From the time the freshman sire class of 2019 first hit the breeding shed in 2016, it was clear it had the potential to be a group with historic depth.
There was a superstar at the top, in the form of 2015 Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year American Pharoah, but the list of stallions with a legitimate chance to make an impact based on pedigree, racetrack performance, and level of buzz heading to stud was something not seen in North America for years.
That depth played out in a big way when the final tallies came in for the 2019 racing season, with no single stallion dominating a large chunk of categories in terms of wins, earnings, and performance by surface.
Heading into the 2020 breeding season, and with the first 2-year-old races not too far off in the distance to write a new chapter for the next class, here is a look back at the first-crop stallions who made a big first impression with their debut runners in 2019.
Highest Progeny Earnings: American Pharoah
Pioneerof the Nile x Littleprincessemma, by Yankee Gentleman
Standing at Ashford Stud
2020 Fee: Private
2019 Progeny Earnings: $2,873,170
The first Triple Crown winner in 37 years entered stud with expectations befitting of such a lofty race record, and the murderer's row of mares that filled his first book only heightened the anticipation. When they hit the racetrack, American Pharoah's first foals lived up to the hype, winning races all over the world, at the highest levels and across different surfaces.
American Pharoah also co-led all North American freshman sires by starters, with 72, but his status at the top of the freshman earnings list was not merely done by attrition. Getting a Breeders' Cup winner in one's first crop often goes a long way in that regard, and Four Wheel Drive's score in the Juvenile Turf Sprint at Santa Anita Park helped his sire secure a comfortable lead on top.
Despite never setting foot on the turf in competition during his own racing career, all three of American Pharoah's graded or group stakes winners in 2019 came on the grass. Four Wheel Drive was joined by G2 Jessamine Stakes winner Sweet Melania who also ran third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, and Maven, who won the G3 Prix du Bois in France. His best dirt runner was American Theorem, who ran second in his sire's namesake race, the G1 American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita.
Most Winners, Most Graded Stakes Winners: Constitution
Tapit x Baffled, by Distorted Humor
Standing at WinStar Farm
2020 Fee: $40,000
2019 Winners: 29
2019 Graded Winners: 4
The race for the title of Tapit's greatest son at stud has myriad hats in the ring, but Constitution made a convincing opening argument with his first runners, getting four of them into graded stakes winner's circles in 2019.
That conversation begins with Tiz the Law, who picked up his sire's first Grade 1 victory with a four-length score in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. The colt added a third-place effort in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes to finish his season and make him a buzz horse heading into the next segment of the Kentucky Derby prep schedule.
Joining Tiz the Law on the Kentucky Derby trail will be Independence Hall, who made his presence known with a resounding 12 1/4-length triumph in the Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct. By Your Side struck early for his sire with a three-length win in the G3 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, while Amalfi Sunrise scored one for the fillies, taking the G2 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar by six lengths.
Most Grade 1 Winners: Liam's Map
Unbridled's Song x Miss Macy Sue, by Trippi
Standing at Lane's End
2020 Fee: $35,000
2019 Grade 1 Winners: 2
Getting a Grade 1 winner from a stallion's first crop of juveniles is a big deal. Getting two is a revelation.
The 2015 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner was the only North American freshman sire with more than one Grade 1 winner last year, hitting the top of the class ladder with a colt and a filly, both trained by Steve Asmussen.
The first to that mark was Basin, a colt who drew off over a sloppy Saratoga track to win the G1 Hopeful Stakes by 6 1/2 lengths. He was followed a few months later by Wicked Whisper, who got in front early and kept going to win the G1 Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park by 2 3/4 lengths.
– Constitution (WinStar Farm): One Grade 1 winner
– Palace Malice (Three Chimneys Farm): One Grade 1 winner
Most Progeny Wins: Tapiture
Tapit x Free Spin, by Olympio
Standing at Darby Dan Farm
2020 Fee: $7,500
2019 Progeny Wins: 37
Tapiture set a course as a popular horse with breeders in his first year at stud, and early returns indicate they're just as popular with owners and trainers on the track.
The multiple Grade 2 winner's foals found the winner's circle 37 times last year from 72 individual starters. The latter figure tied Tapiture with American Pharoah for the most starters among North American freshmen.
The leading earner of the group was Axiomo, who won on debut at Churchill Downs and followed up with an allowance score at Indiana Grand. He spent the rest of the year testing stakes company, and finished third in the Indian Summer Stakes at Keeneland.
Tapiture's best runners showed they could get out of the blocks early, including New York-bred Sky of Hook and Louisiana-bred Vacherie Girl. Both juveniles won their respective initial starts, then turned around to win state-bred stakes races in their immediate encores.
Highest Earning Individual Runner: Palace Malice
Curlin x Palace Rumor, by Royal Anthem
Standing at Three Chimneys Farm
2020 Fee: $25,000
Leading Runner: Structor – $709,500
The only freshman sire to put forth an Eclipse Award finalist in his first crop was Palace Malice, whose son Structor earned serious buzz for champion 2-year-old male honors after going unbeaten in his three starts that season.
Structor brought in $709,500 during his 2019 campaign, making him the highest-earning freshman-sired runner in North America. The bulk of that income was generated in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, which he won by a late-closing three-quarters of a length.
Prior to his signature triumph, the colt won on debut over the Saratoga turf, then fought gamely to win the G3 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park.
– American Pharoah (Ashford Stud): Four Wheel Drive – $692,500
– Constitution (WinStar Farm): Tiz the Law – $347,000
Regional Standout: Khozan
Distorted Humor x Delta Princess, by A.P. Indy
Standing at Journeyman Stallions
2020 Fee: $8,500
No discussion of the 2019 freshman sire season would be complete without acknowledging the success of Khozan, the Florida stallion who set the pace nationally by earnings in the freshman division for many of the early months.
The half-brother to Hall of Famer Royal Delta finished eighth among North American freshmen by progeny earnings, with $1,258,517 earned from 44 starters. His biggest success to date has come in the Southern Hemisphere, where his son Airbus won the Peruvian Group 1 Polla de Potrillos.
Domestically, Khozan's runners were led by stakes winners Liam's Lucky Charm and Sebs Princess, as well as Grade 3-placed Zimba Warrior.
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