Breeding Watch: Mares and yearlings

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Last week saw the end of the yearling sales season in North America and the release of the 2014 Jockey Club Report of Mares Bred. Let’s take a look at some figures and trends from the Jockey Club data followed by some insights on 2014 yearling averages.

Ramsey Farm’s Kitten’s Joy led all stallions with 204 mares bred in 2014. He was among a trio of stallions that bred more than 200 mares along with Into Mischief (203 at Spendthrift Farm) and Scat Daddy (202 at Ashford Stud). A pair of Hill n’ Dale Farm stallions rank next – Midnight Lute (186) and Violence (181).

The latter was the most popular first-year stallion in Kentucky and is among four new stallions that covered more than 150 mares. Spendthrift’s Flat Out covered 169 mares, Ashford’s Shanghai Bobby greeted 160 and WinStar Farm’s Overanalyze courted 151 dams. Animal Kingdom is right behind having covered 148 mares at Darley America after a busy Southern Hemisphere season in Australia.

Among stallions standing their second seasons, Winstar’s Bodemeister retained his immense popularity. The speedy son of Empire Maker covered 176 mares, two more than his first year. Two Lane’s End Farm stallions, The Factor and Union Rags, saw their book size increase as well. The Factor bred 151 mares, up from 135 in 2013, and Union Rags saw 141, four more than last year.

Breeders apparently like what they see in the first foals by the third-year stallions and champions Uncle Mo and Gio Ponti. The former covered 166 mares, a 28 percent increase from 2013, and Gio Ponti bred 154 in his third season, up from 113 last year and an increase of 38 percent.

Not surprisingly, the most popular fourth-year stallions can be found near the top of the freshman sire standings. Warrior’s Reward bred a crop-high 164 mares (166 last year) while Super Saver saw 154 mares, a 58 percent increase over the 97 mares he bred in 2013.

Curlin was among the biggest winners from last year covering 152 mares, 98 more than last season. That’s an increase of 181 percent, highest among Kentucky stallions that bred at least 20 mares in 2013. Claiborne Farm’s Stroll saw his book increase by 89 percent with Tale of the Cat (up 71 percent), Runaway and Hide (up 64 percent) and Artie Schiller (up 64 percent) rounding out the top five in percent increase of mares bred.

The three-day Fasig-Tipton Fall yearling sale in Lexington was the last major yearling showcase in the U.S. so we can safely crunch some numbers.

It’s certainly not surprising to see that Tapit finished the year tops among North American stallions with a 2014 yearling sale average of $611,125. That figure is buoyed by six seven-figure youngsters, including a $2.2 million colt sold at the Keeneland September sale, and is 49 percent higher than Tapit’s 2013 average.

Everyone seemed to want a War Front yearling in 2014, too.

The Claiborne Farm-based son of Danzig is the only other stallion with a 2014 average of more than $400,000 and his $539,556 average is 40 percent higher than last year.

Medaglia d’Oro ($337,550), Bernardini ($332,968) and Distorted Humor ($272,375) round out the top five by 2014 yearling sale average.

It’s interesting to note that Bernardini’s 2015 stud fee is dropping a bit from $100,000 to $85,000 even with his yearling average increasing 26 percent this year. On the other hand, his barn mate at Darley, Medaglia d’Oro, saw his 2014 yearling average dip by 11 percent, yet his fee goes up $25,000 to $125,000 for the 2015 season.

Five Kentucky stallions who stood for $10,000 or more in 2014 saw their yearling averages increase by 50 percent or more over the past year.

Kitten’s Joy leads this group with an average 76 percent higher than 2013 ($184,475, up from $104,451).

Majesticperfection, one of North America’s leading freshman sires in 2014, doesn’t have a stakes winner yet but yearling buyers were sold on his second crop through the ring. His yearling average rose from $61,031 to $105,750, an increase of 73 percent.

English Channel (55 percent increase), Flatter (54 percent) and Awesome Again (53 percent) are the other three big commercial winners this year.

Matt O’Neil is a freelance writer and pedigree consultant based in Chicago. A former editor of Owner-Breeder International, his work has also appeared in numerous publications that include The Blood-Horse MarketWatch, The Florida Horse and Keeneland Magazine. He is currently marketing and social media coordinator for Adena Springs Farm and a partner in the fantasy horse racing game