10/23/2015 11:29AM

Derby winners top first-year weanling sires at November sales

Barbara D. Livingston
Kentucky Derby winner Orb is among the first-year weanling sires of 2015.

While the high-dollar racing and broodmare prospects will take center stage during Kentucky’s November mixed sales, it is also a crucial time for the farms whose stallions will send their first weanlings through the sales ring.

Thirty-four stallions are represented by at least one weanling from their first crops in either the Keeneland or Fasig-Tipton November sales. A strong debut performance does not guarantee the same results during next year’s yearling sales season, with stocks rising and falling as the young horses mature and market tastes fluctuate, but they can sway the number and quality of mares those stallions see in their crucial third seasons at stud.

“A lot depends on what happens in that November sale,” said Bernie Sams of Claiborne Farm. “If there are high expectations and that horse comes in and doesn’t have a good sale, then you get yourself backed into a corner where you’ve either got to start cutting deals or lower the fee to get enough mares to come back to him during the third year.”

This year’s November sale season will be the first time two Kentucky Derby winners are represented by their first North American-sired weanlings in the same season since Real Quiet and Charismatic in 2000.

In 2015, buyers will get their first looks at foals by 2011 Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who stood a Southern Hemisphere season in Australia before shuttling for his first U.S. season at Darley’s Jonabell Farm, and Orb, the 2013 Derby winner and resident of Claiborne Farm. Both stallions will have plenty of opportunities to show off their first foals, with Animal Kingdom being represented by 16 weanlings between both sales and Orb by 25.

The auction also features first foals by Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow (nine cataloged), Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned (eight), and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners New Year’s Day (seven) and Shanghai Bobby (35).

Grade 1 winner Violence, who stands at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms, is represented by the most weanlings at the two November sales with 42. Behind him is Claiborne Farm’s Data Link with 38, then Taylor Made Stallions resident Graydar with 37.

Horses in regional markets with weanlings in the catalog include Florida-based Currency Swap, Fort Larned, Rattlesnake Bridge, Soldat, and Wrote; New York stallions Forty Tales and The Lumber Guy; California resident Smiling Tiger; Louisiana’s Flashpoint; Ohio-based Kettle Corn; and Indiana resident Swagger Jack.

Getting off to a fast start can be a boon to a stallion’s commercial success for the immediate future, but the long-term viability of his appeal lies in the performance of his foals on the racetrack and eventually in the breeding shed. At some point, performance and reputation will outweigh potential.

Sams used the example of Claiborne stallion War Front, who is now one of the breed’s most prominent commercial sires, but saw some lean times following a slow start by his foals at auction. However, the first opportunity to show off how his foals moved across the track in front of an audience of major buyers and agents helped turn his fortunes around.

“The first couple years, they bred to him, but the third year, he didn’t breed very many mares – 60-some mares,” Sams said. “When we went into [his first] 2-year-old sale season [his fourth year at stud], I think I’d sent 12 contracts. I sent 58 contracts after the first Calder sale.

“The market doesn’t necessarily reflect on what the end result will be, but it sure helps to have had a good sale in November,” Sams continued. “It helps have enough demand for him in the third and fourth years, and be able to pick and choose through the mares.”