Among the cannons sounding at the 2015 Breeders' Cup, such as established star stallions like Unbridled's Song (Liam's Map), War Front (Hit It a Bomb), Medaglia d'Oro (Songbird), and Galileo (Found), there were some young guns who lit their powder, as well.
Among the sires with first-crop 4-year-olds, Pioneerof the Nile (by Empire Maker) rang the big bell with the BC Classic victory by his champion son American Pharoah. The 3-year-old proved untouchable in his final start, ranging home an impressive winner and locking up Horse of the Year in his only start against older horses. No racehorse and no young sire have a greater following with the racing public.
A big, rangy horse, Pioneerof the Nile is typical of this sire line descending from Mr. Prospector's son Fappiano through his Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled to his Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker and then to Kentucky Derby second Pioneerof the Nile.
Known for getting plenty of scope in his stock, Pioneerof the Nile was not a darling of the sales, and seasons to the big stallion could be purchased quite reasonably till the stallion's stock began to race. Every season since, the stud fee has risen, and for 2016, WinStar's Pioneerof the Nile will stand for $125,000.
Two younger stars likewise had Breeders' Cup winners. Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver (Maria's Mon) has first-crop 3-year-olds, and his son Runhappy had to eat some dirt early but powered through the stretch to win the BC Sprint from Private Zone. Without Rock Fall in the mix at the Breeders' Cup, Eclipse Award voters are likely to run to form and elect the BC Sprint winner as champion sprinter. That would be a happy turn for the classic winner and for the stud prospects of his son Runhappy.
The performances of Runhappy, Hopeful Stakes winner Competitive Edge, and Alabama Stakes winner Embellish the Lace have lifted Super Saver to a high level as a sire very quickly. The Kentucky Derby winner was the revelation of the 2014 2-year-olds in training season, and his offspring last year were quick and early.
Although made in the mold of broodmare sire A.P. Indy, Super Saver is breeding on an unexpected edge of speed and precocity that appears to have come through sire Maria's Mon, who was ironically both a champion juvenile and one of the few sires to get two Kentucky Derby winners.
Another sire who will get a rise in fee is Uncle Mo. The 2010 champion juvenile Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie) had led his freshman sire competition going into the Breeders' Cup, and the massive bay stallion emerged from the BC in an even more dominant position thanks to the victory of his son Nyquist.
With 49 starters from his first crop so far, Uncle Mo has 19 winners, 6 stakes winners, and 2 G1 stakes winners for gross first-crop earnings of slightly more than $3 million to date. Although a bit more than half of that total comes from Nyquist, the stallion leads the second-place cluster of First Dude (Stephen Got Even), Girolamo (A.P. Indy), and Twirling Candy (Candy Ride) – all with earnings over $800,000 – by more than $2 million.
If all of Uncle Mo's runners went on strike and earned nary a dollar the rest of the year, he would still win the freshman sire's race by a handy margin.
Add to this impressive start the fact that Uncle Mo began his stud career as a wildly popular horse. In 2012, Uncle Mo entered stud at Ashford with a fee of $35,000 live foal and got 233 live foals in his first crop. Commercial breeders were searching for the next hot first-crop sire, and they were right, but nonetheless, the big horse had “only” 172 foals from his second book of mares, which were covered at the same fee. For the stallion's third crop, the numbers declined slightly to 164 foals of 2015 that were conceived at a fee of $27,500. With a stud fee of $25,000 this covering season, Uncle Mo received 221 mares, more than any stallion in the country.
The numbers of mares in a book are an indication of how market breeders feel about a stallion, and the raw covering totals are an indicator of breeders' willingness to brave the sale arena with produce from a third- or fourth-crop sire. As the covering number for 2015 indicates, the sales reception for the first-crop yearlings and 2-year-olds by the sire was quite positive. With 106 yearlings sold in 2014, they averaged $108,642, with a $75,000 median price; in 2015, the same crop of animals had 41 sold as 2-year-olds in training, with an average price of $157,683 and a median of $80,000.
Those numbers are destined to rise, in fashion akin to the performances of the stallions' stars at the Breeders' Cup.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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