Harry Sweeney, veterinarian and breeder and agent, resides in Japan, where he has a farm and offers some insight into the racing, breeding, and sales program of Japan in a piece penned for Thoroughbred Daily News that can be accessed here.
Sweeney reports that the question most asked of him at the November sales was whether Empire Maker could be bought and returned to the States.
The short answer to that, of course, is NO.
If we think back 15 years or so, the same question was being asked about champion Forty Niner, a son of Mr. Prospector who had a good beginning to his stud career at Claiborne Farm but who had not set the world afire. Until he was sold to the Japan Bloodstock Breeders Association.
Forty Niner became the leading sire by overall earnings on the next year’s U.S. list.
Neither Forty Niner, nor his high-class stallion son End Sweep, purchased subsequently to his sire, made the return trip back to America, and the reasons are simple. Foremost of all, the economics of breeding in Japan make repurchase and return unfeasible.
For instance, Empire Maker covered 236 mares at the JBBA’s stallion station at Shizunai on the northern island of Hokkaido. And as a result of that strong showing by the stallion and support by breeders in the stallion’s second season in Japan, Sweeney reports that the JBBA will raise Empire Maker’s stud fee to approximately $43,000 for 2013.
So, if the stallion had about 200 live foals from subsequent seasons, he would earn the JBBA about $8 million annually. Spread over a four-year payout, that would place his value at $32 million, or $40 million for a five-year payout, and it would be more if you consider some of the intrinsic values that the Japanese breeders and government take into account.
For one thing, the JBBA functions rather like an extension service of the Japanese government’s department of agriculture, somewhat in the manner of the extension service that the US government’s department of agriculture operates for certain, selected agricultural endeavors here in the homeland.
As such, the JBBA tries to maximize value for breeders and for the racing public. When Empire Maker’s first foals went through the ring at the Japan Horse Racing Association’s July select foal sale, Sweeney reported that one brought $750,000, another sold for $475,000, and two others exceeded $300,000.
The program of maximizing value for breeders has worked. The racing public is also getting its money’s worth, as the 11 Empire Makers to have raced in Japan (all from US covers), include 10 winners. Among them are G2 winner Federalist and G3 winner Ijigen.