News The Stories Behind the Stats – Return of Mares 2021

The Stories Behind the Stats – Return of Mares 2021


By Martin Stevens

The Return of Mares, published by Weatherbys in October each year, is required reading for bloodstock industry professionals and pedigree enthusiasts alike, recording as it does the identity of every foal born and mare covered in Britain and Ireland in the previous breeding season.

Here we highlight some of the big stories from this year’s edition.


Christmas comes early for bloodstock professionals and enthusiasts with the publication of the Weatherbys Return of Mares each autumn.

The book is an essential reference tool, and makes for fascinating reading, as it records the identity of every foal born and mare covered in Britain and Ireland in the previous breeding season.

Here we highlight some of the big stories from this year’s edition, which is available to buy at

Affinisea all the rage
He might have only raced twice, with his sole success coming in a maiden at Roscommon, and he might not yet have had any runners under rules or in the point-to-point field, but Affinisea (pictued) was nevertheless the busiest sire in Britain and Ireland in 2021 with 324 mares covered.

Breeders have no doubt felt encouraged to support the stallion due to his wonderful pedigree, as a Sea The Stars three-parts brother to Irish Derby winner and accomplished jumps sire Soldier Of Fortune out of a half-sister to another top source of National Hunt stars in Sholokhov, and because he has the looks to match – as proven by his €850,000 price tag as a foal.

Affinisea has also been noted for producing good-looking stock, with his oldest crop aged three years old, and he stood this year at a fee of just €2,500 at Whytemount Stud, the operation that oversaw the rags-to-riches career of reigning champion National Hunt sire Stowaway.

The next most active sires in Britain and Ireland in 2021 were Order Of St George (312 mares covered), Maxios (309) and Crystal Ocean (302), all members of Coolmore’s National Hunt roster.

Maxios was dislodged from the number one spot, but he actually covered more mares in 2021 than he did in 2020, when he received 298.

Mehmas the man of the moment
Mehmas was the fifth busiest sire in Britain and Ireland in the past year overall, and by far and away the most active stallion who covers solely Flat mares, with a whopping book of 292 – up from 118 in 2020.

The cause of Mehmas-mania was the sire’s incredible results with his first-crop two-year-olds last year. He smashed Iffraaj’s decade-old record of 37 individual winners in a debut season, by posting an incredible tally of 56, and they included Middle Park Stakes hero Supremacy, Gimcrack Stakes winner Minzaal and Listed scorers Acklam Express and Method.

Among the elite mares covered by Mehmas in 2021 were Group/Grade 1 winners Eva’s Request, Mizdirection, Penelopa and Shotgun Gulch, and the dams of Group 1 winners Glorious Empire, Going Global, Lady Prancealot, Perfect Power and Slade Power.

Tally-Ho Stud, home of Mehmas, must at times have resembled Piccadilly Circus in the early months of 2021 as many of its other stallions were also in strong demand from breeders. Kodiac covered 239 mares, Inns Of Court 184 and Cotai Glory 113.

After Mehmas and Kodiac, the next busiest Flat sires in Britain and Ireland this year were Churchill (198 mares covered), Lope De Vega (191), Saxon Warrior (191) and New Bay (186).

A long queue for Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens received the biggest book of mares of any new retiree to the British and Irish stallion ranks in 2021.

The Grand Prix de Paris and St Leger winner-winning son of Galileo had 198 names on his dance card at Castle Hyde Stud.

Old Persian, a top-class son of Dubawi, also proved popular in his debut season at Glenview Stud, with 163 mares received.

Prix Morny and Middle Park Stakes hero Earthlight was the most popular new Flat recruit this year, being supported with a book of 162 mares at Kildangan Stud. Another son of Shamardal who was introduced to the Darley roster in 2021, unbeaten champion two-year-old and Prix Jean Prat hero Pinatubo, covered 152 mares at Dalham Hall Stud.

Sergei Prokofiev, a Group 3-winning son of Scat Daddy, was the busiest new Flat sire in Britain, with 154 mares received at Whitsbury Manor Stud.

The other fresh faces in British and Irish studs who covered more than 100 mares in 2021 were Sands Of Mali (152), Mohaather (146), Far Above (142), Ghaiyyath (138), Shaman (134), Sottsass (132), Kameko (114), Way To Paris (110), Circus Maximus (102), Arizona (101) and Galileo Chrome (101).

What a difference a year makes
Book sizes can vary wildly in size from year to year, as stallions go through peaks and troughs with their racecourse and sales-ring representatives, or even simply due to changes in their personal circumstances.

The sire who enjoyed the biggest increase in popularity in 2021 from 2020 was Coulsty. The Rathasker Stud resident covered only nine mares last year, on the eve of his first small crop of juveniles gracing the track, but he punched above his weight with a high winners-to-runners strike-rate and a smattering of stakes winners including the high-class filly Santosha.

The result was that Coulsty covered 104 mares this year, representing a dramatic upswing in demand of 1,156%. His many supporters will have been delighted, and not a little relieved, to see his daughter Shantisara develop into one of the leading turf fillies in the US in recent months.

It was a similar tale for another son of Kodiac, in Rathbarry Stud hotshot Kodi Bear. His book had dropped to 50 mares in 2020, but there was a real strength in depth to his debut two-year-olds last season and he was rewarded with a 236% increase in business this year, to 168 mares. He has justified breeders’ faith in him by supplying Railway Stakes winner Go Bears Go and Oaks runner-up Mystery Angel this term.

A change of scenery did Sumbal, a Group 2-winning son of Danehill Dancer, the world of good. He had covered 18 mares in his only season at Annshoon Stud in 2020 but was welcomed to his new home of Boardsmill Stud with 120 mares a year later – a rise of 567%.

Ardad covered only 26 mares at Overbury Stud last year, but broodmare owners soon cottoned on to the fact his debut yearlings had sold well last autumn and that they were quick to make a good impression on the track as two-year-olds in the spring. As a consequence, the sire was inundated with 156 mares, for a year-on-year increase of 500%.

Among the other British and Irish-based sires who underwent a significant upturn in popularity were Australia (73 mares covered in 2020 compared to 162 in 2021), Success Days (52 to 95), Policy Maker (31 to 56), Passing Glance (49 to 93), Belardo (116 to 182) and Havana Gold (53 to 83).

A book fit for a champion
One of the greatest pleasures in reading the Weatherbys Return of Mares each year is browsing the who’s who of brilliant racemares and producers covered by the very best sires.

Take Britain and Ireland’s champion sire-elect Frankel, for example. The publication reveals that he covered 151 mares in 2021, and they included Group/Grade 1 winners Attraction, Coronet, Dolniya, Dream And Do, Emulous, Izzi Top, Lady Eli, Let’s Go Donki, Marsha, Millisle, Molly Malone, Newspaperofrecord, Pretty Pollyanna, Quiet Reflection, Speedy Boarding, Star Catcher, Urban Fox and Ventura.

He also received the dams of top-level winners Accidental Agent, A Raving Beauty, Best Of Days, Cracksman, Cross Counter, Hermosa, Oscar Performance, Quadrilateral, Santiago, Siskin, Siyarafina, Supremacy and Waldgeist.

Three very special mares among Frankel’s book this year are both Group 1 winners and have produced Group 1 winners at paddocks: Lillie Langtry (dam of Empress Josephine and Minding), Nahrain (dam of Benbatl) and Sky Lantern (dam of Snow Lantern).

With ammunition like that in the pipeline, this year might not be the last time that Frankel is crowned Britain and Ireland’s champion sire.