Who is Most Likely to be Leading Freshman Sire of 2023?

With the 2-year-old sales season having kicked off and the first ‘baby’ races of the year ready to get going in a few weeks, laser focus will be placed on the up-and-coming first-crop stallions. Rightfully so, as we all hunt in earnest for the next breakout young sire. Could there possibly be another Gun Runner in the freshman class of 2023?

A total of 16 young guns in North America have 50 or more current 2-year-olds resulting from their first covers in 2020. A great many more have fewer than 50, but numbers beget opportunities. The leading freshman sire of 2023 is likely to be one of those 16.

It’s also a good bet that Spendthrift Farm may repeat Bolt d’Oro’s 2022 success as the leading freshman sire, as four of the top five freshmen by number of 2-year-olds stand at the Central Kentucky Farm.

The 16 newcomers are concentrated in Kentucky, with one each also in New York and Florida. What almost all have in common is plenty of sire power behind them. Including two freshmen by Curlin and two by Into Mischief, all of the sires of these leading 16 freshmen have thrown Grade I winners themselves, but not all of their sire sons have done the same.

Conformation, dam side, and athleticism of the new 2-year-olds aside, let’s examine the hard evidence based solely on elite performance of other sons at stud by the same sires. Which of these ‘Sweet 16’ is most likely to find success based on how other sons by their sires have fared?

Audible and Maximus Mischief, both by Into Mischief, standing for $25,000 at WinStar Farm, 150 2-year-olds (Audible), and for $7,500 at Spendthrift Farm, 135 2-year-olds (Maximus Mischief)

It’s impossible to overlook Into Mischief, who is coming off his fourth general sire championship. He’s got an embarrassment of riches with a plethora of up-and-coming young sire sons in the next few years, including Kentucky Derby winners Authentic and Mandaloun, as well as four-time GISW and Breeders’ Cup winner Life Is Good. Getting the first jump are GI Florida Derby winner Audible and GII Remsen S. winner Maximus Mischief. Into Mischief’s first major sire sons are Goldencents and Practical Joke, both of whom have already sired a U.S. GISW. In addition, Practical Joke has hot Derby prospect and MGSW Practical Move. Audible was particularly popular at OBS March, with his top two each working in :10 and bringing $500,000 and $425,000, respectively.


And the second freshman by Into Mischief for 2023:


Catalina Cruiser, by Union Rags, standing for $15,000 at Lane’s End, 110 2-year-olds

Holding the distinction of being the fourth generation of his sire line (Union Rags-Dixie Union-Dixieland Band) to stand at Lane’s End, five-time graded winner Catalina Cruiser could be the first big-time sire son for Union Rags. The latter’s only other sire son in a major market is Free Drop Billy, whose first-crop sophomores have not yet broken through on the graded stage. Catalina Cruiser‘s top 2-year-old specimen at OBS March breezed in :21 and brought $400,000 post sale.


Catholic Boy, by More Than Ready, standing for $15,000 at Claiborne Farm, 104 2-year-olds

Any horse that can win the GI Belmont Derby on grass in July and the GI Travers S. on dirt just over a month later has to be taken seriously. The late More Than Ready was the dual hemisphere phenom whose sire sons include Australia’s late Sebring (Aus), sire of at least eight Group 1 winners; the exported Verrazano with one U.S. Grade I winner and two Chilean Group 1 winners; Gimmethegreenlight (Aus) with six Group 1 winners spread between Australia and South Africa; Daredevil, whose first-crop exploits included both a Classic winner and a GI Kentucky Oaks winner; and Custom for Carlos, who stands in Louisiana and came up with a U.S. Grade I winner despite averaging just 45 foals a year.


Demarchelier (GB), by Dubawi (Ire), standing for $5,000 at Claiborne Farm, 70 2-year-olds

Even as the first known son of Dubawi at stud in the U.S., GSW Demarchelier will not suffer from pedigree anonymity as Dubawi is arguably the top sire in Europe. At least five of his sire sons have been responsible for Grade I or Group 1 winners on their own: Al Kazeem (GB), Makfi (GB), New Bay (GB), Night of Thunder (Ire), and Poet’s Voice (GB).


Enticed, by Medaglia d’Oro, standing for $5,000 at Darley, 103 2-year-olds

Like Curlin, Into Mischief, and War Front, who also have freshmen sons with first juveniles this year, Medaglia d’Oro is one of the elite stallions of Kentucky with the sustained success of umpteen Grade I winners to his credit. Among his sons, two have sired Grade I winners to date, with Violence holding the top spot as far and away his best sire son so far. Violence has four GISWs, including current Derby favorite Forte. Medaglia d’Oro also has Astern (Aus) with a Group 1 winner in Australia and Bolt d’Oro as last year’s top freshman who has not yet broken through with a Grade I winner. Enticed himself was precocious, winning the GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. and placing in the GI Champagne S. at two.


Flameaway, by Scat Daddy, standing for $7,500 at Darby Dan Farm, 116 2-year-olds

MGSW Flameaway‘s late sire ignited early with his first runners and his success just magnified after his death at age 11. Among the late Scat Daddy’s sons to sire a Group 1 winner to date is his undisputed sire son leader No Nay Never, as well as the classy Caravaggio. And then there’s Triple Crown winner Justify, who gives the sense he’s knocking on the Grade I door after his first American and Australian crops yielded five graded/group winners.

Leofric, by Candy Ride (Arg), standing for $7,500 at Darby Dan Farm, 56 2-year-olds

After the success of Gun Runner, Candy Ride sons are a hot commodity and he will have a steady pipeline of sons with first runners in the coming years, including champion Game Winner and MGISW Vekoma (both with first yearlings this year), as well as GISW Rock Your World (first weanlings this year). GI Clark H. winner Leofric is the early bird among the group that follows Candy Ride‘s two sire sons who have achieved out-of-this-world success: Gun Runner and Twirling Candy. The former, with only two crops to race, has sired a spectacular six GISWs and another five Grade I performers. The latter is no slouch either, accounting for seven Grade I winners from his eight crops to race. Both also have sired Classic winners. Clearly, when Candy Ride hits, he hits big.

Mitole, by Eskendereya, standing for $15,000 at Spendthrift Farm, 158 2-year-olds

A champion and MGISW who helped contribute to his dam being crowned Broodmare of the Year for 2021, Mitole is one of three freshmen who are charting new territory for their own sires by attempting to become their first established son in the sire ranks. Eskendereya was exported to Japan in 2015 when Mitole was just a foal. The stallion’s only other known sire son in the U.S. is Mor Spirit, who stands alongside Mitole at Spendthrift and has yet to have a graded performer in his first crop (now sophomores). Buyers at OBS March liked what they saw: the top three Mitole 2-year-olds all worked in :10 and brought $350,000, $325,000, and $300,000, respectively.


Omaha Beach, by War Front, standing for $30,000 at Spendthrift Farm, 138 2-year-olds

The brilliant Omaha Beach, a triple Grade I winner, looks every bit the part of a stallion who’s going to make it. No matter how you look at it–whether it’s his sire, the bottom side of his pedigree, his own race performance, his first yearlings–he’s hard to fault. Among his first 2-year-olds at OBS March was a $690,000 filly who worked in :9 4/5. The venerable War Front, sire of a surplus of Grade I winners, has had three sons who have made it to the big stage as sires thus far: Declaration of War with Grade I/Group 1 winners in the U.S., Australia, France, and Canada; The Factor with two U.S. GISWs; and Hit It a Bomb with an Argentinean Group 1 winner. Omaha Beach and Classic winner War of Will (first yearlings this year) are among War Front‘s top sire prospects yet.


Preservationist, by Arch, standing for $10,000 at Airdrie Stud, 76 2-year-olds

GI Woodward S. winner Preservationist and fellow GISW Instilled Regard (whose first foals are currently yearlings) are the last top horses by the late Arch, who died in 2016 just prior to the breeding season, to go to stud. Arch has had two sons sire GISWs: the late Archarcharch, whose last crops were in Korea, and Blame, who has sired five GISWs and counting.


Solomini and Vino Rosso, both by Curlin, standing for $6,500 at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds, 78 2-year-olds (Solomini), and for $15,000 at Spendthrift Farm, 178 2-year-olds (Vino Rosso)

Is there any limit to Curlin‘s prowess as a sire? Last year, he topped his own sire and grandsire (Smart Strike and Mr. Prospector)–who tied with a dozen other stallions by siring two Eclipse winners in a single year–when he made history as the only sire to ever have three individual Eclipse winners in a single year. Like Candy Ride and Into Mischief, he’s got a number of sons with first crops to the races on the horizon. This year, it’s his champion and GI Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso and his MGISP Solomini who will send their first juveniles to the races. Curlin has no fewer than four sons who have sired Grade I winners: Good Magic (whose first crop is just three this year), Connect and Keen Ice (whose first crops are four), and Palace Malice. Both Vino Rosso and Solomini had a number of first juveniles at OBS March: Vino Rosso’s top was a :9 4/5 breezer who hammered for $550,000 and Solomini’s best worked in :10 and brought $200,000.


St Patrick’s Day, by Pioneerof the Nile, standing for $3,500 at Journeyman Stallions, 71 2-year-olds

A maiden winner at two and graded-placed at three, St Patrick’s Day has the lightest race record of this group, but he’s a full-brother to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Although the late Pioneerof the Nile has a number of very useful sons at stud, American Pharoah is the first who has broken through with any Grade 1/Group 1 winners. He has a half-dozen of those to his name.

World of Trouble, by Kantharos, standing for $5,000 at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm, 89 2-year-olds

A wickedly fast GISW on both dirt and turf, World of Trouble might be the biggest wild card among the freshmen sire ranks in terms of sire power. The only other son of Kantharos at stud in a major market is Bucchero, who stands in Florida and has yet to have a graded performer in his first crop (now sophomores).


Yoshida (Jpn), by Heart’s Cry (Jpn), standing for $10,000 at WinStar Farm, 101 2-year-olds

A Grade I winner on both dirt and turf, Yoshida is the only known son of Sunday Silence’s Heart’s Cry standing in Kentucky. Among Heart’s Cry’s sire sons is Just a Way (Jpn), who has a 2-year-old champion and Group 1 winner in Japan. Heart’s Cry just passed away Mar. 9.

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