In My Opinion - Bill Oppenheim Graphic

In My Opinion - Bill Oppenheim Graphic

Big Names Top the 2017 ABC Runner List

In My Opinion

In the Annual Progeny Earnings index (APEX) system of rating stallions, ABC runners are the top 8% of earners from runners in a year, with an 'A runner' defined as the top 2% of earners from runners.

Referred to as "break-even-or-better" runners, they're not necessarily stars (though ABC runners include A runners, group/graded winners, etc.), but they at least pay their way or come close.

This column looks at sires of ABC runners for 2017 only. In North America that includes earners of $64,025 or more; in Britain/Ireland, earners of $27,672 (about £20,000); and in France, earners of $40,786 (about €35,000) or more.

The 2017 yearling market stated very plainly there are five top commercial super-sires in North America and Europe, all of whose yearlings averaged over $650,000, whereas the number six commercial sire in North America and Europe, Medaglia d'Oro , at least last year averaged under $400,000.

Not surprisingly there is still a high correlation between yearling average, current stud fee, and performance on the racetrack. One of the top five, Juddmonte's Frankel, missed the list of 23 North American/European sires with 30+ ABC runners in 2017 by one, as he had 29; but then, his first crop were 3-year-olds in 2017, and if we compare him with other sires with first 3-year-olds—Shackleford  is second, with 18.

Three sires had 50+ ABC runners in 2017: sure enough, Coolmore's world No. 1, Galileo, led the list with 64 ABC runners last year. Darley's world No. 2, Dubawi, was second with 55; and North America's No. 1, Gainesway's three-time leading sire, Tapit , had 50. Claiborne's War Front , the fourth super-sire on the list, was tied for seventh with 41 ABC runners last year, but he did have fewer runners than the other three.

Five other North American/European stallions had 40+ ABC runners in 2017. Hill 'n' Dale's new recruit, Kitten's Joy , had 46, ahead of Coolmore's deceased Scat Daddy (44), Spendthrift's Into Mischief  (43), and Lane's End's Candy Ride  tied with War Front, with 41. Into Mischief is one of only three sires on the list whose first foals were born in 2010 or later, the other two being Lane's End's top sire, Quality Road , who's first foals came in 2012, and Coolmore Ashford's budding superstar, Uncle Mo . They each had 33 A runners in 2017.

Naturally, A runners are the most important component of the ABC runner list, and here again Galileo led Dubawi, 33 to 30, by number of 2017 A runners. Galileo's 2017 A runner index therefore works out to 4.88, but Dubawi's is even higher—he had a 6.22 A runner index in 2017.

Three other North American/European sires had 20+ A runners last year: Scat Daddy (23), War Front (21), and Kitten's Joy (20).

Spendthrift's Malibu Moon  had 17 A runners last year; while Tapit, Frankel, and Gilltown Stud's Sea The Stars each had 16; and five horses had 15 A runners each: Candy Ride, Quality Road, Uncle Mo, Yeomanstown Stud's Dark Angel, and Darley's Medaglia d'Oro.

Among the younger crops of sires with first foals 2013—the first 4-year-olds of 2017—Uncle Mo, with 33 ABC runners in 2017, is the runaway leader, with perennial No. 2, Lane's End's Twirling Candy , in his usual spot, with 22.

Archarcharch, who was sold to South Korea, ranked third with 16 ABC runners in 2017. Haras de Grandcamp's Dream Ahead was tied for fourth, with 15 (he was also the No. 2 North American/European sire with seven 2017 A runners), along with Double Diamond Farm's Florida-bred First Dude  and Claiborne's Trappe Shot . Another horse exported to South Korea, Girolamo, had 14, along with another Florida stallion, Ocala Stud's Adios Charlie .

Frankel, as mentioned, is even further ahead in the 2014 crop, which had their first 3-year-olds in 2017. He had 29 ABC runners (15 of them A runners, same as Uncle Mo) last year. Second was Darby Dan's Shackleford, with 18, followed by Stay Thirsty  (16), who moved from Kentucky to California.

Airdrie's Creative Cause  and Darby Dan's Dialed In  had 12 ABC runners each in 2017, followed by Lane's End's Union Rags  and England's Newsells Park Stud's Nathaniel, sire of 2017 European Horse of the Year and Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner, Enable, each with 11. Hill 'n' Dale's Maclean's Music , sire of Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Cloud Computing, and Coolmore Ireland's Excelebration, sire of St. James's Palace Stakes (G1) winner Barney Roy, had 10 ABC runners each.

North America's surprise leading 2017 freshman sire, WinStar's Overanalyze , was the top freshman sire of 2017 ABC runners, with seven among his first crop of 2-year-olds. Hill 'n' Dale's commercial darling, Violence , had six ABC runners in his first crop last year (no A runners, but five B runners). 

France's Haras de Grandcamp now stands Dabirsim, who stood his first three seasons in Germany; he has five ABC runners right out of the box, which ties him with England's leading freshman sire of 2017, deceased Society Rock. American stallions Declaration of War  (Coolmore; first crop in Ireland, since in Kentucky), Animal Kingdom  (Darley), and Justin Phillip  (Castleton Lyons) each had four 2017 ABC runners among their first crops of 2-year-olds.