In the great scheme of sport, becoming a stakes winner is a huge accomplishment, with only about three percent of the breed attaining that level of racing success. Only a fraction of one percent wins a graded or group race.
And from that tiny fraction, made even smaller by the virtual requirement of a G1 victory, comes the subset of colts who enter stud and breed on the next generation. For example, of the 18 stallions who covered their first book of mares in Kentucky in 2021 and stood for a fee of $10,000 or more, every one was a Grade 1 winner, and some of the half-dozen new covering sires priced below that fee were, as well.
Yet from that supremely elite group, how many can reasonably be expected to succeed?
Very few. Even with excellent racing records, good to exceptional pedigrees, good to excellent conformation, and very good books of mares to share their genetic potential, perhaps only a third of the entering crop will be in demand a decade later.
From a review of the stallions who entered stud 10 years ago in 2011, only five were at stud in Kentucky for a fee of $10,000 or higher (actually, the least expensive of these is Lookin at Lucky at $20,000). The five are leading sire Quality Road ($150,000), Munnings ($40,000), champion Blame ($30,000), Kantharos ($30,000), and champion Lookin at Lucky ($20,000).
From the numbers above, roughly two-tenths of a percent (1.8) of an annual foal crop of 10,000 colts would get a spot at stud in Kentucky, and maybe a third of those will continue to be sufficiently in demand to retain a spot at stud in the Bluegrass at a significant fee.
That is a steep hill to climb.
Among the stakes winners over the weekend, however, two showed up with close relationships to stallions who did not make the grade in Kentucky.
Winner of the Searching Stakes at Pimlico, Blame Debbie is by the aforementioned Blame, one of the success stories among the entering sire crop of 2011. By the good sire Arch, Blame was the champion older horse of 2010, when he won the G1 Whitney, Stephen Foster, and Breeders’ Cup Classic. He is the sire of 31 stakes winners, including classic winner Senga and the additional G1 winners Nadal (Arkansas Derby) and Marley’s Freedom (Ballerina). In addition to last weekend’s stakes win, Blame Debbie won the G3 Dowager at Keeneland last year.
The broodmare sire of Blame Debbie, however, is Horse of the Year Invasor (Candy Stripes), and he is a horse who did not achieve the level of stallion success required to stay in Kentucky. An Argentine-bred who was unbeaten in Uruguay, then purchased by Shadwell and raced internationally, Invasor won 11 of his 12 starts, earning $7.8 million.
In addition, Invasor is by the broodmare sire of the highly regarded stallion Candy Ride (Ride the Rails), and from an elite Argentine family. Yet, even with a very good pedigree and an exceptional racing record both domestically and abroad, Invasor was unable to reproduce his own excellence in his foals and was returned to South America to stand at Haras Cuatro Piedras in Uruguay.
A similar instance to the 2006 Horse of the Year came with the 1997 Horse of the Year Favorite Trick (by Phone Trick), who entered stud in 1999 at Walmac.
A fast and early-maturing horse, Favorite Trick was unbeaten at two, when he won all eight of his starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and was elected Horse of the Year. He did not train on at that level of success at three and was retired to stud at four.
Overall, the dark brown horse failed to have the consistent success so important to maintain a permanent residence in Kentucky, and he was sent to stand at stud in Florida, then in New Mexico, where he died in 2006.
Even so, Favorite Trick is the sire of the second dam of Informative (Bodemeister), who won the G3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth on June 12. That second dam is the unraced So Spirited, a half-sister to the G1 winners Roman Ruler (Fusaichi Pegasus) and El Corredor (Mr. Greeley), and their dam, the Silver Deputy mare Silvery Swan, was one of the very best mares that Favorite Trick covered in his stallion career.
Silvery Swan produced three graded stakes winners, a fourth racer who was G1-placed, and a pair of daughters who have produced stakes horses. So Spirited didn’t produce any, but her winning daughter Lucky Black (Hard Spun) is the dam of Informative. The colt’s sire is G1 winner Bodemeister, who has 22 stakes winners from 848 foals of racing age, and he has been sold and exported to stand at Karacabey Stud in Turkey.
The economics of breeding racehorses and standing stallions makes the market intensely dynamic, as this synopsis has indicated, and yet horses by stallions that have been deemed no longer up to standard for the premium market in Kentucky still have viability and the potential to produce quality racers.