06/28/2012 12:22PM

2012 yearling sales: Introducing the next class of sires

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Barbara D. Livingston
Zensational was the highest-priced horse entering stud in Kentucky in 2010, at $25,000. He has seven yearlings at the July sale.

Fasig-Tipton kicks off the 2012 yearling market with the first two major sales, and they are sales of distinctly different character.

The July select sale, on July 10 in Kentucky, features youngsters who are a little more forward in their development, with the bias leaning more toward the individual than the pedigree. The Saratoga Sale, in upstate New York on Aug. 6 and 7, is the original bastion of the select sale and retains the atmosphere of a society cocktail party. Here, the balance shifts more to stronger international pedigrees with elite sires, and higher prices are usually the result.

While the Saratoga sale emphasizes proven sires, the July sale is often the first opportunity to see yearlings by the new generation of sires. In this case, it’s the stallions who entered stud in 2010. The class of 2010 was one of the smallest groups of new stallions to enter stud in Kentucky in a long time. There were only 16 horses advertised that year, compared with 39 in 2009, 37 in 2008. In 2011, there was an upward move to 24 retiring to stud.

You remember 2010. It seemed like there was no money to be made anywhere in the horse business. Stud fees were down across the board, and breeders were much less comfortable investing in unproven stallions than they had been in the past. The shine was definitely off the apple, and fewer stud prospects were being recruited by the premier farms.

To make the 2010 class even less memorable, there was no retiring superstar to serve as flagbearer and demand the exorbitant stud fee that we’d say was just too much anyhow. The highest-priced horse entering stud in Kentucky in 2010 was Zensational, for $25,000 at Hill ’n’ Dale Farm; the previous year saw Curlin at $75,000 and Big Brown at $65,000.

Zensational was a brilliant colt and one of the fastest horses of 2009, although the Eclipse Award for champion sprinter went to Kodiak Kowboy, who entered stud the same year at Vinery for $15,000. Sandwiched between these two sprinters was another Vinery newcomer, the classy Pioneerof the Nile, priced at $20,000.

Joining Kodiak Kowboy at $15,000 were WinStar’s Colonel John (by Tiznow) and Pin Oak’s Cowboy Cal (by Giant’s Causeway). Behind them at $12,500 was Taylor Made’s Old Fashioned (by Unbridled’s Song), then at $10,000 came Ashford’s pair of Dunkirk (by Unbridled’s Song) and Thewayyouare (by Kingmambo); and U S Ranger (by Danzig), starting at Pauls Mill. Another worthy horse going to stud that year was the Brazilian-bred Einstein, a multiple Grade 1 winner at Adena Springs for $7,500. There were still many willing to gamble on the first-season stallions at these prices: Dunkirk covered 186 mares, Zensational and Colonel John both got 135, Pioneerof the Nile got 130, and Cowboy Cal got 128. With more economical stud fees, and the market swinging back in a positive direction, there’s reason for consignors of these first-crop yearlings to be optimistic. If a good yearling by one of these sires brings $100,000 to $200,000, with a maximum stud fee of $25,000, then there’s certainly room for a profit.

The July sale favors the more precocious yearling, big and muscular, and most of these first-crop sires would have an advantage, either because of their size, raw speed, or early form. Zensational, by Unbridled’s Song-Joke by Phone Trick, is a big, strong horse, and although a lot of his sire’s offspring are also precocious, he was unplaced in his only start at 2. He made up for it by being one of the most brilliant runners at 3, with wins in a trio of Grade 1 sprints in California. If he throws that speed as his pedigree suggests, he should have good commercial appeal. Zensational has seven yearlings at the July sale, but only one at Saratoga, since he is not yet considered among the sire elite.

Kodiak Kowboy, by Posse-Kokadrie by Coronado’s Quest, is built on more compact, but still powerful speed lines. His conformation suggests one that would come into hand earlier, and in fact, he was one of the best juveniles of his year in the U.S. and was voted the champion 2-year-old in Canada. His 3-year-old campaign perked up when he was taken off the classic trail, and he was the top sprinter/miler in the East as a 4-year-old. Kodiak Kowboy has four in the July Sale, but none at Saratoga.

A Grade 1 winner at 2 and 3 and second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby behind Mine That Bird, Pioneerof the Nile was one of the best colts of his crop. A big, handsome horse in the mold of his sire, Empire Maker, Pioneerof the Nile is out of a Lord At War mare. He has five yearlings at the July Sale and one at Saratoga.

Colonel John, won the 2008 Travers Stakes and has tons of racing class on his side. By Tiznow out of a Turkoman mare, it’s not surprising that he’s 16-3 hands, but that he matured early enough to win a stakes at 2. Colonel John has five yearlings in the July Sale, and the same number at Saratoga, suggesting either strong physicals or strong dams, or both.

Cowboy Cal, by Giant’s Causeway, was a versatile horse, winning Grade 2 events on turf and artificial surfaces, racing from 2 to 4. He’s got six cataloged in the July sale, but none at Saratoga.
Old Fashioned, by Unbridled’s Song, won graded stakes at 2 and 3, and has 11 at the July sale and one at Saratoga.

Dunkirk, another Unbridled’s Song horse whose best call was second in the Belmont Stakes behind Summer Bird, has 18 in the July Sale, the most of any freshman sire, but he has none at Saratoga. Einstein (BRZ) only has two in the July Sale and none at Saratoga, but I think he could be a sleeper in this group in the long run.

Besides the first-crop sires, there will be renewed interest in the progeny of the young sires whose oldest runners are 3-year-olds this year. Scat Daddy and Hard Spun continue their duel from last year’s freshman sire title, which Scat Daddy won narrowly, and the reputation of both sires should buoy the prices of yearlings who were bred on their third-year gamble in 2010.

Scat Daddy’s starting fee was $30,000 at Ashford in 2008 and $15,000 in 2010, when these yearlings were bred. He stood for a low of $10,000 in 2011, rising to $17,500 in 2012 after his sire championship. By comparison, Hard Spun entered stud at Darley for $50,000 and was at $35,000 in 2010, down to a low of $30,000 in 2011, and moved up to $40,000 for 2012.

Hard Spun has 10 stakes winners, with three graded, and Scat Daddy has seven stakes winners, five graded.

Other sires in this group with yearlings in the sales include Street Sense (five stakes winners/two graded), Discreet Cat (three stakes winners/two graded), English Channel (three stakes winners), Hat Trick (JPN) (two stakes winners/two graded), High Cotton (two stakes winners/one graded), Any Given Saturday (two stakes winners), Corinthian (two stakes winners), and the deceased Master Command (two stakes winners).


Stallions With First Yearlings

Stallions entering stud in Kentucky in 2010 with upcoming yearling sales representation.

Horse Sire Farm 2010 fee Mares bred in 2010 July sale yearlings Saratoga sale yearlings
Colonel John Tiznow WinStar $15,000 135 5 5
Cowboy Cal Giant's Causeway Pin Oak 15,000 128 6 -
Dunkirk Unbridled's Song Ashford 10,000 186 18 -
Einstein Spend a Buck Adena Springs 7,500 80 2 -
Kodiak Kowboy Posse Vinery 15,000 79 4 -
Old Fashioned Unbridled's Song Taylor Made 12,500 124 11 1
Parading Pulpit Claiborne 3,500 97 3 -
Pioneerof the Nile Empire Maker Vinery 20,000 130 5 1
Thewayyouare Kingmambo Ashford 10,000 100 1 -
U S Ranger Danzig Pauls Mill 10,000 87 5 -
Visionaire Grand Slam Crestwood 7,500 43 1 -
Zensational Unbridled's Song Hill 'n' Dale 25,000 135 7 1