02/12/2016 12:36PM

Pharoah begins stud career amid intense competition for mares

Barbara D. Livingston
American Pharoah is ready to begin his stud career at Coolmore's Ashford Stud.

This holiday weekend marks the starting point for the next generation of Thoroughbreds, as most breeding sheds across Kentucky officially open Monday. This, of course, means Triple Crown winner American Pharoah will be launching his career at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky.

American Pharoah is standing for an advertised fee of $200,000 in his debut season, making him among the most expensive stallions in North America. Two-time reigning leading sire Tapit, who stands at Gainesway in Lexington, Ky., shows the way at $300,000, with Claiborne Farm’s popular commercial sire War Front at $200,000. A total of 11 stallions are advertised at six-figure fees for 2016, including American Pharoah’s sire, Pioneerof the Nile, at WinStar Farm in Versailles and grandsire Empire Maker at Gainesway.

:: American Pharoah at stud | New Kentucky stallions | New regional stallions ::

American Pharoah is the only first-year sire advertised at six figures in a year that will be highly competitive for the mare population. In addition to the Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year, this year’s class includes champion Honor Code, Belmont Stakes winners Palace Malice and Tonalist, and Breeders’ Cup winners Bayern, Karakontie, Liam’s Map, and Secret Circle.

The competitiveness of the market is heightened by the reduced broodmare population. According to The Jockey Club’s Report of Mares Bred, 34,627 mares were covered in 2015 – a reduction of 41 percent from 58,739 covered a decade ago in 2005.

Ashford and Spendthrift Farm combined to stand the five most active stallions in North America for 2015. Ashford’s Uncle Mo covered 221 mares last year, followed by his late barnmate Scat Daddy with 217. Next on the list were Spendthrift’s Into Mischief with 210 mares, Ashford’s Shanghai Bobby with 202, and Spendthrift’s Temple City with 199. It is estimated that the stallions at just three farms – Spendthrift, WinStar, and Ashford – will account for approximately 20 percent of all mares bred in North America in 2016.

On Wednesday, the Racing Post reported that Coolmore is privately offering a “two-for-one” deal on American Pharoah’s services, allowing select breeders to send a pair of mares to the stallion for a single payment of $200,000. Mares with a graded/group stakes résumé are required for the second slot, a move designed to provide the champion high-quality mares, along with quantity, both key factors in a stallion’s success.

:: More coverage of the market with DRF Breeding Live ::

Because of the reduced broodmare population, structures or incentives such as the deal being offered by Coolmore have become a common practice used by stud managers to increase book sizes in today’s competitive market. For example, Spendthrift – which will stand six new stallions in Kentucky this season – has pioneered the “Share the Upside” program, in which breeders commit mares to a stallion for his first two years and thereafter earn a lifetime breeding right. Kentucky operations such as Darby Dan Farm, Mill Ridge Farm, and Crestwood Farm have adopted the program. Crestwood will utilize the incentive with new stallion Jack Milton in 2016, while Darby Dan is using it for the new stallion Tapiture.

Spendthrift also pioneered “Breed Secure,” in which a stud fee is not owed until an owner sells and profits on the resulting in-foal mare, weanling, or yearling at public auction. Gainesway has adopted the program for its young sires To Honor and Serve and Hat Trick. This isn’t the only strategy employed by Gainesway, as its classic sire Birdstone, who has an advertised fee of $5,000, is complimentary to approved mares.

Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms stands several young stallions, including New Year’s Day, Power Broker, and Flashback, who were campaigned by Gary and Mary West. The farm has created the “Team West Guarantee,” similar to Breed Secure. It also has in place a lucrative bonus structure for the breeders of milestone winners for the stallions – such as the first Grade 1 winner from his first crop – as well as a discount for breeding to all three stallions.

American Pharoah has already attracted an outstanding first book of mares. Ahmed Zayat, who bred and campaigned the horse and retained an undisclosed percentage of his breeding rights in the stud deal with Coolmore, has said that the first mare covered by the champion will be the prominent producer Untouched Talent. The Grade 3-winning Storm Cat mare is the dam of four winners from as many starters, including Grade 1 winner and dual classic-placed Bodemeister, who was campaigned by the Zayats, and multiple Grade 1-placed Fascinating. Untouched Talent was purchased by Coolmore for $5 million in foal to Unbridled’s Song at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky selected fall mixed sale.

His book also includes Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady; championship and/or classic producers Arch’s Gal Edith, Charming, Ivanavinalot, Mo Chuisle, and Playa Maya; champions Rags to Riches, Conquest Harlanate, and Judy the Beauty; and Grade 1 winners Awesome Maria and Joyful Victory.