Stallion Sale - By Dan Liebman

The six week period between the Keeneland September yearling sale and Keeneland November breeding stock auction is typically when stallion managers announce stud fees for the coming season. Well, maybe not this year. Several have hinted they might wait until after the November sale.

There is a high degree of nervousness right now in the breeding industry, and the operative word in the previous sentence is “might.” The fact is no one knows exactly what to do in relation to stud fees, and no one wants to be the first to pull the trigger.

As expected, when fees were announced last fall many went down, but following the November sale many fees were cut again. Breeders were balking at the prices, showing their disdain by not booking mares. Those who were booking mares were demanding deals; others merely waited until the season had begun, figuring the odds were more in their favor at that time for a favorable rate.

Breeders spoke of sending fewer mares to the breeding shed, and indeed they did. The Jockey Club recently announced a projected drop in the 2009 foal crop of more than 8%. One would expect a further decline in the foal crops of 2010 and 2011.

Fewer mares bred; fewer stud fees; fewer stallions needed; fewer horses to sell; fewer dollars to deposit.

Now the commercial market has experienced a sharp decline, accentuated by the September sale, the largest in volume by far.

(The September sale was going to show declines simply because of market conditions, but other factors caused it to drop further. Keeneland officials need to hold a serious meeting to discuss ways to revamp the auction. One thing is for sure—Keeneland is lucky there aren’t more barns at Saratoga.)

Next to the value of a breeder’s mares, his biggest expense is the amount he pays for stud fees. For those who stand stallions, the amount they can charge for stud fees is their greatest source of income.

For years now, however, the breeding industry has run amok, driven by the commercialization of the breed. More mares thrown into production; larger books for stallions; growing catalogs assembled by sale companies.

The industry went through a correction in the mid-1980s, caused by a change in the tax code, and it took many years to reach stable ground again. Now comes a correction that is much more severe. And this correction is not forced by actions of the federal government, but rather by self-inflicted wounds such as greed and gluttony.

During the next few weeks, farm owners, stallion managers, and shareholders will be discussing stud fees. The decisions they make will affect not only their income, but the income of everyone in the industry, and perhaps even the sustainability of the industry.

Asked during the September sale about the expected drop in stud fees for 2010, one stallion manager said simply, “It will be unprecedented.”

Another, though not as succinct, was just as pointed, saying, “For some stallions, a 50% cut will not be enough. They will have to either be cut more, be relocated, or be pensioned.”

Congratulated on the successful year a stallion’s runners were having, one farm manager said, “Three or four years ago I would be drooling thinking about how much I could raise his fee. Now, I would be a fool to raise it at all.”

Indeed, common sense says that in all but the most extraordinary case, it would be foolish to raise a stallion’s stud fee. Breeders must cut costs; stallion managers must help them do so.


Leave a Comment:


Maybe this is is a good thing for  horse racing and for a lot of reasons!

Maybe talented colts will be racing longer instead if retiring at three as has been the trend the last 8-9 years.

Look at Officer:being retired at 2 years. Afleet Alex-retired after the Belmont Stakes.

With rest and lay-ups, these horse could of returned to racing.

But the owners got greedy and sent them off to the breeding shed ASAP.

How have these 2 stallions done at stud?

Okay, but nothing spectacular.. Certainly neither has proved to be been a "super sire" like a Seattle Slew or Medalia D'Oro.

With rest and lay up, both of these horse could of returned to racing.

And because talented colts will race longer, the pressure to get them off and running at two will be hopefully lessened.

And lastly, the lowered demand  for stallions will finally force the return to the practise of breeding only quality stallions.

Stand only stallions who were good runners, and most importantly, stallions who are sound and who will produce sound and healthly foals.

This is the way breeding throughbreds used to be done and it worked pretty well.

06 Oct 2009 2:23 PM

I could not of said that any better! Its pure greed, lower the number of mare, cut the stud fees. Is all commercial breeding and that is your major problem.

06 Oct 2009 3:05 PM
Brian Zipse

Maybe this market correction combined with the economic slump will allow many of our best runners to stay on the track a little longer, making the product of thoroughbred horse racing a more attractive sell to the prospective fan.

06 Oct 2009 4:39 PM

The only stallion I can concievably imagine going up in stud fee this year is Birdstone.  With a fee of $10,000 this past year he was a steal for getting two classic winners this year and the #2 place finisher in the Oaks. Another that came to mind as impressive this year, Medaglia d'Oro's fee of $60,000 is a fairly high price already even for his successes with fillies this year.  I wouldn't raise him.  

06 Oct 2009 5:51 PM

The writing has on been on the wall for a number years now. It just took an economic meltdown for people to take a close look at the numbers. And realize there is little chance of getting a realistic return on investment. Be it in racing and especially in breeding. The idea that breeding can be a fun and profitable investment is dead.  The  hobby breeders, which make up a very large segment of the industry will be greatly reduced. And it will surely test the reserves of those who are left standing. The nightmare in IMO is not the fact the breeding industry for all intensive purposes is in a total state of possible collapse.  But more the thought of all the unwanted horses. The nightmare for those without a farm is still having to carry them with little hope of stopping the bleeding. The idea that one will have to play GOD and decide their fate.  It's the, I don't want the cheese, I just want out of the trap!, mentality.   Demand for racing stock will continue to decline for the foreseeable future. But as they say, water will seek its own level.  If there was ever a time for the industry to reinvent itself the time is now.

We will most likely not breed any mares next season. If I were to consider, and I have worthy mares, it will only be on a foal share bases, and not the standard, mare owner pays just about everything and splits what's left over. And if the horse does not sell they still have to help carry the expenses.   On a highly desirable stallion I will only consider a "pay out of proceeds" an equitable split of net proceeds. The fixed costs of breeding a yearling, from last cover to fall of the hammer, are around $20,000 for a farm owner and $30,000 plus for someone who boards. This does not include stud fee or cost of the mare.  Most of this is just that, fixed.  Those that could cut at least 30% of this are the vendors. Shipping, Vets, blacksmiths, feed companies, Sales Companies, etc.  The median price of yearlings has dropped over 65% since 2007 yet I have not seen this fact taken into consideration when handed an invoice.  I am fortunate to be in the mid-atlantic region where the majority of horse owners are for pleasure and sport.  So I have other options for my horses and a chance of making a living with them.  A lot of others will not be so fortunate.

06 Oct 2009 8:13 PM
Fran Loszynski

I know the owners of Afleet Alex and they love Afleet Alex like one of their family. They didn't want to take any chances that he would come up lame after his injury from future races. He resides in beautiful Gainesway and is living out his life in love and happiness.

07 Oct 2009 7:51 AM
Fat Boy

$30.00 a day to board a mare, $45.00 to fit a yearling, vets charging more for one innoculation that the 250 cc bottle costs the clinic,PLEASE. I understand labor costs and I know what they are but I buy my feed and bedding, I pay my vet bills and these charges are excessive. 800.00 to 1500.00 a month vet bill while a horse is at the track. For this sum of money you are not buying needed vet care. You are buying something else that no one want to discuss or you are simply being taken for a ride, at your expense, and you are not the driver. If you are an owner and these are typical vet bills you receive each month for your horse while at the track you need to bring them home for a rest.

The costs associated with a sales horse is out of control and in my opinion much of it is not needed. Mare owners breeding mares with two blank dams, stallion owners for breeding the mare, shame on both of you.

Integrity or the lack of it is epidemic in the horse industry. You wonder why there is limited new ownership. People don't mind spending money on their horses, they just are tired of being taken advantage of. Being a veterinarian, trainer, or a stallion/farm owner is not a right of entitlement you have at the expense of the people who own horses. Having said this the veterinarian, trainer and or stallion owner is entitled to a profit if he makes sound business decisions. Most of the people I know who have horse do it because the love them. They don't expect to "get rich" in their horse ownership but they don't want to be taken advantage of by the so called " horse professional". Owners understand this is a risky business and the profits, if any, will be small and frequent but the "ride" is getting a little long and the road is getting too rough. Greed is a horrible word and if the "horse professionals" don't watch it they will have to start feeding on each other. I doubt they will like the "ride" or the meal.

07 Oct 2009 8:07 AM


07 Oct 2009 9:55 AM

It looks like Thornmar Farm has the solve all answers from their quote under Fasig Tipton Mid-Atlantic results - especially under your heading "Who will be first to pull the trigger"

The kindest thing to do to solve the problem is "just put the broodmares down"

Attitudes like that really help in marketing this industry to everyone - I hope the photos of this solution make it to Bloodhorse as well as other national publications!

07 Oct 2009 12:21 PM

I agree with Fat Boy, the costs from the service providers is way out of control.  The farm managers will reduce stud fees but we also need the vets, blacksmiths, commissions, etc. to be lowered.

Using the example above, compare the cost of $30k to board raise a foal to yearling sale, $15k for the cost to board the mare for a year, stud fee and 20% recapture of capital to purchase the mare verse the average price of a yearling.  I didn't even include insurance for a mare or foal.  It is no wonder that new owners are not jumping into this business.

One other thing, based off of my numbers above, could the publications that compare the cost of a foal verse auction price use true costs?  I find my costs so much higher then those ever reported.

07 Oct 2009 1:06 PM
It's About Time

It is long past time that  speculators (pin hookers)stop driving the market. Racing should be the foundation of the market, but for years the market has been upside down with sales the only place to make money. An industry can not survive unless its end product sells. Breeders,agents, stud farms, auction houses, and pin hookers should not earn more than owners who race their horses, or for that matter, what the race horse earns in purses. In the end the sales market crashes, even without a downturn in the economy. Unproven stallions, many time unraced or lightly raced, who are fasionable with pin hookers drive inflated prices for sales horses and stud fees. I don't feel bad for the stud farms, sales agents, auction houses, or pin hookers who have benefited without improving the end product. It is about time that the market re-focuses on the development of race horses rather than sales horses.

07 Oct 2009 1:34 PM

I also take issue with the stud career of Afleet Alex - he's only in his first season and you dash him for not producing like Seattle Slew or Medalia D'Oro??  I wonder if your opinion will change when Dublin takes the Champange this weekend and with racing luck the big one next May.  

Alex go bragh !! (by way of Dublin)

07 Oct 2009 3:12 PM

This is the racehorse industry and not the saleshorse industry. I predict that more small to mid-sized breeder/owners will not offer anything in the marketplace in the next few years and will go back to a breed to race mentality. This can only happen if the vets and trainers look at the fact we need them as much as they need our horses. Reduce all of your daily expenditures and costs, drive that MB or BMW an extra year or two and you can help everyone.

07 Oct 2009 3:15 PM

I believe that finally, FINALLY, the proven stallions will rule the market.  Everyone I know who is still considering breeding their mares, who are buying or who have bought yearlings, are all over the proven sires.  We now have a group of terrific stallions that are producing good race horses, and finally they are being rewarded with their abilities, rather than giving premiums to the stallions who havent a foal on the ground or none on the tracks yet.  All of those market breeders who flocked to freshman sires, since the first year sires always sold like crazy, because they hadn't proven yet that there were flops, they will be in serious trouble next year.  If there is one turn-around that is good for whats left of this industry, its that the proven sires are back on top. Thats where the demand is.  Finally.

07 Oct 2009 3:28 PM
Greg R.

If I owned a Ky. stallion farm I would instantly relocate it out of state. Under no circumstances would a mare owner foal in Ky. after the slot failure. A 50% reduction means nothing if there are no long term breeder incentives. I will send a maiden mare up there, but only on a free season.

07 Oct 2009 3:55 PM
D Markowitz

I completely agree with fatboy. There is no real incentive to become an owner. Simply do the numbers and NO one, except the mega wealthy could join this "club." Please do not be foolish, the vets, and other service providers know this. They have just seen to it to squeeze as much from the middle market as possible. Oh wait, there is no middle market left. For years I have told everyone in this business that it could not survive if it did not help preserve the middle market. It is the fault as Mr. Liebman stated it GREED and Glutony. Sorry to the satllion farms that thought 150 + mares was good. They obviously skipped their economics classes. C'est la vie!!!

07 Oct 2009 4:22 PM

this is right on. exactly.  too many stallions that do not belong in ky are standing here. The stallions in their second, third and fourth years are going to strggle desperately.  lots of mares need to be taken out of the population. I do not know how any regional sales markets will survive.

07 Oct 2009 4:55 PM


Maybe "Now" or at least over the next 6-18 months is the time to finally discuss the "OPTION" of "Artificial Insemenation" ???

It only makes sense to try and help the Breeders save some serious cash on Shipping and Daycare fees during the crisis that the Thoroughbred industry is now waist deep into.

And maybe, just maybe Stud Fees wouldn't have to be reduced (as much anyways) "IF" the industry finally did allow AI as an "OPTION" for Breeders.   For those who aren't opposed to it anyways.

Everyone already knows some of the Pro's and Con's regarding AI, but considering this crisis (and it's outlook over the next several years) it would only make sense to at least offer it as an "OPTION" for Breeders.

Everyone also already knows as a fact that Overbrook Farm has already been storing and "Selling" Storm Cat's frozen semen to the Quarter Horse industry.   Which basically proves that some in the Thoroughbred industry more than just believe that it will "HAVE TO" be allowed someday soon or they wouldn't be doing it already.

Just a thought !!!

07 Oct 2009 5:05 PM

I can't argue with the general point of this article, but I can quibble with a few specifics.   First, comparing Afleet Alex,  whose first crop just began running this summer, with Seattle Slew's offspring is just ridiculous.  It's like comparing apples to grapes. No comparison, but in time maybe there will be.  And for that matter, despite his success with female offspring, Medaglia d'Oro is hardly a "super sire" at this point.  Again, maybe someday; time will tell. But if we are going to draw comclusions from comparisons, let's make them pertinent.

07 Oct 2009 5:23 PM

I agree that more colts should be kept on the track longer (and should be gelded, and fewer mares should be bred). But as far as Afleet Alex proving himself as a sire, he only has two year olds so far, many of them have not started yet, and he already has a graded stakes winner in Dublin -- so I'd consider that a very promising beginning.

07 Oct 2009 5:58 PM
Julie L.

Passing judgement on Afleet Alex's siring ability is really way too soon as this is only his first crop to race and he has produced Dublin and several winners that are stakes placed. Stud fees have been out of line since the beginning of the 90's. Greed is what caused it and stupidity is what continued it. Every breeder thought they could produce the million dollar yearling. And most of those yearlings that ran that high have failed (The Green Monkey). When is the industry going to go back to breeding responsibly and with true honesty. I am anxious to see how much they raise Birdstone's fee and if they do will it be a reasonable increase. I like to think that it will be an honest fee.

07 Oct 2009 8:01 PM

Agree that first year stallions may struggle in the near future, compared to the past several yearling sales. A stallion that I think will be well supported next summer is Scat Daddy. He has the pedigree that will throw runners and those that pinhook and/or race know that he was an early type, and his babies will be as well. He should do quite well IMO.

07 Oct 2009 8:46 PM

AggieA has it right.  Breeders were breeding more breeding stock.  Horse racing has been a by product.  (Look at the Green Monkey)  Now the breeding industry is going back to breeding race horses.  And then, if they succeed, should they breed.  Yes Afleet Alex got hurt.  But maybe something in his gene pool is being passed on, that will also stop his foals from racing a long racing career.  I am just using him as an example because of his previous mention.  Note:  If Afleet Alex was not worth so much money at stud, would one rest him up, and bring him back racing.  Probably.  I feel Roy Chapman cashed out on Smarty Jones.  There are many horses with bruised feet that were rested and brought back to run later and did well.  We needed Smarty Jones in the area.  How many horses get 3-4,000 people to watch him work in the morning.  You don't get that in the breeding shed.  We need the Curlins and other race horses running past three to join the breeding ranks. Once again, then we will be breeding racehorses, not breeding horses.  

07 Oct 2009 11:01 PM
You people are nuts

Why does anyone blame the stallion managers for the troubles of the market? I'm sure that some of the popular stallions could have been bred to 300 mares if it was physically possible. Breeders were trying to produce WHAT SOLD!!!!

The fact that horses aren't selling as well isn't because there are too many horses, it is because there is too little money available to buy the horses.

As for the thought that vendors should lower costs for struggling breeders. Should they lose money because you are losing money? I'm sure the vast majority who have been in business for any length of time understand the dynamics of the market. If you cant afford to breed horses, then don't. If you feel stud fees are too high? Cut a deal, breed at a different stallion level or don't breed your mares at all. When no one books mares, prices will come down. If the books fill, the prices are ok.

08 Oct 2009 1:08 AM
wild bill

we need to think outside the box if the industry is to survive

the horse industry is like the catholic church--they are

afraid to change

here are a few ideas

1. we need to quit raising victoria

secret models (sale horses) and start raising athletes

2.make a stallion prove himself before he gets the big bucks--look at all the first round draft picks who never show up on sunday

3.two year olds don't race until june 1 away with breezing at two year old sales-- buyers pay millions at yearling sales where they only walk--a two minute lick tells a lot about a horse--this is a good example where we put the horse first and the dollar second.

5.anyone who injects a horse's joint at a two year old sale needs to find another occupation

6.artificial insemination--i had a friend killed trying to load a horse at the breeding shed--time to go green and save gas as well--sorry for the van companies but if we keep sliding backwards the van companies are not going to survive anyway--mares have thrown van fits resulting in injury as well--foals have been injured and even died as a result of separation from the mares going to the shed--mares will be required to board in the state of the stallion and books will be limited to 100 mares

7. the kentucky senator is right--slots are not the answer--but they sure will help!!!!!

8. why do horse farms pay 6% sales tax and cattle and tobacco farms don't?

9. the agents that ripped off buyers by double dipping got a slap on the hand and no time in the penalty box--had they done that in the stock market they would have been next to Martha Stewart at meals--we need to police our own business--i recommend 6 months of mucking stalls at Old Friends (horse retirement farm) for the greedy

10.any mare who does not win a race

cannot be bred unless a $5000 fee is paid--this will stop cheap mares going to the shed--the $5000 will go toward jockey's insurance--pro athletes are treated like rock stars, jockeys are not--how many basketball players are paralyzed each year? jockeys have been on the bottom of the food chain way too long!!!!

I'm not even going to discuss drug abuse--it's about time we put the

horse first!!!!!

08 Oct 2009 8:43 PM

Jonathon- You are right on about the "kind solution". Mares are being put down regularly right now, not because they are sick or horribly unsound, but because they simply aren't good enough. Barren mares who aren't commercial are being put down as their current foals are weaned. What would happen to our sport if the national media caught on to that??

08 Oct 2009 8:56 PM

U people r nuts has it so right.  Supply and demand is an open market.

08 Oct 2009 11:32 PM
Kim in KY

Just have to say Afleet Alex has something a lot of stallions lack- proven "heart". I remember his Preakness and honestly, I don't know how a horse couldn't be hurting in some way after all that. I would have retired him too. I am not greedy on what a horse can make for me in earnings. It is the horse first always. If they are at more risk (because every day it's a risk- not just races but workouts and even in their stalls- anything can happen in the best of circumstances) than usual then don't PUSH!! Maybe Alex told them in his own way he was done. I know, I have worked firsthand with these horses and they do tell you. Good for his owners and trainer for making the right decision. By the way, Alex only has three crops on the ground, (not much time to prove himself) and he has DUBLIN- very likely a triple crown contender and maybe even a Breeder's Cup Juvenile contender to his credit. I'd say he's a worthwhile stallion wouldn't you? A multiple G1 winner siring a G1 winner? I thought that's what a good stallion prospect was all about...

09 Oct 2009 12:27 AM

A few points to make:

1.  Perhaps it is time the rest of the world took notice of the way Germany deal with their stallions - every stallion must have raced for AT LEAST two seasons (doesn't have to be consecutive) and no stallion can go to stud if he has raced on medication/drugs of any kind.

This is one reason why the German bred are so sound and everyone else could elarn a lot from their methods.

2. AI - always a thorny subject!  Don't foget that one country cannot act alone on this matter, there has to be International agreement between the members of the International Stud Book Committtee.  If one country were to go it alone and permit AI they would find their horses banned from running in other countries that had not approved AI.

3. I firmyl believe that new stallions should have their books limited to 70 mares per year until theirr first crop of 3yos has run.  After that if he has proved to be good the limit can be lifted; if he proves to be useless at least we won't have a market flooded with dross.

09 Oct 2009 2:32 AM
tim mawhinney

we talk about lowering stud fees which needs to happen,but what about the supporting cast members,the vets,traning farms,feed and hay suppliers.their fees are the same when we were in the boom years.why should they still make the same money when breeders are taking a hit.i do not know what others are paying in their operation,but it is costing me the same to feed,vet,trim as it was two years ago.  

09 Oct 2009 9:31 AM

Artificial insemination will be the death of the thoroughbred.  The popular stallions will breed a thousand foals each per year and the gene pool will contract dramatically.

Pinhookers do not add value, merely cost.  Asking the service providers, most of whom exist on far narrower margins than the breeders themselves, to reduce their fees is absurd.  

There will be a contraction of breeders just as there has been in most other industries in this economy.  It will pass.  Patience is required.

But first and foremost, stallion owners must be realistic about their stud fees.  No unproven sire deserves a stud fee above $30K.

09 Oct 2009 10:26 AM

Just like market forces drove stud fees up when times were good, it is to be expected that they will decrease significantly in a depressed environment. The more serious question that stallion managers and farm owners need to ask is 'how viable is this stallion prospect?'. For far too long horses have been retired to stud absent any meaningful accomplishments on the racetrack. A prospect might have been well-bred, or cost a lot of money at public auction, or been the subject of an intense promotional campaign, but they did little to prove their worth as a valuable resource to the breed. To wit, the whole point of mating and breeding mares is that it's supposed to be an exercise in improving the Thoroughbred. Now, more often than not, it's become strictly a commercial endeavor where one hopes to guess right for the purpose of selling at auction. Recently a young colt who was an expensive auction purchase was retired to stud in Florida. He was reasonably-well bred, but he had won only a maiden race, placed in a Grade 1 stakes at two and then broke down, having never raced at three or having won anything of significance. However, the colt is owned by a powerful and wealthy individual who is likely making the decision to stand him in an effort to recoup his purchase price. The farm probably took him because they want to foster a relationship with the owner, and if they stand his stallion they will no doubt board a number of his mares, for which they will generate meaningful board revenue. While this seems like a good business move for all involved - and who could blame the players in this instance - the problem is that, given his apparent unsoundness and lack of racing credentials, the colt should not be in a position to breed and perpetuate his shortcomings. The bottom line is that the criteria by which we judge stallion prospects is completely misguided and needs to be changed to reflect a greater emphasis on potential success on the racetrack as opposed to the sales ring. If nothing else the current market conditions could force closer scrutiny of which colt is - and which horse is not - truly a viable stallion candidate.  

09 Oct 2009 10:48 AM

I actually think that AI would be a good thing for the breed, if it were an option, smaller breeders would be able to take advantage of the benefits of not paying boarding, shipping, feeding, etc.   I think it would work if a rule was put in place that only so many mares could be AI'ed if the stud fee was over a certain price range.  That way, less flooding the market with horses with the same bloodlines and more expansion.  I think a major problem with the market is that people got greedy and it came back to bite those in the butt who were only there for the money.  And if a mare isn't good enough, don't breed her, re-train and give her to someone who wants a riding horse.  Putting them down is just sad and I think ethically wrong since there's nothing wrong with the horse itself.  Sales have to got to go back to the way of proving yourself to get to the track, no more okay you had a racehorse winner in the pedigree three, four, five generations ago.  That doesn't cut it.  Stallions also should be raced on merit, how long they've been racing instead of what they've won.  No more "Big Brown" episodes.  Not a long racing career and too big of a stud fee.

09 Oct 2009 2:21 PM

If it were up to JimboScully, he would never have let Danzig, Malibu Moon, or Silver Deputy stand at stud. I, also would much rather breed my mares to a stallion who has proven his worth on the track, but there are instances where a horse has shown such brilliance that they deserve a chance at stud.  Its not so cut and dried, Im afraid.

09 Oct 2009 3:30 PM

I tend to agree with PNewmarket, although I would go farther by saying thoroughbreds should be more like the Dutch Warmbloods.  In order to enter stud and produce offspring that can be raced, the horse or mare must first be approved by a stud registry.  If you want to breed your unsound, unproven horses, fine - you'll have a nice riding horse.  If you want to sell in the market and/or race, you have to be held to a higher standard.  And I hear the other side, too - "you can't tell me MY horse isn't good enough".  But the over-production, inability to break even when selling a yearling, and the loss of racing dates has to trigger a change somewhere.

09 Oct 2009 4:30 PM

Those that are saying that artificial insemination somehow will save the thoroughbred breeding industry - don't believe it! We are in the cutting horse business, which boasts many high-end quarter horses, and we are in as much of a decline, if not worse, than the thoroughbreds. It does not help our markets at all that our top stallions are breeding up to 200 mares per year, many using AI, embryo transfers, and now we even have cloning. We have duplicates and twins of everything, and because of that, our 'middle market' is nearly gone, and some well-bred horses are becoming low-end common stock. I would recommend that the thoroughbred industry stay away from anything except live cover. Many of us in cutting wish it were back to the old way. Just my humble opinion, though :-).

09 Oct 2009 7:24 PM

Some good, insightful posts...

Outside of racing, there is no "other world" for TB's except a few dedicated hard working, self-sacrificing rescues.

The Jockey Club and TB world needs to take a page out of the Quarter Horse industry (which has some problems, too) but they have more than just racing...the Quarter Horse is "America's Pleasure Horse", they are the ultimate reining horse (a huge industry) and they have a HUGE youth market.

The Thoroughbred used to be America's Hunter-Jumper as well as a popular Olympic mount, a super viable market if it can find its way back.

10 Oct 2009 9:16 AM

I don't think that anyone is saying that AI will "Save" the industry.

Personally though, I am saying that it "Should" at least be an "Option" for Breeders.  

For those who know that it "Will" save them a significant amount of money each year.  

For some it might even allow them to "Survive" in this industry during the downward economy while allowing the Stallion Farms the "Possibility" of not having to lower Stud Fees (As much as they might actually have to without it).

I also don't believe that (During the downward economy) that the more popular Stallions will all be bred 200 times each or more.

However...."IF" they were, then....How different is that from the last several years of some Stallions being bred 300+ times each ???

Point being that, for some, it was already happening at those numbers anyways.

But, my belief is that this entire industry (As your seeing right now in the Sales) is still based on "Supply and Demand".   And right now there is NO Demand like there was in recent years.   So..."IF" Stallions still bred to over 200 mares each, then that'll just be a lot of "Unwanted Foals".

The whole AI suggestion is for those Breeders who would like to use it as an "Option"...."NOT" a "Mandatory" policy that Everyone will have to follow.


10 Oct 2009 3:45 PM
Karin C-C

One result I hope to see out of the carnage of falling breeding stock prices/falling stud fees:

More geldings!  

For years, people who owned colts that had even remotely marketable pedigrees figured that there was some residual value to be had by trying to send them to stud, and the result was a reluctance to geld.  

Racing needs great geldings to come back to the track year after year.  Horses like Forego, Kelso, John Henry, Native Diver, Fort Marcy, Fourstardave, Lava Man, Who Doctor Who.  The fan base these horses have, the attention they get from the media, it's all good.  

Let's face it:  most stallions that are retired to stud are speculative at best, and very few make it after their first foals hit the races.  Just get a out a Stallion Register from 10 or 15 years ago and look at the horses that were new stallions then, and ask how many of them made even the least impression as stallions.  

Mightn't it have been better if those horses had been geldings and stayed on the track longer?

I hope, I really hope that the crash in breeding stock prices results in a bonanza of geldings.  Maybe because of the crash, there's a colt with a borderline stallion pedigree somewhere who is going to be gelded and who will become a runner who will be around for years and years to come.

10 Oct 2009 5:59 PM

How about using something similar to the German testing method for their warmbloods before allowing a stallion to stand at stud? A stallion should have to undergo endurance testing, temperament testing and be graded for soundness and conformation, as well as achieving something in performance, before being allowed to breed.

Mares should undergo similar testing, but with the stress on soundness, conformation and temperament.

All should receive a GRADE indicating their quality in each area in which they are tested. Then both stallion and mare owners would know exactly what they are getting when planning a mating.

10 Oct 2009 6:03 PM

This is a GREAT time to purchase yearlings.  During the latest Fasig Tipton in Maryland, we basically stole horses from owners and yes pinhookers who were causght up in the credit crunch.  How many years did we overpay for horses at auction? I have owned mares in the past and the numbers really do not make sense compared to the risk. Horse racing is a very difficul business and as owner Scott Savin gracefully stated"Horse Racing made me a millionaire.  I started out with 5 and ended up with one". I really do not feel sorry for breeders that try to sell mares with a poor sales page. For example, a hip at FT Maryland was retired a maiden with 3 foals, none to race without any black type in the the first or second dam. The marketplace should take care of this situation.  I would hate to have this type of foals end up at the killers.

10 Oct 2009 11:23 PM

I agree with Beth that now maybe talented colts will race beyond their 3 year old seasons. But Afleet Alex is just a freshman sire meaning his oldest crop is just 2 years old of which he has already sired a G1 winner and is in the Top 10 first year sire list. If anything he's off to a respectable start.

11 Oct 2009 1:09 PM

While Anne makes a valid point about there being exceptions to every rule, especially in the Thoroughbred industry, perhaps she should choose other examples than the three stallions she did. Danzig was undefeated and untested in three brilliant starts at two and three, and Silver Deputy was undefeated in two starts at two, with one of those victories coming in an important stakes (Swynford Stakes) on the Canadian racing calender.

11 Oct 2009 5:03 PM

The Thoroughbred industry needs to take a serious look at other than racing uses for their horses! There are many lovely, well conformed Thoroughbreds that could be wonderful sport horses. However, we have allowed the European "Warmblood" industry to suck away the money that should be spent on our own very athletic animals. Eventing has allowed the Warmblood market to dilute the real ideal of the sport because the European horses are preceived to be easier for "Amateur" riders to manage. We need a strong marketing campaign to position the Thoroughbred as an all purpose breed. This will provide a market for sound, correct mares and stallions that may not be top race horses, but some of them will filter into racing and improve the breed!  

11 Oct 2009 9:45 PM

Judie, I hole heartedly agree!  The perception that all Thoroughbreds are to hot to handle is just that, perception.  Most likely started, innocently enough, by a few high profile riders and trainers not too many years ago. And is now generally used as fact and covers every Thoroughbred known to man. Even by riders that have never been on one. Perception is hard to change unfortunately.  But a good marketing champagne by the industry would go a long way. When I ski raced and taught I was either paid to use or was given equipment by companies to generate PR.  The industry should think about that.  Yes, off the track Thoroughbreds can be quite difficult to re-school and some will never make the transition. But in proper hands most will.   I firmly believe if they are broken to ride and raced instead of just the latter it would make it that much easier for them to make the transition.  I also firmly believe if they have never been trained to race and broken like any other pleasure, sport horse they will turn heads and opinions.  We re-school ours and others ex-racers for pleasure, fox hunting, eventing and steeplechase.  We have yet not have one make the transition.  I am asked to find a "good" warmblood for customers and my reply is I only work with Thoroughbreds. In fact we are making the transition away from flat racing and breeding to strictly pleasure, sport and steeplechase horses.  There are plenty of free Thoroughbreds of all ages around right now.

12 Oct 2009 2:06 PM

Claiborne stud fees???? I take it they did noy attend the September sales. I believe everyone needs to send a message that 40% off maens 40% off. Stud farms you better do better than Claiborne!!!!!!!!

12 Oct 2009 5:46 PM

I will agree with those who use the German breeding as a way to improve the American stallion population.  But if we do that, you can say goodbye to every single Storm Cat offspring that ever raced.  The are not sound and they certainly don't have the temperment.  That is the thing about the industry in America, everyone and anyone can get into the game.  What was predicted years ago is coming true.  We don't have a genuine 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 mile breeding stallions anymore.  Some stallions will through a winner at 1 1/2 miles, but I want to see them win 3 or 4 or 5 in a row at the distance.  I have an unraced daughter of Fly So Free.  She showed plenty of talent while in training and even worked 5/8ths in 59 flat, so we know the ability was there.  It took one misstep to end her career.  We started her off with Pure Prize and she threw a wonderful filly.  The next 3 foals we simply bred for race horses and she did not disappoint.  Now she is in foal to Quiet American, but she earned the right to be bred to a top stallion again.  She has a fantastic pedigree and she is producing to that pedigree.  But like the German breeding program, she had to earn it.  It is a pity more horses aren't made to earn their breeding career.

12 Oct 2009 8:49 PM
Cynthia McGinnes

We have operated Thornmar Farm for 37 years as a commercial breeding farm in the Midlantic region. We have been leading breeders for many of these years,and most recently, the first week of October, were listed in the top 10 breeders in the nation. We foal, raise and sell all of our yearlings, mostly in the Midlantic regional market. IMO, the biggest problem is that the purses at the racetrack have not kept pace with the increased cost of racing and training, and raising horses.

If the purse money for all maiden races was $60,000, as it can be in slots states like PA, then more owners could buy yearlings and afford the $35,000 it costs before they even get to the races.

It is a complex problem...causes include increased competition for gambling dollars with state and national lotteries,too much of the available purse money going to the top races, too many people who buy horses at various ages only to "FLIP' them, not race them. This is similar to the problem in the housing industry, where people didn't buy houses to live in them, but to make a profit selling them. This resulted in a glut of houses being built, and has resulted in too many horses being bred just to sell, not race.

We try to breed all of our mares with the ideas that their foals will race well,not just sell well, but in the last Midlantic sale, we only broke even on 6 of 18 yearlings,although we did better than others. We cannot continue to breed mares where we lose money on the foals, we cannot afford to race them all, and we cannot find homes for 15 year old mares who have breeding problems and/or whose foals are not commercially viable. In this case, we have no alternative ...we have to humanely euthanize them.

We do need stud fees to come down...we sold five yearlings by KY stallions last week who just brought the stud fee or a few dollars less. This didn't come close to paying for the shipping and boarding costs involved in sending the mares to KY.

I have no solutions, other than to get the purse money up somehow, so more people will buy horses to race them,instead of just reselling them.

13 Oct 2009 11:42 AM
Anthony b.

Hey what ever happened to the 50 mares was a full book and stallion farms were happy with that .Now they are not even happy with 100, greed can kill and its done just that to our industry.Wake up and start limiting books to a reasonable number and do a service to yourself and your stallion and do not accept any mare that has no black type in the first two dams..That might help bring some people to their senses as to the quality of their mare.

14 Oct 2009 10:40 PM

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