Stallion Spotlight: Darley’s Darren Fox On Astern

by | 03.31.2020 | 11:44am

Stallion Spotlight offers stud farm representatives a chance to address breeders and answer questions as they finalize their mating decisions for the 2020 breeding season.

In this edition, Darren Fox, sales manager for Darley America, discusses shuttle stallion Astern, a star in his native Australia whose first Northern Hemisphere foals are yearlings of 2020.

B. h., 2013 Medaglia d'Oro x Essaouira, by Exceed And Excel
Race Record: 9-5-2-0; $884,734
Notable wins: G1 Golden Rose Stakes, G2 Run to the Rose Stakes, G2 Silver Slipper Stakes, G3 Kindergarten Stakes
Advertised fee: $10,000

1) What is Astern's strongest selling point as a stallion?

Fox: Astern scores high marks in every category a stallion is critiqued on, so it is difficult to pick one, but his sheer athletic prowess and brilliance demonstrated on the race track cap a stacked resume in terms of looks, sire power and an exceptional female family. Astern is Medaglia d'Oro's highest rated son anywhere in the world with a 126 Timeform rating which illustrates the point.

2) If I've got a mare that needs help from the stallion on a physical characteristic, what can Astern best contribute to the equation?

Fox: Astern puts a quality individual out there. They are nice sized horses, attractive, well conformed, have good bone and possess a lot of quality.

3) How does Astern compare and contrast physically to his sire Medaglia d'Oro, who also stands at Darley?

Fox: Astern is a neater version of his sire, coming in right at 16.1 hands. They are very similar through their head and shoulder. Astern has a lovely length of body although probably not quite as long as his sire. Astern has a good hip. Both are extremely good looking horses with an abundance of quality apparent.

4) As a runner based in Australia, Astern raced exclusively on the turf. What do you see in him that makes you confident that his foals could make the transition to dirt racing in North America?

Fox: Astern's action and fluidity of movement are some of his most attractive features and are ones that will serve him well in his exploits in the U.S. Astern has a very efficient, daisy-cutter action with little or no knee action. It prompted his jockey (James McDonald) to call him one of the best moving horses he had ever ridden – “like being airborne!” Add to this that his sire (Medaglia d'Oro) is equally adept at getting top flight runners on both dirt and turf and has effectively become a crossover sire line; hailing from a predominantly turf sire line yet performing at the highest level on dirt. Both of these point give a lot of reason to think Astern's progeny can prove effective on dirt.

5) Astern's first North American foals are yearlings of 2020. It's still early on, but what are some of the common traits you've seen so far in his foals? How is Astern stamping them?

Fox: Astern is siring nice-sized, quality foals with good leg and length of body. They are well-conformed and have good bone, which he has in abundance and possess good hips. They are attractive individuals inheriting a lot of their sire line's eye appeal.

6) Domestically at least, Medaglia d'Oro is known more for his routers than his sprinters. As a horse that did his best work sprinting, how does that change the way breeders have looked – and should look – at Astern compared to other sons of Medaglia d'Oro at stud?

Fox: I think the best lines that have worked with Medaglia d'Oro will also work with Astern, so it is nice that we have an extensive body of work on which to judge what works best with Medaglia d'Oro and thus funnel high impact matings to Astern.

I am particularly excited about Astern's speed and precocity blended with the typical two-turn American dirt mare. I think that could be a potent combination. So, to that end, some breeders have leaned into his speed with speedier mares and others have used him to inject speed into their mares.

I do think Astern, crossed over stouter-bred mares with some of the Medaglia d'Oro coming through, would produce some horses you wouldn't be surprised to see go a route of ground.

7) For those who might not be familiar with Astern's Australian form, do you have races you can draw to as parallels for the races he won, or perhaps a horse with a similar career arc?

Fox: His marquee win came in the G1 Golden Rose, which is Australia's top seven-furlong 3-year-old race, so the equivalent of our G1 Allen Jerkens Stakes. He is rated the best-ever winner of that race, which is a key stallion-making race in Australia.

Astern was also a debut winner at two early on in the season and won the G2 Silver Slipper (prep for the Golden Slipper) also as a 2-year-old, which could be compared to the G2 Best Pal Stakes.

Astern's win in the G2 Run to the Rose is the equivalent of the G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes early on in the 3-year-old season.

8) What's something about Astern that you think goes overlooked?

Fox: Just how strong his female family is. His dam Essaouira might be one of Sheikh Mohammed's most valuable broodmares anywhere in the world!

In addition to G1 winner Astern, she is also the dam of three-time G1 winner and champion 3-year-old filly Alizee and two other graded placed runners, all at the tender age of 13.

Essaouira was a high class debut winner that never got to show her full potential. Astern's second dam Alizes was a winner of the G2 Magic Night Stakes and became favorite for the Golden Slipper off that performance, his third dam La Baraka defeated older males and females in the G1 Galaxy Stakes, and his fourth dam Triscay (five-time G1 winner), was the champion 2-year-old and 3-year-old filly in Australia.

9) Astern stands for $10,000. What makes him a standout in that price bracket?

Fox: The combination of sire power, elite performance, great looks with an exceptional female family makes him a whole lot of horse for just $10,000.

10) What else should someone considering Astern for their mare know before making the call?

Fox: We are anticipating the Asterns making a splash at the 2-year-old sales in 2021, as he possessed so much natural speed and therefore should be on pinhookers' radar. I would not be surprised to see some end up at the European breeze-up sales and hopefully even show themselves as potential Royal Ascot types.

One of the things I like to remind breeders is to think of Astern as Australia's equivalent of Frosted or Nyquist in terms of profile; reverse shuttling for a fraction of his Southern Hemisphere fee (AUS$38,500 in his first year at stud).

To learn more about Astern, click here.

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