11/03/2016 12:06PM

Breeders' Cup Juvenile a stallion-making race

Barbara D. Livingston
Darley purchased the breeding rights to Nyquist after he won the 2015 Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Managers of major stud farms know that the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is a fertile hunting ground for stallion prospects, so they will closely watch Saturday’s race at Santa Anita.

“Top-class 2-year-old form is always a positive when it comes to a stallion’s CV [curriculum vitae],” said Dermot Ryan, manager of Coolmore America in Versailles, Ky. “For a horse to win a major 2-year-old race, he obviously needs natural ability but also the right temperament and physical makeup to deal with the pressures of racing from Day 1.

“Top 2-year-olds are ready-made racehorses, and if they can reproduce themselves, then they are going to be a hit both commercially and on the racetrack.”

Ryan said the speed needed to win a top juvenile race is a highly valuable sire commodity.

“Speed is such a big weapon in American racing no matter what the distance, and often that speed is on display from the beginning of a horse’s career,” he said.

“American Pharoah is best known as a Triple Crown winner, so it’s sometimes easy to overlook just how good he was at 2. He broke his maiden in a Grade 1 and was named 2-year-old champion despite missing the Breeders’ Cup.

“Although you couldn’t have imagined what was to come, it was apparent the ability was there from early on. Stallions with that built-in speed and precocity are the types of horses that breeders can get excited about.”

BC Juvenile winners who go on to be champion juvenile males are an excellent place to start when looking for potential sire prospects; dual-winner examples have included Chief’s Crown, Capote, Gilded Time, Macho Uno, Johannesburg, Street Sense, and Uncle Mo.

This combination is what attracted the people at Darley to Nyquist; they bought the breeding rights for the eventual champion juvenile male after the Uncle Mo colt won the BC Juvenile.

“We have had great success with champion juveniles in the [Darley] barn in Street Sense and Midshipman,” said Darren Fox, sales manager of Darley in Lexington, Ky. “So, it is fair to say that [winning the BC Juvenile] is a highly desirable attribute in a stallion, but it must be balanced with a successful 3-year-old campaign.”

Coolmore America has pushed in recent years to get BC Juvenile winners and juvenile champions into its stallion barn. Since 2009, the farm has acquired five champion juveniles; four of them also won the BC Juvenile.

“I guess it’s no secret we’ve made an effort to target the better 2-year-old colts,” Ryan said. “Uncle Mo has been a revelation at stud so far, and there was a real buzz about Shanghai Bobby’s first yearlings at the sales this year, so we are hoping to continue in that fashion.”

The Coolmore America approach hit a home run with Uncle Mo, whose early career at stud has been record-setting and highly lucrative. Uncle Mo established a freshman sire record for progeny earnings last year, and his stud fee has gone from $25,000 in 2015 to $75,000 this year. His 2017 fee likely will increase to six figures.

American Pharoah was another financially successful acquisition for Coolmore America. In his first breeding season, American Pharoah covered 208 mares, and at a fee of $200,000, the revenue accumulates quickly, even if many breeders received a 2-for-1 deal on mares bred to him.

With Nyquist, who recently retired to Darley and will stand for $40,000, the farm is getting a horse who was a BC Juvenile winner and trained on at 3, an important attribute for breeders.

“I think you are always trying to project what the 3-year-old will be like [when you look at a stallion prospect], which is difficult to do,” Darley’s Fox said. “I think a horse that can show that level of ability at 2 but is not the finished article and has the scope to improve further and build on those accomplishments at 3 is the ideal scenario.

“Street Sense and Nyquist typify this profile, being the only two horses to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Derby.”

In this year’s Juvenile, WinStar Farm, one of the leading North American stud farms, has an ownership interest in Theory. Calumet Farm owns Term of Art, although that colt has far to go before becoming a legitimate stallion prospect.

Otherwise, the other BC Juvenile runners are not spoken for; the horse who wins the race will have a strong claim on a divisional championship and may attract stud farm owners.

“The stallion market is very competitive, so you’ve got to be continuously on the lookout for the next top prospect,” Coolmore’s Ryan said. “When a horse comes along and looks special, you need to be ready to act, and often that means getting in as early as you can.”

Champion 2-year old males and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winners

Year BC Juvenile winner Stud farm (location) Champion 2yo Stud farm
2015 Nyquist   Same Darley (Ky.)
2014 Texas Red   American Pharoah Ashford Stud (Ky.)
2013 New Year's Day Hill 'n' Dale Farms (Ky.) Shared Belief  
2012 Shanghai Bobby   Same Ashford Stud (Ky.)
2011 Hansen   Same Ashford Stud (Ky.)
2010 Uncle Mo   Same Ashford Stud (Ky.)
2009 Vale of York Kildangan Stud Lookin at Lucky Ashford Stud (Ky.)
2008 Midshipman   Same Darley (Ky.)
2007 War Pass   Same Lane's End (Ky.)
2006 Street Sense   Same Darley (Ky.)
2005 Stevie Wonderboy   Same Airdrie Stud (Ky.)
2004 Wilko Adena Springs South (Fla.) Declan's Moon  
2003 Action This Day   Same Castleton Lyons (Ky.)
2002 Vindication   Same Hill 'n' Dale Farms (Ky.)
2001 Johannesburg   Same Ashford (Ky.)
2000 Macho Uno   Same Adena Springs South (Fla.)

-Stud farm listed is initial farm upon retirement from racing

-Texas Red is still in training

-Shared Belief and Declan's Moon were geldings