Harry Angel is a sire I find fascinating, as his unfolding second career at stud is providing a real-time case study in how market perception compares with racecourse results.
The Dalham Hall Stud-based first-season sire broke his maiden in the Mill Reef Stakes at two and confirmed himself one of the best sprinters around at three and four, when his victories included the July Cup and Haydock Sprint Cup, even though he often endured a stormy relationship with the starting stalls.
He was also quite attractively bred, being by Dark Angel out of a half-sister to Vintage Stakes winner and later Hong Kong hotshot Xtension, and his pedigree has since been enhanced by the exploits of half-brother Pierre Lapin and maternal ‘cousin’ Supremacy.
So it’s no surprise that he was warmly received by breeders in his first season at stud, covering 137 mares at an introductory fee of £20,000, with 29 individual black-type performers among that debut book.
However, when Harry Angel’s first-crop offspring went to market, the enthusiasm dissipated. Buyers evidently weren’t impressed by what they saw on the whole, as 14 of the 20 first-crop foals that were offered in Britain and Ireland changed hands for an average of 18,143gns and median of 12,250gns – both figures below the cost of the covering fee.
His first-crop yearling average of 41,102gns in Britain and Ireland was boosted by five six-figure transactions, but there were many others who sold for more modest sums, as reflected in a lower median price of 24,500gns – not the sort of mark-up on the nomination fee you expect to see when there is usually such a premium on new sires’ progeny.
Dark mutterings about Harry Angel’s prospects as a stallion inevitably began to circulate in sales-house bars and on social networks; but were the bloodstock cognoscenti correct to doubt him?
Well, considering there was so much negativity surrounding him at one point, I think it’s fair to say he is outperforming expectations where it matters most: on the track.
The first clues came at the breeze-up sales, where the ten two-year-olds offered in Britain and Ireland (a low figure that tells its own story) sold for a more respectable average of around 57,000gns and median of 38,000gns.
One among their number, Michael O’Calaghan’s 82,000gns Tattersalls Craven purchase Harry Time, won well at Navan on debut before being sold at the Goffs London Sale for £300,000 and then running with credit in black-type company for Michael Lavarone on several occasions.
Harry Angel now has 15 winners in Europe in total, thanks to Glenfinnan’s decisive two-length score at Yarmouth and Harry Brown's half-length victory at Chelmsford yesterday, achieved at a fair strike-rate of 37 per cent – some way off the scorching pace being set by the exemplary pair Havana Grey and Sioux Nation, but not a bad result in and of itself.
On a highly productive afternoon for the young sire, another son Felix Natalis – one of the overlooked foals at the sales, making only €3,500 at Goffs before being resold in the same ring as a yearling for €20,000 – ran away with the valuable Goffs Sportsman’s Challenge at Naas.
Those results could signal the start of a good run for Harry Angel, as he is represented tomorrow in the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury by Wallop, who got eye-catchingly close to the classy pair Noble Style and Mill Stream when third at Newmarket in July on his sole start to date, and in the Firth of Clyde Stakes at Ayr by recent winners Bonny Angel and Marine Wave.
More significantly still, the sire could field the favourite in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket a week tomorrow, in the shape of Marshman. Karl Burke’s colt lost no caste in defeat when second to Noble Style in the Gimcrack at York last time, the pair pulling clear of the third home Cold Case, who has since won a lucrative Weatherbys sales race.
All in all, it’s early days for Harry Angel but you couldn’t rule out him ‘doing a Dubawi’ by defying the market’s disdain for his early commercial offspring to become a successful sire.
On the 15th anniversary of his Dalham Hall Stud studmate’s first foals being damned by the experts at the sales, he looks set to become champion sire in Britain and Ireland for the first time after years of being there or thereabouts, thanks to Eldar Eldarov and New London’s one-two in the St Leger. So the bloodstock cognoscenti don’t always get sires right, by any means.