Stallion Makers

by | 12.09.2013 | 12:38pm
Todd Pletcher

What trainers produce the best stallions?

It stands to reason that it's the trainers with the highest number of good horses in their barn, and for the most part that is true, based on a review of the top stallions that stand or stood in North America and have current runners.

The Paulick Report used several sire lists from to determine the most proven stallions: the top 50 by progeny earnings in 2013, the top 50 by Average-Earnings Index, and top 10 sires of juveniles by 2013 progeny earnings. The combined lists produce 78 stallions that stand or stood in North America. Exactly half of those 78 came from one of nine trainers.

It should come as no surprise that multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher – who at year's end will win his eighth North American money won title (2004-07, 2010-13) – has more former pupils that went on to success at stud than anyone else.

Pletcher has nine on the aforementioned list of leading sires, topped by the Taylor Made/WinStar Farm venture Speightstown, who currently is a close second behind Kitten's Joy on the general sire list.

A son of the Woody Stephens-trained Gone West, Speightstown began his racing career in Phil England's barn but his greatest successes at 5 and 6 years old came while with Pletcher, culminating his career with a victory in the 2004 Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint.

The eight others on the list of 78 sires that met the above criteria and were trained by Pletcher are: WinStar Farm's Bluegrass Cat, who won the G1 Haskell Invitational; Lane's End's English Channel, Eclipse Award champion as outstanding grass horse and six-time G1 winner; Three Chimney Farm's Flower Alley, winner of the G1 Travers; the late Harlan's Holiday, winner of the G1 Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes and leading juvenile sire for WinStar Farm; WinStar Farm's More Than Ready, winner of the G1 King's Bishop; G2 Illinois Derby winner Pollard's Vision, now standing in Florida at Pleasant Acres Stallions; Ashford Stud's Scat Daddy, winner of the G1 Champagne and Florida Derby; and Trippi, the G1 Vosburgh winner who was exported to stand in South Africa.

D. Wayne Lukas and the late Robert Frankel – both of them inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame – have five each on our of list 78 top stallions.

Frankel's five are: Empire Maker, winner of the G1 Belmont Stakes and now in Japan; Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, standing at Adena Springs; imported grass champion Leroidesanimaux, now standing in England; G1 Travers winner Medaglia d'Oro, standing at Darley; and G1 Malibu winner Mizzen Mast, standing at Juddmonte Farms.

The top five Lukas-trained stallions are: the late Dynaformer, who stood most of his career at Three Chimneys; Gulch, the sprint champion who earlier in his career was trained by Leroy Jolley, and stood at Lane's End before being pensioned in 2009; G2 Saratoga Special winner Jump Start, standing at Northview in Pennsylvania; G1 DeFrancis Dash winner Yes It's True, standing at Three Chimneys; and G2 Tom Fool winner Exchange Rate, also standing at Three Chimneys.

Hall of Famer Bill Mott has four (Elusive Quality, Majestic Warrior, Old Forester, and the late Theatrical), as does Irish training wizard Aidan O'Brien (Bernstein, Freud, Giant's Causeway, Johannesburg).

Four trainers have three on the list: Bob Baffert (Midnight Lute, Roman Ruler, the late Indian Charlie); Frank Brothers (Arch, First Samurai, the late Pulpit); Shug McGaughey (Not for Love, who was trained part of his career by H. Graham Motion, Pure Prize, and pensioned Seeking the Gold), and Saeed Bin Suroor (Discreet Cat, E Dubai, Street Cry, also trained by Eoin Harty).

  • Tinky

    This is a peculiar post in several respects, beginning with the very first line.

    Trainers, of course, don’t “produce” stallions in any meaningful sense. They train and develop horses, some of which go on to stand at stud. To suggest that Pletcher (or any trainer) is somehow a fine “producer” of stallions is silly. The only possible exception would be a trainer such as Jim Bolger, as he also breeds many of his own runners, and therefore does, in a sense, produce some stallions.

    More importantly, though, and the obvious elephant in the room, is the question of why certain trainers have trained more horses that went on to succeed at stud than other trainers. In other words, context.

    Any trainer, such as Pletcher, who has had the luxury of training hundreds of fashionably bred colts, has enjoyed an overwhelming advantage in terms of the chances of producing multiple “successful” stallions. It’s analogous to looking at a list of leading trainers, as when stock is so unevenly distributed, those on the short end of the scale have no chance to compete.

    So what do the results of Ray’s list really mean? Very little.

    Finally, any serious analysis would include European stallions as well, in which case O’Brien would TOWER over all of the rest, including Pletcher. But again, why would that be the case? Primarily because he has benefitted from having trained huge numbers of colts by the best sires of sires in the world for the past 20 years.

    • Robert Taft


    • Brigandsilk

      What arrogant comments, almost to the point I’m not sure if your being serious. I think the article hits on an angle of analysis that has merit and offers some interesting thoughts that breeders could investigate further. I mean you certainly would agree that for all the technology and information at our fingertips that breeders need to do better, the sport should expect more.

      Besides the fact that I’m bored with the ramblings from people who believe anything from anywhere is superior to what we are producing here in North America, (obviously European horsemen have a long history of success in every aspect of racing.) but that isn’t what this piece was about.

      Have you noticed the change in success from some lines and from some shed rows since getting rid of “roids”? They might have done more damage to breeders and hid more than anything ever has. And following what shed rows successful stallions do and don’t come from is a great angle. Do you have any idea how much pressure is on a trainers entire program when it is full of these “fashionably” bred colts, holding one together mentally and physically? You seem to think that you put a bridle on them and nominate them to a G1. Please….. Get Real.

      Without any question there are certain trainers whose programs do not fit stallions, lack of patience is what I would put most of the blame on. Having said that there are trainers who seem to be perfect for stallions. I could see a breeder giving a bit more consideration to a stallion who didn’t quite make the top on the track but came out of a shed row that doesn’t do well with colts.

      A very Interesting and useful article, breeders and owners need all the help they can get.

      • Tinky

        It’s remarkable that you could use up so many pixels while saying so little of substance.

        Please do explain on what possible basis you imagine that Ray’s list has value to breeders? Do you believe that Todd Pletcher is better at “producing” sires than Frankel and Mott? If so, I look forward to you providing a shred of evidence to support such an assertion.

        I clearly explained why the list is problematic, yet you failed to undermine a single one of my points.

        You cite “lack of patience” as a characteristic that ties together trainers whose programs “do not fit stallions”, yet Baffert is on the list. Do you consider him to be a patient trainer? Conversely, there have been countless patient trainers who have never “produced” successful stallions. Gee, I wonder why that might be the case?

        Most absurd was your reference to Europe. I made a painfully obvious and relevant point, that neither you nor anyone else can refute. It had nothing to do with any bias toward Europeans, but was a simple statement of fact.

        Finally, you claim that “following what shed rows successful stallions do and don’t come from is a great angle.”. Really? Then please do provide some examples of trainers who have had anything remotely like the stock of those on Ray’s list who have failed to produce stallions. I won’t be holding my breath.

  • Knowitall

    Managing top horses is an art form, and it is why I get tired of seeing the collective bashing of “Derby” trainers like Pletcher, Baffert, et. al. These are the guys hired by owners that want a high and quick ROI – and you do that by producing a top two year old, and/or a Gr. 1 winner, a classic run, and then sell.

    An interesting but deeper study would be to look back and see which trainers delivered racehorses that were sold for top dollar as stud prospects even if the stallion didn’t hit, since 9 in 10 don’t. What the trainer has no control over is how they are managed or do at stud, except for the opportunity to train their progeny. But the trainer is in most of the control about how the well bred racehorse that can run some is managed at the track to maximize his or her top value, recognize that moment, and not reduce it.

    )On Harlan’s Holiday, not to nitpick, but he won the Gr. 1 three year old races with McPeek, before he was moved to Pletcher.)

  • Rob Yetman

    If you have Saeed bin Suroor on the list you should have Aidan O’Brien. The man is responsible for champion sires on multiple continents. He has produced well over 50 stallions by this point in his career.

    • Ray Paulick

      Aidan O’Brien is on the list, with four stallions standing in North America. He has many more in Ireland, but this is based on North American stallions, so his accomplishments are that much more significant.

      • Rob Yetman

        They forgot Cape Blanco.

        • RayPaulick

          The list is based on performance as a stallion as measured by his runners.

          • Mimi Hunter

            That’s a very interesting set of statistics. And this in not a complaint or anything negative. Wouldn’t it also mean that owners who want more aggressive results tend to go to the higher profile trainers? I don’t really follow racing very closely – not as far as people names are concerned – and yet I recognized 6 of the 9. That would make sense, too. Another set of stats I’d be interested in would be the % of higher priced yearlings that end up at the same group of trainers. Thank you, Ray, your articles always make very interesting reading and provide much food for thought.

  • riatea

    I think Robert Frankel’s record is the most impressive. Some of the other trainers listed have sire’s that are doing it more with quantity rather than quality.

  • turffan

    It would be interesting to see the list, esp. if they are ranked. Is that a possible? Thanks

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