WITH 46 two-year-olds on the ground, James Garfield faced a challenge to make his presence felt among the sires with their first runners in 2022, but he has grabbed the headlines with gusto.

Five runners have yielded three winners, and a pair of these, Maria Barnwell and Lady Bullet, are both unbeaten in two starts each. They were both also winners on Thursday and, most significantly, Maria Branwell won the Listed National Stakes at Sandown, beating the odds-on Irish challenger Crispy Cat by a neck.

This is a race won in the last decade by such as Rizeena (dual Group 1 winner including the Moyglare Stud Stakes), Tiggy Wiggy (won Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes and sold for 2,100,000gns), Havana Grey (Group 1 winner and off to a sensational start with his first juveniles), Ubettabelieveit (Group 2 winner and now at stud) and Ebro River, last year’s Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes winner. Maria Branwell is keeping good company.

What value Maria Branwell looks now. Bred by Barry Kennedy and Anna Murphy, she was sold to Joe Foley as a yearling at Goffs for €22,000. Last November the McCartan’s Ballyphilip Stud signed for her year younger half-brother at €40,000. He is by Zoffany (Dansili) and what an exciting pinhook he should prove to be this autumn.

James Garfield is a record-breaking son of the outstanding sire Exceed And Excel (Danehill) and he won group races at Newbury at both two and three years. He was one of the best seven-furlong performers of his generation, and in the World Rankings at three he was ranked only 2lbs below champion U S Navy Flag. His first season at stud saw him command €7,000, while the breeders who used him this year for €4,000 have got a bargain.

Early class

James Garfield showed early class, finishing third in a field of 22 for the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot. Runner-up in the Group 3 Acomb Stakes at York, beaten only a nose, he gained a second juvenile success in the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes over six furlongs at Newbury in September, setting a new track record when beating Invincible Army by three-quarters of a length.

Immediately hitting top form at three, James Garfield began his second season by beating Grade 1 star Expert Eye in the Group 3 Greenham Stakes over seven furlongs. He was beaten only half a length when second to Polydream in the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, caught in the last few strides after trying to make all the running, and finishing two and a half lengths clear of such luminaries as The Tin Man, Librisa Breeze and Unfortunately.

Champion sprinter

Exceed And Excel was a champion sprinter in Australia, with Group 1 victories in the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington and the Dubai Racing Club Cup at Caulfield. He won seven of his 12 starts and he has already sired the remarkable total of 97 group winners and another 97 stakes winners, 16 of which have Group 1 victories to their credit.

They include Helmet (sire of the Group 1 Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow), Outstrip and Excelebration (Group 1 sire), as well as top sprinting filly Margot Did. His other sons include Cotai Glory, Kuroshio (Group 1 sire) and Bungle Inthejungle (Group 1 sire)

James Garfield is the best of seven winners produced by his dam Whazzat, a daughter of Daylami (Doyoun) who won the Listed Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot at two years and is half-sister to Group 3 heroine Whazzis (Desert Prince) and to the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Uni (More Than Ready).

Their dam is half-sister to the Group 1 Prix de Diane-French Oaks winner Rafha (Kris), dam of the outstanding stallions Invincible Spirit (Green Desert) and Kodiac (Danehill).