It takes a lot more than just a string of early two-year-old winners to identify a freshman sire as a genuinely exciting prospect who is showing the potential to become a stallion of note in the years to come, and by the end of July each year there are always a few who have generated advertising hype.
For many that will die down as time passes and their tally of stakes and pattern winners remains low, but some of those early birds do continue to progress, keep pace with the classic-type sires whose offspring start to emerge in the second half of the season, complete their apprenticeship (end of their third season with juvenile runners) with honours, and join the ranks of established sires.
It is too soon to begin proclaiming any freshman of 2018 as a leading sire of the future, but Coolmore Stud's No Nay Never (by Scat Daddy) is among those who have shown early promise, in his case as a long-term source of sprinters and milers.
Himself a Group 1 star at two, the lightly-raced No Nay Never has a large first crop, and they did well at least year's sales. What is encouraging is that, so far, more of them are winners than have remained maidens, and following the seven-length victory of the Wesley Ward-trained Mae Never No in the five-furlong Colleen Stakes at Monmouth Park yesterday, he already has three blacktype scorers to his name.
Naas listed race winner Servalan was the first, his three blacktype-placed runners include Group 2 Superlative Stakes third Neverland Rock and Group 3 Prix de Cabourg third We Go, and the best of his representatives to date is the Aidan O'Brien-trained Land Force.
The Evie Stockwell-bred, late February-born bay beat Marie's Diamond by a length in the Group 2 Qatar Richmond Stakes at Goodwood on Thursday, taking his record to three wins from six starts.
He got off the mark at the second attempt, when scoring over six furlongs on heavy ground at the Curragh in mid-May, he beat Mintd by two lengths in the Listed Coolmore Pride Of Dubai Tipperary Stakes over five on fast ground last month, and between those two wins he took third place in both the Listed Marble Hill Stakes and Group 2 Norfolk Stakes.
In the latter he was beaten a nose and half a length by Shang Shang Shang and Pocket Dynamo, with Rumble Inthejungle and Konchek one and a half lengths and a nose behind in fourth and fifth. The latter finished the same distance behind Land Force when fourth in the Richmond, while Rumble Inthejumble easily won the Group 3 Markel Insurance Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood on Wednesday.
It seems likely that Land Force will be a sprinter next season, a potential Group 1 Commonwealth Cup candidate, and being a son of No Nay Never and grandson of Cassandra Go (by Indian Ridge) he may not even be asked to try a mile.
The latter trip could be within his compass, however, and it is the distance over which his half-sister got the second of her Grade 1 wins. Photo Call (by Galileo) won the 10-furlong Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes on turf at Santa Anita as a four-year-old, took a Grade 3 contest over a furlong farther at Gulfstream Park the following April, and six months later put up an impressive front-running performance to beat Tepin by two and three-quarter lengths in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes over the mile at Keeneland.
Their dam, Theann – also bred by Stockwell – was Group 3-placed over seven furlongs but did most of her racing over six, with the better of her two wins coming in the Group 3 Summer Stakes on soft ground at York. Her sire, Rock Of Gibraltar (by Danehill), was a star miler from the immediate family of Riverman (by Never Bend).
The mare's half-sister Tickled Pink (by Invincible Spirit) won the Group 3 Coral Charge over five furlongs at Sandown and the Group 3 Abernant Stakes over six at Newmarket, but their former Ballydoyle-based sibling Halfway To Heaven (by Pivotal), who stayed farther, was one of the stars of the family.
She never ran in a sprint, she won the Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas and Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes over a mile, pipped Lush Lashes in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes over 10 furlongs, finished third to that same filly in the Group 1 Matron Stakes, and was third to Zarkava in the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas).
As a daughter of Pivotal (by Polar Falcon) and Group 2 King's Stand Stakes and Group 2 Temple Stakes heroine Cassandra Go, she had the pedigree potential to be a sprinter or miler, with the shorter range a marginal favourite. What she got from her parents was the latter potential rather than their five-furlong speed, and that has made her a fascinating broodmare.
Halfway To Heaven has had five offspring on the track so far, all of them by the phenomenal stallion Galileo (by Sadler's Wells), and they are 10-furlong pattern scorer Flying The Flag, recent nine-furlong Group 2 Kilboy Estate Stakes winner Magical, and triple Group 1 star Rhododendron.
The latter won the Group 1 Fillies' Mile at Newmarket at two, added the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera over 10 furlongs at Chantilly at three, and kicked off 2018 with a short-head defeat of Lightning Spear in the Group 1 Juddmonte Lockinge Stakes at Newbury. She is also the filly who chased home Winter in the Group 1 1000 Guineas and Enable in the Group 1 Investec Oaks.
Cassandra Go, whose final start saw her chase home Mozart in the Group 1 July Cup, is a daughter of Rahaam (by Secreto) – an unraced half-sister to Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) third Glory Forever (by Forever Casting) – and the high-class Verglas (by Highest Honor) was the best of her siblings.
He won the Group 3 Coventry Stakes and finished third in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes as a juvenile, and he chased home Desert King in the Group 1 Irish 2000 Guineas the following spring before going on to a successful stallion career, much of it spent at the Irish National Stud.
Verglas was only 17 when he died, but his profile as a stallion had been on the rise at the time thanks to the exploits of his sons Glass Harmonium, Silver Frost, and Stormy River, each of whom retired a Group 1 winner.
It will be fascinating to see how Land Force's career turns out, and if he takes up his entry in any of the Group 2 Galileo Irish EBF Futurity Stakes, Group 2 Howcroft Industrial Supplies Champagne Stakes or Group 1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes – all over seven furlongs – then we may get an idea of whether or not he might try or stay the mile next year.
The €350,000 Goffs Orby Sale graduate is also engaged in both the Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes and Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Gimcrack Stakes over six.
Such is the obsession with early two-year-old speed that this colt has probably already generated some interest as a prospective stallion, and should he go on to earn a berth at stud then the record of his relation Verglas will boost his chances of success in that role.