Introducing the First-Crop Sires Series 2022: Choose a Sire for us to Follow
Editor's Note: With twice the number of votes, we are pleased to announce Mendelssohn will be our final sire to follow in our list for 2022-2023 Road to the Kentucky Derby season! Thank you to everyone who participated.
One of the most exciting parts of the second half of the racing year is to see how the progeny of new stallions whose first crop are two-year-olds are going. And, as with 2021, TwinSpires is asking readers to choose a sire they would like us to follow for the rest of the year.
Last year TwinSpires Edge looked at five first-crop sires as the year progressed.
One of them, Gun Runner, had a record-setting season with progeny earnings in excess of $4 million — easily winning not only the first-crop title, but becoming the leading sire of two-year-olds overall. Not only did the series follow juvenile stars such as Echo Zulu and Gunite, it also introduced readers to subsequent Preakness (G1) winner Early Voting and Haskell (G1) hero Cyberknife.
The series also looked at Practical Joke, Classic Empire, and two sires chosen in a poll by readers: Arrogate and Keen Ice. The readers got it right big time on Kentucky Derby weekend, when Arrogate’s daughter Secret Oath won the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Keen Ice’s son Rich Strike shocked everyone in the Derby. Both horses were introduced to readers in the First-Crop series.
This year’s collection of first-croppers is wide-ranging in its depth, with more than 20 of them having won at Grade 1 level. Undoubtedly, the biggest name is Justify, the only Triple Crown winner who didn’t race as a two-year-old, and the only one to retire unbeaten. He was the most popular of the first croppers in the sale ring, and his progeny have made a good start on the track.
Also being profiled are Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and Pegasus World Cup (G1) winner City of Light, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) champion Good Magic, dual Grade 1 juvenile winner Bolt d’Oro, and the Haskell (G1) winner Girvin, whose Florida-conceived first crop have made a great start.
In addition, we will shortly be giving readers the chance to select an additional first-season sire to follow. Like last year, you could be voting to follow a sire whose first-crop progeny includes the Kentucky Derby or Oaks winner!
Kentucky Derby winners are nearly always in demand when they get to stud, and that was the case with Always Dreaming. With a foal crop above 120, he will have plenty of chances.
Most racegoers remember Always Dreaming for his outstanding run of form in the first half of 2017. Placed at his only two juvenile starts, he got his winning record under way in a Tampa Bay Downs maiden, and followed that up with an easy allowance victory at Gulfstream Park. He was then thrown into the lion’s den in the Florida Derby (G1) but handled it with aplomb, racing five lengths clear.
That was enough to see him start a 4.7-1 favorite in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and he didn’t disappoint, disputing the lead early on before racing away to win by 2 3/4 lengths.
The sky seemed the limit at the time, but Always Dreaming didn’t win again in five starts, his best efforts being a second-place finish in the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) and third in the Jim Dandy (G2).
Bought for $350,000 as a yearling, Always Dreaming has plenty of pedigree on his side. He is by Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Bodemeister out of the In Excess mare Above Perfection. A graded stakes winner who was placed at Grade 1 level, Above Perfection has produced two other stakes winners: Demoiselle (G2) winner Positive Spirit and Spinaway (G1) winner Hot Dixie Chick, whose progeny include the stakes winners Pauline’s Pearl and Union Jackson.
So far his progeny have sold up to $245,000. As of Aug. 2, he’d had three winners, the best being the Churchill Downs victor Mardukas and the Belterra Park stakes placegetter Grand Isle.
A three-year-old graded stakes winner who blossomed into a high-class four-year-old, Collected has an international pedigree that suggests he could be a force in a number of ways as a stallion.
Stakes-placed at two, Collected won the Sham (G3) on his three-year-old debut. He would also win the Lexington (G3), but didn’t run again after finishing 10th in the Preakness (G1).
Back as a four-year-old, he won his first four starts, the last being a triumph over Arrogate in the Pacific Classic (G1). It was enough to persuade trainer Bob Baffert and his connections to target the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), where he ran gallantly to finish second to Horse of the Year Gun Runner.
Three further starts did not produce a victory, and the $2.975 million earner retired for a fee of $17,500 to Airdrie Stud in Kentucky, where he sired 120 foals in his first crop.
Collected is by the versatile stallion City Zip, a Grade 1-winning son of Carson City who produced top runners on dirt and turf, including Improbable, Dayatthespa, Catch A Glimpse, and Palace. His dam Helena Bay, by the high-quality broodmare sire Johannesburg, comes from a family with stakes winners in Europe, Japan, and North America that hails back to Allicance, an Alleged half-sister to Blushing Groom.
He had 22 six-figure yearlings that sold up to $360,000, and his two-year-olds in training have also sold up to the same high price. As of Aug. 2, he’d had two winners from 14 runners. He could produce horses capable on all surfaces.
As a Scat Daddy half-brother to Beholder, Mendelssohn had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, he did, and his first crop of 175 yearlings is eagerly awaited.
Mendelssohn attracted attention from the moment he entered the Keeneland sale ring, being bought by MV Magnier for $3 million. Sent to Coolmore trainer Aidan O’Brien in Ireland, he proved a very good two-year-old, finishing second in the Dewhurst (G1), England’s most prestigious juvenile race, before heading across the Atlantic to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).
With his pedigree, his connections eyed up the Kentucky Derby rather than the European alternatives, and he looked set for a big showing when destroying his opponents in the UAE Derby (G2) by 18 1/2 lengths. Unfortunately, he had a rough run in the Kentucky Derby and tailed the field.
Coolmore were confident Mendelssohn was better than he showed at Churchill Downs and gave him a chance to redeem himself, and though he didn’t win in five further American starts, he never finished further back than fifth. His best performances came when second in the Travers (G1) and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
Though he didn’t recoup his purchase price on the track, earning $2.5 million, the investment has well and truly paid off given he retired to Ashford Stud at a $35,000 fee.
The second high-class son of Scat Daddy to begin his stud career in 2019 (along with fellow Ashford Stud resident Justify), Mendelssohn has a pedigree to suggest he has a great chance as a stallion. His dam Leslie’s Lady, along with producing 11-time Grade 1-winning champion Beholder, is also the dam of Into Mischief, the leading North American sire for the past three seasons.
With yearlings selling up to $900,000 and two-year-olds up to $1.3 million, there is a lot of anticipation about his progeny. As of Aug. 2, he’d sired five winners from 20 starters, including last weekend’s impressive Saratoga winner Miracle.
Sharp Azteca proved himself a speedy horse up to a mile on the track. So far, he’s off to a good start as a stallion.
Second in his only juvenile start, Sharp Azteca showed great ability at three, winning the Pat Day Mile (G3) and finishing second in the 7-furlong Malibu (G1). At four, he was one of the best dirt milers in the world, winning the Cigar Mile (G1) along with three other graded stakes races, finishing second in both the Met Mile (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), and third in the Godolphin Mile (G2) in Dubai.
Retired to Three Chimneys Farm, Sharp Azteca began with a service fee of $10,000 and got 134 foals in his first crop.
Sharp Azteca is the best son of the Irish stakes winner Freud, a full brother to Giant’s Causeway, whose progeny includes five other Grade 1 winners in North and South America. His dam So Sharp, by Saint Liam, is a half-sister to the dams of Kentucky Derby runner-up Firing Line and multiple Grade 1 winner Bowies Hero, and from a family that produced Seaside Attraction, Cape Town, Swift Temper, and Fantastic Light.
With two-year-olds selling up to $300,000, there has been some anticipation around his progeny, and so far they’ve made a great start. As of Aug. 2, he was third on the first-season sires list with 12 winners from 31 starters. Already he’s had two black type winners: Sharp Aza Tack, winner of the Tyro S. at Monmouth Park, and Tyler’s Tribe, a winner of two Listed races at Prairie Meadows.
Like his stablemate Arrogate, West Coast became North America’s champion three-year-old in 2017 despite missing the Triple Crown series. He would go on to be a $5.8 million earner and prove popular in his first season at stud.
A $425,000 yearling purchase, West Coast didn’t race at two but began making his mark at three. Second in the Lexington (G3), he later won the Los Alamitos Derby (G3) before trekking east. There he won the Travers (G1) and the Pennsylvania Derby (G1), prior to finishing third to Gun Runner and Collected in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
Returning at four, West Coast didn’t win but was second in three major races: the Pegasus World Cup (G1), Dubai World Cup (G1), and Awesome Again (G1).
Retiring to stud for a $35,000 fee to Lane’s End, West Coast sired 124 foals in his first crop. His first yearlings sold up to $300,000, and he’s had two-year-olds command up to $570,000.
West Coast is by Flatter, a son of A.P. Indy. Flatter has been a consistent sire, producing 60 stakes winners. His dam is the champion juvenile filly Caressing, who along with West Coast produced the Storm Cat mare My Goodness, the dam of three Japanese stakes winners, including Group 1 winner Danon Kingly.
As of Aug. 2, there had been 21 juveniles by West Coast to hit the track. Two of them had won: Cavalry Command at Laurel Park and Fit to Fly at Hawthorne.