Rewriting the record books

5 min read
With six sons of Snitzel retiring to stand at Australian farms this season, John Boyce looks at the influence of the Champion sire on the Australian breeding and racing landscape.

It seems like Australia has another dominant sire on its hands.

Just as Coolmore have in the northern hemisphere stood the best stallion son and grandson of the great Northern Dancer, so too has John Messara stood the best son and grandson of Danehill in Australia.

It’s a huge achievement to have been associated with Danehill and then come up with his best stallion son Redoute’s Choice and grandson Snitzel. Given that many sons of Danehill and indeed sons of Redoute’s Choice have been produced by other breeders, it is a remarkable feat to have launched the careers of these two outstanding sires and a clear testament to Messara’s guile as a stallion master.


One of the top sons of his sire

Snitzel was a precocious two-year-old and had won four of his five races, including the G3 Skyline Stakes, going into the Golden Slipper. He finished down the field in the Slipper but rebounded at three, working his way to victory in the G1 Oakleigh Plate over 1100m before running a fine second in the G1 Newmarket over 1000m.

Until recently his was the highest-rated son of his sire, only overtaken a few years ago by the outstanding Lankan Rupee.

Snitzel has just been crowned Champion sire in Australia for the second consecutive year and he must be long odds-on to match his sire’s three titles. It would be, however, optimistic to see him get near to the great Danehill’s tally of nine titles – that will very much depend on the longevity of the 16-year-old Arrowfield stallion.

"Snitzel has just been crowned Champion sire in Australia for the second consecutive year and he must be long odds-on to match his sire’s three titles" - John Boyce

A league of his own

What’s remarkable is Snitzel's sheer dominance.

His progeny earnings of $29.2 million in 2017-18 was almost twice as much as the runner-up and $13 million more than his 2016-17 haul which was good enough to given him his first title. Only three seasons ago $12.9 million won the title for Winx’s sire Street Cry and Lonhro’s 2011 sire’s championship was won with a mere $8.8 million.

The fact that there was but a single Stakes winner among his first two-year-olds and plenty of competition – even on his own farm – from other son’s of Redoute’s Choice meant that Snitzel’s talents were not fully understood early on.

But G1 winners in each one of his next eight crops, particularly Shamus Award in his fourth, has convinced breeders that he’s in a different class and worthy of the very best support.

"Snitzel’s talents were not fully understood early on." - John Boyce

In 2014, his sixth year at stud and after Shamus Award had become a G1 winner, Snitzel covered more elite mares than he did in his first four years combined. But even since then, the number of elite mares has continued to climb rapidly. In 2015 it was up to 110 and reached a remarkable 138 last season.

The statistical story

As things stand, Snitzel has sired 82 Stakes winners at a rate of 10.6% to runners. This is shy of his sire’s 12.2% Stakes winners and well short of his grandsire’s magnificent 17.4%. There are, however, other factors to take into account here.

First and foremost is that average book sizes have increased dramatically since the days of Danehill and even the early years of Redoute’s Choice’s stallion career. Secondly, as can be seen from our MOR (mares’ other runners) numbers, the dam’s of Snitzel’s runners were, in general, of a lower standard than those of his sire and grandsire.

Snitzel crop analysis vs. mares other runners (by different stallions) and average timeform rating of progeny compared with Redoute's Choice & Danehill

From mares that have averaged 7.7 Stakes winners to runners with all other sires, Snitzel has managed 10.6%, which marks him down as a top-class stallion. However, as we can see from his 2014 and 2015 crops that bar has got considerably higher – the pass mark now standing at 14.3 and 12.7.

But Snitzel is proving equal to the challenge, siring 14.4% Stakes winners from last year’s three-year-old crop, a score that’s sure to continue improving over the next couple of seasons as the 2014 crop matures even further. The combined score for the two crops in question is 11.9% Stakes winners to runners and will no doubt climb above Redoute’s Choice’s score of 12.2 sometime relatively soon, possibly as early as this spring.

Snitzel's top Timeform rated runners

Another useful metric by which to compare Snitzel with his sire is the average Timeform rating of the best ten runners by each sire. Snitzel’s best ten average is an excellent 122.1, which compares very favourably to the 124.2 achieved by Redoute’s Choice over a longer period. The great Danehill scores a brilliant 125.5.

But here it is advantage Snitzel, who has five of his top ten rated runners still in training with the potential to improve on their current ratings, never mind the very rich raw material that is already in the pipeline.

The good thing is that his stock is generally available to everybody. In fact, It’s quite unusual to have so many offspring by such a good sire go to the yearlings sales. No fewer than ten of his top 12 horses were bought as yearlings - there are simply not enough big owner-breeders to prevent most of the Snitzels being offered for sale. Give his current momentum, don’t be surprised to see Snitzel rewrite several more records before he’s done.