There is no more closely watched contest among the stallion ranks than the annual race for first-crop sire. This year, that honour went to Ridgemont Highlands-based Rafeef.
As a Gr1 winning sprinter, the son of Australian stallion extraordinaire Redoute’s Choice and our own champion National Colour, proved extremely popular when he retired to stud in and his first crop made quite a splash at the sales, sales, to the extent that he was by far the leading freshman sire in the sales ring.
Rafeef was soon out of the blocks when daughter Bella Chica became the first of 14 juvenile winners. Although he failed to come up with a stakes winner, he has to his credit a Gr1-placed runner in William Robertson, who ran third in the Gr1 Premiers Champion Stakes on Gold Cup day. In addition, Bella Chica won three times, while both Franca and Master Archie have scored twice.
Three days into the new season, Rafeef already has two winners to his credit, one of which being Bella Chica, who completed a hat-trick of wins in her first outing as a three-year-old.
While the majority of Rafeef’s first-crop winners display the same penchant for speed as their sire, it is encouraging to note that a handful have shown scope and have won over 1400m and even 1600m.
Runner-up William Longsword entered stud at Klawervlei with much fanfare, notwithstanding the fact that he did not race again after winning the Gr1 Cape Guineas on just his eighth start.
Bred on the proven Captain Al x Fort Wood cross, he is out of Victory Moon’s half-sister Pagan Princess, who is also the dam of Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint victress Real Princess.
A good-looking individual, he too attracted strong support in his first season and duly sired his first winner in February when Safe Return hacked up at Kenilworth.
That tally grew as the season progressed and ended with a first stakes winner at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Gold Cup day, where ultra-smart colt Dyce cruised to victory in the Gr2 Umkhomazi Stakes. Adding to the occasion, daughter Remember Me ran second in the Gr2 Debutante.
Klawervlei stud master John Koster is understandably proud of his young stallion and told Sporting Post: “We are extremely excited with the performances of his two-year-olds. Seven have won and a further four run second. We always knew that the Fort Wood influence in his pedigree would make for better three and four-year-olds and many trainers have indicated as such. The future is very exciting!”
For third-placed The United States, it proved a case of quality over quantity. A Gr1 winner in Australia and the most recent son of Galileo to take up stud duties in South Africa, the chestnut had covered no more than a dozen mares at Moutonshoek when a foot injury sent him to the sidelines, hence his first crop numbered no more than 11 foals.
Albeit that he is a son of classic supremo Galileo, The United States hails from the family of champion sprinter/miler Last Tycoon and with plenty of precocity close up, it came as no surprise to see him score with his very first runner.
That was the Drakenstein-bred filly Sheela, who got her sire off to a sensational start. Trained by the Azzies, she made her debut in the Listed Storm Bird Stakes and blitzed her male rivals, a repeat of which also saw her claim the Gr2 SA Nursery second time out.
By the time the season ended, two of the young stallion’s six first crop runners had won. Sheela was joined by Lucky Houdalakis-trained Alabama Ana, who hacked up second time out over 1200m, while Namibsroos placed first time out.
The United States looks sure to build on that start, considering he has sizeable second and third crops on the ground.
Not so Lance, the ‘forgotten horse’ amongst the freshman class of 2020-21. Campaigned by Chris van Niekerk, the son of Jet Master made the transition to stakes winner in just his third outing with an emphatic three-length drubbing of unbeaten favourite and subsequent Triple Crown winner Louis The King in the Listed Sea Cottage Stakes at Turffontein.
Sadly, he broke down after just six starts, which left trainer Sean Tarry to reflect: “Such a tragedy, he was amazingly talented, at least as good as his Gr1 winning brother Liege, and perhaps even more naturally so.”
From the family of champion sprinter Rebel King, Lance is one of a trio of stakes winners out of Gr1 Garden Province victress Lyrical Linda. The daughter of Jallad also produced Gr1 Summer Cup hero Liege to Dynasty, while Lance’s own brother Lockheed Jetstar won the Listed Thukela Handicap.
Given his pedigree, Lance found a home at Summerhill Stud, but at such a low key level, that he was lucky to cover just two mares in each of his first two seasons! Both first-crop foals raced in Van Niekerk’s silks, the grey filly Voltron, who became her sire’s first winner, while the now gelded Kuuma followed suit and ended his juvenile campaign on a black type note when second to Dyce in the Gr2 Umkhomazi.
It comes as no surprise that Lance is reportedly in the process of being syndicated, one of the new shareholders being none other than Dr Rose Waterman-Wentzel, part-owner in Triple Crown winner War Of Athena and Gr1 Golden Horse Sprint winner Battle Force.
Lack of numbers will also bedevil the sub-fertile Quasillo, a Gr1 winning half-brother to Querari. He had just 15 registered first-crop foals, of which six have raced and two have won. Quasillo’s first winner, the Mike Miller-trained Miss Putin subsequently ran third in the Listed Devon Air Stakes, while Quasiforsure scored first time out for Peter Muscutt.
Gr1 winning sprinter Red Ray weighed in with three first-crop winners. His first, the colt Global Glory, scored at Hollywoodbets Greyville on the third day of the new year, but he had already been sold to Mauritius by the time he crossed the winning line. Underlining his loss, the colt debuted on the Island in late June with a fine second in open company.
Interestingly, Red Ray’s other winners are both out of Captain Al mares – Razor Red winning on debut, while Maquette scored second time out.
Colin Birch, who stands Red Ray at Vogel Vlei and bred Razor Red, is encouraged with the stallion’s first runners so far. He reflects: “Pity that his first runner was exported straight away. He looks to be transferring the ability to quicken into his progeny and hopefully more good winners will follows as three-year-olds.”
Admiral Kitten, who is based at Southford Stud in the Karoo, took his time to get off the mark, but when he did, it was with a quick double. On July 20, juvenile son Zuzan broke his maiden at the Vaal over 1200m, while three days later, it was the turn of Admiral’s Shine, a fluent winner at Fairview.
With a good number of placed runners ready to strike as they mature, more will be heard of Admiral Kitten, who was an unbeaten juvenile and won the Gr1 Secretariat Stakes at three.
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