Sons of successful sires, even when they achieved a lot on the racecourse, face much tougher conditions at stud than their predecessors. While at the time when the best stallions covered about forty mares a year, their sons had a rather wide field to excel in, today, when the most demanded stallions at stud cover about 100 to 200 mares a year, the field for their sons, successful at the racecourse, yet not tried at stud, is getting narrower.
The Coolmore-based Rock of Gibraltar is an example of a stallion who does not give his sons at stud much chance to grow. The excellent miler of the early century, winner of seven Gr.1 races in a row, was to be the biggest star among Danehill’s sons in the famous Irish stud. Although his stud performance has been slightly behind expectation and Danehill Dancer, a considerably lesser star on the racecourse, exceeded him at stud, Rock of Gibraltar today belongs among the stalwarts of Coolmore. His fee is “just” EUR 9,000, only a fraction of the original 65,000 asked in 2004 (in his introductory 2003 season he was private), but he still belongs among the elite group of stallions who have produced over 100 black-type winners (119 in his case). His decent performance at stud, accompanied by a considerably low fee, provide, however, an insurmountable obstacle for his sons who are or were active at stud in Ireland or England.
One of them, the prematurely died Society Rock, was an inspiration for this column. A stallion who performed well on the racecourse till six, won the 250,000-pound sponsored Tattersalls Millions Sprint at two, won the Gr.1 Sprint Cup at five and even at six beat Lethal Force in the Duke of York Stakes (Gr.2) (although he was beaten by him twice in the Gr.1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes and July Cup). He belonged among the most demanded sons of Rock of Gibraltar at Tally-Ho Stud until his premature death in May 2016 due to laminitis. His first crop included about 110 progeny, the second “just” 76 and the third was yet less numerous. However, his introductory crop, today two-year-olds, included his first black-type winner Unfortunately, winner in the Gr.2 Prix Robert Papin at Maisons-Laffite. Thanks to him Society Rock became the sixth son of Rock of Gibraltar to have produced a black-type winner.
So far the most successful of them, at least by the number of stakes winners, is the winner of the Coral-Eclipse Stakes (Gr.1) Mount Nelson, at stud since 2009, who has produced a total of 18 stakes winners. Even the tried and tested Gr.1 winner, who had no shortage of partners, finds it difficult to compete against his successful sire, even if his fee is EUR 4,500 lower than that of his sire.
The situation outside Europe is different though. Among Rock of Gibraltar’s sons, the Australia-born Seventh Rock is an interesting stallion indeed – he won the Gr.1 Gold Medallion in South Africa and was third in the Gr.1 Computaform Sprint. At stud in South Africa he produced “just” three black-type winners, two of them, however, won Gr.1 races – they were the precocious and fast Seventh Plain a Guiness.
Besides Seventh Rock, another son of Rock of Gibraltar who does not compete against his sire, is the Brazil-based Red Rock Canyon. He himself is without a stakes victory but was third in the Gr.1 Irish Champion Stakes and Tattersalls Gold Cup and his pedigree was indeed an excellent ticket to stud. The dam Imagine (Sadler’s Wells) won the Epsom Oaks and Irish 1,000 Guineas, her half-brother Generous won four Gr.1 races - Epsom and Irish Derby, Dewhurst Stakes and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
The group of sons of Rock of Gibraltar – sires of stakes winners – is closed by Australia-born Gr.3 winner and Gr.1 placed Murtajill, the sire of the listed winner Growing Grey, and also the Australia-born Gr.3 winner of the Scahill Stakes Proart, the sire of the winner of the listed Belmont Classic Rosmartini.
Six sons – sires of stakes winners, this is not a poor performance for Rock of Gibraltar. The sire with a rather low fee, however, proves to be a strong competitor for his sons in Europe and it is a question whether any of his sons steps out of his shadow and to persuade breeders that it is better to invest into this particular stallion and not his affordable sire.