11/22/2013 3:15PM

First-year covering sires popular at sales

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Barbara D. Livingston
Dual classic-placed Bodemeister, who stands at WinStar Farm, was among the most popular first-year domestic covering stallions at the Kentucky fall mixed sales.

Over the next half-decade, the first-year stallion class of 2013 will be put under a battery of statistical analyses to determine which among them have the potential to become the standouts of their generation and which ones will be busts.

The first indicator was The Jockey Club’s Report of Mares Bred, released in October, which gauged the stallions’ initial popularity among breeders and laid the foundation for how many foals each sire will have to help prove themselves in those crucial first years when represented by runners on the track.

The next test came during the major Kentucky mixed sales, which was the first opportunity for many buyers to purchase mares in foal to these stallions. An outstanding performance as a covering sire can help provide a glimpse of the stallion’s commercial interest and the strength of his initial book.

Just how much a covering sire can affect a broodmare’s price is ultimately up to the person who lands the highest bid when the hammer falls. When buying a pregnant broodmare at auction, Tom Bozarth of Arch Bloodstock said the potential commercial value of the foal in utero can influence the purchase price as much as the mare herself.

“If you want to buy a horse that you think is going to be commercial, either it’s got to be a proven horse or it’s going to have to be a first-year sire,” Bozarth said. “That’s important because that attracts you to the page and the mare. If we don’t have a sire that we feel will be commercial to sell a yearling, then you’ve got two years before you get anything back. We want to make sure that we have every opportunity to get back as much as we can on a purchase, and having [either] a young sire or a proven sire is the best way to go.”

The most obvious example of a covering sire bolstering his mares’ value at this year’s November sales is the much-buzzed-about European Horse of the Year Frankel. Frankel, a 5-year-old son of Galileo who stands in Ireland, had four mares sell in foal at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky select fall mixed sale and Keeneland November breeding stock sale for an average price of $1,437,500 – over $1 million more than the next-closest stallion.

Among the domestic stallions, the leading first-year covering sire by average sale price was Grade 1 winner Bodemeister, who had 17 mares sell in foal for a gross of $4,090,000 and an average of $240,588. Grade 1 winner Careless Jewel, who sold to Summer Wind Farm at the Fasig-Tipton November sale for $1.85 million, led that group.

Elliott Walden, president of WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky., where Bodemeister stands, said buyer interest in mares bred to Bodemeister at the mixed sales was a positive step for the young stallion’s career.

“I was incredibly pleased with it,” Walden said. “I knew he would have that kind of response because he had a very good book. He was extremely popular last year. We had the opportunity to pick through his mares a little bit, and anytime you do that, it makes for a good situation as far as that goes.

“I think that bodes well for Bodemeister’s future; it bodes well for the mares that come behind this first crop,” Walden said. “The horse is going to have a great start, and then it’s up to him.”

A 4-year-old son of Empire Maker, Bodemeister won two of six starts during his racing career and earned $1,304,800, highlighted by a win in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and runner-up finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. All three of those performances showcased the horse’s impressive cruising speed. He is out of the Grade 3-winning Storm Cat mare Untouched Talent and is a half-brother to multiple Grade 1-placed juvenile Fascinating.

Bodemeister covered 173 mares during his first season, according to The Jockey Club, the most among North American first-year stallions. The 17 mares who sold in November carrying his foals in utero represented 10 percent of his overall book.

Walden attributed Bodemeister’s early popularity among breeders and broodmare buyers to two factors.

“One was his freakish ability, how fast he was,” Walden said. “I think when people think of the Derby, even if he didn’t win it, when you [reel off fractions of] 22 seconds, 45, 1:09, and be there at the finish, it was an incredible feat that I think breeders especially have respect for.

“Two was his pedigree. When you’re by Empire Maker out of a Storm Cat mare that had a $1.3 million yearling last year [Fascinating, at the Keeneland September yearling sale], Bodemeister just had a tremendous pedigree. When you combine athletic ability on the racetrack with pedigree, you’re going to have a popular horse.”

Second among the domestic sires by average was Union Rags, who had 10 mares sell for a total of $2,025,000 and an average of $202,500. The most-expensive mare sold in foal to the 2012 Belmont Stakes winner was Grade 3-placed stakes winner Maid of Heaven, by Empire Maker, who went to William S. Reightler, as agent, for $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton November sale.

Bozarth’s Arch Bloodstock purchased the most expensive mare in foal to Union Rags at the Keeneland November sale, the winning Mr. Greeley mare Ingenue, as agent for Hargus and Sandra Sexton for $330,000. Having a foal by the 4-year-old son of Dixie Union, Bozarth said, helped make the mare an appealing target for purchase.

“I think that was a positive part of it,” Bozarth said. “We like Union Rags, and that was attractive to us. I think he’s got a lot of upside to him. We liked the mare, and I think it all added up. It was a good mix for us.”

Union Rags stands at Lane’s End in Versailles, Ky., where he retired to stud after a career that featured five wins in eight starts for $1,798,800. In addition to his Belmont Stakes victory, Union Rags won the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes as well as the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes and Saratoga Special Stakes, and he was a narrow runner-up in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Homebred by Phyllis Wyeth, Union Rags is out of the winning Gone West mare Tempo. He is a half-brother to the winning Rahy mare Tempo West, who is the dam of Group 1 winner and recent Breeders’ Cup Classic third Declaration of War, by War Front, and of stakes winner and Grade 2-placed Vertiformer, by Dynaformer.

Union Rags’s 10 mares to sell in foal during the Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland sales made for 7 percent of the 137 total mares he bred in 2013. Ingenue joins the Sextons’ roughly 30-strong broodmare band in Kentucky.

Solid conformation between a stallion and mare, Bozarth said, is an important element to the Sextons’ breeding program and gave him confidence that the cross between Union Rags and Ingenue would produce an attractive end product.

“I’m expecting it to be a grand-looking foal,” he said. “Physically, the mare is just beautiful, and Union Rags is a good-looking stallion himself. I think we’re going to have a good opportunity to have a very good-looking foal this coming year.

“They’re breeders, and they breed for the market,” Bozarth said about the Sextons and their plans for the foal. “They sell them as yearlings, so we’ll keep it and sell it and hope that we get lucky and have a nice foal, and that it passes through all the hoops. Maybe at the end of the day, we’ll look at our purchase and say that was a good one.”