Taking stock of the broodmare sires’ title

11 min read
Redoute’s Choice this week was crowned Champion Australian Broodmare Sire for the third time, pipping his old nemesis, Encosta De Lago, by earnings. We thought it timely to take a look at this premiership race and assess who might be coming through.

Cover image courtesy of Bronwen Healy

Each year, at the close of the racing season, the broodmare sire rankings are the most predictable of the stallion races. Lately, as the likes of Russian Revolution and I Am Invincible trucked through their Championship seasons, Redoute’s Choice and Encosta De Lago quietly argued over the broodmare title, as they’ve done for close to six years.

It wasn’t an uninteresting duel though. Just because the same two horses have featured in the top two of the broodmare rankings since 2017/18, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good contest.

By earnings, Redoute’s Choice came out in front, but Encosta De Lago won by winners. He had 321 against the 294 for Redoute’s Choice.

Redoute's Choice

By stakes winners, the former Coolmore resident also won (19 to 16 for Redoute’s Choice) and, by stakes wins, he was also marginally ahead, posting 28 to his nemesis’ 27. By most accounts, therefore, it was a pretty even battle, as it has been for a number of years.

While Encosta De Lago won the title by earnings in season 2020/21, Redoute’s Choice was ahead by stakes winners (19 to 12). The year before, he was ahead by earnings and stakes winners but not winners.

In fact, the pair of horses has shared the Champion Broodmare title so evenly in recent history that you have to go back to 2016/17 to find the most current year that they didn’t argue the title out. In that season, it was Encosta De Lago and Zabeel (NZ) in the top two spots.

Encosta De Lago

An interesting facet to this is that Encosta De Lago hasn’t been out of the top two spots on the Australian Champion Broodmare table since 2014/15 and, in that season, he was third.

The late Coolmore sire, foaled in 1993, first entered the top 10 of the broodmare premiership in 2012/13, which also happened to be the year that Redoute’s Choice, three years younger, did the same.

Within a year, they were fourth and third respectively and, alongside such consistent names as Flying Spur, Danehill (USA) and General Nediym, Encosta De Lago and Redoute’s Choice have conquered ever since.

The magic numbers

Generally speaking, it’s thought that great sires will be great broodmare sires, and a quick glance through the last decade confirms it.

In Australia, the Champion Broodmare Sire title has been won by Redoute’s Choice, Encosta De Lago, Zabeel and Danehill, while in New Zealand, the last decade has been dominated by O’Reilly (NZ), Zabeel and Centaine.

Zabeel (NZ)

That’s not to say there haven’t been other sires feature.

For example, in New Zealand in 2019/20, Pins won a Champion Broodmare title by earnings off the back of Probabeel’s (NZ) (Savabeel) success and, in Australia in 2015/16, the Coolmore shuttler Fusaichi Pegasus (USA) was comfortably inside the top 10 owing to Capitalist’s deeds on the track.

So, as with most things, there are exceptions to the rule, especially when measuring by prizemoney, but largely, the broodmare sire title is a bankable race.

In Sydney, bloodstock agent Brett Howard has run Randwick Bloodstock (FBAA) since 1987. He’s a self-confessed student of thoroughbred breeding, and the broodmare angle of pedigrees is a critical one, in his opinion.

Brett Howard | Image courtesy of Bronwen Healy

“If breeders aren’t paying attention to the broodmare sire table, they should be,” he said, chatting with TDN AusNZ. “I was only looking at it two days ago, having a scan through it to see how certain stallions are going.

“I do feel, though, that the sire tables are very perfect, in the sense that the horses that have the most runners are favoured ahead of those with fewer runners. In that respect, there are anomalies where a horse that wins The Everest or the Melbourne Cup will throw a sire right into the top of the table, or near it.”

“If breeders aren’t paying attention to the broodmare sire table, they should be.” – Brett Howard

For this reason, it’s important to look at more than just the ranking when it comes to broodmare sires. The devil is definitely in the detail, and the detail with sires, in general, is the percentage of stakes winners to runners.

“To me, the individual numbers are more significant than where a stallion actually finishes in the sires’ premiership,” Howard said, citing Extreme Choice as a good example of this.

He said the Newgate stallion finished 92nd on the 2021/22 General Sires’ table because he had only 40 runners but six stakes winners, which runs at about a 15 per cent stakes winners to runners figure. While Extreme Choice isn’t a factor in the conversation about broodmare sires, he’s a strong example of the sire tables being a bit convoluted, at times.

“Anything above that 10 per cent stakes winners to runners would be a very elite sire,” Howard said. “When you get up above that you’re looking at the Redoute’s Choices, Zabeels and Savabeels, those sorts of horses overall.”

“Anything above that 10 per cent stakes winners to runners would be a very elite sire. When you get up above that you’re looking at the Redoute’s Choices, Zabeels and Savabeels, those sorts of horses overall.” – Brett Howard

While this applies significantly to the General Sires’ table, and less so to broodmare sires, it’s worth looking at the 2021/22 broodmare sire results when it comes to this important stakes winners to runners ratio.

As the reigning Champion Broodmare Sire in Australia, Redoute’s Choice had a ratio of 2.5 per cent last season, and Encosta De Lago a near-identical figure. Zabeel was slightly better with fewer runners, reaching 3.5 per cent.

The best performers in this category of horses inside the Australian top 20 was Galileo (Ire). Of his 219 runners from his daughters, he had 15 stakes winners last season, getting him to a 6.8 per cent ratio.

At number 12 on the broodmare sire table in 2021/22, Desert Sun (GB) factors prominently. He had two stakes winners throughout the year, one of them being Nature Strip (Nicconi), and, with just 46 runners represented, Desert Sun had a 4.3 per cent stakes winners to runners record as a damsire.

Nature Strip whose broodmares sire is Desert Sun (GB) | Image courtesy of Bronwen Healy

Exceptions to the rule

For the season just completed in Australia, there were 193 broodmare sires represented by stakes winners, and 89 of those had multiple stakes winners.

These two figures aren’t vastly different from the season before, with 211 broodmare sires represented by a stakes winner in 2020/21, of which 79 had multiples.

In New Zealand, the figures are slightly lower with a smaller dipping pool.

There were 62 broodmare sires with stakes winners on the 2021/22 table, and 28 of those had multiple stakes winners. And, like Australia, the broodmare sire premiership was dominated in New Zealand by the big names.

O’Reilly topped proceedings across the board, winning by earnings, winners and stakes winners (seven). His nearest rival by earnings was Volksraad (GB), but by stakes winners it was Zabeel (with five).

O'Reilly (NZ)

Coming in behind O’Reilly and Volksraad in the premiership, Pins, Zabeel and Encosta De Lago rounded out the top five. They’re the usual suspects of leading, elite sires, begging that question again… do the elite sires always make elite broodmare sires?

“The champion sire title is usually a pretty good precursor to what’s going to happen in the broodmare ranks,” Howard said. “If they’re successful sires, they go on to be successful broodmare sires. But you also see slight variations on that theme too. You can see the odd sire excel as a stallion but not quite go on as a broodmare sire, and vice versa.”

“The champion sire title is usually a pretty good precursor to what’s going to happen in the broodmare ranks. If they’re successful sires, they go on to be successful broodmare sires.” – Brett Howard

Howard doesn’t attempt to explain that because he can’t. All he can do is suggest examples of it happening.

He mentions Success Express (USA), the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner in 1987 who was imported to Australia by Robert Holmes à Court in 1989.

Success Express had a very interrupted career at stud, standing at various locations including Heytesbury Stud, Trelawney Stud and Vinery. He sired 31 stakes winners, according to the Australian Stud Book, but he was a vastly successful broodmare sire.

His daughters were the dams of Cox Plate winners Savabeel, Pinker Pinker (Reset) and Shamus Award, as well as the Cox Plate runner up Wonderful World (Agnes World {USA}).

Shamus Award | Standing at Rosemont

“It definitely happens that stallions end up being better sires of females than males, and vice versa,” Howard said. “The High Chaparral sireline is one of those, proving to be a better sireline for colts and geldings than fillies and mares. And, as a bloodstock agent, if you’re not across things like that, you’re not doing your job properly.”

Although, High Chaparral's daughters are proving to be excellent producers, delivering stakes winners at a strike rate of 2.7 per cent last season headed by Best Of Bordeaux (Snitzel).

Throughout history, there have been plenty of stallions who demonstrated a superior strike-rate as a broodmare sire than sire and, along with Success Express, they include the likes of Dubai Destination (USA) and Rubiton.

Who’s next?

With such established names as Redoute’s Choice, Encosta De Lago and Savabeel in the broodmare ranks year in, year out, the obvious question might be which sires are coming through next.

Could it be Snitzel, who finished 14th on the Australian Broodmare Sire’s title for the season just gone - who, along with Shamardal (USA), is the youngest sire in the top 20, or even I Am Invincible, who finished 161st?

Snitzel | Standing at Arrowfield

“Snitzel has been Champion Sire four times and he’s not yet right up there in the elite category of broodmare sires,” Howard said. “But one of the first stakes winners out of a Snitzel mare was Mossfun, who won a Golden Slipper, so there’s every chance he could easily end up at the top at some stage.”

Howard has similar feelings about I Am Invincible who, at just two years younger than Snitzel, won his first General Champion Sire title for the first time last week.

“We’ve bought at least two yearlings over the last couple of years out of I Am Invincible mares,” the bloodstock agent said. “Obviously we don’t know if I Am Invincible is going to be a good broodmare sire but, all things being equal, you’d be shocked if he wasn’t.”

“Obviously we don’t know if I Am Invincible is going to be a good broodmare sire but, all things being equal, you’d be shocked if he wasn’t.” – Brett Howard

I Am Invincible's stakes produce record indicate he is a better sire of fillies (47 stakes winners) than sire of colts (32 stakes winners), and there are breeders, Brett Howard included, willing to take a punt on it.

However, it’s not an exact science, and all breeders can do is assume that a good broodmare sire has his reputation steadily built on the best books, which has certainly been the case with Redoute’s Choice, Encosta De Lago and so on.

Age but a number?

In any given year, there are a number of other facets to analysis of the broodmare sire table. Particular nicks and crosses, for example, or which stallions have changed rank considerably year-on-year.

For the season just completed, it’s worth taking a look at the age factors on display because, inside the top 10 of broodmare sires in Australia, the youngest is Fastnet Rock, foaled in 2001 and now 21 years old.

Fastnet Rock | Standing at Coolmore

However, on the wider broodmare sire ranks (beyond the top 10), Snitzel is one year younger than Fastnet Rock and has climbed to 14th from 25th in 2020/21. Savabeel appears 18th on the Australian list at the same age as Fastnet Rock.

The oldest horse (ignoring that most of these sires are deceased) among the top 20 Australian broodmare sires is the legendary Zabeel, foaled in 1986 and still going strong in third. Following him, Desert Sun (GB) was foaled in 1988 and, as we mentioned, is a surprise appearance at number 12.

Compared to 2020/21, this year’s table isn’t vastly different.

A notable exclusion in the top 20 this time is Oasis Dream (GB), who appeared a season ago thanks largely to Twilight Payment (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}) winning the Melbourne Cup.

Oasis Dream (GB) | Standing at Juddmonte

The most notable change is Danehill falling from 20th to 39th. But these figures are on earnings and, by stakes winners, Danehill climbs back to 21st.

The damsire championship is rarely the exciting, ding-dong battle that often occurs across the other tables, but every year it continues to command plenty of respect - and no doubt, many insights for mating decisions.

Australian Champion Broodmare Sire Title
Redoute's Choice
Encosta De Lago
Brett Howard
Randwick Bloodstock