Freshman Match Race - By Eric Mitchell

 (Originally published in the January 7, 2012 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.

By Eric Mitchell - @EJMitchellKy on Twitter

By Eric Mitchell The pursuit of the 2011 leading freshman sire title turned out to be a match race between Ashford Stud’s Scat Daddy and Darley’s Hard Spun. The contest was tight, with the top spot still up for grabs on the final day of the year.

Scat Daddy had three juveniles who started in U.S. races Dec. 31. His biggest guns were Daddy Nose Best, the favorite in the $81,700 Eddie Logan Stakes at Santa Anita Park, and Swag Daddy, who was the morning line favorite in the $75,000 Restrainor Stakes across the country at Aqueduct. Undrgroundregulatr also had been entered in a $17,000 maiden claiming race at Hawthorne.

Hard Spun had only two progeny entered on New Year’s Eve. His best shot was a 9-2 filly named Flame Run entered in a $49,000 allowance/optional claiming race at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. He also had Spun Clear in a $22,000 maiden special weight at Turfway Park. These runners weren’t running for as much money as Daddy Nose Best or Swag Daddy, but it could have been enough.

Daddy Nose Best finished fifth, but Swag Daddy and Undrgroundregulatr both won, adding $45,000 and $10,200, respectively, to their sire’s total progeny earnings. Spun Clear finished second through a disqualification, picking up $4,400 for the effort, and Flame Run was scratched by a veterinarian.

By the end of the day, Scat Daddy held the top spot by a slim $11,175, a margin closer than the similarly tight contest between Offlee Wild and Roman Ruler in 2009. The 2009 freshman sire challengers were separated by $11,332 in earnings. This year’s pursuit of the freshman sire title was close enough that had Swag Daddy finished third, Undrgroundregulatr been second, and Daddy Nose Best improved to third, and had Hard Spun’s runners both won, then Hard Spun would have taken the title.

Now, you’ll read that Hard Spun is the leading freshman sire in the Thoroughbred Times. The other industry weekly includes worldwide results in its progeny earnings. The Blood-Horse includes only Northern Hemisphere earnings and excludes the earnings from Japan and Hong Kong because the higher purses in these jurisdictions for relatively minor races skew the rankings. For example, one of Hard Spun’s leading earners is a filly named Frisco Bay who earned $71,461 for finishing second in a minor listed weight-for-sex stakes named the Hyogo Junior Grand Prix. This seven-furlong race was run at Sonoda, a 5¼-furlong dirt racetrack and southern Japan’s only publicly owned racecourse. Admission here is the equivalent of $1.30. The purse for this race is ¥33 million, or nearly $430,000 in U.S. dollars.

Typically this would be the point where we’d debate the wisdom of eliminating Japanese and Hong Kong earnings, which we evaluate every year. More and more we are hearing from people in the industry that racing is becoming increasingly international and earnings don’t matter as much on sire lists. The main obstacle to making the change is that the ranking on sire lists (particularly the general leading sire list) is still determined by earnings, the rankings are still important to people in the industry, and the rankings need to be reliable indicators of both market value and earning potential. We may not be ready to make the change yet, but it’s coming.

Interestingly, though, Japanese earnings have nothing to do with why Scat Daddy is the leading freshman sire. Scat Daddy’s total progeny earnings with all Northern Hemisphere data available through Jan. 1 (foreign results for 2011 trickle into The Jockey Club database for days after the year has turned) is $1,698,560 and Hard Spun’s total is $1,686,084. As mentioned previously, the Times’ list is worldwide, so it also includes Southern Hemisphere races through Dec. 31. Hard Spun had six Southern Hemisphere 2-year-old starters before the end of the year that earned the equivalent of $14,262 in U.S. dollars. This is a latitude we are not going to cross, blending the Southern Hemisphere with the Northern Hemisphere. Even from farms that do business in both hemispheres, we have been told they are completely different markets and should be treated separately.

And so here we are. With statistics as relevant as we can make them, Scat Daddy is the leading freshman sire of 2011, and Hard Spun is a hard-fought second. Complete sire lists and analysis will be included in our “Leading Sires” issue next week, dated Jan. 14 .


Leave a Comment:

Pedigree Ann

In the Antipodes, where numerous New Zealand-breds are purchased to race in Australia and some Aus-breds race in New Zealand, they have had a different solution. The NZ sire list included only racing in NZ, while the Aus list included only racing in Aus. However they also recognized an "Australasian" sire list that covered racing in both countries.

Nowadays, Aus and NZ-breds dominate racing in the big-purse locales of Hong Kong and Singapore. Yet both countries maintain a 'country-only' sire list. It is important to local buyers and breeders to know which sires are doing best LOCALLY, in local conditions. A US or North American sire list, based only on racing under the NA conditions, is a tool that many of us would appreciate.

Did you know that until the Civil War, the leading sire in the US was determined by who sired the most winners? This was the era of heat racing, meaning a horse had to win 2 heats in a day to win a 'race.'

04 Jan 2012 10:17 AM
Criminal Type

Anyone who has read my posts in the past knows, I am a die hard Hard Spun fan. I watched him break his maiden and was hooked. I expected him to do well at stud and love the support he has received from Darley/Godolphin in the way of sending mares to him.  I am still hooked and a little irked because It just doesnt seem fair that he should come in second once again. But that's my issue, and I chose to believe that every dollar counts no matter where it is earned. Laugh if you want..I I've always said Hard Spun will end up being the best son of Danzig yet and I would like to congratulate Darley and Hard Spun on being number one on the International Freshman sire list. After all, is it better to be known nationally or internationally ?

That being said, I did not expect Scat Daddy to do as well as he did. Congrats to Ashford for another successful stallion on their roster. One thing is certain, Darley and Ashford both have tremendous talent in their stallion barns.

04 Jan 2012 6:31 PM
Anne Peters

The TB Times has now also conceded the victory to Scat Daddy. I was sweating that one out because I had gone public with him last spring in that publication as my leading freshman sire selection, against a panel that was otherwise all for Hard Spun. That was a close one!

05 Jan 2012 9:51 AM
Dan Kelliher

Leading sire lists based solely on progeny earnings are grossly flawed.

Interesting note from Anne that for a period of time Leading Sires were based on most winners. 100+ years ago.

Perhaps it's time for another leap forward from Leading Progeny Earnings Sire lists to something more comprehensive and meaningful for breeders.

At the Horse Racing Fan Shop we'll begin publishing a new Stallion of the Year (R) ranking that will take numerous criteria into consideration and attempt to offer insight to breeders on the best overall stallion (based upon overall contribution not just numbers game progeny earnings).

06 Jan 2012 7:39 AM

The Freshman Sire Competition is fun!!  Congrats to Scat Daddy!!  I had picked Street Sense and Scat Daddy as my two favs...IMO Street Sense will come on strong with the 3 year olds.  

Anne and Ann, who do you like for 2012?

06 Jan 2012 8:12 PM
Pedigree Ann

Anne! I've been trying to get in touch with you but don't have your current e-mail. Please e-mail me at

Dan - I agree that the stallion lists need a change; gross earnings gives a massive advantage to the mega-book stallions. Quantity can swamp a less heralded quality stallion. Say stallion S's foals average $25K in a year, while stallion T's average $35K the same year - if S has 300 runners and T only has 150, S will sit many places higher than T in the stallion lists. And if half of S's earnings come from a handful of horses...,

07 Jan 2012 9:52 AM

Congratulations Scat Daddy. I always liked him and, altho I was rooting for Hard Spun, who's always been my man, I'm glad it was Scat Daddy who beat him out. But I'm glad it was that close - kinda like Turalure being just a stride or so short of winning the mile!

07 Jan 2012 9:58 AM

A breeder booking a mare is interested in whether the mating will produce a good horse. Wherever. Would British or European mare-owners be wise to overlook Breeders Cup wins by the get of a stallion?

11 Jan 2012 4:12 PM

Re: 29th century sire lists by winners

If you're running two heats for a blanket, how can you be sure all the blankets won are of equal value?

11 Jan 2012 4:15 PM

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