02/05/2016 1:58PM

American Pharoah launches stud career

Barbara D. Livingston
American Pharoah will stand his debut season for $200,000 at Ashford Stud.

American Pharoah’s place in racing’s pantheon was cemented the early evening of June 6, 2015, as he rolled through the stretch at Belmont Park with thousands of cameras and cell phones thrust skyward to forever capture the moment.

The Triple Crown winner’s ultimate legacy to the Thoroughbred breed is, however, still very much a work in progress.

Two days after concluding his historic career with an overpowering victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last October, American Pharoah took the short van ride from Keeneland to Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky., where he will begin his stud career this month. Coolmore secured American Pharoah’s stud rights prior to his Triple Crown sweep, in a deal announced last May. The deal, which included performance incentives, allowed owner-breeder Ahmed Zayat to retain an undisclosed share in his champion’s breeding rights and to control his racing career through the Breeders’ Cup.

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“We’re extremely lucky to have the horse,” Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier said of the stallion deal the day American Pharoah arrived at Ashford. “And in fairness to [trainer Bob Baffert], from the outset, a long time ago, he was telling us how good this horse was and that we should try and get him. And thankfully, we got a deal done with the Zayats, and they’re very good people. He’s just an exceptional horse, everything about him. Hopefully, we’ll do half as good a job as Bob has.”

American Pharoah won 9 of 11 career starts and earned $8,650,300. In addition to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, and Breeders’ Cup Classic – four prestigious events he won by a combined 20 lengths – the son of Pioneerof the Nile won the Haskell Invitational, Arkansas Derby, FrontRunner Stakes, and Del Mar Futurity for a total of eight Grade 1 triumphs. He was a unanimous selection as Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male at the Eclipse Awards last month – adding those trophies to the hardware he already secured as 2014 champion 2-year-old male. In addition, Zayat swept both the owner and breeder Eclipse Awards, while Baffert took home the trainer trophy.

“It’s unbelievable,” Magnier said of American Pharoah’s career. “It’s been [37] years since the last one, and it’s a massive thing. It’s a massive thing for everyone to get a chance to breed to this horse now.”

American Pharoah will stand for a fee of $200,000 in his debut season, making him by far the most-expensive new stallion in recent years – and moreover, one of the more expensive stallions in North America. He comes into an American market that has changed dramatically since a Triple Crown winner last stood at stud. Affirmed retired to stud in 1980, and it has been more than a decade since there was an active Triple Crown winner in the breeding shed. Secretariat died in October 1989, Affirmed in January 2001, and Seattle Slew in May 2002, leaving the racing world without a living Triple Crown winner until now.

American Pharoah has passed his first hurdle by adapting quickly to farm life and daily turnout, with pensioned Ashford sire Thunder Gulch – himself a dual classic winner, champion, and classic sire – famously “showing him the ropes” in the paddock next door. As part of his transition, the young stallion was test-bred to a few mares in December, picking up the mechanics of his new career with flying colors.

“He’s [turned out] first thing in the morning – actually, I lunge him first before he’s turned out at 6:30,” stallion manager Richard Barry said of the horse’s routine. “We’ve bred him to a couple of mares, and he’s done that late morning and then early afternoon, and he’s settled in really well. Everything is no problem at all. He’s as laid-back a horse as you’d ever want. He’s great in the breeding shed.”

The kind and intelligent personality that helped make American Pharoah – who was widely shared by the Zayats and Baffert during his 2015 campaign – a fan favorite is still very much in evidence to the new staff working with him.

“Everything about him is very easy,” Barry said. “I call him bombproof. He’s absolutely – he’s got an amazing temperament.”

While Ashford’s focus has been on preparing American Pharoah for his soon-to-begin stud career, the farm also has worked to keep the popular horse accessible to the public, offering tours via Horse Country Inc., and launching new social media channels to share photos and news.

“The interest in American Pharoah from the general public is over and above anything we have experienced before,” Ashford manager Dermot Ryan said. “He really captured the hearts of the public on the track last year and that has carried over to his breeding life which I think is good for the industry as a whole. Obviously his health and well-being is our greatest priority, but we are also aware he has many fans. We have tried to find the right balance between making him accessible while also allowing him to be a horse.”

American Pharoah’s $200,000 stud fee matches Horse of the Year Ghostzapper as the highest fee for a first-year stallion in the past decade; the latter commanded the same sum when he retired to Adena Springs in 2006. Just a few years later, the economic crash of 2008 took its toll on the Thoroughbred industry, and, with decreased stallion fees across the board, the market trended toward proven stock. Curlin, one of the most accomplished runners of the modern era, entered stud in 2009 at a fee of $75,000. The highest advertised fee for a first-year stallion of 2015 was $30,000 for champion Will Take Charge.

With the bloodstock market rebounding, a handful of elite sires have climbed back to six-figure fees for 2016, with North America’s list topped by two-time reigning leading sire Tapit at $300,000 at Gainesway. American Pharoah debuts tied with popular commercial sire War Front, standing at Claiborne Farm, with the second-most-expensive fee at $200,000. If American Pharoah breeds 152 mares in his first season – the average book size for Ashford’s 12 active stallions in 2015, according to The Jockey Club’s Report of Mares Bred – it would place his value for the season at $30.4 million.

Of the two Triple Crown winners to stand in the 21st century, Affirmed was last advertised at $30,000 at Jonabell Farm for his final breeding season in 2000. Seattle Slew, the most accomplished Triple Crown winner as a stallion, was listed at $150,000 the same year while standing at Three Chimneys Farm. With his breeding career interrupted by spinal surgeries, he stood for shareholders only in 2001 and was listed with a private fee in 2002. Dan Rosenberg, the general manager at Three Chimneys in Seattle Slew’s final years there, has said that one of the biggest changes in the stallion market in ensuing years is book size.

“I would say that the biggest change is the number of mares a stallion will breed,” said Rosenberg, who left his post at Three Chimneys in 2007 to form Rosenberg Thoroughbred Consulting. “When Seattle Slew and Affirmed retired to stud, a normal book of mares was in the area of 45. Now, 150 mares for a new stallion is more typical. There was a scarcity value in the price of a stud fee then, and partly because of that and partly because of the economy, stud fees in general were higher than now.”

Seattle Slew made his mark on the breed by siring 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy. The latter has continued his legacy on the breed by siring multiple champions, finishing as last year’s leading broodmare sire, and turning out multiple successful sons and grandsons at stud, including Tapit. Seattle Slew also sired dual classic winner and champion Swale and champions Landaluce, Slew o’ Gold, Capote, Vindication, and Surfside.

Secretariat, who spent his entire stud career at Claiborne Farm, never came close to replicating his own awe-inspiring accomplishments, but he did sire 1986 Horse of the Year Lady’s Secret and 1988 dual classic winner Risen Star. He was also a leading broodmare sire, and made a lasting impact on the breed through daughters Terlingua, the dam of Storm Cat, and Weekend Surprise, dam of A.P. Indy.

War Admiral’s champions were led by Horse of the Year Busher, who propelled him to leading sire honors, while Count Fleet sired a pair of Belmont Stakes-winning Horse of the Year honorees in consecutive seasons in Counterpoint and One Count. The only Triple Crown winner to sire a Triple Crown winner was Gallant Fox (1930), sire of Omaha (1935). Affirmed, a solid international sire, was represented by 1993 Canadian Triple Crown winner Peteski.

American Pharoah is being given every chance to achieve the sky-high expectations set before him, as his first book defines the adage “breed the best to the best and hope for the best.” Among the stellar mares lined up in his first book are Broodmare of the Year and multiple Grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady, dam of champion Will Take Charge and Grade 1 winner Take Charge Indy; and her daughter Charming, dam of champion Take Charge Brandi.

Also expected to be bred to American Pharoah this season are Grade 2 winner Ivanavinalot, dam of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and Eclipse Award champion Songbird; Playa Maya, dam of champion and breakout young sire Uncle Mo; champion Rags to Riches, winner of the Belmont Stakes and Kentucky Oaks; Arch’s Gal Edith, dam of dual classic winner and champion I’ll Have Another; Untouched Talent, dam of Grade 1 winner and dual classic-placed Bodemeister; Grade 1 winner Awesome Maria, who hails from an outstanding female family; and Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner and champion Judy the Beauty.

“He’ll get every opportunity to succeed,” Ryan said. “The level of support he will receive is not afforded to many horses. There are no guarantees, but if his progeny have his temperament and even a fraction of the ability he had he will be very successful.”

International outfits also have expressed an interest in American Pharoah. Canadian champion Conquest Harlanate, purchased for $450,000 by Shimokobe Farm at the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale, will visit Ashford to be bred to American Pharoah before shipping to Japan to foal. Canadian Grade 3 winner Marbre Rose will visit his court for prominent international breeder and consignor Ecurie des Monceaux.

“We have had interest in him from all over the world,” Ryan said. “He is a household name not just in America but all over, so his influence will reach further than just these shores. Bob Baffert will tell you he would have won on turf if he had run on it so there are many possibilities.”