In the opinion of James Bester, long-time bloodstock consultant to Coolmore, there’s little between Justify and Wootton Bassett.

In fact, Bester is hard-pressed to pick between the two stallions, one an American Triple Crown winner and the other arguably the most accomplished first-season sire ever to stand in Australia.

“Justify … no horse has ever done for me what Justify has done, but don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of Wootton Bassett,” Bester says.

At 16 years old, the British-bred Wootton Bassett is among the 26 sires debuting yearlings at the 2024 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale. He is the oldest among them but the most proven because rarely, if ever, has a stallion featured in this list that already has Group winners around the world.

Wootton Bassett first shuttled to Australia in 2021, a year after his purchase by Coolmore from the French operation Haras d’Etreham. As things stand in 2024, the horse has posted 27 Group winners in five countries, nine of them individual Group 1 winners.

“Justify and Wootton Bassett were identified by Coolmore as ‘must haves’ and no effort was spared to secure them,” Bester says. 

“In my time, and that’s 40 years involved with Coolmore, I’ve never seen support for stallions yet to be fully proven as I’ve seen for these two.

“John Magnier has gone all out on Wootton Bassett and Justify and, for that reason, I am so confident that it will happen for these two horses, and happen overnight.”

Justify’s Australian story is well-told, from his million-dollar yearlings to last season’s smart juvenile Learning To Fly. He was the champion first-season sire in Australia last season. 

Wootton Bassett, on the other hand, has his first Australian yearlings coming to market, even if his imported racehorses have dotted the local landscape for a few years now.

Both stallions, however, represent a shift in Coolmore’s recent modus operandi because they weren’t bred by the Irish operation or cultivated by Ballydoyle, its racing arm.

They were bought: Justify before his victory in the Preakness of 2018, and Wootton Bassett in 2021 when he had already been at stud for a decade.

“Both horses were given the very best mares that Coolmore could buy around the world, in addition to what Coolmore already had and could send them,” Bester says.

“Previously, horses have gone to stud with great credentials and they’ve therefore been popular, but the very best mares always went to the proven stallions. 

“Both horses were given the very best mares that Coolmore could buy around the world"- James Bester

“But in the case of Justify and Wootton Bassett, right away the very best mares went to them.”

Wootton Bassett, a son of Iffraaj, covered his third Australian book in 2023. Breeder interest was keen, with Coolmore carefully curating the number at 130 mares.

In this week’s catalogue, he will debut alongside newcomers such as Ole Kirk, Hanseatic, Farnan and barnmate King’s Legacy, but of all the 26 freshman sires, none possesses the same proven credentials as Wootton Bassett. 

Wootton Bassett (Photo: Coolmore)

And, interestingly, none are moving into a market already occupied by their sire sons.

Cambridge Stud’s Almanzor is an established son of Wootton Bassett in New Zealand, while Wooded has shuttled to Swettenham Stud for the past two seasons.

“I can’t think of another stallion like him down through history when you look at him in that context,” Bester says. “He’s certainly the most proven sire that has stood his first season here and is selling his first yearlings here, given he’s already a world-leading stallion.

“Wootton Bassett had shown he was capable of producing first-class, Group 1 horses like Almanzor from a very low service fee in France. I think he might have got down to €4000 ($A6500) at one point.”

Like I Am Invincible and Not A Single Doubt, and a select number of others down through history, Wootton Bassett’s service-fee story is the stuff of fairy tales.

He commenced duties in 2012 at €6000 ($A10,000), slid to €4000 ($A6500) in 2014 and 2016, then climbed steadily from €20,000 ($A32,500) to the €200,000 ($A325,000) he will command in Tipperary this year.

In 2013, he got Almanzor from a first-crop foal count of just 23. Almanzor won the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club, In subsequent crops Wootton Bassett sired Wooded who, at three years old, won the 1000-metre, open-age Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp.

Almanzor winning the 2016 Prix du Jockey Club. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

So far, Wootton Bassett is responsible for no fewer than five Group 1-winning juveniles around the world.

“Right away, his first two stars were a 10-furlong European champion and a two-year-old sprint star, and that poked Coolmore’s attention,” Bester says. “It was a wide range of ability he was showing, unusual almost, and right away Coolmore knew this was a special horse.

“His first Irish-conceived crop sold as yearlings in 2023, making up to €1.7 million ($A2.75 million). That’s an indication of the improvement in the class of mare that he got, so you’d have to think there is so much more to come.”

It’s a pattern Coolmore has already seen as successful in Australia through So You Think, who has had winners of Australia’s richest sprint, The Everest, right up to 3200m.     

Wootton Bassett’s first Australian weanlings debuted mid-year in 2023 at the Magic Millions National Sale. Six were offered at physical sales overall, while another was sold by Inglis Digital in July for a progeny-topping $265,000.

This year on the Gold Coast, he has 37 yearlings catalogued for 24 different vendors, and many of them are typical of their sire; that rich, mahogany-like colour with a good, intelligent head.

“They have strong hindquarters with a good length of hip, as Wootton Bassett himself does,” Bester says. “He’s definitely stamping them for type. They’re not overly big and not too small. 

“They’re a good, medium size, as he himself is, and they’re athletic with quality, without being that chunky, heavy-boned type. It looks like they will run at two because they won’t take long to mature.”

It seems there is room for both Wootton Bassett and Almanzor in the same Australasian market. One is unlikely to disadvantage the other, and Coolmore will commit to Wootton Bassett’s shuttling as long as the market keeps coming for him.

“He’s definitely stamping them for type. They’re not overly big and not too small." 

It’s not an exact science. Plenty of shuttle stallions haven’t worked in the recent past, but where possible, Coolmore will commit its roster to dual-hemisphere duties.

“Wootton Bassett was an unbeaten champion Group 1-winning two-year-old, so there’s your clue for Australia right there,” Bester says. “He was never beaten at two, and along the way he has sired five Group 1-winning two-year-olds from 1000 metres to 1600 metres.

“That’s extraordinary. There are very few sires that have done that and it’s made him a bit of a natural for Australia.”

As per John Magnier’s undivided commitment, among Wootton Bassett’s stock at the Gold Coast include a filly from Avantage. She was purchased for $NZ4.1 million in 2021 and sent straight to the then-freshman sire. 

There is another filly from Champagne Cuddles and a colt from Invincibella. Each of these mares were household names during their racing careers.

“He has lacked for no opportunity and I think every angle is covered at Magic Millions,” Bester says. “They look attractive, they’re precocious and they’re out of deep families. It will be a major surprise if he weren’t just to continue with his outstanding record here in Australia.”