Breeders and buyers anticipating the upcoming first 2-year-olds by Almanzor (Fr) (Wootton Bassett GB) in Europe were provided a boost in recent weeks at the sales in Australia and New Zealand, where the triple Group 1 winner’s first Southern Hemisphere yearlings were warmly received. After his three yearlings sold at Magic Millions averaged A$506,666 with a top price of A$800,000, Almanzor went on to be leading first-season sire at Karaka Book 1 with 43 sold for an average of NZ$190,698.
Almanzor, who is based at his birthplace Haras d’Etreham in France, stands Southern Hemisphere time at Cambridge Stud in New Zealand, where he stood for NZ$30,000 last season. Cambridge Chief Executive Officer Henry Plumptre noted that Almanzor’s fortunes have been on a rising tide ever since his stud deal was secured, beginning with a nod of approval from one of the greatest stallion masters there has ever been.
“Almanzor is a great physical type,” Plumptre said. “It’s very hard to look at him and find fault with his conformation. The first person we put him in front of when he arrived in New Zealand at the back end of 2018 was Sir Patrick Hogan. Patrick looked at him for five or 10 minutes without saying a word, until he said, ‘he’s absolutely perfect.’ He talked about bone below the knee, substance, forearm, shoulder; and the horse has all those attributes.”
After receiving high grades from the man who cultivated the stud careers of the great Sir Tristram and his son Zabeel, Almanzor went on to post promising results with his first European crop at the foal sales in 2019 and again at last year’s yearling sales. His 14 first-crop foals sold averaged £84,522/€96,461, while his 53 yearlings sold at auction last year built on that solid foundation with an average of £87,023/€99,323. In the meantime his sire, Wootton Bassett, was continuing to go from strength to strength.
“At the time [that the breeding rights deal was done for Almanzor] Wootton Bassett was a bit of an unknown quantity,” Plumptre recalled. “We were nervous about that, but having been to Normandy to look at the horse and having talked to Nicolas [de Chambure] about Wootton Bassett and what he had coming through–he was very confident that Wootton Bassett would have a good year in France that year and he was subsequently proven right, because he had two or three Group 1 performers. The following year of course he really went to another level and his service fee rose from €6,000 to €20,000, and €20,000 to €40,000. That was a ringing endorsement of Wootton Bassett in Europe, which helped us enormously with Almanzor.”
The Wootton Bassett saga has, of course, continued, with the 13-year-old stallion adding two new Group 1 winners-Wooded (Fr) and Audarya (Fr)-to his roll of honor last year in the wake of his sale to Coolmore, where he stands this year for €100,000. Meanwhile, a select handful of yearlings was sent across the Tasman last month to get the word out early about Almanzor at Magic Millions.
“One of the things that really helped us with Almanzor was that there were three or four yearlings by him that were strategically placed at Magic Millions,” Plumptre said. “That market was very strong this year and he had a huge sale at Magic Millions. We sent one filly and our clients sent three others. Almanzor managed to get an A$800,000 colt that is going to be trained by Danny O’Brien in Melbourne, and we sold our filly for A$380,000, and we had a very good client from the South Island who sold her colt for A$340,000.
“So it was a very good story before we even got to Karaka, and it got people talking. There was a lot of feedback in Australia from Magic Millions about Almanzor, and I think by the time we opened on the first day at Karaka, most of the buying bench-whether it was online or through an agent or trainer–wanted to get their hands on one of them.”
Almanzor’s Karaka yearlings were led by a NZ$560,000 colt headed to Chris Waller, and a colt and a filly were each bought for NZ$420,000, by Bruce Perry and The Oaks Stud and trainer Tony Pike. Cambridge and Etreham teamed to buy a filly who is a half-sister to two stakes winners from Curraghmore for NZ$380,000. Cambridge and Etreham also bought three Almanzor yearlings in partnership in the North last year: a colt from Tattersalls who will go into training with Kevin Ryan, as well as a colt and a filly in Deauville who will go to Almanzor’s trainer Jean-Claude Rouget. Plumptre said they will likely look to add one more in Australia before the sales season is over.
“I think everyone down there was surprised by how well Almanzor was received,” said Nicolas de Chambure. “With any shuttle stallion, there is always a bit of a fear that the market down there isn’t going to understand or respect them. There is always a bit of a mystery there. The reports we were getting were that he was throwing very good types as he had in Europe, and it was just a question of how people down there were going to value them.”
Plumptre confirmed that Almanzor has been throwing his good looks across the board.
“Everyone knows that stallions can be gorgeous and not for whatever reason throw stock at that level,” he said. “We were very lucky that Almanzor’s first crop had a high percentage of yearlings and foals that looked like him, had that substance and bone below the knee.”
De Chambure said he thinks a warming to middle-distance sires in the Australian market has also helped Almanzor’s cause.
“Talking to people down there, it sounds like there’s a bit of a switch in the market where buyers and syndicators and trainers have a bit more time and budget for the later types and horses that look like they’ll be 3-year-old milers or 10-furlong horses,” he said. “People realize how much money there is there and sometimes there is less competition than for the early 2-year-old races. I think it’s great to see that those stallions can have a great chance and can be popular at the sales as well.”
Plumptre floated the idea that New Zealand could once again establish itself as the key source of middle-distance horses for Australia.
“I applaud the fact that they [Australia] see themselves as the best producers of sprinting horses in the world,” he said. “But 60% of the racing system in Australia is at a mile and above. So there is still a lot of prizemoney available if you have the right horse at a mile, mile and a quarter, mile and a half or two miles. Traditionally the supply chain for those horses was always New Zealand. It would be fair to say that the depth of stallions in New Zealand has dropped in the past 25 years. There is no doubt that stallions like Zabeel and his son Savabeel, and Tavistock, had all been great influences but there were only two or three of them. In the old days in New Zealand in the 1970s and 80s there were a dozen stallions producing these high-class middle-distance horses.
“There was a time too when the attention of the Australian buyer turned to Europe. The exchange rate was very good and there was a thought process that we could go and buy racehorses with a certain Timeform rating and bring them back to Australia and they would perform at that elite level, and it was cheaper to do that and better value because the European stayer was generally seen as better. I’ve got no problem with that, but I think it’s an expensive way of doing it if we can produce the right thing over here in New Zealand.”
Almanzor could quite possibly be the right thing for New Zealand, and Plumptre and de Chambure each credited one another with their role in establishing the young sire to date.
“You can’t underestimate the importance of our relationship with Etreham and Nicolas,” said Plumptre. “There is a very strong bond there which we think is fantastic for the Cambridge brand going forward. Nicolas is making a name for himself at a very famous French nursery, and it’s so far been an amazing attachment for us. We’re racing a couple of Almanzors with Nicolas here in Australia and New Zealand and we’re racing a couple Almanzors in Europe. We’ve got a lot to look forward to.”
“The folks at Cambridge have done a great job marketing this horse and getting breeders to support him,” de Chambure added. “They took a risk with this horse and it’s great to see them doing well with him down there. It was a great result for everyone involved to see the Almanzors selling so well.”
The Cambridge Stud/Haras d’Etreham connection will have another shot to continue its good fortune later this year when dual Group 1-winning sprinter Hello Youmzain (Ire) shuttles South after completing his first season at Etreham. Cambridge and Etreham partnered in the autumn of 2019 to purchase Hello Youmzain after he had won the G1 Sprint Cup, and the bay rewarded the gamble to keep him in training at four with a win in the G1 Diamond Jubilee S. at Royal Ascot last year. As was the case with Almanzor and Wootton Bassett, Hello Youmzain’s sire Kodiac has reached another stratosphere since that transaction was completed.
“At the time [of the deal] Kodiac was a good stallion, but last year he had a phenomenal year in Europe with his 2- and 3-year-olds, and Hello Youmzain winning the Diamond Jubilee at Ascot,” Plumptre said. “He went to another level as well, which again helps when you’re launching a stallion like that. I think there’s enough depth in Hello Youmzain’s pedigree as well to suggest he will get milers eventually, and as a type he has scope and length which suggests he will get milers. I don’t think he’s going to be an out-and-out speed horse.”
Plumptre said the interest in Hello Youmzain has been encouraging ahead of the horse’s arrival in New Zealand.
“We’ve got a very good group of people around him, a very good group of breeders supporting the horse,” he said. “The pedigree is very interesting to people here, it’s Danehill with a bit of Invincible Spirit in there through his dam. It’s all pretty positive stuff; those are the two lines the Australia market wants. Nicolas is very particular about the type of horse he buys into and I have no reason to believe that Hello Youmzain isn’t every bit as good a type as Almanzor, and New Zealand breeders are very big on conformation as they’re predominantly commercial sellers, so it’s important to put a horse in front of him that has that conformation, scope and substance.”
“Our broodmare band at Cambridge is probably 25 to 30% European, so we have some nice pedigrees to cross with him and we have some very good local pedigrees to cross with him,” Plumptre added of Hello Youmzain. “It’ll be most enjoyable to see his first foals in a year’s time and see what he throws.”