Taking a strong stand against what he sees as troubling trends in the breeding industry, Sheikh Hamdan has decided to limit the first-year books of both his Horse of the Year Invasor and classic winner Jazil to 85 mares each.
The movement toward books of 150 and more mares demand that stallions often be bred as many as four times a day, which Rick Nichols, vice president and general manager of Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Farm near Lexington, said “is just the wrong thing to do.
“We don’t feel that’s right for the horse,” Nichols explained, adding that Sheikh Hamdan “first and foremost, always does what’s best for the horse.” Without realistic limits, “you sacrifice your horse for the economics of your operation and we don’t believe in doing that.”
Many farms encourage huge books for their young stallions because if the horses don’t get a grade I winner in their first crop, they are not considered commercially viable anymore. The increased numbers may lead to increased chances at that measure of success as well as generate immediate revenue through stud fees.
However, Nichols said Sheikh Hamdan believes that if it takes 200 mares to produce a grade I winner for a sire, “then that horse is not good enough.”
Nichols and Sheikh Hamdan also are concerned that stallions that cover large numbers of mares may sire more weak offspring in general than those that do not. Furthermore, the trend toward huge books for some stallions means that others that may be worthy are not getting enough opportunities, a trend that eventually will lead to less diversity in the breed.
“If Mr. Prospector and Danzig were to go to stud today, neither would get a full book because their race records weren’t strong enough,” Nichols said.
“Sheikh Hamdan is a very good steward of our breed and he sees things that we’re not doing right. We’re developing a breed that’s very closely related,” he continued. “All of us in this industry need to take a step back and see what we’re doing to the breed and stop looking at our pocketbooks.”
Argentine-bred Invasor, a son of Candy Stripes, will stand his first season next year for $35,000, while Jazil, the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner by Seeking the Gold who is a half brother to Belmont winner Rags to Riches, will stand for $12,500.
Sheikh Hamdan will support both stallions with his own mares, although matings have not been determined yet, Nichols said.