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The Silver Fox of Foxfield (and more recently his own Liberation Farm), Rob Whiteley has whipped up a lively debate among mare owners, stallion owners, and other industry participants with a series of cutting-edge opinion pieces over the past couple of years.

In his latest published in Thoroughbred Daily News, Whiteley slices through reams of statistics and feel-good headlines to describe the breeding business as he knows it, and it ain’t good.

Anyone who’s been paying attention (obviously not the trolls in Frankfort) is aware that breeding and racing are not doing well.

But Whiteley takes the assessment past the obvious and asks “what can be done to make things better” from several sectors of the business.

This is the point at which people tend to diverge in their thinking about the business and what could or should be done. In fact, I would disagree with a couple of points, but Whiteley is writing an opinion piece. If we readers don’t disagree with some of it, it’s simply a restatement of the consensus.

Of considerably greater importance is how much of the analysis the majority of commercial breeders and stallion owners would agree with.

The linchpin of Whiteley’s argument is that stud fees should be set at a point to offer “the breeder a 50-50 chance of breaking even.” He argues quite persuasively that this is both in the best interest of the breeder and of the stallion owner, whose long-term success is tied to the general prosperity of mare owners and breeders.

To evaluate breeder profitability, Whiteley presents an understandable table of statistics complete with several factors that he used to judge a fair 2011 stud fee for the top 30 active stallions with 20 or more yearlings sold in 2010.

Ranked from most to least expensive on this list of 30, AP Indy leads, which isn’t a surprise to many. What might be a surprise is that AP Indy and the next three sires on the list (Distorted Humor, Smart Strike, and Bernardini) would have only minor changes in fee if their owners chose to follow the statistical guidelines.

That cannot be said for several others in the listing, however.

Whether any stallion managers use these statistics while considering fees for 2011 is another question.

Whether they do or not, mare owners should consider these statistics very carefully. It could well make the difference between breeding successfully for the market and choosing to dig oneself deeper into a hole.