Broodmarathon: Will a Smart Breeding to an Uncelebrated Stallion Help or Hurt Annual Dues?

Hip #3886 (catalog page, pedigree), an 11-year-old mare named ANNUAL DUES, sells Thurs., Nov. 18, 2010 at the Keeneland November mixed sale

  • Thoroughbred female family:  1-c
  • Race record: 10 starts, 2 wins, 4 seconds, 0 thirds. Earned $94,919.
  • Produce record: dam of 7 foals, 5 of racing age, 3 raced, 2 winners, 1 stakes winner. 
  • Sale history:  $32,000 RNA at the 2000 Keeneland September yearling sale
  • Covering sire: Talent Search

Putting a mare in foal to a stallion that's not on most breeders' radar is usually not a great gamble if you plan to offer that mare in a breeding stock sale.

Of course, Ken and Sarah Ramsey don't always follow the rule book, and they've earned the right to do things their own way--as breeders, as owners, and as consignors.

In the case of the 11-year-old Devil His Due mare Annual Dues, the Ramseys bred her to their homebred Talent Search, a son of thier useful stallion Catienus, probably for several good reasons. Certainly they want to promote Talent Search as a young stallion (he stood his first season at Diamond B Stables in Pennsylvania in 2010). The chestnut stud has one of those race records that is so close to being commercial it hurts: winner of a couple of sprint stakes at 4, he was grade I-placed no fewer than three times the same year, including in the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint. For the difference of a few lengths in a few races, this stallion easily could be a hot commodity in Kentucky instead of a secret gem tucked away in the northeast.

The Ramseys also knew that Annual Dues' best foal was homebred Talking Treasure in 2004--a daughter of Catienus. The filly racked up seven wins from 14 starts including stakes wins at Belmont, Finger Lakes, and three times at Saratoga, for $361,737 in career earnings. A full sister to Talking Treasure, Democrat Taxes, won five times and was in the money 11 more for a 20-5-5-6 record and $127,521 earnings. Either the mare is just above average, or the cross with Catienus is working.

Annual Dues' first three runners have averaged 18.7 starts each so far (her '06 filly is still in training, so that number could still rise), indicating a reasonable amount of durability.She ran 10 times herself with two wins and nearly $95,000 lifetime winnings that included a Saratoga maiden special and a Keeneland allowance. There's clearly some class here.  More than $80,000 of that bankroll, by the way, came after the Ramseys claimed Annual Dues (for $50,000) in the only race she ran for a tag.

Here's a mare selling late in the marathon sale--session 11 of 13, or Book 6--that might get overlooked by buyers who think of themselves as Book 3 or Book 4 types. Annual Dues is not the type of mare a pinhooker would want to "flip" the carried foal; until Talent Search makes a name for himself, his progeny are going to be for racing owners. But it's also a mare whose progeny seem to pay their bills and show a profit, while having some genetic potential for larger scores. (Third dam Back Ack produced millionairess North Sider, champion older mare of 1987 when she won three grade I events.)

As always, I'll make a prediction of what will happen come November 18. In last year's Session 11, the average was $7,633, the median was $5,000, and the high price was $50,000. Annual Dues should beat the average, but probably not by a whole lot. If she goes for less than $8,000, I believe her new owner gets a real steal. If she brings more than $20,000, I believe there's a good chance she'll be a fair investment in the long run, but it would indicate that several would-be buyers have decided she's a good-looking mare with tons of potential.

More importantly, I want to hear your ideas about purchasing a mare in foal to a non-commercial stallion. Do you like to see a mare like Annual Dues who's carrying a foal bred similarly to her best earlier offspring? Does such a status, with a lesser-known stallion, improve or depress her value? Would you prefer to buy the same mare barren?

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