Martin Stevens studies the fascinating figures contained in the Return of Mares
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Affinisea: the busiest stallion this year in England and Ireland
By Martin Stevens
The Weatherbys Return of Mares contains no extravagant writing or thrilling plotlines, and features just the one sumptuous picture, on the front cover; and yet its publication each year is always keenly anticipated by industry insiders and enthusiasts alike.
That is because it contains a carefully curated, comprehensive list of every thoroughbred broodmare in Britain and Ireland, detailing the identity of their foals and coverings that season, as well as current and historical statistics on breeding activity in the two countries.
It therefore provides an indispensable guide to the popularity of stallions, the latest news on top-class racemares and producers, and crucial clues to the health of the bloodstock business.
As a taster for this year’s edition – which is available to purchase on the Weatherbys Shop (weatherbysshop.co.uk) – here are five key pieces of information contained within its pages.
Affinisea at the top again
Affinisea was the busiest sire in Britain and Ireland for the second year in a row, covering 382 mares at Whytemount Stud. He was sent 325 mares in 2021 and 211 in 2020, so is set to be heavily represented in jumps racing in the next decade and beyond.
That might be considered strange in the context of his race record, which yielded a solitary success at Roscommon from just two starts, but breeders have put their faith in him as a good-looking Sea The Stars half-brother to one proven jumps sire in Soldier Of Fortune, out of a half-sister to another in Sholokhov.
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Glens Melody: among the mares to have visited Affinisea
Demand for the sire’s services likely intensified again in the early months of the year on the back of his first four-year-olds emerging on the point-to-point field. They included Classic Anthem, who scored at Monksgrange for Rob James and sold to Peter and Ross Doyle and Joe Tizzard for £200,000 at the Goffs UK Aintree Sale a week later.
The Return of Mares shows that Affinisea is covering quality as well as quantity, with top-class racemares Glens Melody and Voler La Vedette and the dams of Andy Dufresne, Fiddlerontheroof, Highway One O Two, Lalor, The New One, The Shunter and Third Time Lucki featuring among his 2022 book.
Rounding out the top ten busiest sires in Britain and Ireland last year are Crystal Ocean (352 mares), Order Of St George (287), Blue Bresil (267), Poet’s Word (258), Sioux Nation (255), Starman (255 ), Mehmas (250), Vadamos (250), and Wootton Bassett (249).
Ardad all the rage
Ardad was the busiest British-based sire this year, receiving 205 mares at Overbury Stud as reward for his productive first season with two-year-olds in 2021, which was capped by son Perfect Power winning the Norfolk Stakes, Prix Morny and Middle Park Stakes.
That book – which was an increase from 156 mares last season, as the sire started to show his hand, and up from just 26 in 2020, when he struggled for support – was headlined by the dams of classy performers Amazing Maria, Grande Dame, Major Jumbo, Summer Sands, White Lavender and Zonderland.
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Ardad: Overbury Stud sire was in huge demand in 2022
Ardad’s many supporters will have been delighted to see Perfect Power win the Greenham Stakes and Commonwealth Cup this year, as well as a few more useful two-year-olds for the sire to emerge, including Clearpoint and Crispy Cat.
The next busiest sires in Britain were Frankel (188 mares), Logician (183), Time Test (181), Havana Gray (166) and Dubawi (165).
Dazzling dates for Dubai
Speaking of Dubawi, the doyen of the Darley stallion roster looks set for a deserved first British and Irish sire title this year, as his progeny earnings of £6.3 million are more than £1m in advance of those of his closest pursuer, the reigning champion Frankel.
We all know that the son of Dubai Millennium covers exceptional books of mares, and has done so for many years now, but the Return of Mares gives precise details of the parade of Group/Grade 1 winners and producers that visit him at Dalham Hall Stud .
He covered four very special mares who were top-level scorers themselves and have also delivered top-level scorers at stud – namely Dar Re Mi (dam of Too Darn Hot), Misty For Me (dam of Roly Poly and US Navy Flag), Nightime (dam of Ghaiyyath and Zhukova) and Rhododendron (dam of Auguste Rodin).
Among the other Group/Grade 1 winners in the book were (take a deep breath!) Albigna, Alice Springs, Althiqa, Athena, Audarya, Ballydoyle, Cascadian, Clemmie, Enable, Fancy Blue, Glass Slippers, God Given, Hermosa, Joan Of Arc, La Pelosa, Lady Bowthorpe, Laurens, Legatissimo, Love, Loving Dream, Lumiere, Magical, Molly Malone, Mutamakina, Passage Of Time, Peaceful, Rushing Fall, Sheikha Reika, Sistercharlie, Snow Lantern, Star Of Seville, Tepin, Together Forever, Veracious, Was and Zhukova.
He was also sent a host of other dams of Group/Grade 1 winners, and all being well his 2023 foal crop would include full or half-siblings to Arabian Queen, Call The Wind, Cascadian, Castle Lady, Coroebus, Enable, Gleneagles, Mangoustine, Mishriff, Modern Games, Native Trail, Naval Crown, Old Persian, Quorto, Rebel’s Romance, Rizeena, Siyarafina, Snowfall, Sottsass, Space Blues, Tarnawa, Uni, Wooded and Yibir.
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Among Dubawi’s phenomenal book this year was the brilliant Enable