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Breeding and Sales Review: Tapit reigns supreme
Throughout nearly every segment of the bloodstock market in 2014, Tapit could be found at the forefront.
The son of Pulpit this year firmly entrenched himself as one of the top sires of his generation, with his first United States classic winner helping to lead him to the single-year record for North American progeny earnings, with $16.6 million through Dec. 17.
Demand for Tapit’s foals at auction reached a fever pitch in 2014 highlighted by the Keeneland September yearling sale, where his 36 sons and daughters to sell brought a total of $21,725,000, more than double the gross of second-place Unbridled’s Song. He accounted for the co-highest-priced yearling and 2-year-old of the auction season, and had a filly sell for a North American weanling-record $3 million during the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
The Jockey Club predicted a ninth year of decline in the size of the North American foal crop, with an estimated 22,000 horses in the class of 2014. If that figure comes to fruition, it would be the smallest crop since 1968.
The 4.3 percent drop from the estimated 2013 foal crop of 23,000 was a greater decline than the 2.1 percent dip from the preceding year, but The Jockey Club’s Report of Mares Bred in 2014 suggested a bottoming-out point could be looming.
The North American bloodstock market continued to show recovery in all sectors after hitting a low point from 2008-10. The rate of growth at the major sales was often modest compared to the leaps and bounds of the past few years, and some major events saw small declines, but the returns showed a general steadiness to the market.
The Keeneland January horses of all ages sale was the first to demonstrate the new state of the auction market, posting declines in gross and average, but an improved median and buyback rate. However, when the dispersal of Fares Farm that highlighted the 2013 January sale was removed from consideration, figures were up across the board.
Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. further cemented itself as the industry’s leading auction house for 2-year-olds in training with a trio of record-breaking sales. OBS posted all-time high returns in gross receipts, average, and median price for its March selected sale and April sale, while the June sale of 2-year-olds and horse of racing age saw a record gross and tied the record median with its largest catalog ever.
The OBS March sale, condensed from two days to one, produced the co-highest-priced juveniles of the season, with a pair of colts each bringing $1.6 million. Stonestreet Stables purchased a Giant’s Causeway colt out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Rebridled Dreams, while Qatar-based Al Shaqab Racing bought a Tapit colt out of the Mr. Greeley mare Rhumb Line.
Steady returns were the theme of the yearling season, beginning with the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale, with slight increases in gross and average, and a small drop in median with one fewer horse sold. The $550,000 Cowboy Cal colt that topped the sale was the most expensive offering to sell at the auction since 2006, secured by Northwest Stud.
The Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sale continued that trend, with a lower buyback rate and 4 percent higher gross, and slight declines in average and median. Topping the two-day sale was a War Front filly out of the winning Seeking the Gold mare Charming who sold to Willis Horton for $1.25 million.
The 13-day Keeneland September yearling sale verified the market’s trend of even returns on a large scale, selling 2,819 horses for revenues of $279,960,500, down 0.2 percent from the previous year and good for the seventh-highest gross in the auction’s history. The average sale price fell 3 percent to $99,312, the fifth-highest in Keeneland September history, while the median finished at $50,000, tying the record established in 2013.
A pair of yearlings shared the mantle as the most expensive of the season, both selling at the Keeneland September sale for $2.2 million.
For the second straight year, a War Front colt purchased by M.V. Magnier for the Coolmore partnership finished at the top of the list. This time, Magnier landed a colt out of the Arch mare Gold Vault, the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Contested.
Shadwell Estate Co. acquired the other co-topper, a Tapit colt out of the multiple Grade 2-winning Dixie Union mare Justwhistledixie, making him a half-brother to 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day.
The Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale closed the yearling auction calendar by setting records in gross, average, and median for a fourth straight year.
Mandy Pope of Florida-based Whisper Hill Farm purchased the highest-priced offering of Kentucky’s fall breeding stock auction season for a third straight year, going to $3.9 million to secure Aloof, a Group 3-winning Galileo mare in foal to War Front, at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
The transaction capped a record renewal of the 11-day Keeneland November sale, which saw small increases in gross (up 4 percent to $205,899,500) and average (up 2 percent to $81,966), and no change in the median, which tied the record of $35,000 established in 2005 and matched in 2006, 2007, and 2013.
Bridlewood Farm created fireworks at Keeneland November by securing a Tapit filly out of the stakes-winning Storm Cat mare Serena’s Cat for a North American-record weanling price of $3 million.
Japan’s Shadai Farm bought Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar for $3.1 million to top the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky selected fall mixed sale. Also changing hands at the boutique sale was Dayatthespa, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf two days prior, who sold to Stonestreet for $2.1 million.
While the projected foal crop continued its decline in 2014, The Jockey Club’s Report of Mares Bred released in October revealed that North American breeding activity had increased from 2013.
A total of 1,547 stallions were reported to have covered 34,540 mares through October 2014, marking an increase of 1.1 percent in matings from the same point in 2013, when 1,698 stallions covered 34,174 mares. It was the first increase in North American mares bred since 2005.
Now an annually anticipated event, Horse of the Year Zenyatta delivered her third foal, a War Front filly, at Lane’s End in Versailles, Ky., on April 20. Sadly, the filly was euthanized on Oct. 28 following a paddock accident. In May, owners Jerry and Ann Moss announced that Zenyatta would not be bred in 2014.
Havre de Grace, Horse of the Year in 2011, delivered her first foal, a Tapit filly, on Feb. 8. The Saint Liam mare resides at Timber Town Farm in Lexington, Ky., after being purchased for $10 million by Whisper Hill Farm at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton November sale, and she was bred back to War Front.
Take Charge Lady was named Kentucky Broodmare of the Year for 2013. The Dehere mare has become a well-known commodity on the racetrack and in the sales arena, with four winners from five foals to race, highlighted by champion Will Take Charge and Grade 1 winner Take Charge Indy.
Tapit took the mantle as North America’s leading commercial stallion in 2014.
The 13-year-old’s record-breaking season placed his progeny earnings ahead of runner-up Giant’s Causeway and Kitten’s Joy, the 2013 overall earnings leader and leading turf earner of 2014.
The year was not only a breakthrough one for Tapit in regard to earnings, but also by major-race achievements. He sired his first U.S. classic winner in 2014, with his son Tonalist taking the Belmont Stakes. Tapit was also represented by his fifth Breeders’ Cup winner when Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable drew away to win the Distaff. That victory clinched the North American earnings record for Tapit in early November.
Quality Road, who stands at Lane’s End, was the leading freshman sire by earnings through Dec. 17, with 15 winners and earnings of $1.5 million. The 8-year-old son of Elusive Quality’s first crop was led by Hootenanny, who won a stakes race in England during the prestigious Royal Ascot meet and finished second in the Group 1 Prix Morny in France, then returned to the U.S. to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
The demand for progeny of Kitten’s Joy skyrocketed after his breakout season in 2013, and the son of El Prado covered 204 mares this year, making the resident of Ramsey Farm the most active U.S. stallion. He edged out Spendthrift Farm’s Into Mischief, who covered 203 mares, and Ashford Stud’s Scat Daddy, who covered 202. A pair of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms stallions rounded out the top five, with Midnight Lute covering 186 mares and Violence covering 181.
Violence, a Grade 1-winning son of Medaglia d’Oro, was the most active first-year stallion of 2014, followed by Spendthrift Farm’s Flat Out, who covered 169 mares. Champion Shanghai Bobby of Ashford covered 160 mares, while WinStar Farm’s Overanalyze covered 151 mares.
Awareness for aftercare initiatives continued to grow in 2014, with high-profile additions at Old Friends Equine Retirement in Georgetown, Ky., and the growth of the industry-sponsored Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.
Hall of Famer Silver Charm arrived at Old Friends in December after being pensioned from stud duty in Japan. The 20-year-old son of Silver Buck became the first Kentucky Derby winner to reside at the facility. After debuting at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky, Silver Charm was sold to stand in Japan with a buyback clause to return the horse to the U.S. at the end of his stud career.
In October, eight-time Grade 1 winner Game On Dude took up residence at Old Friends, along with champion sprinter Amazombie. The geldings arrived on the same flight from California and shared a van to their new home, joining Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Eldaafer, who retired to the farm in June.
The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance more than doubled the grant money awarded to certified facilities in 2014, awarding $2.4 million to 42 organizations after 23 facilities received about $1 million in 2013. Facilities must pass a rigorous accreditation process and on-site inspection to receive funding from the TAA.
Street Cry, one of the most popular and successful commercial sires of the past decade, was euthanized in September due to complications from a neurological condition in the midst of the Southern Hemisphere season at Darley’s Australian farm.
The 16-year-old son of Machiavellian was bred and raced by Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s Godolphin/Darley operation, winning the Dubai World Cup, as well as the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap and Whitney Handicap. He was retired to Darley’s Jonabell Farm in Lexington, Ky., in 2003, and stood there his entire career between shuttle trips to Australia.
The stallion’s first crop was a rousing success, yielding 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta and champion Street Sense, who became the first horse to complete the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-Kentucky Derby double. Other notable runners by Street Cry include 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day and Grade/Group 1 winners Zaidan, Street Boss, Victor’s Cry, and Seventh Street.
Among the broodmares to die in 2014 were My Flag, dam of champion Storm Flag Flying and a prominent offshoot of the Phipps family breeding program; Grade/Group 1 winners Unbridled Belle, Strategic Maneuver, and Russian Rhythm; Grade 2 winner Vision in Gold; Mepache, dam of sire Valid Expectations; Urbane, dam of Grade 2 winner Suave; and Dancin Renee, a Grade 3-winning stakes producer who resided at Old Friends.
Other stallions that died in 2014 were Afleet, Beau Genius, Behrens, Bertrando, Bull Inthe Heather, Chelokee, Clever Allemont, Commendable, Crusader Sword, Dehere, Fast Bullet, Jazil, Johar, Lammtarra, Mutakddim, National Assembly, Noble Causeway, Patton, Prized, Rodrigo de Triano, Silver Deputy, Sunshine Forever, The Name’s Jimmy, Thorn Song, Tiger Ridge, Tribal Rule, Wando, and Wekiva Springs.
Notable owners and breeders to pass in 2014 included owner owner-breeder Richard Bomze; Dan Borislow; William Currin, owner, trainer, and breeder of Stormello; breeder David Garvin; breeder Lukin Gilliland; bloodstock agent Victor Heerman Jr.; owner Lathrop Hoffman; owner-breeder David P. Holloway; three-time Eclipse Award-winning breeder Nelson Bunker Hunt; Elisabeth Jerkens, an owner-breeder and the wife of trainer Allen Jerkens; Aaron Jones, breeder of Hall of Famer Ashado; owner-breeder Barbara LaCroix; owner Alan Landsburg; pinhooker Ricky Leppala; Brice Ridgely, breeder of Declan’s Moon; owner-breeder J. Mack Robinson; Clarence Scharbauer Jr., whose family campaigned Horse of the Year Alysheba; Herman Sarkowsky, owner-breeder of Phone Chatter; James Tafel, owner-breeder of Street Sense; owner-breeder Ralph Wilson; Bertha Wright of Calumet Farm; owner-breeder B.J. Wright; and veterinarians Douglas Byars, Midge Leitch, Jack Robbins, and Charles Raker Sr.