Ranking the rookies: Australia’s first season sires of the last decade

8 min read
You never forget a first impression, and the last decade is full of young Australian stallions making their mark on our memories with spectacular first crops of two-year-olds. But how do these dynamic debuts stack up against each other?

First season premierships identify the standout prize-money earner among each batch of newcomers, but they aren’t particularly helpful for comparisons across different seasons.

Even the margin of a stallion’s premiership victory – Stratum (Redoute’s Choice) was the most clear-cut winner of the last decade with a gap of $1.78 million back to second, while Smart Missile (Fastnet Rock) won by just $30 in 2016 – depends as much on the achievements of a stallion’s rivals as his own.

Other conventional statistics also fail to tell the full story. A straight comparison of numbers of winners will inevitably favour stallions who had the advantage of bigger (and better) books in their first season, while in an era of major stakes increases in Australia, prize-money figures will always be skewed towards more recent years.

Shortly, we will consider an interesting way of working around that prize-money issue – framing a freshman stallion’s earnings as a percentage of the total prize-money that was on offer in that particular season.

But first, let’s look at a measure that will always carry significant weight in the bloodstock industry all around the world: black-type performance.

Exceed And Excel has been king of the kids since his first season

Stakes-winner and winner standings

Only two stallions in the last decade have notched up five individual stakes winners in their first crop of two-year-olds. One of them stood for $55,000 in his first season at stud; the other just $11,000.

The first of that pair was the outstanding stallion Exceed And Excel (Danehill {USA}), whose first two-year-olds hit racetracks during the 2007-08 season.

He sired 43 runners for 13 winners in that first crop, including five at black-type level – Exceedingly Good (G3 Maribyrnong Plate, Listed Maribyrnong Trial), Believe’n’succeed (G3 Blue Diamond Prelude (f)), Wilander (G3 Blue Diamond Prelude (c & g)), Sugar Babe (Listed Debutant S.) and Outdo (Listed ANZAC Day S.).

It was certainly a sign of what was to come, and particularly with Exceed And Excel’s two-year-olds. He is now the sire of an incredible 473 juvenile winners, 72 of them at stakes level including seven Group 1 winners.

Exceed And Excel’s tally of six stakes wins in his first season has not been matched by another freshman stallion in the last decade.

2008Exceed and Excel (AUS) 2000 - 20044313165(6)$1,103,680Exceedingly Good - 270,000
2018Spirit of Boom (AUS) 2007 - 20145218285(5)$1,942,370Outback Barbie - 309,350
2018Zoustar (AUS) 2010 - 20143410183(5)$3,208,694Sunlight - 2,182,450
2013Sebring (AUS) 2005 - 20095916233(4)$1,436,405Criterion - 450,950
2019Better Than Ready (AUS) 2009 - 20153515233(3)$1,488,000The Odyssey - 557,550
2014I Am Invincible (AUS) 2004 - 20104515203(3)$1,163,030Brazen Beau - 298,625
2014Denman (AUS) 2006 - 2010246123(3)$581,625Pinch River - 152,100
2013Northern Meteor (AUS) 2005 - 20094518273(3)$1,867,250Romantic Touch - 387,210

Stallions who have left 3+ stakeswinners in their first season

However, another stallion has recently followed in his footsteps to five individual first-season stakes winners – the remarkable Spirit of Boom (Sequalo), who tops the list by winners.

Exceed And Excel retired to stud at Darley with some fanfare after winning two Group 1 races and being crowned Australia’s champion sprinter, but Spirit of Boom was a different story.

While he was also a dual Group 1 winner of the Doomben 10,000 and the William Reid S., he began his career largely away from the spotlight with a $11,000 fee at Eureka Thoroughbreds in Queensland.

From 52 runners in his first season, Spirit of Boom sired 18 winners including Outback Barbie (Listed Calaway Gal S.), Ef Troop (Listed Phelan Ready S.), Heaven’s Deal (Listed Queen Adelaide S.), Jonker (Listed Wyong Magic Millions 2YO Classic) and Kinky Boom (Listed Inglis 2YO Premier).

Spirit of Boom has been a standout first season sire performer in the last decade

With their five individual stakes winners each, Exceed And Excel and Spirit of Boom are well ahead of the pack. The latter also topped the winner chart alongside the brilliant Northern Meteor (Encosta de Lago), while the performance of Better Than Ready (More Than Ready) this season is also exceptional - with a chance to enhance it further yet throughout the local Queensland carnival.

The next best in the last decade has been three individual stakes winners in a freshman season – a mark reached by Zoustar (Northern Meteor), plus Sebring (More Than Ready {USA}), I Am Invincible (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) and Denman (Lonhro).

It is worth noting that all three of Zoustar’s stakes winners during the 2017-18 season were at Group 2 level – Sunlight (Silver Slipper S., also placed in the G1 Golden Slipper), Zousain (Champagne Classic) and Lean Mean Machine (BRC Sires’ Produce S.). So, in terms of prize-money, his $3.2 million handed him a clear premiership victory over Spirit of Boom ($1.9 million).

2018Spirit of Boom (AUS) 2007 - 20145218285(5)$1,942,370Outback Barbie - 309,350
2013Northern Meteor (AUS) 2005 - 20094518273(3)$1,867,250Romantic Touch - 387,210
2013Sebring (AUS) 2005 - 20095916233(4)$1,436,405Criterion - 450,950
2019Better Than Ready (AUS) 2009 - 20153516233(3)$1,488,000The Odyssey - 557,550
2014I Am Invincible (AUS) 2004 - 20104515203(3)$1,163,030Brazen Beau - 298,625
2015Rothesay (AUS) 2006 - 20114114200(0)$653,360Shotacross the Bow - 149,800
2008Exceed and Excel (AUS) 2000 - 20044313165(6)$1,103,680Exceedingly Good - 270,000
2010Stratum (AUS) 2002 - 20065013252(5)$3,053,290Crystal Lily - 2,289,250
2015Beneteau (AUS) 2007 - 20112712152(2)$814,725Lady Jivago - 192,750
2009Fastnet Rock (AUS) 2001 - 20055512141(1)$892,479Wanted - 202,500
2010Jet Spur (AUS) 2002 - 20063312220(0)$877,390Fanciful - 143,500

Top first season stallions by winners

Prizemoney percentages

As prizemoney in Australia has grown at a far greater pace than CPI over the last decade (essentially doubling), we looked at a different assessment tool to weight performance: dividing earnings by the total prizemoney on offer that season. This also allows first season sires to be assessed outside their peer group, revealing how the 2-year-olds stacked up as earners within the wider pool.

When freshman stallions’ earnings are calculated as a season percentage, the 2009-10 debut of Stratum (Redoute’s Choice) shines brightest of all.

Starting from a service fee of $30,250, his first two-year-olds earned more than $3 million in stakes, representing 0.71% of the total prize-money that season. The leading contributor to that tally was Crystal Lily, who won the G1 Golden Slipper, while he also sired Listed winner Pellizotti and the Group 1-placed American Crew.

2010Stratum (AUS) 2002 - 20065013252(5)$3,053,290Crystal Lily - 2,289,250$428,758,9340.71%
2018Zoustar (AUS) 2010 - 20143410183(5)$3,208,694Sunlight - 2,182,450$651,866,1240.49%
2013Northern Meteor (AUS) 2005 - 20094518273(3)$1,867,250Romantic Touch - 387,210$490,980,2170.38%
2019Sidestep (AUS) 2010 - 201514471(2)$2,445,105Kiamichi - 2,324,350$717,052,7360.34%
2013Real Saga (AUS) 2006 - 2009319151(1)$1,586,235Real Surreal - 1,261,500$490,980,2170.32%
2008Exceed and Excel (AUS) 2000 - 20044313165(6)$1,103,680Exceedingly Good - 270,000$356,972,3230.31%
2018Spirit of Boom (AUS) 2007 - 20145218285(5)$1,942,370Outback Barbie - 309,350$651,866,1240.30%
2010Snitzel (AUS) 2002 - 20063110171(1)$1,267,318Chance Bye - 523,700$428,758,9340.30%
2013Sebring (AUS) 2005 - 20095916233(4)$1,436,405Criterion - 450,950$490,980,2170.29%
2009Charge Forward (AUS) 2001 - 2005317111(2)$1,157,550Headway - 776,263$422,773,4120.27%

Top first season stallions by a percentage of total prizemoney

For nearly a decade, Stratum’s feat of siring a Slipper winner in his first crop wasn’t matched. That drought was finally broken this year by the front-running Slipper win by Kiamichi – a son of Sidestep (Exceed and Excel).

With the Golden Slipper carrying a stake of $3.5 million, that result unsurprisingly moved Sidestep high up on our prize-money percentage table. His $2.445 million is 0.34% of an estimated season prizemoney total of approx. $717 million (an estimated 10% year on year increase), placing him fourth on the table.

Sidestep stood for $11,000 in his first season, which dropped to $7,700 when he relocated to Telemon Thoroughbreds in Queensland last spring. Kiamichi’s exploits have now prompted a fee increase to $22,000.

Kiamichi gave Sidestep the first debutant sire Slipper winner since Stratum

Second and third positions on the prizemoney table belong to Zoustar and his sire Northern Meteor.

Zoustar earned $3.2 million or 0.49% in 2017-18, thanks in large part to the Magic Millions heroine Sunlight ($2.18 million). Northern Meteor’s progeny earned $1.87 million in 2012-13, which was 0.38% of the total prize-money. His biggest earner, the G1 JJ Atkins S. winner Romantic Touch, earned $387,210.

Rounding out the top five is another stallion from Northern Meteor’s 2012-13 season, Real Saga (Tale of the Cat {USA}). With $1.58 million, he earned 0.32% of the season’s total prize-money. The standout performer was the Magic Millions winner Real Surreal.

Exceed And Excel, who set such a high standard with his five stakes winners and six stakes wins in 2007-08, also fares well in the prize-money standings with $1.1 million. His percentage of 0.31% puts him in sixth on our table.


All this analysis gives further lustre to the acclaimed first-season performances of Exceed and Excel, Northern Meteor, Zoustar and Sebring.

The untimely death of Northern Meteor in 2013 was immediately recognised as an enormous loss to the industry, but his legacy only grows with time – as do the possibilities of what might have been.

His son Zoustar has proven himself to be more than a worthy successor, now commanding a fee of $154,000 after a string of successes headed by a trifecta in the G1 Coolmore Stud S. at Flemington in November.

One of the biggest losses to our industry, Northern Meteor

These statistics also point to a real depth in Australia’s 2012-13 first season crop. Along with the previously mentioned Northern Meteor, Sebring is prominent in both tables with a 0.29% prize-money percentage and three individual stakes winners.

In contrast, these measures do not flatter the ‘Class of 2016’, who were famously evenly matched with only $30 separating the top two on the table. None of that group sired more than one stakes winner in the first season, while Smart Missile (Fastnet Rock), Love Conquers All (Mossman), Dream Ahead (USA) (Diktat {GB}), Foxwedge (Fastnet Rock) and Sepoy (Elusive Quality {USA}) each earned 0.08% of total prize-money that season, putting them all outside the top 50 on that table.

Meanwhile, Snitzel (Redoute’s Choice) is now an all-time great, rewriting Australia’s record books with mind-boggling tallies of stakes winners and prizemoney. But, by his astronomical standards, his career got off to a quiet start in the 2009-10 season.

He began at a fee of $33,000 (in 2019 he stands for $220,000), and his first crop of two-year-olds featured just one stakes winner (Chance Bye in the G2 Silver Slipper). His progeny earned $1.2 million, or 0.3% of the total prize-money.

The class of 2019 are certainly holding their own in the top first season sires of the last decade, but as Snitzel has shown us: watch this space...