Dominic Thiem battled back from the verge of defeat to down world No.1 Novak Djokovic in a three-hour, three-set semi-final classic at the ATP Finals.
We are now well into that time of the year when breeders, both hobby and professional, are deciding or have decided which stallions should enjoy the favour of their blue-blood broodmares this spring.
As a man who has always been significantly constrained in my breeding budget, I enjoy scouring the market for perceived value for the proven winner whose talents are not reasonably recognised by the market or the cheap unproven stallion that may have the capacity to way exceed expectations.
As someone who once chose Black Hawk over the novice Written Tycoon for my mare, like everyone, I don’t always get it right!
There are two things that strike me when I scan the wide array of stallion options available in Australia and New Zealand this year.
The first is that the Hunter Valley is clearly on a different planet to the rest of Australasia. Put a bridle and saddle on me and float me to Scone and I reckon I could attract $10,000 a service.
The only stallion in Australasia advertised at above $50,000 that is not based in the Hunter Valley is the champion Kiwi, Savabeel.
The second seems to be that frequently it seems the market doesn’t put great value on actual results. It seems the thrill of the unknown in unproven first and second season sires often trumps proven performance. Maybe that’s fine if you are taking a punt on a $10,000 stallion, but for most of these big-ticket novices, the only way will be down once their progeny hit the racetrack.
The only way is down too for most of the $10,000 stallions, but if you get it wrong then it’s cost you a lot less to stuff up, and every now and then one of these cheap stallions comes along and shoots the lights out – think I Am Invincible, Encosta De Lago or Written Tycoon, who we could have got for $5000, for example.
As they say in the ads, compare the pair. Trapeze Artist – multiple Group 1-winning sprinter admittedly but with his first foals just starting to hit the ground – is advertised at $77,000 a service. Maybe he will be the next Danehill, maybe his progeny will all be battling it out at Mudgee. It remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, in NZ, for a quarter of that you could have booked your future broodmare of the year in to Ocean Park, who is building an outstanding record of delivering actual Group 1 performers, particularly in Australia, such as Star Of The Seas, Kolding and Tofane, who all go around tomorrow.
Head out of the Hunter and things are very different.
WA has produced an extraordinary array of top-class horses over the past 25 years on seemingly the smell of an oily rag. Even now the top advertised stallion price in the state is $13,200 for up-and-comer Playing God, with only one other stallion advertised at over $7000.
Awesome Rock – a Group 1-winning son of Fastnet Rock – ticks plenty of boxes at $5500 for those wanting to try something new, while two sons of Encosta De Lago in My Admiration and Maschino are getting plenty of city winners from relatively limited opportunities.
In South Australia and Tasmania the options are limited – only one stallion over $5500 – but proven winners like Barbados ($4400), Ambidexter ($4400) and Toorak Toff – the last of the Star Kingdom line at $3850 – strike me as great value for the small breeder.
Queensland has just two stallions over $16,500 – the prolific winner producers Spirit of Boom and Better Than Ready, who have both done it the hard way. Rothesay – sire of the outstanding Rothfire – has a price tag of just $4950.
Here in Victoria we have a wide choice ranging from the price of a cup of coffee up to Brazen Beau at just under $50,000. And sometimes choices are made for the strangest of reasons.
We once sent a mare to Happy Giggle after the guy managing our mare’s agistment rang us and said your mare is ready to go. He told us the next day was Cup Day and that he was going to the Cup. “Unless you want to wait another month, she needs to go now and I’m not driving her more than an hour away for her service.”
Happy Giggle turned out to be the only option and within 30 minutes she was booked in. Impressively, the resultant foal won four races and raced in black-type company! It was no champ but gave us a lot of fun. It just goes to show you.
There’s a couple of good things tomorrow that I can’t resist mentioning. At Eagle Farm in Race 8, Desert Lord looks lengths better than his rivals. At Flemington, Madam Rouge finally draws a barrier and gets a firm track in Race 8. Santa Ana Lane is thrown in at the handicaps in Race 4, and I have to stick with Probabeel in the Epsom at Randwick. She’s a gun!