News The Stories Behind the Stats - Return of Mares 2023

The Stories Behind the Stats - Return of Mares 2023

weatherbys, breeding

by Martin Stevens

Bloodstock industry members and pedigree buffs rejoice: Weatherbys has just published this year's Return of Mares, which features breeding records for every thoroughbred broodmare in Britain and Ireland, detailing the identity of their foals and coverings that season, as well as current and historical statistics on breeding activity in the two countries. The book provides an indispensable guide to the popularity of stallions, the latest news on top-class racemares and producers, and crucial clues to the health of the bloodstock business.

It therefore provides an indispensable guide to the popularity of stallions, the latest news on top-class racemares and producers, and crucial clues to the health of the bloodstock business.

As a taster for this year’s edition – which is available to purchase on the Weatherbys Shop – here are five key pieces of information contained within its pages.

Crystal Ocean riding the crest of a wave.

Crystal Ocean (pictured) was crowned joint-world champion in 2019, when he took the scalps of Magical and Waldgeist to win the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, and he is brilliantly well bred, being by Sea The Stars out of the Listed-winning Mark Of Esteem mare Crystal Star, whose earlier foals include the high-class pair Crystal Capella and Hillstar, so it is hardly surprising that he is proving so popular with jumps breeders.

Indeed, he was in such strong demand during his fourth season on the Coolmore National Hunt roster at The Beeches Stud this year that he was the most active sire in Britain and Ireland, covering 335 mares.

Crystal Ocean’s book this year contained classy racemares Augusta Kate, Aurore D’Estruval, Elimay, Posh Trish and Whiteout, and the dams of top-notchers Ashtown Lad, Blazing Khal, Chris’s Dream, Dunvegan, Flooring Porter, Gold Present, Impact Factor, Moyhenna, Sole Pretender and The Real Whacker.

He also covered Champion Bumper heroine Relegate and her dam Last Of The Bunch, and dual Grade 2-winning chaser Scarlet And Dove and her dam Dark Mimosa.

Crystal Ocean certainly shouldn’t lack representation on the racecourse in the coming years. His three previous books comprised 280, 302 and 356 mares.

Rounding out the top ten busiest sires in Britain and Ireland in the past 12 months were Sioux Nation (289 mares), Vadamos (273), Affinisea (268), Saxon Warrior (264), Poet’s Word (257), Santiago (245), Mehmas (244), Diamond Boy (242) and Blue Bresil (242).

Boosted books for Diamond Boy and co.

Kilbarry Lodge Stud’s French recruit Diamond Boy was the subject of one of the biggest increases in book size in 2023, with his tally of 242 mares up by two-thirds from the 82 he received one year earlier.

The son of Mansonnien’s popularity surged on the back of his earlier French crops yielding last season’s top-class chaser L’Homme Presse and exciting young hurdler Impaire Et Passe, and his first Irish-conceived four-year-olds producing three point-to-pointers sold for six-figure sums at auction in Diamond Dealer, Diamonds For Luck and Waynes World.

Diamond Boy’s new studmate Harzand was also in much more demand this year, receiving 179 mares in his first season being marketed as a National Hunt sire. He had been sent 51 mares when he was still standing alongside his father Sea The Stars at Gilltown Stud in 2022.

Another jumps sire who benefited from a change of scenery this year was Ocovango, the source of accomplished hurdlers Champ Kiely and Langer Dan. He was sent 68 mares in his first season at Alne Park Stud, up from nine in his last year at The Beeches Stud.

A stallion at the other end of the distance spectrum whose book went up this year was Rajasinghe, and deservedly so, as he delivered eight winners from ten runners in his freshman season. The son of Choisir covered 42 mares at the National Stud, up from nine in 2022.

Frenzy for Frankel’s services continues.

Frankel is on course to be crowned Britain and Ireland’s champion sire for a second time, with progeny earnings nearly £3 million ahead of his closest pursuer Dubawi up to Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot.

Needless to say his 196-strong book at Banstead Manor Stud this year was another Who’s Who of top-class racemares and proven producers.

Among the Group or Grade 1 winners covered by the son of Galileo were ‒ take a deep breath! ‒ Alpine Star, Althiqa, Audarya, Blond Me, Con Te Partiro, Coronet, Emollient, Emulous, Glass Slippers, Going To Vegas, Journey, Juliet Foxtrot, Left Hand, Mabs Cross, Madame Chiang, Mangoustine, Mecca’s Angel, Mother Earth, Newspaperofrecord, Nezwaah, Pearls Galore, Precieuse, Pretty Gorgeous, Quiet Reflection, Rougir, Rushing Fall, Saffron Beach, Sea La Rosa, Siyarafina, Sobetsu, Sunny Queen, Sweet Idea, Teona, Thundering Nights, Treve, Urban Fox, Viadera, Villa Marina, Wild Illusion and Wonderful Tonight.

The similarly lengthy list of top-level scorers whose dams visited Frankel included Adayar, Adhamo, Alpinista, Aunt Pearl, Battaash, Blue Rose Cen, Chaldean, Churchill, Cracksman, Desert Crown, Dream Castle, Hermosa, Homeless Songs, Inspiral, Johannes Vermeer, Kelina, Luxembourg, McKulick, Nashwa, Quadrilateral, Queen Goddess, Set Piece, Siskin, Speedy Boarding, State Of Rest, Thunder Snow, Whitebeam and Ylang Ylang.

Frankel’s book also included four very special mares who were Group 1 winners themselves and have also produced Group 1 winners at stud: Dar Re Mi (dam of Too Darn Hot), Halfway To Heaven (Magical and Rhododendron), Lillie Langtry (Empress Josephine, Minding and Tuesday) and Nahrain (Benbatl).

Thrilling news for fans of brilliant blue hens

There is cause for celebration in this year’s Return of Mares as arguably the best broodmare anywhere in the world has produced her first living foal in four years.

You’resothrilling, a Group 2-winning Storm Cat full-sister to iron horse Giant’s Causeway, produced eight foals between 2011 and 2019 and each and every one was either a Group 1 winner or Group 1-placed.

The octet, all by Galileo, were, in order of birth: Marvellous (won the Irish 1,000 Guineas); Gleneagles (won the National Stakes, 2,000 Guineas, Irish 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes); Coolmore (third in the Belmont Oaks); Taj Mahal (runner-up in the Secretariat Stakes); Happily (won the Moyglare Stud Stakes and Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere); Vatican City (second in the Irish 2,000 Guineas); Joan Of Arc (won the Prix de Diane); and Toy (runner-up in the Irish Oaks).

You’resothrilling was covered by Galileo again in 2019 and 2020 but didn’t produce foals from the matings, and sadly the Dubawi colt she foaled last year has died since birth.

We therefore won’t be treated to the sight of the 18-year-old mare’s progeny ruling the racecourse again for a while, but fortunately she delivered a Dubawi filly this April. She later joined the long line of blue-chip mares visiting Frankel.

Honeysuckle in good company as she goes to stud.

History-making hurdler Honeysuckle, who retired after a rousing victory in the Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, was one of three Champion Hurdle winners to be covered by leading jumps sire Walk In The Park this year.

The daughter of Sulamani, who won the blue riband of hurdling twice among her 17 career successes, was joined in the book of 213 mares by Annie Power and Epatante.

Walk In The Park continues to be many jumps breeders’ first port of call for their best mares, and this year he was also sent big-race winners Apple’s Shakira, Benie Des Dieux, Cap Soleil, Dame De Compagnie, Dolcita, Elfile, Heaven Help Us, Indefatigable, Jer’s Girl, Quevega, Shattered Love, Sparky May, Verdana Blue and Vroum Vroum Mag,

He also received at his home of Grange Stud the dams of Black Tears, Burning Victory, Chacun Pour Soi, Douvan, Mrs Milner, Party Central and Zanahiyr.