David Allan of Allan Bloodlines is a sales consultant and selector for racing and breeding, racing and breeding manager, owner/breeder, stallion syndicate manager and promoter of various South African interests at home and abroad. David’s involvement in pinhooking in South Africa is in conjunction with Balmoral Stud
Viewing entries in
The welfare of the thoroughbred was in the hands of the British aristocracy for the first three centuries of its existence. They bred horses for the right reasons: it was all about the sport, about one nobleman beating another. What we see now is what they selected for then: grace, nobility, intelligence, courage, speed, stamina, mental toughness and physical durability.
As the winter sets in and September looms at the end, we breeders are starting to ponder our next season’s mating list. We are faced with our annual dilemma.
Sitting outside his barn one day many years ago during the Keeneland September sale, Bob Courtney said, “A good horse can come from anywhere.” Asked if he was speaking about the sales or the races and his answer was short and succinct. “Both.”
Battle Of Isandlwana / SA History (p)
“Agility” is the name of the game today, speed off the mark and athleticism are what make the world go round, and if they come with size, they’re your passport to international sporting pleasure.
Summerhill CEONext month, we celebrate thirty-five years of involvement at Summerhill. When we first arrived, there were just six on the staff, and I had a mop of blonde hair. They say if you want to save on the hairdresser, get into horses or hospitality. I did. Both.
At the time, the average birthweight of our foals was less than 40 kgs. I guess you could say we were living in the time-warp in which the British army found itself in 1879, when the average height of their soldiers at the Battle of Isandlwana, was 5 foot 4 inches. No wonder the Zulus won. From what I can make out, little happened in the evolution of man in the space between then and the 1937 Springbok tour of New Zealand. Our manager in the Western Province President’s XV when I was a young man, was “Oom” Boy Louw, the tighthead prop in Danie Craven’s touring party, and one of only a handful in that team who tipped the scale at more than 100kgs. Today, in a Springbok party of 30, you’d battle to find a half dozen who’d not make more than that.
In short, the world has changed, not only in the manly pursuits of rugby, cricket, athletics and the “beautiful game”, but in the world of racing, too. Pick up a stallion directory in Australia, the United States or Japan, and you’ll find the bulk of them measure 16 hands and beyond, and if they don’t, they’ll still try to persuade you they do! “Whatever happened to Northern Dancer?” I used to ask, recalling that history’s most famous sire stood just over 15 hands.
“Agility” is the name of the game today, speed off the mark and athleticism are what make the world go round, and if they come with size, they’re your passport to international sporting pleasure. Ask Heineke Meyer. And for good measure, remember Jet Master. That’s what happened to Northern Dancer.
There were many things that made our Breeders titles a reality, small increments of 5% here, 10% there, and an obsessive concentration on the wood beyond the trees. On the way, our thoughts and our lives were influenced by the things we saw and the people we met. We’ve talked often in the past about nutrition, our stewardship of the land, the advancement of our people, and the clients we surrounded ourselves with, but observation and interaction counted for just as much.
I was lucky in my student days to know the late Paulie de Wet. If ever you were seeking a definition of the “master horseman”, look no further. Race days honed his competitive juices, they brought out his sartorial graces, and the old “clothes horse” spoke of the Thoroughbreds he so clearly adored, with an appealing mix of sentiment and intuition.
Ten years into our time here, Summerhill was crying out for some “loving care”. The fundamentals were in place, but it was looking for an artist. Such a man was John Slade, the frustrated schoolmaster who’d found a refuge for his talents in horses. His passion was the dynamic that lifted the breeding of racehorses from a physical chore to a spiritual inspiration. There are few geniuses in the world, and even fewer of them call tell you what made them geniuses. The day a “genius” attempts an explanation, he’s probably not one: they live in a world of gifts, of intuition and in the matter of horses, they plumb the rich veins of mystery that pervade our sport, without knowing why or how.
These are the piano notes of the great stud man’s life, and they are best played by feel than from any existing song sheet. John Slade planted trees, he rerouted roads, built buildings and re-laid fences in a spirit that pleased people, nurtured horses and protected wild creatures, all at the same time. Passion is the keyword. It is what underlies all great works, and breeding racehorses is one of the most captivating. It has found its “promised land” right here in the valley of The Giant, thanks to its geography, its climate and its incomparable soils. In truth, everything is at its aesthetic prime, for has there ever been a more beautiful country? While ours does not speak of the money that’s been invested in much grander establishments, I often wonder whether there are more soulful places built in honour of the Thoroughbred?
Passion is also the footnote to everything we do. It’s been our creed to play “open cards”, and we’ve always shared with our friends what we thought had taken us to the mountain top. Our most recent adventure is to take the equine equivalents of the men who fought at Isandlwana and transform them into the giants that made World Cup heroes of the 2003 England rugby squad. That means more inches and more bulk, and it involves the guts to live by your convictions. Few things of value have come about without the smell of risk in the air and the pain of disappointment. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” they say, and these are the watchwords of our work.
We’re told that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and speed and size are not always the best bedfellows in a racehorse. The infrastructure has to match the superstructure, otherwise we’re raising a beautiful invalid. The table at the foot of this piece plots the course of our progression in the arena of our “latest” project, birthweights, commencing in the year following our first premiership, up to and including the ninth. The racing statistics tell us our runners are more robust these days, they’re tougher and they run more often than most. The fulfilment of our endeavours in the breeding business though, is a matter of decades rather than days, so hindsight should not impose too much grandeur on what is still something of a fledgling experiment.
Who knows, one day our luck my run out, but one thing’s for sure: we’ll never stand accused of not having tried it. If you should choose to make this journey with us, I assure you, your visit will win you over. You will not stay immune from this story.
Percentage of crop
I always knew that one day I’d own a broodmare, though how, on the meagre stipend of a junior partner in a law firm, I didn’t know.
The resilience of elite broodmare valuations during the worst of the crash demonstrated how these stock assets now rank with high-end art as commodities of monetary value beyond the comprehension of horse-dealers like me, purely because their collectibility now ranks up there with Warhol, Beatles memorabilia and stamps.
The therapy that comes from a few hours in the paddocks at Summerhill stands in stark contrast to all the stuff we see every day on the “box” or we read about it in the papers.
(Photo : Gareth du Plessis)
“The Thoroughbred - its grace, its nobility, its courage and intelligence, its speed and stamina, its brute strength and sometimes its brittleness, make it the irresistible pick of the good Lord’s creations.”
Summerhill CEORacehorse sales are intense affairs, especially when you’re a consignor, and more so when you have responsibilities for the affairs of others on your shoulders. The Emperors Palace Ready To Run is a typical example, though if you would allow me a bit of self-compassion for a moment, the Summerhill situation is anything but typical. When we went to Jo’burg for this marathon event the week before last, we had a 121 entries in the catalogue, and carried the hopes and aspirations of close on 200 owners across 22 timezones. Think about that for a moment: every second horse in the ring, conversations with every one of their owners in 12 different countries before they faced the auctioneer, others with many an aspirant buyer, and the “weighty” consequences of whatever they fetch.
By their nature, people who breed horses most times love them; like their kids, most of their geese are “swans”, and they generally hold high expectations. In these circumstances, as their consignor, you sometimes need to be a father-confessor, part-time psychologist, an occasional inspiration, a soothsayer and at all times, an advisor. We take our responsibilities seriously here at Summerhill, and while it’s true that in just about every instance, we have the most understanding and compliant customers on the planet, it doesn’t diminish the burden of care. Their triumphs are our triumphs, their disappointments are our disappointments, and most horse sales are a rollercoaster, not only because prices fluctuate, but because of the emotional wrench in parting with a member of the “family”.
Without in any way wishing to diminish the pressure our younger colleagues might feel in these situations (few people anywhere know what it is to sell 120 horses in a catalogue of 240) age brings on an elevated sense of the highs and lows attached to the outcomes, and we like to believe that when we get back to the old “plaas”, we’ve earned a respite. Over the years, the next couple of months have always involved more time out on the farm, more stock-taking, more reflection and more thought about the future.
I don’t know about you, but for me the most therapeutic response to a fortnight in Jo’burg, is a good stretch in the paddocks, a bit of “R-and-R” at our fishing shack on the Wild Coast, and plenty of books. Of course, it helps to be in good company and to have a healthy supply of that stuff that’s made the Cape famous, as well. The ancestral fishing grounds are as remote as any place in South Africa, and getting there is something of a military expedition. There are no roads to speak of, no shops, no newspapers, no cellphone signals and the radio doesn’t work. If you’re taking horses along, you park the float off some 20 kilometres out, and you ride them in. In other words, if it’s a break you want, this is utopia; if you’re looking to recharge the batteries, it’s fail-safe.
My late great pal, David Rattray, honed my skills in preparing for these epics. Stocking up, he said, was a wife’s pursuit, but never leave the fishing tackle or the logistics to a woman. If any of those things go awry, the trip is a nightmare, and any time you might have reserved for fresh ideas and new inspiration, goes to waste. By the time you’ve used your connections to source the best of bait, stocked up on lures, spoons and the latest fishing bag, and bought your wife her “annual” fishing rod (which by this time next year has joined your arsenal), the fish are already on instinctive alert, and they’re looking for shelter. Never mind, we’re in the racehorse business, and we know about challenges, and anyway, who wants to go down without a fight?
Whether it’s a hangover from the preoccupations of a torrid sale or one of the occupational hazards of creeping age, I find myself in “thinking’s” top gear in the early hours of most mornings. It’s true to say though, that while it’s more frequent these days, Summerhill owes many of its best ideas and problem solving to the “three-in-the-morning” ramblings of our team, and I’ve often wondered why it is so.
Its appeal as a haven for those in search of the peace and quiet that comes with its remoteness, makes Hartford House a favourite for some wonderfully diverse and learned people, and one of our guests recently volunteered an explanation for this phenomenon. The smart people will tell you that the bulk of our most creative thoughts, like the sudden idea for our Ready To Run sale, or the resolution to a “knotty” spot in the farm brochure, come to us during these hours, and it apparently has to do with the two hemispheres of the brain. Deliberate thinking comes from the left hemisphere, while the “aha” moments reside in both. The more cross-talk you get between the two hemispheres, something older people are supposedly good at, the more happy moments you get, spawning a self-reinforcing loop in which creating a little gives you a taste for creating a lot.
A similar loosening of the brain’s reins helps to explain the way all of us, young and old, can sometimes go to bed at night trying to solve a problem and wake up in the morning with an answer or a burst of inspiration. When we go to sleep, the pre-frontal cortex, which consolidates and integrates knowledge as a sort of “cop on the beat”, keeping the unruly regions of the brain in line, powers down. At the same time, a thing they call the occipital lobe, which processes information visually and symbolically, goes into overdrive. During the course of the night, the latter often comes up with novel and unlikely solutions to whatever’s on our mind, and slips them to us either in a dream, or just as we wake up. Encouragingly, for the ageing, in a less rigidly structured brain, the same kind of thinking takes place all the time, just in case you youngsters thought you had us beat!
My close association with the world of racehorse breeding, and especially with the natural environment in which we live, has me permanently intrigued. For an animal of such complex and diverse geographical origins, the thoroughbred is a remarkably straightforward creature. Perhaps it’s the concentrated process of selection over the centuries that’s made it so, but in the end, its grace, its nobility, its courage and intelligence, its speed and stamina, its brute strength and sometimes its brittleness, make it the irresistible pick of the good Lord’s creations. We on the other hand, have made our lives so complicated, so frantic and in these times, I’m afraid, so angry, you wonder where we got it all from?
The therapy that comes from a few hours in the paddocks at Summerhill stands in stark contrast to all the stuff we see every day on the “box” or we read about it in the papers. While I don’t want to sound too philosophical, I’ve always had trouble with orthodoxy in its most extreme forms. Raising racehorses inevitably leads you into the origins of the breed, and in my flirtations with the 19th century evolutionary debate, I have a new-found sympathy for the pain this discovery brought to people who, prior to Darwin, would have happily called themselves men of science and men of God. We now have a world full of scientists, many of whom have no faith, and the faithful, many of whom have little reason, and that’s a great loss for all of us.
“SUPPLY AND DEMAND”
There is a simple equation that explains most things in the world of economics: supply and demand. For a couple of years now, we’ve been urging our customers to “get in” on the broodmare market before it gets away, and recent evidence that the local foal crop, once close to 5000 a year, is now in the region of the lower 2000s, tells us we’re very near the “tipping” point.
History tells us South African racing needs at least 3000 foals a year to sustain its programme, and these figures suggest we’re woefully short. It also means that sooner or later, there’s bound to be upward pressure on prices for this reason alone, let alone improved financial conditions. Herein lies the opportunity. This morning, the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), reported that while there have been some notable areas of global growth in our industry, including prize money, there continue to be declines in others.
Breeding activity around the world has fallen dramatically in some areas - since the economic crisis. Over the last five years, the number of mares bred has dropped by 27% worldwide, with the number of foals born decreasing by 14% and the number of stallions covering mares declining by 11%. These trends do not seem to be abating. Double-digit declines in the number of mares bred (11%) and the number of stallions covering mares (12%) were recorded in 2012 as compared to 2011, with the number of foals born decreasing by 4% in that period.
Overall, the number of stallions covering mares worldwide is listed at 7,819, compared with 9,345 in 2010. In the United States, the world’s most active nation by breeding and racing activity, the number of stallions covering mares has declined by 23.2% just since 2010, with 643 fewer stallions listed in 2012 than two years earlier. The number of foals born globally dropped below 100,000 in 2012, with only 99,366 reported; in 2010, there were 108,288 foals born and in 2006, the IFHA reported that there were 121,828 foals born worldwide. Thus, the number of foals born has fallen by 18.4% over the past six years. “Declines from the largest breeding countries - most notably the United States, Australia and Argentina - have been a large factor, but this is not isolated to countries with bigger breeding populations,” said Andrew Chesser, IFHA deputy secretary general.
Among the best news in the IFHA annual report for participants in racing is that total prize money distributed across the globe has grown ever since hitting a low in 2007. In 2012, Chesser said the total surpassed €3 billion (over $4.06 billion) for the first time since the IFHA began keeping specific data in 2005. It’s fair to say the pool of prize money has never been larger and never been so diverse on a global scale,” he declared after noting that “many countries outside the top ten as ranked by number of races run saw a double-digit percentage increase in prize money, from 2011 to 2012. Those locales included Mauritius with a 41% jump; Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Oman, which all had increases of more than 20%; Serbia, Mexico and Bahrain, which reported growth between 14% and 16%, and Morocco, Brazil and Tunisia, with increases in purses between 10% and 13%.
Overall, Japan topped all nations in 2012 with total prize money offered of €766,485,906 (nearly $1.04 billion) for 16,717 races, with the U.S. second at €724,975,489 (about $983.3 million) spread over 44,929 races. The average purse per race in the U.S. of €16,136 ($21,885) was less than the average prize money reported in Australia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Macau, Qatar, Singapore and Turkey.
Races In Part I Countries in 2012
Total Black-Type Races
Graded/Group Stakes Worldwide in 2013
Graded / Group Stakes
% of Total
Await The Dawn
(Photos : Summerhill Archives)
“…the secret will only be revealed at the tail end…”
For those who, like us have been “pricked” by the imminent arrival at Summerhill of Giant’s Causeway’s highly performed son, Await The Dawn, this article is of prime interest, but we’re afraid the secret will only be revealed at the tail end. Why?
Alastair Nicolson - At the onset of the hostilities of World War Two, film mogul Laudy L Lawrence made the wise decision to ship his prized mare Cosquilla, in foal to Prince Rose, from France to Ireland. Others, including Prince Rose himself, were less fortunate. One, a little yearling filly by Sickle out of Minnewaska, was captured by the invading Nazi forces in the dark spring of 1940. Small but redoubtable, she survived her journey well enough to win two races in Germany at three.
At the end of the War, The Squaw was repatriated and soon thereafter crossed the Atlantic, the property of Prince Dmitriy Jorjadze of Georgia, for a date with his pride and joy, the son of Prince Rose and Cosquilla who, as Princequillo, had carried his colours to victory in such prestigious events as the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Saratoga Cup. Prince Dmitriy loved life in the fast lane, powering his Mercedes-Benz SSK to victory in the 1931 Spa 24 Hours Grand Prix, covering 1,580 miles at an average of almost 66mph. By contrast, Herman B Delman’s designs were of a less speedy nature. Ladies’ shoes to be precise. But in 1949, his world was to change. Overlooking his previous limited success with forays into thoroughbred ownership, the ever optimistic Delman purchased the Prince’s yearling filly by Princequillo out of The Squaw. Having had second thoughts about selling her at Saratoga, Delman named the filly How and sent her into training with Princequillo’s former tutor, Horatio Luro. Expectations were distinctly low as she made her debut in a $6,000 claiming event at Saratoga against opposition with such inspiring names as Futile. Yet, everything had changed by the end of the year, when, with three wins from four starts, How was assessed joint top juvenile filly on the Experimental Free Handicap despite being untested in Stakes company. The following season, nine of her ten races were in Stakes, the highlights easy victories in the Kentucky Oaks and Coaching Club American Oaks, while, at four, she added the Ladies Handicap.
How produced her first foal on the 19th February 1955 at Normandy Farm, Lexington. Sadly, Delman lived to see her for only a few months before his death that October. By Sir Gallahad’s speedy son Roman, the filly was offered for sale at Keeneland the following summer and was purchased for $36,000 by Raymond Guest, the future owner of Larkspur and Sir Ivor who at that time raced under the moniker of Powhatan. The chief soon became so attached to his little one that he christened her Pocahontas. She soon displayed her precocity and class, rewarding him with a game victory in Saratoga’s Schuylerville Stakes over five and a half furlongs. Of the seven fillies rated above her on the Experimental Free Handicap was How’s full-sister Sequoia, who finished behind her cousin in the Schuylerville but gained revenge in emphatic style in the Spinaway Stakes. Indeed, another full-sister, Cherokee Rose, had by this time emulated How with victory in the 1954 Coaching Club American Oaks.
Pocahontas produced nine foals for Guest before her death in 1972. Five became Stakes winners. The most distinguished was a small, well balanced colt by Ribot aptly named Tom Rolfe, who earned the title of US Champion Three-Year-Old of 1965 with victories in the Preakness Stakes, American Derby and Arlington Classic and audaciously contested that year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, finishing five places behind the imperious Sea-Bird. By Bold Ruler, Pocahontas’ second foal, Chieftain, won 13 of his 36 starts, garnering prestigious scores in a division of the Cowdin Stakes at two, the Governor’s Gold Cup at three and the Arlington Handicap at four. By Larkspur, Wenona won the Blandford Stakes for Vincent O’Brien, while Pocahontas’ final two foals, the Sir Ivor filly Lady Rebecca and the Reindeer colt Ahdeek were also Stakes winners, the former taking the Gr.3 Prix Vanteaux. Tom Rolfe and Chieftain both became high-class sires.
The former’s 665 foals numbered 48 Stakes winners, these featuring the 1970 US Champion Juvenile Hoist The Flag and the US Champion Turf Horses Bowl Game and Run The Gantlet. The sire of Alleged, Hoist The Flag developed into an outstanding stallion, as did Run The Gantlet, whose best were fine indeed: April Run, Ardross, Commanche Run, Providential and Swiftfoot. Chieftain sired 43 Stakes winners from his 491 foals, notably the US Champion Older Mare Cascapedia, the Kentucky Oaks heroine Lucky Lucky Lucky and the admirable millionaire Fit To Fight.
Furthermore, Pocahontas’ unplaced son by Sea Hawk, War Hawk was New Zealand’s Champion Sire in 1981. By Reindeer’s sire Santa Claus, the unraced Santa Paula produced Vaguely Noble’s Gr.1 Premio Roma hero Noble Saint and is grandam of Selkirk’s Gr.1 Matriarch Stakes and Gr.1 Beverly Hills Handicap heroine Squeak, but it is Lady Rebecca who has had the most enduring influence of Pocahontas’ daughters. By Lyphard, her son Alzao won the Gr.3 Premio Ellington before siring 93 Stakes winners in an honourable stud career, these including the Classic heroines Matiya, Shahtoush and Winona, the dual Gr.1 Champion Stakes queen Alborada, the fine miler Second Set and Deep Impact’s Gr.1 Rheinland-Pokal-winning dam Wind In Her Hair. Rated 101 by Timeform, Alzao’s full-sister Light Of Hope produced the Listed-placed pair Happy Heart and Maria De La Luz to the half-brothers Exit To Nowhere and Machiavellian. In turn, Happy Heart is the dam of two leading Australian fillies in Danehill Dancer’s Gr.1 VRC Oaks heroine Arapaho Miss and Hussonet’s Gr.1 MRC 1,000 Guineas runner-up Heartsareforlove, while Maria De La Luz’s regal daughter Minakshi continued her rise to stardom by becoming Giant’s Causeway’s son Footstepsinthesand’s fourteenth Graded and Group winner with success in Woodbine’s Gr.2 Canadian Stakes eleven days ago. Both Maria De La Luz and Happy Heart are inbred to Pocahontas via Lady Rebecca and Tom Rolfe, the latter’s son Hoist The Flag being the sire of Raise The Standard, grandam of Machiavellian and Exit To Nowhere.
In turn, Happy Heart’s fine daughter Heartsareforlove is inbred to Hoist The Flag. Indeed, Maria De La Luz is closely related to the Gr.2 American Derby ace Evolving Tactics, himself one of just five foals by Machiavellian out of daughters of Alzao. Alzao’s nine foals from mares by Hoist The Flag’s son Alleged feature three Stakes winners, notably the Gr.1 Beverly D Stakes and Gr.1 Diana Handicap heroine Angara, while his Gr.2 Grand Prix de Deauville victor Epistolaire and Gr.3 Grand Prix de Vichy scorer Bailador are out of granddaughters of Alleged. By Alleged out of a granddaughter of Chieftain, the Gr.1 Premio Vittorio di Capua hero Jurado set the ball rolling for the success of combining Tom Rolfe with Chieftain.
This has become a major factor in the success of the stallion career of Giant’s Causeway, whose third dam is Chieftain’s Stakes-winning daughter Imsodear. Eleven of Giant’s Causeway’s Graded and Group winners are inbred to Pocahontas in this way, including the Gr.1 La Brea Stakes heroine Book Review, the Gr.1 Spinster Stakes queen Carriage Trail, the Gr.1 Norfolk Stakes hero Creative Cause, the dual Chilean Classic ace Giant’s Steps and the European Champion Juvenile Shamardal, the latter one of his 17 foals of racing age from Machiavellian mares. Further, Giant’s Causeway’s two Stakes winners from nine foals of racing age from daughters of Alzao feature the Queen’s Plate ace Mike Fox. Thus Minakshi’s astute owner/breeders, Amelie and Robert Ehrnrooth of Haras de Bourgeuville, sent their beloved Maria De La Luz to Giant’s Causeway’s unbeaten Gr.1 2,000 Guineas hero Footstepsinthesand. Minakshi’s birth in Normandy on 3rd February 2008 was her family’s return home. The rest is now glorious history.
Editors note: This story raises all kinds of possibilities for the mating of daughters of Mullins Bay and Kahal (both sons of Machiavellian) with Await The Dawn.
Extracts from European Bloodstock News
Spring at Summerhill Stud
(Photo : Leigh Willson)
“The one factor common to those whom we regard as the greatest breeders of this century was luck, and those who were honest enough admitted it”. Tony Morris, The Sporting Life
(Photo : Sport Horse Data)
The greatest of all French breeders, Marcel Boussac’s great racemare Zariba, who won the Prix Morny, the Prix de la Foret, and the Prix Jacques le Marois bred two top class colts in Goyescas and Abjer.
Goyescas by Gainsborough won the Champion Stakes and was second in the Two Thousand Guineas, the Eclipse and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and then broke a fetlock in a race and was destroyed. Abjer by Asterus was a top-class two-year-old winning the Middle Park and running second in the Champagne Stakes and the Imperial Produce Stakes and died after only two years at stud. Their sister, a great racemare and on her way to being just as great a broodmare, Corrida by Coronach, twice winner of the Arc, was lost in the war after dropping only one foal, Coroaze, winner of the French Derby.
Let’s finish with a happy ending. Boussac was lucky when he offered Loika at the Newmarket December Sales in foal to Tourbillon and she failed to reach her reserve. The foal she was carrying was Djebel.
Stallion and groom at sunset, Summerhill Stud
(Photo : Greig Muir)
“The biggest single ingredient is luck, I don’t care how much expertise you have, how much experience, how profound the background and knowledge, if you don’t recognise that 50 per cent is in the lap of the gods, then you really don’t understand anything about the business. It’s really a game of percentages, a game of getting many little things working for you. Every little plus gives you a higher probability than someone else has. If you don’t get that mare in foal, you have nothing, zero. But if you have a band of twenty mares and over a five year period you can average 85 per cent of those mares in foal every year instead of 70 per cent then you have that much more of a statistical probability of coming up with an important horse”. John Gaines, Pacemaker
Morning walk through the cherry blossoms at Hartford House
(Photo : Gareth du Plessis)
“If breeding horses could be reduced to a system like a sum in arithmetic, or an operation in chemistry, there would be an end to speculation, and the exciting interest with which it is accompanied would be wanting. It is not to be inferred from this that the chance presides unreservedly over its destinies - far from it; there may be and are some extraordinary incidents which occasionally embellish it with something akin to that character, but they are the exception and not the rule. Those who take the most pains to investigate causes and effects will be the most successful in the enterprise of breeding racehorses” - Friedrich Becker, The Breed of the Racehorse.
(Photo : Racing South Africa)
“RARE TALENTS ARE RARELY FATHOMABLE”
Summerhill CEOI’m about to take a couple of days off at the game reserve, and whether you think I deserve it or not, I’m up for it! Certainly, with their half-term looming, my granddaughters Hannah and Zoe, not to mention their grandmother, Cheryl, are certainly going to enjoy it. Thanda Private Game Reserve is one of those intoxicating places that makes coming home to South Africa so irresistible when you’ve been travelling abroad, so it’s no surprise it is the brainchild of Christian and Dan Oloffson, Swedish entrepreneurs and owners of Episilon & Sigma AB, the IT and technology giants.
I did think of you, our readers, though, before my departure, and wondered what I could leave behind of topical interest in an attempt to retain your amusement. Those who keep their mares at Summerhill will know that the agonising process of deciding on their mares’ mates for the season ahead, is well underway. The “to-ing and fro-ing” between our matings panel and our customers, has to be seen to be believed: at least, it tells us that people take the business of “playing god” seriously, and that the outcome of their deliberations remains a vital manifestation of the old saying “hopespringseternal”.
For centuries, breeders of racehorses have been bombarded by a confusion of theories, some sound and some so far-fetched, it is bewildering how many people were taken in by them. Humbug attends arguments about horse breeding the way a crow dwells on a fly-blown sheep. Jet Master, unfashionably bred and stained yellow by the sun, rampaged through a host of South African racing summers. Inevitably, you go home and pour over his pedigree. You go back six generations, which means you are looking at 126 ancestors. No neon lights flash. There is no grand clue.
That’s alright. Racing would be as interesting as quantum physics if it were burdened with mathematical certainty. You are happy to conclude that Jet Master had something better than blood and conformation. Yes, he was a monster of a horse, but he also had “heart”: all the good ones do. In sport, that is enough. Rare talents are rarely fathomable.
“Nonsense,” says the breeding theorist, who bales you up at the races on Saturday. It is the usual confrontation: he is vaguely hysterical. You are vaguely disinterested, and pretend you need to go to the tote. The interrogation begins “Didn’t you see the Fair Trial in the pedigree? Three doses of it. Three!” You wipe the flecks of foam from your lapels. “Don’t you understand now?”
Well, yes, I do, but I’ve bred a filly with a lot of Fair Trial in her too, and the best she could manage was a maiden on a wet day in the Western Cape.
Where was the Fair Trial? “In the third and fourth generations, I think”. “Well, there you are. You need it once on top, twice below, like Jet Master. Must be balanced that way”.
Now, why didn’t he tell me this before Jet Master became famous? We could’ve cleaned up at long odds! It’s all rather tiresome. People who spend their lives with animals, be they horses, cows or kittens, are invariably leery of too much theory. I’m sure that when Pocket Power filled Mike Bass and Marsh Shirtliff’s eyes at the Cape regional yearling sale, the “master-class” hadn’t bothered to check the co-efficiency of the colt’s inbreeding.’They don’t assail you with dosage theories at Mike de Kock’s yard either, but he trains winners by the thousand. Here at Summerhill, we don’t discuss the successes of our runners in terms of the “international outcross” their pedigrees represent. We are, therefore, in favour of anyone who can offer serious thoughts about breeding without the humbug. Someone who knows about the caprices of nature as well as the laws of Mendel, someone who knows that nothing can make a fool of you more comprehensively than a thoroughbred. Which is why I’m greatly taken with a book I have read several times, and which to my amusement, I’ve just completed again. When it first appeared back in the 80s, Thoroughbred Breeding: Notes and Comments was published by J.A. Allen in London and selling then for a token R9.95, and it was authored by a great character of our local racing, Sir Mordaunt Milner, who cuts through humbug like a flail mulcher. Incidentally, I lost my earliest version of this heavenly script some years ago, and only just managed to find a copy on Amazon for the handsome price of R59.95 (you wonder what they’re going to do with the change?). You may recall my having quoted the “Bart” previously, though that was from scribbled notes on an old manuscript.
Sir Mordaunt failed at Leeds University because he went to the races instead of to lectures. He then emigrated to South Africa, where he was a stipendiary steward, a novelist and a breeder at his beautiful farm Natte Vallei, of classic winners and sales-topping yearlings. His greatest successes included the outrageously talented Man Of Property; the Mauritzfontein Stud foundation mare, Avila (a sales-topper) and the Oaks heroine, Serena. The memory of Serena distracts me for a minute, as my brother, Pat and I were the under-bidders for this striking daughter of Jan Ekels to none other than Gary Player, who not only won the S.A. Oaks with her, but then sent her abroad to be mated with the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, Theatrical. This unique union produced a fellow named Broadway Flyer, a quality racehorse who found his way into the line-up for England’s most famous race, the Epsom Derby. In those days, Gary Player was a regular attendee at the Natal Broodmare Sales, and used to shack up with us at Hartford House, still our home at the time. The sale was held in late June, just a couple of weeks before the British Open, and Gary habitually rose before the dawn, completed his famous “sit-ups” and “press-ups” routines, then whacked a couple of balls between two stately gum trees into the darkness, as he prepared for a tournament he’d previously won three times, and as a senior, on three more occasions. Remember the adage “The harder I work, the luckier I get”?
He flew to England to watch Broadway Flyer take his place in the Derby, and a correspondent of one of England’s leading newspapers saw an opportunity to interview him. He asked Gary whether he would rather win the Derby or win the British Open, and his reply was “I’d rather win the Derby than three British Opens, and I’m the only man on earth who’s able to say that!”. Another sign of what the turf can do to “big” men.
To get back to Sir Mordaunt, the back dust-jacket of the book catches his breezy fatalism. He is shown bridling his riding hack. The caption says: “This filly was bought as a yearling a season before her full brother won the New Zealand Derby: what good luck! She never won a race; she never had a foal: what bad luck! That’s racing”.
Do not be misled, the book is a considerable piece of scholarship. It brings a fresh mind and a deft pen to all the usual things: nicks and crosses, potency, dosages, how to select a mare and how to find the right mate for her. It is never boring, never superficial. But you always have the feeling that here is a man who has read all the books and knows all the theory, but who has also stood in a paddock, looked at a sad little foal who was all wrong, and said to himself, there are times when theory is bunk. Here are a few of his sharpest lines:
- When a mare is offered for sale, one frequently reads the following sort of comment in the displayed pedigree. ‘The next dam is So and So, a daughter of Thingamabob tracing to Paraffin’. This means that the mare will have the famous Paraffin (1870) in the eighth or ninth generation and the influence will be as remote as an ancestor who came over on The Mayflower to his or her descendant in the Senate or in the Bowery… This sort of announcement is as meaningless as putting the family number after the name of the horse. It is… a lot of bull.
- At a poultry show, a young fancier asked what the difference was between inbreeding and line-breeding. An older one answered: ‘Well, son, it’s this way. If you keep on breeding with your own birds and you are successful, you speak of line-breeding, But, if your results are bad, you can blame it on inbreeding’.
- The commercial breeder has to breed a yearling that can walk well enough to satisfy the buyers; whether it can gallop as well, is then the buyer’s problem.
- If you are going back seven generations to support a theory, you might as well go back eight.
- There is no relationship between size and ability on the racecourse, but one thing is sure: there is a definite correlation between size and price at the yearling sales.
- How many mares do you need to start a stud and how do you choose them? Only one, provided you pick the right one. Both the Childwick Bury Stud and the Aga Khan would still have been known world-wide if the only mares they had started with had been Absurdity and Mumtaz Mahal.
As you can see, Milner is a pragmatist. But he pulls up well short of saying that breeding is all luck. His theme is that by sifting the evidence intelligently you can improve your luck. The words of American breeder John Gaines often seem close to the Milner approach. Gaines once said “It’s really the game of percentages, a game of getting many little things working for you. Every little plus, gives you a higher probability than someone else has”.
The passage I like best in the book belongs not to Milner, but to Phil Bull of Timeform. It goes thus: “Anyone who thinks that one can breed a champion by sitting down with a split-pedigree book to find an ideal mating based on inbreeding or crosses of this and that, just isn’t in touch with reality. Every ‘great’ horse is (by definition) a rarity whose superior genetic make-up is the result of a statistically improbable accident. You may hope for and solicit such accidents, nothing more’.
Which brings me back to Jet Master. I should have that quotation printed on a card. Next time the breeding theorist harasses me about Jet Master and Fair Trial, I can simply hand the card to him. On reflection, that probably won’t work either. He is probably likely to say that Phil Bull was notorious for his lack of knowledge about Fair Trial top and bottom!
(Photo : The Independent)
“A billion dollars sure ain’t what it used to be.”
Nelson Bunker Hunt
Summerhill CEOIt was the silver magnate Nelson Bunker Hunt who coined the famous phrase “a billion dollars sure ain’t what it used to be,” when his empire came crashing down in 1988. Yet, twenty-five years on, it remains a lot of money in the horse game. This past week, rumours abounded in the vicinity of English racing’s headquarters, Newmarket, that the most successful private racing and breeding operation of the modern era, Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Judmonte Farm, was in the process of being sold. That there is something in the wind is certain, but exactly what is involved has yet to be disclosed. While price is usually the last thing people settle upon in situations like this, a source pretty close to the action advises us that there could be as much as a billion pounds on the table. I guess the real issue though, is whether the transaction involves the sale of Frankel, the best idea anyone ever came up with in the world of racing. He was valued at the time he went to stud at somewhere between £100 and £125 million, which provides some credence to the numbers being bandied about.
There are not a lot of people in the world capable of paying that kind of money for what, in the end, would amount to a trophy, but it is believed that it is the Al Thani family, rulers of Qatar, are behind it. A billion pounds is more than the sovereign wealth fund of most countries, but not for the Qataris: it’s a splash in the ocean for them, and it makes sense. The prince has made Juddmonte his life’s work, and a billion is a bagatelle when you think they’re picking up one of history’s most successful operations, as a going concern.
In the course of a chat with an Irish pal last week, I disclosed my understanding of the amount involved. He went silent, and rang off. A minute later, he was on the line again: “Did you say a billion pounds, or a billion euros?”. It might make a difference to the Irish, but at the Southernmost tip of the darkest continent, it’s an awful lot of dough, either way.
Summerhill Stallion Barn
(Photo : Summerhill Stud)
“Stallions have been known to command covering fees
of as much as a million dollars…”
It’s that time of the year again, when we scour the paddocks looking for the clues which influence our mating plans for the year ahead. Our panel of experts is comprised of much the same people who plotted our successes of the past decade, and who made our eight breeders championships a reality. No stone is left unturned, and those who’ve seen what a Summerhill mating recommendation looks like, will tell you it’s as detailed and illuminating as anything in the business.
It’s a daunting responsibility though; we are in effect playing “god”, determining not only the genetic outcome, but also attempting to forecast the commercial result more than two years ahead. The thoroughbred, as we’ve said before, is the product of three centuries of meticulous selection; a melting pot of nobility, grace, intelligence, courage, speed, stamina, mental strength and physical durability, among the many traits the world’s breeders seek to instill in the end product. As a species, we’d like to believe we are the sum of all these things ourselves, yet if we’re honest with ourselves, for the past three hundred years (and for millennia before that, for that matter), homo sapiens has been more a product of lust and money than all these fine attributes. That, in the end, is what separates us from the good Lord’s finest creation.
The other thing about the mating game, is that we’ve not been as smart as thoroughbreds in developing a market for our own services. Stallions have been known to command covering fees of as much as a million dollars (in Northern Dancer’s case), where the terms were “money upfront, no guarantees”, and the queue extended from Cape Town to Cairo. On the other hand, his male counterpart in the human realm is unable to get five bob for his role in the continuity of the species, try as we might. We may need to revisit this model, if the world is to function properly going forward!
I am reminded of a story involving the inimitable playwright and poet, George Bernard Shaw, who once teased the distinguished actress, Mrs. Pat Campbell into admitting she would sleep with him for a million pounds. He then asked if she would do so for five pounds. “What do you think I am, Mr Shaw?”, she demanded in supposed outrage. “We have already established that, madam, we’re merely haggling about the price”. That’s us!
(Photo : Herald Sun)
“The Tinkler story is a cautionary tale, and proof again that
money alone cannot buy racing or breeding success.”
There’s an old saying in South African racing: “You can’t beat Harry Oppenheimer in the boardroom on Mondays, but when you get to Turffontein on Saturday, the playing fields are level”, and when it comes to racing’s holy grails, money makes as little difference as it does in love. The history of the turf is full of stories of very rich men throwing independent fortunes in a quest to own “the game”, yet there is not a single instance where it worked consistently over a sustained period, as it’s been known to do in many other spheres of business. Those that have come closest; Lord Derby, the Aga Khan and Robert Sangster, have all had one thing in common, that is surrounding themselves with people of real talent, men of the richest intuitions and freaks in the understanding of horses. People who’ve made their businesses enshrouded by entourages of “yes men”, have taken the same model to the races and have known sporadic success, but real achievement has come only to those who’ve had a genius in their midst.
In the case of Lord Derby and the Aga, it was the Honourable George Lambton, and with Sangster, it was the man who led the list of racing’s top 100 celebrities, Vincent O’Brien, and his son-in-law John Magnier.
The thing is, unlike most other industries, with horses you are dealing with flesh and blood, and money has no understanding of what makes a racehorse tick. The latest casualty of a big money splurge is an Australian by the name of Nathan Tinkler, who just a few years back ranked the richest Australian under 40, his worth estimated at more than a billion Aus dollars. Here is his story, articulated by Richard Zacariah.
“Legendary horseman Robert Sangster died saying he knew about a quarter of what there was to know about the Thoroughbred business. His wariness of being a know-all was a part of his charm and underpinned long-term survival at the pointy end of this business. Yet no one could say Sangster was inhibited when it came to spending a dollar. He was bold, brave when others were timid, and confident horses would repay the debt.
Sangster would have been a wise counsel for Australia’s latest meteor in Thoroughbreds, one-time coal mining billionaire Nathan Tinkler. But would Tinkler, who has gambled A$300 million on building a racing and breeding empire in just four years, have listened? His frenetic four-year buying spree and tumultuous engaging and disengaging with staff and the bloodstock business at large would indicate not.
The Tinkler story is a cautionary tale, and proof again that money alone cannot buy racing or breeding success. And certainly not in the timeframe that Tinkler had in mind. A former electrician who worked down the mines and still just 37, Tinkler rode the coal mining boom, struck it lucky and in 2007 started investing in horses and farms in a rush to rub shoulders with the racing and breeding establishment. His new wealth made him capable of doing what he wanted, and accolades including “Australia’s richest man under 40” and “youngest billionaire” put him in the frame of mind that he was untouchable in any business he entered. However, with the downturn in China’s demand making coal prices below the cost of production, his wealth has halved, and his horse empire is under immediate threat of being liquidated.
Tinkler is not the first Australian coal baron to finance a horse empire and then feel the cold winds of a market downturn. There have been at least three mine-owning families over the past 150 years who have risen spectacularly in the horse game and then disappeared without trace. Now it remains to be seen if Nathan Tinkler can survive the onslaught, with observers saying it will be the coal business, not the horses, that eventually his fate. Mind you, Tinkler has 1,350 horses, huge numbers acquired in just four years as opposed to (for example) Sheikh Mohammed’s 1,000 in Australia, accumulated over 30 years of careful selection, and including the Ingham’s meticulously bred 400 strong broodmare band and resident champion stallions.
Tinkler’s major wealth lies in his 20% shareholding in a coal company worth currently around A$570 million, it is his borrowings of A$638 million that has the big fellow stepping around land mines that daily threaten to blow him up. Ironically, Tinkler probably owns the two best 3-year-olds in the country, the G1 Caulfield Guineas-winning colt and half-brother to Black Caviar, All Too Hard, as well as the G1 Flemington heroine Nechita. Worth $20 million in a package, the glamorous duo do not put a dent in his big spending or on-going costs.
On results seen by this writer, Tinkler’s Patinack Farm has spent A$77,500,000 (US$81,182,431) on 410 horses at Australian auctions since 2008, at an average price of A$190,000. In October on the Gold Coast, Patinack’s first real entry into the selling market, it sold 303 horses for a total A$4,105,000 at an average of A$13,500. In a further breakdown of this unreserved reduction sale, Patinack traded 203 mares for A$2.7 million at an average of A$14,500 and 100 racehorses for A$1.3 million at just $12,000 a head, a long way from the average purchase price of A$190,000.
While these figures do not match each horse’s purchase and sale price, they give one an idea of how difficult it is to recapture the market price when sold against a background of threatened liquidation. Now Tinkler, who has never denied his expenditure of A$300 million is in reduction mode, and despite the October sale of 303 horses, he still has a 1,350-strong team of all ages and sizes, including racing and breeding stock, 200 staff at two farms in the Hunter Valley and one in Cunungra south east Queensland and racing stables in Brisbane and Sydney costing a crippling A$500,000 a week.
It was so different when he began with the wind beneath his wings, the enthusiasm of a rich newcomer with all the best wishes of an industry looking for new blood. He was feted for a while and there seemed no end to China’s appetite for coking coal or his for horses. That moment has passed. As Tinkler ducks and weaves clinging to survival, I am sure if he had his time over again, he would do it so differently. There would be greater caution in the auction ring and accumulation not just for its own sake. Thoroughbred empires take a lot of building, as I am sure the Aga Khan or John Magnier would attest. They are not overnight successes, nor vehicles for a fast buck. However, the truth that is experience in this game is hard bought, there is no GPS for the unwary, nor as Tinkler is finding out, a parachute.
First noticed at Deauville in France in 2007, the Patinack buying cavalcade moved to the Gold Coast in March, 2008 where he unloaded A$18.5 million at Gerry Harvey’s Magic Millions, saving that sale from post-crash depression. In being the sale’s saviour, he made an important friend in Harvey, who continues to stake his existence with a recently reported A$20-million advance. Whether this “loan” is guaranteed by horseflesh or just Harvey’s faith in his survival, is conjecture. Harvey has cause to trust him. In the past five years, Harvey has been owed millions by Tinkler for horses bought, but all has ended well when the account has been paid and interest bills collected along the way. Gerry Harvey, who has 1,200 horses himself, and is one of our major owners and breeders, may well be Tinkler’s greatest supporter in the horse business, which is collectively holding its breath that its newest and biggest player survives.”
(Photo : Coolmore)
“326 Runners, 36 Black-Type Winners, 61 Black Type Horses,
24 Group/Graded Stakes Winners, 44 Group/Graded Stakes Horses,
7 Group/Grade 1 Winners”
Summerhill CEOBill Oppenheim has just tabled a piece in the TDN on sire power on both sides of the Atlantic and regular followers of these columns will know of our own preoccupation with the shifting balance. Meanwhile though, just “dig” the piece on Galileo. I for one, never thought we’d see the likes of Sadler’s Wells again, yet within a single generation, it seems his son already has the beating of him. Thank goodness, our intuitions worked for once. We have six of his daughters at Summerhill.
“THE TOP SIRES :Empire Maker is back in the lead on the North American general sire list with a month to go in the season, with Speightstown over $300,000 ahead of Giant’s Causeway for second spot. Tapit is in fourth spot, with $8.6 million. But when you look at the TDN’s Leading Sire List, you do see the overall 1-2-3 are Euros Galileo, Montjeu, and Dubawi. Those numbers for Galileo are just spectacular: 326 runners - which is a lot: an amazing 36 black-type winners this year, and 61 black-type horses - one in every five of his runners. An equally huge 24 of these are group/graded stakes winners, and 44 are group/graded stakes horses, with 7 Group/Grade 1 winners.
Maybe we’ve not had the technology up ‘til now, but I never remember seeing a sire put up those kind of numbers.”
(Photo : Science Reflections)
“Europe is still under-populated in terms of, let’s say,
the 100 highest-priced stallions, and Kentucky is overpopulated.”
Thoroughbred Daily NewsTen or 15 years ago the normal way to summarize the relationship between North America and Europe in the breeding community was to say the size of the foal crop, or the number of runners in a season, was twice as many in North America as in Britain, Ireland, and France combined; in other words, North America was two-thirds of the pie, the three major European racing countries one-third. And by that time - the period around the turn of the 21st century - Sadler’s Wells had already led the re-establishment of Europe as standing major stallions, so the pendulum had already swung a little bit away from the complete dominance in sire power Kentucky (and Maryland, with Northern Dancer) enjoyed during the 1980’s.
In one year, between 2011 and 2012, there was a shift of 5% in numbers and 8% in money spent for A$200,000 yearlings from North America to Europe. In a similar vein, using a different criterion - the number of stallions standing for $17,500 or more - we can estimate there has been at least a further 20% swing in sire power over the last decade, and from 2/3 - 1/3 in one reliable measurement 10 years ago, the number of stallions in a different, but equally reliable estimate, shows the ratio is now down to 60-40; in fact, it is actually 59-41. There are 93 stallions scheduled to stand for $17,500+ (or equivalent in GBP sterling or Euros) in North America and the three European countries in 2013; 55 of them (59%) will be standing in North America, and 38 will be standing in Europe (41%). The ratio of $750,000+ yearlings sold in 2012 was 2-to-1 in favor of Europe (33 to 16), yet the ratio of sires standing for $17,500 or more is still 60-40 in favor of America, and specifically, Kentucky. Even the transfer of Henrythenavigator from Kentucky to Ireland doesn’t go very far to evening that out.
The conclusion you have to draw from looking at these ratios is that Europe is still under-populated in terms of, let’s say, the 100 highest-priced stallions, and that Kentucky is overpopulated. And, as you can see from the accompanying table and graph, there are a few other points to consider when you break the figures down just a little further:
First, it is striking that the approximate 60-40 ratio prevails in all three categories we’ve listed: 45,000+ (18 NA, 12 EU); $17,500-40,000 proven (19 NA, 13 EU); and $17,500-40,000 unproven (18-13) (F2010 freshman sires of 2012 are included in this category}; total 55-38 (59%-41%). So, even though $750,000+ yearlings are selling 2-to-1 in Europe, the top 30 sires on stud fee are still 60-40 Kentucky (of course, this is considering only the North American and European markets, not Japan, Australia, etc).
Second, within Europe, Ireland dominates proceedings, with 23 (60%) of the 38 European sires standing for $17,500 or more; Britain has 14 (37%); France has just one (3%) - Redoute’s Choice, imported to the Aga Khan’sHaras de Bonneval for the 2013 season, with a ticket of €70,000 to breed to. However, Ireland is actually stronger at the ‘second-tier’ level of $17,500-40,000, with 69% (18 of 26) of those stallions; at the top tier, Britain has 50% (6), Ireland 42% (5), and France, of course, has one of the 12 (8%).
Third, with the retirement of Frankel (£125,000) and the ascension of New Approach to a top-tier (£50,000) from a second-tier (£22,500) stallion, there is now a marked imbalance among British stallions. The overall ratio of top-tier to second-tier stallions for the whole sample is roughly 1 to 2 (32.3% to 67.7%, which is very nearly one-third, two-thirds) among the 93. Yet there are only four proven sires in Great Britain standing for $17,500-40,000, and four unproven sires, for a total of eight of the 14 stallions (57%), whereas it should be 10% higher.
In short, if there are six stallions standing for 45,000+, there should be 12 standing for $17,500- 40,000, and there are only eight. To the extent that the British TBA’s thus-far incomprehensible BOBIS scheme depends on stallions standing in Britain, they’re barking up the wrong tree. Especially for breeders using second-tier stallions - which would be at least twice as many as use top-tier stallions - Ireland has far more stallions in this price range to choose from, 18 to eight.
Fourth, France. They may have the best racing system of the three countries (probably thanks largely to the PMU and a dedicated revenue stream from it to purses), but for stallions, forget it. More often than not these days they don’t even have a stallion standing for as much as €15,000. There would be a lot of British and especially Irish boarding farms that would no doubt be very unhappy if France suddenly developed its own group of what we’re classifying as ‘second-tier’ stallions. Still, you’d think there’d be room for one or two more.
Fifth, Kentucky. As such non-native, but current residents of Kentucky like Mike Levy and Labhras Draper like to remind me, “don’t write Kentucky off too soon.” Yes, as we have seen, there have been measurable shifts away from Kentucky towards Europe in both yearling sales and stallions standing; and yes, there have also been significant movements in what we could call ‘third-tier’ (let’s say $7,500-$15,000) stallions - or maybe we could also refer to them as the ‘lower commercial tier,’ and call the ‘second-tier’ $17,500-40,000 stallions the ‘upper commercial tier.’
In any case, there are definite shifts of third-tier stallions out of Kentucky, such as the promising F2012 Darley sire Desert Party (Street Cry), whose first foals are selling this year, from Kentucky to New York. So, yes, even though there are these shifts away from Kentucky, still 59% of all the stallions in North America and Europe that stand for $17,500 or more - and 60% of the top 30 sires, which stand for 45,000 or more - stand in Kentucky. It’s true: it isn’t really safe or credible to leave them out of calculations, to dismiss them, entirely, as some Euros now seem to want to do.
Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News