There's a fascinating battle developing between star sires Kingman and No Nay Never - Cassie Tully looks at their progress and what might play out when racing finally resumes.
As we try to fumble our way through this unprecedented crisis that has struck the world and struggle to make any sense of it all, it can be difficult to comprehend the day of the week let alone try to decipher when it is all going to end.
Soon, is all we can hope as we rest our faith in the leaders of our countries, health organisations and so forth.
Alas it must eventually come to an end, at which point we can hopefully resume our rightful places safely within our racing bubble. And when we do, at least we will have had all this time to brush up on our knowledge and different aspects of this esteemed sport.
So what better place to start than taking a closer look at the ongoing battle between two of the most exciting young sires in Europe.
Two third crop sires of 2020 who are intrinsically different in many regards, draw numerous similarities in others and have been compared and measured against each other since their runners hit the track. The battles for both first and second season sire were aggressively close to say the least.
Kingman and No Nay Never stem from two very distinct, yet equally successful branches of the Northern Dancer sire line and they both took very different paths to positioning themselves on the pedestals that they currently occupy in our minds.
Kingman is a Juddmonte homebred, born and raised by Prince Khalid Abdullah’s operation that has given us some of the greatest champions of the turf. Think Frankel, Enable, Midday, Oasis Dream, Zafonic and so on.
In contrast, the American-bred No Nay Never passed through the sales ring on two occasions - first as a foal for $170,000 and again as a yearling for $95,000, ultimately ending up with an ownership that included the Coolmore partners and Ice Wine Stables.
Both of these sires were relatively lightly raced in comparison to many, with eight starts for Kingman and six for No Nay Never, and both were unbeaten two-year-olds, with neither being out of the first two in all of their start.
No Nay Never was handled by the American sprint king Wesley Ward who is noted for successfully descending with an army from the States upon Royal Ascot each year and naturally brought this impressive maiden winner to the five furlong Norfolk Stakes in June, which he won in a record breaking time. He followed up with a win in the Group 1 Prix Morny over six furlongs a month later in Deauville and in his three starts at three years back in America, won a Group 3 before a half a length second to Bobby’s Kitten in the Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Kingman on the other hand, won his sole two starts as a juvenile which included the Group 3 Solario Stakes at Sandown and then proved himself to be one of the best racehorses around at three years, with four Group 1 wins in a row and arguably unluckily not a fifth.
Trained by John Gosden, his sole defeat in the 2000 Guineas to Night Of Thunder was soon forgotten as he annihilated the field in the Group 1 Irish Guineas, reversed placings with Night of Thunder in the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and then overcame his older rivals in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes and Group 1 Prix Jacques Le Marois.
The pair subsequently retired to stud in 2015 with very different profiles – Kingman as champion three-year-old, commanding a fee of £55,000 at Juddmonte and No Nay Never moving to Coolmore’s Irish division in Tipperary with a fee of €20,000 on the back of his two-year-old career and the fact that he was by promising sire Scat Daddy.
Scat Daddy ended up having his best year up to that point in 2015, and his fee was upped to $100,000 for 2016 before passing away prematurely in December. The weight of Scat Daddy’s loss wasn’t truly felt until after his passing with stars emerging such as 2018’s American Triple Crown winner Justify, Breeders’ Cup winner Mendelssohn, Royal Ascot conquerors Lady Aurelia, Caravaggio, Sioux Nation and Acapulco, as well as other top scorers Daddy’s Lil Darling, Skitter Skatter and so on.
Even being by the lamented sire, No Nay Never was not so hot after his first year at stud and his fee dipped to €17,500 for 2016 and 2017, while Kingman’s remained stable.
While No Nay Never is the sole Graded performer for his Elusive Quality dam, his page has a lot more substance than many American sires. Littered with American stakes winners, what catches the eye a little further down the page (for us on this side of the Atlantic) are two Royal Ascot performers. Half A Year won the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in 1987, as well as Council Member, who was second in the Coventry Stakes in 2004. Things always come full circle, as No Nay Never was the latest in his family to win at Royal Ascot, he has since sired four Royal Ascot performers to date.
Kingman on the other hand hails from a family cultivated and nurtured by Juddmonte for generations. Out of Group 1 winning mare Zenda, his pedigree page is an enviable one in stallion terms. He stems from sires Oasis Dream (a stable mate at Banstead Manor), Beat Hollow, New Bay, Reefscape, Coastal Path, Martaline and Doha Dream. Kingman is a son of leading sire Invincible Spirit who has provided us with 18 Group 1 winners to date which includes 10 sons standing at stud - Charm Spirit, Shalaa, Lawman, Magna Grecia, Profitable, Territories, National Defense, Eqtidaar, Mayson and of course, Kingman himself.
So neither are short of any genetic quality from the sire or dam sides!
It has been an energetic battle from the get go once the first two-year-olds started emerging in 2018 and the race for Champion First Season Sire honours began.
Both had exactly 60 two-year-old starters each in their first year with No Nay Never coming out on top in all categories. No Nay Never had 32 winners compared to Kingman’s 24, six stakes winners compared to Kingman’s five, and both had two Group winners each, namely Ten Sovereigns and Land Force and Calyx and Persian King respectively. However, No Nay Never’s Ten Sovereign’s took his father to the next level in winning the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket.
The Champion First Season Sire was crowned, but most people of course accepted that Kingman’s progeny would improve considerably as three-year-olds, just as he himself did as a sophomore. And the questions arose for No Nay Never as to whether his soldiers would train on, most people accepting that his progeny were the speedy earlier types that would be brushed aside at three by the older, stronger sprinters.
The former assumption proved correct and the latter drastically wrong.
In 2019, looking solely at their three-year-olds, Kingman had 53 individual winners compared to No Nay Never’s 51 (of which Kingman’s winners won 72 races, No Nay Never’s won 83). Kingman produced 11 stakes-winning three-year-olds compared to 10 for No Nay Never. And both produced five Group winners.
It couldn’t get much closer.
Kingman’s Persian King emulated his father in progressing from a Group 3 win at two to winning a Classic at three and No Nay Never’s Ten Sovereigns proved the nay-sayers wrong when taking the Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket.
So both managed to have a Group 1 winning three-year-old. However, on December 30 No Nay Never managed to sneak in front in terms of top-class winners for the second year, as his daughter Brooke added to the tally when taking a Group 1 in Chile.
Cumulatively, as second season sire honours go, Kingman won that battle with both stakes winners (15 to 14) and earnings (a close shave by $100,000).
The race is far from over and both go into 2020 armed with quality.
Kingman has a number of stakes performers to improve at three this year including the Group 3 winning Boomer who holds an entry in the 1000 Guineas, Alligator Alley, Summer Romance and so on, as well as the dual Group 2 winner Headman.
No Nay Never has the likes of Coventry Stakes winner and multiple Group 1-placed Arizona, the dual Group 2 winning Mystery Power, Group 3 winner and Group 1 placed Wichita, all with Group 1 pretensions, as well as other promising prospects Shadn, Vitalogy, Need I Say More and Tango.
Kingman’s covering fee has now risen from his initial £55,000 to £150,000 in 2020 and similarly, No Nay Never’s fee has surged from his low of €17,500 to now being €175,000. With Invincible Spirit turned 23 this year and Scat Daddy already gone, these two are certainly showing all the signs of being able to fill both of those big shoes.
The battle continues for us, however, and if the correlation of mare quality and fee is anything to go by, then the best is yet to come from No Nay Never. We'll be watching closely.