There are few horses-or humans, for that matter-that have logged as many air miles as Exceed and Excel (Aus). The 21-year-old stallion can claim some 338,000, having shuttled for 16 consecutive seasons from his base at Darley Australia’s Kelvinside Stud to Sheikh Mohammed’s Dalham Hall or Kildangan Studs in Europe. Continued good results as both a sire and broodmare sire in both hemispheres mean that Exceed and Excel is a very notable absentee from the European stallion ranks in 2021, with Darley having called time on the bay’s Northern Hemisphere stud career late last year, citing simply the desire to reward him for a career done well.
Exceed and Excel is not the most traveled horse of the modern shuttle era-that honour belongs to WinStar Farm/Vinery Stud’s More Than Ready, who in 2019 completed his 18th consecutive year shuttling between Australia and the U.S. But it seems fair to bestow upon Exceed and Excel the honour of being the sire that revolutionized the shuttle route from Australia to Europe.
Exceed and Excel’s sire Danehill (who shuttled for 14 consecutive seasons) died at the tail end of the 2003 breeding season in Ireland, and it didn’t take long for an heir apparent to emerge, a horse that, like his sire, had near-equal effect on both sides of the globe-an incredibly rare feat indeed, something that even the great Galileo or Dubawi couldn’t quite pull off.
Raced initially by Alan Osburg and Nick Moraitis, Exceed and Excel won the G2 Todman S. at two for trainer Tim Martin before blossoming into a Group 1-winning 3-year-old when taking the G1 Dubai Racing Club Cup over seven furlongs and the G1 Newmarket H. over six. Sheikh Mohammed purchased Exceed and Excel thereafter for a reported A$22-million-a record for an Australian homebred at the time–and shipped him to Newmarket with the intention of running in the Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot, but plans went awry when the colt was forced to sit out the Royal meeting with unsatisfactory bloodwork. A reroute to the G1 July Cup provided a disappointing result, with Exceed and Excel beating just one horse home in the field of 20.
While Sheikh Mohammed’s big buy may have yielded underwhelming results in the short term, a glimpse back over a near 20-year stud career reveals him to be an inspired purchase indeed. He was fast from the gates with his first crops Down Under, with 17 stakes winners across his first two headed by the G1 Blue Diamond S. scorer Reward For Effort (Aus). Exceed and Excel stood at Kildangan Stud in 2005 and 2007 for €10,000, bookending a season at Dalham Stud in 2006 where he stood for £7,500. He covered 300 mares cumulatively his first three seasons in Europe.
Exceed and Excel marked himself as a youngster to watch in 2008 with four stakes winners in his first season with runners, headed by the G2 Lowther S. scorer Infamous Angel (Ire) and the Listed Windsor Castle S. victor Flashman’s Papers (Ire). The bay’s first two crops would additionally go on to yield the G2 King George S. winner Masamah (Ire), the G3 Winter Derby scorer Nideeb (Ire) and the GIII Senorita S. victress Mrs Kipling (Ire), but Exceed and Excel’s true breakout came with his 2018 crop, which produced the 2011 G1 Nunthorpe S. winner Margot Did (Ire) and the 2012 G1 Prix Jacques le Marois and G1 Queen Elizabeth II S. victor Excelebration (Ire), who suffered the misfortune of being a standout miler in the same era as Frankel (GB). By the time Exceed and Excel notched his first North American Grade I winner, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf victor Outstrip (GB) in 2013, his credibility had soared too Down Under, with standout juveniles Guelph (Aus), Helmet (Aus) and Overreach joining his honour roll. Earthquake (Aus) became his second Blue Diamond winner in 2014, and in 2019 Microphone (Aus) gave his sire a first winner of the G1 Sires’ Produce S. and a clean sweep of the country’s elite 2-year-old races.
If there is a trend of sires becoming less prolific with age, Exceed and Excel has well and truly bucked it. In Australia alone he provided 14 individual stakes winners during the 2019/20 season, his second-highest number ever in a year. He has provided back-to-back winners of the G1 Coolmore Stud S. in Exceedance (Aus) and September Run (Aus), and Godolphin homebred Bivouac (Aus) has marked himself out as an heir apparent with wins in the G1 Golden Rose S., G1 Newmarket H. and G1 Sprint Classic-excellent credentials with which to go to stud, perhaps in a dual hemisphere capacity? While Exceed and Excel’s shuttle days are over, his career as a sire seems to keep finding another gear. He stood for a career-high A$132,000 during the recently completed Australian season-a remarkable accomplishment at age 20 when even the top-tier sires are often seeing their popularity dwindle in favour of the flashy youngsters.
Exceed and Excel’s Northern career followed a similar trajectory. After starting out at €10,000 and £7,500 his first three seasons, Exceed and Excel’s fee didn’t dip for 13 years, rising to €50,000 in 2019, 2018 and 2019 before being trimmed to €40,000 in 2020.
While Exceed and Excel has carved out a reputation as a source of top-class 2-year-olds-he was the first stallion in the world to reach 500 juvenile winners-he has also had a knack for siring tough-as-teak horses that train on, like the dual G1 Hong Kong Sprint winner and G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize victor Mr. Stunning (Aus), who ran up until the age of seven last year; G1 Al Quoz Sprint winner Amber Sky (Aus), who ran until the age of eight; Heavy Metal (GB), who won the G2 Coventry S. and G2 Richmond S. at two, won three group races at the Dubai carnival at eight and was still running up to last year at age 10; Championship (Ire), who won a pair of Group 2s at the Dubai carnival in 2017 aged six; and Secret Ambition (GB), who won last week’s G3 Firebreak S. at age eight.
With two crops still to hit the racetracks in the North, Exceed and Excel has left behind 144 stakes winners, 64 of which are group winners, and 815 overall winners-and he has a few sire sons coming up through the ranks that could yet build on his legacy. While Excelebration has since moved on from Coolmore his stud career has not been without merit, he having thrown the classy Group 1 winner Barney Roy (GB) and the evergreen group-winning sprinter Speak In Colours (GB). Helmet provided the first-ever dual winner of the G1 Dubai World Cup, Thunder Snow (Ire). Buratino (Ire) showed some promise with his first 2-year-olds last year, while among those yet to have runners are Cotai Glory (GB) and James Garfield (Ire). Or perhaps it will be the aforementioned Bivouac or Microphone who eventually follow their sire’s well-trodden path down to Europe.
If there is any need to put further proof to the abundance of class that Exceed and Excel has spread, it is there for all to see in his broodmare daughters. During a golden summer in 2019, Anthony Van Dyck (Ire) (Galileo Ire) won the G1 Epsom Derby just weeks before Ten Sovereigns (Ire) (No Nay Never) added a win in the G1 July Cup to a victory at two in the G1 Middle Park S. Margot Did has made a flying start at stud, with G2 Prix de Sandringham winner Mission Impassible (Ire) (Galileo Ire) and G3 Prix Vanteaux and GI Belmont Oaks Invitational scorer Magic Attitude (GB) (Galileo Ire) her first two foals. Interestingly, a handful of Exceed and Excel’s daughters have already thrown multiple big-race winners: Anthony Van Dyck’s dam Believe’N’Succeed (Aus) is also responsible for the G1 Railway S. winner Bounding (Aus), while Darley’s excellent mare Essaouira (Aus) has provided Group 1 winners Alizee (Aus) and Astern (Aus). Exceed and Excel’s daughters have thus far been responsible for 49 stakes winners, 29 of those group winners and nine Group 1 winners.
It cannot be overlooked, either, the doors that Exceed and Excel opened for Australian shuttlers in the Northern Hemisphere. His success could only have been encouragement for breeders to back another Group 1-winning son of Danehill, Fastnet Rock (Aus), when he shuttled for the first time as a proven sire in 2011, and he has been a rousing success in Europe with the likes of One Master (GB), Fascinating Rock (Ire), Qualify (Ire), Zhukova (Ire) and Diamondsandrubies (Ire) to his credit. Though no longer shuttling, Pride Of Dubai (Aus) caught the eye with five stakes winners from his first European crop last year, and yearling buyers will this year have the chance to get their hands on members of the first European-breds by G1 Coolmore Stud S. winner Zoustar (Aus), who has made such an exciting start Down Under.
Exceed and Excel’s legacy will continue for generations to come through a multitude of channels, and it is very plausible that the best could be yet to come.