The breeding market is increasingly segmented between the “in-demand” set of stallions who will be covering large books of select mares during the 2018 breeding season and the “rest.”
The breakover point in stallion pricing between those heavily in demand is approximately $15,000, and the stallion prospects for 2018 who are priced at $20,000 and up are the focus of this article.
As the pricing should suggest, these boys need no introduction.
But even among the horses in this elite subset of the stallion population, there are some who are clearly of the highest appeal.
The new stallion with the highest stud fee of 2018 is champion Arrogate (by Unbridled’s Song). The strapping gray established his sterling reputation with a series of victories in four races from the 2016 Travers Stakes through the Breeders’ Cup Classic and inaugural Pegasus World Cup to the 2017 Dubai World Cup over Gun Runner. Those efforts earned him a ranking as the most talented horse in the world, according to the Longines assessments of racehorses worldwide.
A striking, round-bodied yearling when purchased for Juddmonte Farms at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale, Arrogate has grown into a tall, very well-constructed athlete standing about 16.2 at the end of his 4-year-old season. Still looking quite the racehorse when I saw him last week at Juddmonte, Arrogate possesses good bone, excellent scope and quality, plus the mental character and disposition of a champion.
He will stand for $75,000 live foal.
Arrogate’s chief competitor and contemporary, Gun Runner (Candy Ride), finally gained a measure of success against his gray superior when winning the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic, after Arrogate had gone unarguably off form.
Gun Runner, in contrast, has been the marvel of consistency and steady reproduction of form month after month in 2017. The elegant chestnut is little shorter at the wither than his gray rival but is so beautifully balanced that Gun Runner’s height is not obvious till standing beside him.
Gun Runner’s only loss in 2017 was the Dubai World Cup, and the handsome son of Candy Ride came home first in four Grade 1 races this year, beginning with the Stephen Foster, then the Whitney, Woodward, and BC Classic. Out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Quiet Giant, Gun Runner shares some of the excellent qualities of his famous broodmare sire in consistent success at the G1 level.
Currently in training for the 2018 Pegasus, Gun Runner is expected to enter stud in 2018 at Three Chimneys for $70,000 live foal.
Behind that elite pair, the entering stallion prospect with the next-highest fee is 2016 champion 2-year-old colt Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile). A colt of immense talent and promise in 2016, Classic Empire found numerous hurdles to steady progress through his second season.
Delayed in his training due to seemingly minor issues, Classic Empire won the G1 Arkansas Derby as a prep for the Kentucky Derby, where he ran a surprisingly strong fourth between a pair of other entering prospects for 2018, Battle of Midway and Practical Joke.
Then Classic Empire ran a winning race in the Preakness two weeks later, putting it all on the line against his elite competitors, only to tire late and lose in a photo to Cloud Computing. As a result of his best efforts and early form, plus the demand for his sire, Classic Empire stands at Ashford Stud for $35,000 live foal.
Practical Joke (Into Mischief) finished just behind Classic Empire in the 2017 Kentucky Derby, and his additional best form, winning the G1 Allen Jerkens at Saratoga, makes this powerful bay a horse of great interest to breeders for 2018.
In addition, Practical Joke was a top juvenile, winning the G1 Champagne Stakes, and he is by the immensely popular stallion Into Mischief, the best stallion son of Harlan’s Holiday.
Practical Joke stands alongside Classic Empire and others at Ashford, with his fee of $30,000 live foal.
Just below that price point, going to stud for $25,000 live foal, are a pair of entering stallions – Lord Nelson and Mastery. For 2018, they are trying to overcome a lack of recent activity. The longest off-track is Lord Nelson (Pulpit), who was designated for stud in 2017, but laminitis and its complicated recovery put that off a year.
A big, handsome chestnut with great length through the body, Lord Nelson is progressing still from the condition, but all signs are go for his covering a full book in 2018.
Mastery, on the other hand, was the hottest early-book choice for the classics until an injury after his 6 3/4-length victory in the San Felipe Stakes ended his unbeaten career. The “other” son of leading sire Candy Ride entering stud in 2018, Mastery stands 16.2 and is a strikingly handsome bay.
At the next rung of the stud fee ladder among this elite category are a trio of entering stallions priced at $20,000 live foal: Battle of Midway (Smart Strike), Connect (Curlin), and Keen Ice (Curlin).
This trio is notable not only for their form on the racetrack but also their sire line. Two are by leading sire Curlin, the sire of classic winners Exaggerator (Preakness) and Palace Malice (Belmont) who is now standing for $150,000 live foal. And Battle of Midway is by Smart Strike, twice the nation’s leading sire by gross earnings and sire of Preakness Stakes and BC Classic winner Curlin, twice Horse of the Year.
A robustly made bay, Battle of Midway ran a bang-up third in the 2017 Kentucky Derby and ended his career with a game victory in the G1 BC Dirt Mile over Sharp Azteca, Practical Joke, and other high-class racers.
Connect won the 2016 G1 Cigar Mile but made only a single start this season, winning the G3 Westchester. A scopy horse in the mold of his sire, this horse possesses a similar type to the other Curlin, 2015 Travers Stakes winner Keen Ice.
That victory gave Keen Ice something no other stallion can boast: success against Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year American Pharoah. A good-looking bay, Keen Ice also won the Suburban at Belmont, ran second in the G1 Whitney and Jockey Club Gold Cup, was third in the BC Classic and Belmont Stakes.