what to make of Comeptitive Edge. I believe I’ve used him once and I haven’t had much success with his sire (Super Saver). I’ll need to see more. Khozan looks like he’ll be an elite Florida sire, but will that translate to greater things? Awesome of Course was a flash in the pan at Gulfstream then he sort of faded away. Whether or not Khozan does the same or a move to Kentucky is in his future is hard to say. I’m out on Liam’s Map and I’m really worried about Honor Code. Honor Code won the Remsen as a 2yo and because he was hurt as a 3yo many think he was a better older horse. Yes, he was a G1 winner as a 4yo but he had precocity so for his runners to be so uninspiring right now isn’t a great sign. Especially with Storm Cat and Mr. P so prominent in his pedigree. Palace Malice is a surprising enigma and as they say in the League, I’ll need to see more tape on him.
Many of these stallions will have runners in the Breeder’s Cup which adds an additional element of drama to this title race. Although American Pharoah has a lead, Constitution is within striking distance. Hold on, it’s going to be one heck of a finish.