Horse Racing Tips

Vanessa Ryle: Key sires' crops compete in Friday's Rockfel Stakes

Horse racing expert Vanessa Ryle
Vanessa thinks there could still be surprises to come on the Flat

Vanessa Ryle discusses the stars and surprises of this year's first season sires and looks ahead to the Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket on Friday...

Every year the first-season sire market causes a huge amount of debate and interest. The intrigue doesn't just start at the beginning of the Flat season, either. It starts six months before at the yearling sales in the autumn of the previous year and continues through to the Breeze-Up sales in the spring.

By the time the first crop of the sire's progeny hit the track, opinions have already been formed and views aired.

However, horses can be quick to make fools of us. This year's first-season sire crop has sprung a few surprises along the way and the significance only heightens at this time of the year with the top two-year-old races just around the corner: when quality overtakes quantity as a meaningful metric.

Pair could do sire proud at Newmarket on Friday

Sioux Nation was the 4/9 favourite in the leading first -season sire market at the start of the year. It was no surprise to see such a punchy projection given that he was a precocious and speedy two-year-old. His sire (Scat Daddy) had already produced leading sire No Nay Never for the same Coolmore team and he was ridiculously well supported with a huge first crop on the ground.

The Coolmore inmate has had 54 individual runners to date, producing 23 individual winners, which puts him in second place on the leading sire table behind the sensation that has been Havana Grey.

However, from this first offering, Sioux Nation has sired two European Stakes winners in Lakota Sioux and Sydneyarms Chelsea and they add to an impressive tally of five representatives with a rating of 100 or above - the same number as his market rival Havana Grey.

Both those two flagbearers, Lakota Sioux and Sydneyarms Chelsea, head to the Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket and look to notch up a first Group 2 winner for the sire.

Strong crop justifies confidence in Havana Grey

Standing at Whitsbury Manor, Havana Grey was priced up as the second favourite in the market for leading first-season sire and his offspring have gone above and beyond what was expected of him.

A strong first crop in numbers on the ground has led to 67 individual runners this season and 27 of them have won, generating 43 wins collectively.

They include four individual black type winners such as Eddie's Boy and Shouldvebeenaring - the Middleham Park ownership syndicate clearly having confidence in the sire long before his progeny hit the track having brought both those horses at the yearling sales for 45,000 gns and 40,000 gns respectively.

Crack team of surprises

Both Havana Grey and Sioux Nation were destined for success due to their own profiles and the early support they received, but the same cannot be said for those further down the first-season sire table. Indeed, there are some surprises when diving deeper into the data.

Cracksman, who just had one start as a two-year-old himself over a mile in October 2016 and was a 33/1 shot at the start of the season for leading first-season sire, has produced seven winners from 22 runners.

His strike-rate of 31% which would have him at fifth spot on the table if using that barometer rather than number of winners.

The Charlie and Mark Johnston-trained Dance In The Grass has led the way for Cracksman in terms of class having won a listed contest at Sandown. She bids to redeem her reputation (following a flop in the May Hill) in the Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket alongside the once-raced Rich who also represents the sire.

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Physically and on pedigree page it can only be expected that the Cracksman offspring would improve with age, racing and distance, just like their father did when in training, so it would be no surprise to see this first crop flourish at the end of this season and into next year.

Kessaar's impressive crop

Another surprise package on the first-season sire table would be Kessaar, as high as fourth place with 14 individual winners from 37 runners and an impressive strike-rate of 37%. It is no shock to see him produce a crop of forward two-year-olds given that he himself was only raced at two, winning three races including the Group Two Mill Reef Stakes.

He was retired to stud early and was viewed as a rank outsider to produce the progeny needed to shine as a first-season sire given that he was an even bigger price than Cracksman's 33/1 in the market.

Kessaar reads well on numbers and quantity but only one of his offspring has managed to secure an official rating of 100 (Bolt Action), and he now needs to produce the goods on the quality side. With very limited entries in the big races on the horizon it looks as though he could struggle to finish the season with quite the same momentum as he gained throughout the summer.

Warrior making inroads late on

Saxon Warrior was touted to go well and was a 6/1 chance in the market at the start of the season. The son of Deep Impact's offspring had a slow start but a 36% ratio of winners to runners has him making good inroads.

Although he himself was unbeaten in three races as two-year-old, it would be expected that his progeny will get better at the back-end of this season and into their three-year-old campaigns.

Victoria Road was the first to become a black-type performer for the sire and now the Eve Johnson Houghton trained Range Of Bamby will look to add to that in the Rockfel Stakes on Friday.

The hype around the first-season sires always seems louder at the start of the season rather than the end, but there is plenty still to play for as we head into the last chapter of the Flat campaign. There may well be a few more surprises to come.

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