Deceased stallion Spectacular Bid.

Deceased stallion Spectacular Bid.

Barbara D. Livingston

Spectacular Bid: How Good a Stallion?

Published in the June 28 issue of The Blood-Horse
You'd think the way some folks talk about Spectacular Bid's stallion career that it was an overwhelming disaster. It's true that the deceased son of Bold Bidder closed out his career away from all the glamour he experienced early on in Central Kentucky. What many find hard to believe is that the four-time champion might have accomplished enough in some categories to be given a passing grade.

Spectacular Bid's big claim to fame is that he sired 28 stakes winners from his first four crops. That works out to an outstanding 16% stakes winners from foals. In all fairness, those 28 stakes winners came from the days when his books included some of the nation's top broodmares.

Spectacular Bid entered stud for $150,000 in 1981 at the Hancock family's Claiborne Farm near Paris, Ky., following his racing days for the Meyerhoff family's Hawksworth Farm. He showed promise right away by getting a grade I winner from his first crop. His son, Spectacular Love, captured the 1984 Futurity Stakes (gr. I) over subsequent champion Chief's Crown at Belmont Park. The fact that the victory came over an off track was seen by Bid's detractors that maybe the colt had just gotten lucky. Spectacular Love went on to prove their suspicions by never winning another stakes. Spectacular Bid was represented by another stakes winner in 1984, and his connections felt secure enough to raise his 1985 fee to $225,000 (according to Racing Update).

Although his fee had soared, Spectacular Bid's sire record did not keep pace. Only one of Spectacular Bid's three 1985 stakes winners won at the graded or group level, with Spectacular Joke winning a group II event in France.

Almost as bad, Spectacular Bid's yearling average plummeted, from $708,182 in 1983 for his first yearlings to $262,611 in 1985. His stud fee did the same, dropping to $80,000 for 1986.

Spectacular Bid did little to improve his standings. He was getting his share of stakes winners--eight in the 1986 racing season and 10 in 1987--but they weren't the right kind of stakes winners expected from a stallion whose trainer had called him the "greatest horse ever to look through a bridle." Spectacular Bid's runners had proved they needed time to develop, and that was a no-no for breeders and buyers hoping for classic contenders.

"He had been bred to some good mares his early years," Seth Hancock of Claiborne Farm said recently. "But he didn't get the type of runner for breeders to keep sending those good mares to him."

By 1991, Spectacular Bid's fee had fallen to $15,000, and his yearling average slumped to $21,875. Spectacular Bid was relocated to Dr. Jonathan Davis' Milfer Farm near Unadilla, N.Y., that fall and stood the 1992 season for $15,000.

"He received strong support while he was here," Davis said. "Plenty of breeders liked the fact that he threw a versatile horse, but he didn't get any respect from commercial breeders."

Not unexpectedly, Spectacular Bid failed to duplicate his Claiborne record. Only two of his current total of 44 stakes winners have come from his days spent at Milfer.

Spectacular Love has turned out to be Spectacular Bid's sole grade I winner, but there have been plenty of solid graded winners, giving Spectacular Bid another passing grade. Lotus Pool earned $694,543, and Lay Down won three grade II stakes and earned $593,423. Double Feint was a New York grade III turf winner and runner-up in a division of the 1986 Hollywood Derby (gr. IT). Bite the Bullet and Shepherd's Field were grade II winners as 2-year-olds. Overall, Spectacular Bid is represented by 17 graded or group winners.

Spectacular Bid, who was produced from the Promised Land mare Spectacular, also gets a passing mark as a broodmare sire. Twenty-five of his daughters have produced the earners of more than $500,000, with nine of them members of the millionaire's club. His 69 stakes winners include such grade I winners as Cara Rafaela and millionaire Janet, plus English and Irish champion Mozart.

As good as Spectacular Bid's daughters have performed as broodmares, that is not the case with his male-line descendants as stallions. Not one of them is listed among the stallions advertised in The Blood-Horse Stallion Register statistical section.

Spectacular Bid, who died June 9 at Milfer, also covered sport mares his last several years. He closed out his career standing for $3,500 and covered 10 mares this year.