From the first Saturday of the European flat season to its dying days in late autumn, Darley Northwood shuttle sire Helmet grabbed the headlines.
A quick-fire double in March and a Group 1 winner in October bookended an outstanding season and ensured the spotlight shone all year on the three-time Group 1 winning son of Exceed And Excel.
Meanwhile, the Northwood based sire continues his upward rise in Australia. Following a slew of winners over the past two months, he is now fourth amongst Australian second season sires.
Perhaps most impressive during this period was Darren Weir’s Flemington two-year-old winner Limestone – bred by Hesket Bloodstock.
In Europe, Helmet blazed out of the gate this past racing season. He became the first freshman stallion of the year to sire a winner when Boater decimated a field of ten in one of the first juvenile races of the season, scoring by seven lengths at Kempton.
Just half an hour later, Chupalla made it a memorable double for her sire when triumphing by six lengths over Stormy Clouds, subsequently winner of the Goffs Premier Yearling Stakes at York in August.
Remarkably, 18 days later Helmet maintained his 100% strike rate when Orewa overcame greenness to slam his rivals by three lengths.
The colt, trained by Brian Ellison, would go on to land a further hat-trick of successes for his sire, most notably in the Tattersalls Ireland Super Auction Sales Stakes in which he defeated the future Stakes winner Wick Powell with the Group 2 scorer Medicine Jack back in third.
By the end of May, Helmet had four winners in Britain and Ireland on his score sheet, and could boast a winners-to-runners strike rate of over 40%. And on the last day of that month, a colt named Thunder Snow made a winning debut at Leicester.
Running in the colours of Godolphin, the homebred colt boasted an impeccable pedigree, being a half-brother to three Stakes winners, including the Group 1-placed & Group 3 winner Ihtimal (Shamardal) among black type winners.
Thunder Snow showed a good turn of foot to land his maiden and he went on to be runner-up in both the Group 2 Vintage Stakes and the Group 2 Champagne Stakes.
The colt went on to cap an amazing season for Helmet when storming clear of his rivals to land the Group 1 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud by no fewer than five lengths at the end of October.
That victory gave Helmet the notable accolade of being the first European freshman to sire a Group 1 winner and by the year’s end, he remained the only one to achieve the feat in Europe.
Helmet ended the year as sire of 16 individual winners of 28 races, with a winners-to-runners strike rate of 30%. His tally of four Stakes performers included the Group 3-placed pair Eqtiraan and Mur Hiba, as well as his first-ever worldwide winner Boater, who was also Stakes-placed at York in May.
There is much to look forward to in 2017, both with Helmet’s Classic crop – Thunder Snow holds entries for the 2,000 Guineas at both Newmarket and the Curragh – and with another large crop of promising juveniles preparing to debut this year.