01/14/2005 12:00AM

Modestly priced sires have paid off

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Rising or unsustainable stud fees are a concern to many breeders who wonder if the current bull market for foals, yearlings, 2-year-olds in training, and breeding stock will still be there one, two, or three years down the road. In the Florida Horse Stallion Register, issued by the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association, 46 stallions are listed as having stud fees of more than $3,500 with live-foal guarantee terms. Red Bullet, the Preakness Stakes winner in 2000, has the highest price at $30,000 for Adena Springs South. At the other end of the price list, 47 stallions stand for $3,500 to $2,500, and another 22 stand for less than $2,500 or are advertised as private.

Most Florida breeders will readily confirm that this is a market for two types of stallions: the ones with a solid racing record but lacking in pedigree punch, and the ones who have pedigree punch but were unraced, lightly raced, or unsuccessful racing.

The Florida market does not have the numbers to support $100,000-plus stallion fees. However, one often hears breeders saying that there are enough mares in the Ocala area to support a $25,000 fee. Successful Appeal and Yes It's True are cited as stallions who would have been supported at $25,000. Successful Appeal, who stood at Hartley/DeRenzo-Walmac South, began 2004 with a fee of $6,000, and Yes It's True, standing at Padua Stables, started with a $10,000 fee. Both are now $25,000-fee Kentucky stallions. The median stud fee in Ocala is approximately $3,500 live foal.

Three Florida stallions with a $3,500 fee and with one or more crops to race offer exceptional value: Dance Master (Gone West-Nijinsky's Lover) at Padua Stables, Double Honor (Gone West-Holiday Snow) at Farnsworth Farms, and Mecke (Maudlin-Beautiful Bid) at Ocala Stud. Pedigree pundits take note: All three stallions are from Northern Dancer tail-female-line stallions, and two of them - Dance Master and Mecke - descend from Nijinsky II.

Dance Master had 17 registered 2-year-olds for 2004. Nine of them started, and five of those won. Among his winners is multiple stakes winner Flamenco, who had $303,085 in earnings. In the market, nine of Dance Master's yearlings sold for an average price of $14,389. But this is not a complete market profile, for earlier in the year, five of his 2-year-olds sold for an average price of $53,800, or better than 15 times his stud fee. And, it should be noted, these 2-year-old were sold before any of his offspring got to the races.

Double Honor was Florida's leading third-crop sire in 2004. He was also Florida's and the nation's leading sire of 2-year-old winners, with 21. Double Honor has never made much of a dollar impression in the yearling market, as most of his better prospects are usually reserved for the 2-year-old sales. In 2004, Double Honor had 13 yearlings sell for an average of $5,700. His 2-year-old sales are another story, as 21 sold for an average just under $70,000, or 20 times his stud fee.

The 13-year-old Mecke is a multimillionaire racehorse and a full brother to the Eclipse champion older mare Beautiful Pleasure. In 2004, seven of his yearlings sold for an average of $13,314, but as is the case with so many Florida's sires, the 2-year-old market produced much better results, as Mecke's trio of 2-year-olds averaged $84,000, or 24 times his fee.

If $3,500 is beyond one's pocketbook, then a drop down to the $2,500 range finds such established sires as Colony Light. Standing at Rising Hill Farm, he is one of the more successful sons of Pleasant Colony anywhere. A daughter of Colony Light sold for $95,000 at the Ocala March sale. Suave Prospect, at Farnsworth Farms, is another whose offspring win early and often. An April 2-year-old by Suave Prospect sold for $80,000.

It's a seller's market, Cavanaugh says

Wicklow Farm's Jim Cavanaugh prides himself on buying low and selling high. His forte is the yearling and 2-year-old market.

"You know me," he says, "plead poverty and cry a lot when you're haggling over stud fees."

The OBS January mixed sale, which gets under way Monday, has Cavanaugh pursuing a different game plan.

"I'm selling two mares: one in foal to Buddha and the other to In Excess," he said. "The bloodstock market has been so hot, I think I'll take some money and run."

* Trainer Joe Waunsch said that his two-time stakes winner Devils Disciple is on schedule to return to training early next month. The colt suffered a slab fracture when he lost a photo to Afleet Alex in the Grade 1 Hopeful last summer. Girl Gone Crazy, a winning 4-year-old half-sister, by Roar, to Devils Disciple, sells in the Monday opening session of the OBS mixed sale.