03/12/2015 7:10PM

Added quality in New York stallion market

Barbara D. Livingston
Dual classic winner and champion Big Brown, standing his first season at Dutchess Views in 2015, is among several champions or sires of champions now standing in New York state.

With several of New York’s top stallion farms just a short trip up the Hudson from the trading floors of Wall Street, one shouldn’t be surprised to hear stock market principles applied to the horse business.

“Andrew Cohen used his theory on buying a stock that was depreciated in value, that was maybe overvalued originally, and felt it was a good time to go in and make a move,” said Eric Bishop, general manager for Cohen’s Sunrise Stallions, of the deal that brought dual classic winner and champion Big Brown to Dutchess Views in Pine Plains, N.Y., from Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky.,  for the 2015 breeding season.

Big Brown is one of several high-class stallions coming to New York at a time when New York-breds are a hot commodity. New York-breds captured 20 graded stakes in 2014, led by the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner and Eclipse Award champion Dayatthespa. The program is off to a flying start in 2015, with a pair of Grade 2 winners, International Star and Upstart, near the top of the points leader board for the Kentucky Derby.

“It’s a huge marketing boost,” said Jeffrey Cannizzo, executive director of New York Thoroughbred Breeders. “It truly shows us the potential of the New York-bred program, with horses like International Star and Upstart. So it’s very exciting. The biggest promotional tool any program can have is what happens on the racetrack.”

International Star and Upstart are both by Kentucky stallions, Fusaichi Pegasus and Flatter, respectively. But with the depth of the New York stallion roster increasing, more future statebred stars should be sired by resident stallions.

Big Brown will be the first Kentucky Derby winner to stand in New York since Spectacular Bid, who moved to Milfer Farm in Unadilla, N.Y., in 1992 and remained there until his death in 2003. Big Brown won 7 of 8 career starts, including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Florida Derby, and Haskell Invitational, to secure an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male in 2008. He retired to Three Chimneys in 2009, standing there until Cohen’s Sunrise Stallions and Gary Tolchin’s Golden Goose Enterprises acquired a majority interest in him and moved him to New York. Cohen and Tolchin were both part of IEAH Stables, which campaigned the horse in majority.

Shortly after the stallion’s move to New York, Dortmund emerged as Big Brown’s most talented prospect to date. The Grade 1 winner is unbeaten in five career starts and is considered among the favorites for the Kentucky Derby, adding to the excitement of his sire’s move.

“There are some really good New York stallions who are hopefully going to put some more horses on the map,” Bishop said. “We’d love to get more horses like Dayatthespa, coming right from New York stallions.”

Big Brown is one of several champions or sires of champions now standing in New York. Teuflesberg, sire of the Eclipse Award champion sprinter Trinniberg, moved to McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds for the 2013 season after standing in Florida. One year later, Trinniberg, who capped his championship campaign with a Breeders’ Cup Sprint victory, joined his sire in the state, entering stud at Rockridge Stud in Hudson, N.Y. There, he stands alongside the perennial leading New York sire Posse, whose top runners include champion male sprinter Kodiak Kowboy. 

Congaree, a stalwart at Saratoga Stud, came close to joining that elite group last year, as his daughter, Don’t Tell Sophia, captured the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff to become an Eclipse Award finalist.

New York also has added several Grade 1 winners in the last five years due to the investment of major national breeding outfits. Among that group is Darley, which adds the multiple Grade 1 winner Alpha to its roster at Sequel Stallions in Hudson, N.Y., this year, joining the Grade 1 winner Emcee and Grade 2 winner and 2014 leading freshman sire Desert Party. Spendthrift stands the Grade 1 winners Dublin and The Lumber Guy, the latter New York’s 2012 Horse of the Year, at Keane Stud in Amenia, N.Y.

Helping to draw those stallions to the state is a lucrative program of incentive awards offered through the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund, which was bolstered by the long-awaited arrival of video lottery terminals at Aqueduct in late 2011. The program offers awards to stallion owners, along with breeders and owners.

“The program in New York state is so awesome for the stallions,” Bishop said. “It’s the only state in the country that gives 10 percent for first, second, third. There’s no limit to that, either. It’s like building up an annuity fund. It takes four or five years to get the process started when you bring a stallion into the state, but the bottom line is it’s a great incentive to stand stallions here. The breeder gets twice as much with a New York stallion as opposed to breeding in Kentucky and then shipping in and dropping the foal [in state]. If you go to an outside stallion and have a New York-bred, your awards are limited. It’s a great advantage, and the way it’s set up, it really entices the broodmare owners to give a New York stallion a shot.”

The incentives help New York stallions compete with those in surrounding states for mares at a time when the entire nation is adjusting to a shrinking foal crop. The number of mares bred in New York, however, is on the upswing as the market rebounds. In 2010, the Jockey Club’s Report of Mares Bred listed 1,291 mares bred to New York stallions. That number grew to 1,614 four years later.

“It’s the chicken-egg factor,” Cannizzo said. “Do the stallions come first, or do the mares come and the stallions follow? It’s not easy here in New York, especially. We’ve made slow progress toward quality, and we’re starting to see more promising stallions. If we can offer the right formula for those breeders, it will happen. You’re seeing horses that might not have come to New York coming to New York, all based on the upside and value in our racing. We’re absolutely going in the right direction.”

With the quality of the roster increasing and incentive awards in the mix, New York stallions also face fierce competition for mares amid their own ranks. With that battle in mind, in-house support is key to making stallions, says Erin Robinson of Rockridge.

“We’re fortunate this year to have huge syndicate support behind [Grade 2 winner and first-year stallion] Honorable Dillon,” Robinson said. “That’s what we’re looking for – for people willing to put their money where their mouth is and support them with mares and get them off to a good start. That’s what you really want. Honorable Dillon had about 90 mares before outside breedings.”

In addition to support from shareholders, attracting mares to stallions requires stud farms to be flexible in making individual arrangements.

“With New York, the unique situation is so many breeders are the small guys who have been there and hung on by the skin of their teeth so many years waiting for slots, and they managed to weather the storm but then came out of it still very cash-poor,” Robinson said. “We have to do a lot of deals, co-breeder arrangements and things, if we want the mare but know they don’t actually have the cash for the stud fee. We’re trying to support the horses, and we need those small breeders to make these horses successful. You do the best you can to support the people who have been around all these years and hung on and supported the state.”