WinStar Farm is looking to reduce the number of mares Distorted Humor visits each year.

WinStar Farm is looking to reduce the number of mares Distorted Humor visits each year.

Barbara Livingston

WinStar's Way: Controlling Books

WinStar is trying to exercise restraint in the size of its stallions' books.

At a time when stallion books are growing bigger and bigger, the philosophy at Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm near Versailles, Ky., is to exercise some restraint. That strategy involves gradually reducing the number of mares bred to its established star, Distorted Humor, and setting a target book size of 125 mares for the other stallions.

"It's a balance between having enough foals out there to compete, but not having so many that it gets away from us," said WinStar president and chief executive officer Doug Cauthen. "I think, in general, our customers feel comfortable with what we're doing, so we’re trying to keep doing it. I think there are a lot of people in the market who are trying to control (the size of) stallion books."

Distorted Humor , a 15-year-old son of Forty Niner, was represented by 22 stakes winners in 2006 and again in 2007. Last year, the total included five grade/group I winners. He covered 156 mares in 2003and 145 in 2004. Distorted Humor's biggest book since then was 117 mares in 2007. He covered 115 in 2005 and 114 in 2006, according to The Jockey Club.

"This year, our goal for Distorted Humor will be between 95 and 100 mares," Cauthen said. "We’re slowly reducing his book for a couple of reasons. One, we're hoping to extend his career so he'll be here when he's 25 or 30 instead of for a shorter period. Two, we feel like that as the price of stud fee goes up, his exclusivity should go up so there's not as many of his foals out there. That's an advantage to everyone commercially or anyone who breeds or races. If you had one of the five grade I winners he had last year, that's a positive; it was a little exclusivity. A long career and not too many foals out there both are probably good things."

With the other WinStar stallions, "we try to, obviously, price them where we think we will have plenty of choices and then we try not to go over the target number we have set," Cauthen said. "We think it’s a good system, but if a horse is overwhelmed with good mares like Bluegrass Cat was last year, we'll do add more (to the book). He ended up being very fertile and he kept getting amazingly good mares, so he bred 146. It (the book size) is adjustable, and it does fluctuate with each horse based on his breeding capacity and ability. We've been fortunate to this point -- knock on wood -- that our stallions are very, very good in the breeding shed."

Another reason for controlling book size is customer satisfaction with the breeding process.

"We want to balance it (book size) with our customers' ability to get their mares into the shed and covered when they think it is most optimum for the mare and most optimum for them," Cauthen said. "If we get too crowded, we have a hard time accommodating our customers. We're just trying to create a good customer experience in the breeding shed for breeders."