03/12/2009 11:00PM

Stallion owners getting creative


LEXINGTON, Ky. - With breeding season in full swing, the word of the day for many stallion owners and managers is "flexibility" as they market their stallions in a buyers' market for stud services. While a number of top stallions are still commanding substantial books of mares, some stud managers say horses at a range of fees are seeing somewhat smaller books, requiring creative promotions and fee reductions.

Late last week, Mill Ridge and Walmac Farm offered incentives to two sires: Johar and Bandini, respectively. Mill Ridge, where Johar has an advertised fee of $10,000 this season, is offering repeat breeders or those sending multiple mares to the Gone West horse a reduced price of $5,000.

"We are also encouraging new breeders by letting them breed for $6,500, as well as implementing a selected state breeders' program, where we are offering a one-time, complimentary, no-guarantee season to approved mares foaling in approved statebred programs in return to be listed as co-breeder," said Mike Recio, Mill Ridge's sales and stallion director.

At Walmac, Fusaichi Pegasus's son Bandini will stand for a reduced fee - down from $15,000 to $8,500 - for the remainder of the season. Returning breeders will receive seasons for $5,000. In addition, the farm is offering special promotions to attract young, quality mares and producers. Breeders can get a 50 percent discount on Bandini's fee by booking mares that are 12 or younger that were themselves listed-placed or better, or by booking mares 16 or younger that have produced a listed-placed runner or better.

"Certain horses are booked full," Mill Ridge managing partner Headley Bell said of the season market. "It's much like the whole market, in that it's selective, as it should be. I consider that to be healthy. In Johar's case, I think his reduced fee is an opportunity for those that have the vision to look two years down the road. Hopefully, the consumer benefits, but there's no question you're reducing because you're not as active as you'd like to be."

Because mare owners also appear to be breeding fewer mares in a time when they expect the yearling market to be down, stallion owners are likely to see downturns at many fee levels.

"Demand is probably about 30 percent less than it was, across the board," Bell said, adding that stallions standing for $15,000 or less are facing the most competition for mares at this stage. "Most horses are affected, though there are a few that are exceptions."

The changing stallion economy also is making breeders more flexible, Bell believes. He has found more breeders looking for performance, rather than simply sale-ring conformation, when they shop for stallions.

"To breed just for commercial appeal isn't the answer," he said. "Maybe this market is coming around to the fact that your market is for the racehorse. That might be the good news in the bad. There still is a commercial market out there, and it's significant. But people need to be prepared to have an alternative: racing those foals."

OBS adjusts under-tack schedule

The Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. has changed the time for its March 12-13 under-tack previews for the OBS March select 2-year-old auction in Ocala, Fla. Due to the recent switch to daylight savings time, the previews will take place at 9 a.m. each day rather than at the previously announced 8 a.m.

The under-tack shows at the OBS facility will feature Hip Nos. 1-260 on Thursday, March 12, and Hip Nos. 261-523 on Friday, March 13.

The OBS March select auction has 523 juveniles in its catalog. The sale will run March 17-18 at OBS, with sessions beginning at 11 a.m. daily.

The under-tack show for the Adena Springs 2-year-old sale remains on the schedule at its previously announced time of 9 a.m. March 14. The Adena Springs auction will take place at 4:30 p.m. March 16 at Adena Springs South in Williston, Fla.

Mulligan remains hospitalized

Two-year-old consignor Mike Mulligan, who co-owns Leprechaun Racing in Florida with his wife, Britt, remains in intensive care at Memorial General Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., following a fall. But "all of the indicators show that he's continuing to make progress," said Fasig-Tipton marketing executive Terence Collier, who has been serving as spokesman for the family since Mulligan's hospitalization on March 3.

Mulligan lost consciousness while waiting for a table at a Miami-area restaurant immediately after Fasig-Tipton's Calder select juvenile sale. His condition remains stable, Collier said.