The competition between Darley Stud organization and Irish-based Coolmore has become the defining element in Thoroughbred breeding, one that opens up opportunities for smaller breeders, delegates to the 31st Asian Racing Conference were told Jan. 25 in Dubai.
Mick Goss, owner of Summerhill Stud in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, told attendees at a workshop on breeding that the competition between what he called the Thoroughbred world’s “two superpowers” has radically changed the business within the past 20 years and that the rest of breeders “have got to adapt or we’ve got to die.”
As the first stud owner to work with the Maktoum family in standing shuttle stallions in the Southern Hemisphere 18 years ago, and for someone who also enjoyed a long working relationship with Coolmore, Goss can assess both sides with clarity.
In the initial stages, Coolmore relied on its deep pool containing some of the world’s most successful sires and a marketing push, while Darley focused on obtaining farm properties around the world before beginning to populate them with young horses.
About two years ago, he said the competition became more intense when Darley began to offer breeders a variety of subsidies, discounted fees and other enticements. At around the same time, Darley began to eschew patronizing offspring of Coolmore stallions in sale rings, and both initiatives swayed commercial markets around the globe.
“It was only a matter of time before these two titans took the gloves off and changed our world forever,” Goss noted.
The competition obviously gives mare owners more options, including being able to delay payments and cut costs. Small stud operations also can find a niche if they are agile and supply personalized customer service that breeders appreciate, Goss said.
During the same workshop, Oliver Tait, general manager of Darley Australia, challenged conference delegates to consider ways to stem a tide of breeding and racing mostly for speed, which he defined as the emphasis on races of less than a mile in distance and 2-year-old racing.
This trend is detrimental to the Thoroughbred breed if it is detrimental to the sport of racing, he said, adding that racing depends on “brave, sound horses” who compete over longer distances and for several seasons to “give it gravitas as a sport.
“By focusing on speed, we’re moving away from horses that can possibly fulfill that criteria,” Tait said. “We need more horses that are heroes. We need more Makybe Divas and more Deep Impacts.”
Racing administrators have perhaps the best opportunity to take the lead in reversing the speed trend and reshaping the breed by offering prize-money in more stamina-oriented races that will encourage owners and breeders to develop horses for those events, he suggested.