Bernardini , a champion and classic winner, was the top stallion represented by his first crop at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale based on the average price brought by his progeny. He also ranked fifth overall on the auction’s the leading sires’ list, with an average of $270,269 for his 26 offspring that were sold.
But at this year’s September sale in Lexington, through the auction’s eighth session, one had to go all the way down to No. 20 on the list to find the top first-crop stallion, which is 2005 Horse of the Year Invasor, whose nine offspring averaged $128,333. Another first-crop sire, champion and classic winner Street Sense , was 21st, with an average $121,300 for his 30 progeny.
According to September sale yearling buyers, the offspring of first-crop sires have lost much of their appeal. In uncertain economic times, shoppers want young horses by sires with proven production records instead of the progeny of freshman stallions with blue-sky potential but no statistics to show they can pass on their talents to a new generation.
Spendthrift Farm owner B. Wayne Hughes “just doesn’t have as much interest as he used to” in yearlings by first-crop stallions, said Seth Semkin, who is Hughes’ racing manager. “It’s such an unknown thing, and with the colts he buys, he wants them to end up being really good stallion prospects if they end up being good racehorses. They (yearlings by first-crop sires) can look great at the sales and then not be able to do it at the racetrack; it’s happened more than once.”
A few years ago, Hughes’ racing stable got so large that he wasn’t able to keep up with it and enjoy it, according to Semkin, so the Spendthrift owner decided to reduce the number of his runners and set a limit on the stable’s size.
“When his (Hughes’) stable was bigger, he would buy a yearling (by a first-crop stallion) as long as he really liked the individual. But now that he wants to keep the numbers at a certain level, he would rather they be horses that are by proven sires,” Semkin said.
Another September sale shopper that wasn’t high on yearlings by first-crop sires was Ahmed Zayat of Zayat Stables.
“We’re trying to stick mostly to proven stallions and I think the whole market is trying to stick to proven stallions,” said Bradley Weisbord, Zayat’s finance and stallion general manager. “Your chances of getting a (successful) runner out of proven stallion are a lot higher percentage-wise. In times like these, when you want to come up with as many runners as possible, the best way to do that is to go with proven stallions. I think the market has seen that, so the averages for (the offspring) of freshmen sires aren’t that high anymore. It’s a percentage play (to emphasize purchasing the offspring of proven stallions).”