A little patience would be nice
Several young stallions have now had their first crop on the track and conclusions have already been drawn. But are these conclusions premature, especially when stallions are written off very early?
When his oldest turned three years old, the jury was still out on Muscle Hill. Father Patrick was dominating the 2 year olds and even though Muscle Network had won the Valley Victory, quite a few were not convinced that he was a great stallion and certainly not worthy of his hefty stud fee. "Good, but nothing special" and "seems overrated and hyped to me" were the kinds of utterances I could read from some on social media while others were either positive or urged others to adopt a wait-and-see attitude.
Could history teach us a lesson? While Speedy Crown is now acknowledged as one of the best stallions in history, but his first crop did very little as two year olds. Even though Jason J, Keystone Hampton, Crowns Star and Cigar Store Injun (full brother to Speedy Somolli) did well they were nowhere near the best of the crop (the top 5 in the 1977 Hambletonian were Green Speed, Texas, Native Starlight and Reprise). In fact, some of you might even read through the names and say "never heard of them." His first crop, from some very good broodmares, earned only $172 400 as two year olds (an average of $2 428 per foal). Only Keystone Hampton partcipated in Hambletonian the following year and the gelding finished 6-10 in the two heats. Judging Speedy Crown by his first crop alone, especially as two year olds, would not have been a pretty read. Of course, in the second crop Speedy Somolli came along and everything changed for the better.
The 1989 Hambletonian was supposed to be "the colt" (Valley Victory) against "the filly" (Peace Corps). As it turned out, Valley Victory did not start and Peace Corps was not at her best, but they were fantastic ambassadors for Baltic Speed - and from his first crop. Unfortunately it all went downhill from there. Baltic Striker was a good horse but Baltic Speed's shining star faded and he fell out of favour so much that he was sold to Europe. He produced Boss di Jesolo, on the of the better horses in the Italian 1998 crop but things did not improve. After some years in Italy he fell out of favour with European breeders, too.
In the coldblood world, Alm Svarten produced back to back Derby winners in his first two crops and it seemed the sky was the limit. Within a few years that limit was lowered, however, and instead it was another young stallion, Elding, who quickly emerged as a breed changer and massively dominant stallion.
The common denominator is that the first season of the first crop does not always give you enough information to judge accurately. You can use it as an indicator: after all, many stallions who do really well with their first crop will continue to do well and many stallions who fail with their first crop will continue to fail. But there are quite a few examples of stallions that tells us very clearly that judging after one season is premature.
Muscle Hill? The following year Trixton won the Hambletonian, Mission Brief set a spectacular world record while EL Titan also did well. This year Southwind Frank has been the best 2 year old, Resolve possibly the best aged trotter while Princess Face and Pythagoras Face have done very well in Europe. And the doubters seem to have gone into hiding, or they have moved on. In Sweden, the first crop of Pastor Stephen is receiving some criticism since very few has started yet. It is interesting to note that of the last 5 winners of the Svensk Travkriterium, the biggest race for 3 year olds in Sweden, four has been won by horses that did not start any official races at 2 (Pato, Chelsea Boko, Je t'Aime Express and Readly Express). This is in no way saying that things are guaranteed to be great for Pastor Stephen next year, but should he be judged now?
A little patience would be nice.
Marloes Harkema is the manager of Sophia Pedigrees and a pedigree researcher/analyst. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org