As 2013 makes its first tentative, and rather muddy, steps, racing fans are treated to the feeling that, for now, anything is possible. The Cheltenham Festival is now but 10 weeks away, the Dubai Carnival promises an international melting pot of classy fields and the emerging turf season heralds the arrival of new names on the track, in the paddocks and amongst pedigrees.
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In the last decade Galileo has transformed from a stand-out performer on the track, to an exciting prospect at stud, to a new sensation in the breeding ranks. The first horse to have levelled a challenge against the records set by his own sire, Sadler's Wells, Galileo looks on course to continue his dominance in Britain, Ireland, and further afield, while the move of his five-time Group/Grade 1-winning son Cape Blanco to Coolmore's Kentucky base gives American breeders the opportunity to tap into those illustrious genes.
Such is the magic of the breeding world however, that while Galileo continues along an unrelenting path to European supremacy, a new challenger could be just around the corner, and in 2013's crop of first season sires, could we be about to witness the early days of a future champion?
Certainly among the group are champions of the turf, headed by Galileo's half-brother, Sea The Stars (Cape Cross). Winner of six Group 1 races in six months, including the Epsom Derby, the son of broodmare extraordinaire Urban Sea (Miswaki) has not been without support at the sales to date, and this will likely continue on the track, as hinted by the 33 2014 Derby entries held by his offspring, including a €1.2m purchase out of the Linamix mare Alpine Rose.
During the summer of Sea The Stars' reign, a year before the indomitable Frankel had even set foot on a racecourse, an elite band of runners repeatedly took on the Tsui family's champion, but despite some gallant efforts, none were to prevail. Youmazin, Fame And Glory, Delegator and Rip Van Winkle, big names beaten by the bay, all returned to the track in 2010, leaving Mastercraftsman (Danehill Dancer) to mount a challenge in the juvenile stakes.
The latter phrase is an important one, given the precocity shown by Mastercraftsman and his siblings. Champion juvenile in Europe for 2008, Aidan O'Brien's charge outshone his future conqueror in achievements at two, earning his first black-type in the Group 2 Railway Stakes before Sea The Stars had even debuted and going on to land the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes and National Stakes.
Choisir, another sire by Danehill Dancer, has also enjoyed success with his juveniles, topped this year by Richard Hannon's Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner Olympic Glory. History may not always repeat itself, but at a time when we can only speculate, the signs for Coolmore's young resident are promising.
Following Sea The Stars' form line, but slightly further afield, Conduit (Dalakhani) will also see his first juveniles this year. Standing at Big Red Farm in Hokkaido, we may have to wait a while before his produce arrive on our shores, but Japanese race results will be monitored with interest.
Another freshman sire based abroad, but likely to have more of an impact on the domestic and European title race, is former French Champion Myboycharlie. Yearlings by the son of Danetime were hot property towards the end of last year, thanks in part to the success of his juveniles Down Under, including first runner Charlie Boy, who also became his sire's first winner. Hopes will be high for the Haras de Mezeray resident, whose paternal sibling Bushranger also joined the stallion ranks in 2010 when taking up a place on the Tally-Ho Stud roster, and whose first crop run this year.
Though somewhat overshadowed by the exploits of Coolmore's big guns, Dansili has been a consistent producer of top-class runners in recent years, regularly landing leading British-based honours. The coming season will see his full brother, Champs Elysees (Danehill), amongst the first season sire ranks. A son of the legendary Hasili (Kahyasi), the former Canadian champion has much to live up to not only given the success of his renowned sibling, but top-class runners by another full-brother, Cacique, has further bolstered the family trade. Fertility problems have plagued the latter during his stud career, but the dual Grade 1 scorer boasts an impressive strike rate from his limited progeny, including Prix Jean Prat winner Mutual Trust. Furthermore, the trio's sister Banks Hill is also the dam of two Group winners, adding yet more talent to this illustrious Juddmonte family.
Another leading British sire, Pivotal (Polar Falcon), was joined at Cheveley Park Stud by his son Virtual following the conclusion of his racing career, and 2013 will see the latter's first crop make their debut. Though Pivotal was a top-class sprinter in his heyday, from his Newmarket base he has proven more than versatile, as demonstrated by his daughters Izzi Top and Sariska, both Group 1 middle distance winners.
In Virtual the apple did not fall so far from the tree, but did see wins from seven to nine furlongs. Our subject was not a precocious youngster however, nor was his sire. His three parts brother, the late Iceman (Polar Falcon), proved more so however, landing the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot. From his two crops late starts seem a common theme however, though his star performer Frederick Engels debuted in May.
Finally, turning a near full circle, we come to Soldier Of Fortune. A member of Galileo's 31 Group 1-winning offspring, the Irish Derby hero stands at Logisaint Germain but remains under the Coolmore banner. Buyers of his produce so far have included Peter and Ross Doyle, Jean-Claude Rouget, Mark Johnston and David Redvers, and while his full-brother Heliostatic may have made a low-key start to his stud career with small crops to date, Crius, from his first crop, landed the Group 3 Somerville Tattersalls Stakes; the pair are also from the immediate family of Group 1-producing sire Sholokhov (Sadler's Wells).
And so, just as last year when the racing world was anticipating a new generation by the likes of New Approach, Raven's Pass and Sixties Icon, this year we are once again treated to a wealth of new talent by luminary names who once also graced the track.
Whilst not intending to wish a year away, in 12 months we can look forward to the same sense of excitement as the offspring of Paco Boy, Rip Van Winkle, Makfi, Harbinger and many more enter the final preparation stages for their turn on the track. Breeding industries around the world may not be without their problems, but for sheer excitement as the years roll by and foals become racehorses become stallions, it cannot be beaten.