While the bloodstock market anxiously awaits the beginning of the yearling sale season, there is a heightened level of anticipation with first-crop stallions. After all, a lot hangs in the balance, like the conversion of racetrack reputation to sire success, maintaining high-quality books of mares, not to mention keeping the "buzz" going for a critical "Year Four" in a young stallion's commercial development. The "Year of the Cat" could be the theme for the incoming first-year group as at least eight sons of Storm Cat are represented by their first yearlings in 2002. Storm Cat, the world's most expensive sire with a 2002 stud fee of $500,000, stands at W.T. Young's Overbrook Farm near Lexington. The highest first-year stud fee for 2000 was one-tenth that price, $50,000, belonging to Storm Cat's son Forestry. A grade I-winning sprinter out of grade I winner Shared Interest (by Pleasant Colony), Forestry stands at Taylor Made Farm near Nicholasville, Ky. Exploit, a grade II-winning son of Storm Cat who also stands at Taylor Made, had a first-year stud fee of $30,000. Other top first-year sons of Storm Cat, and their 2000 stud fees include Stormin Fever ($15,000), Tactical Cat ($10,000), Scatmandu ($8,500), and Sea of Secrets ($7,500). A key factor of a first-year sire's potential success has to be the number of foals he has available. As in any economic scenario, quantity plays a part, as does the potential for having a glut on the market. There should be no shortage of yearlings by Nureyev's son Stravinsky for prospective buyers to select from. The group I winner who stands at Ashford Stud, near Versailles, Ky., leads all first-year stallions with 114 registered foals. Phone Trick's son, Mazel Trick, who stands at Airdrie Stud near Midway, Ky., has 90 yearlings from his first book. Victory Gallop (by Cryptoclearance) has 86 in his first crop, and Exploit has 85. Summer Squall's son Charismatic is represented with 82 from his initial crop, followed by Crafty Friend (by Crafty Prospector) with 80, Doneraile Court (a son of Seattle Slew) and Silver Charm (Silver Buck) with 78, and Real Quiet (Quiet American) with 76. Beyond mere numbers, last year's market for weanlings by first-crop sires likely points to who will be among the leaders this year. With a minimum of three weanlings sold last year, five stallions had six-figure weanling averages. At the top were Forestry, with eight averaging $257,500, and Exploit, with five which averaged $154,000. The other three were Old Trieste (by A.P. Indy), whose five weanlings averaged $117,400; Victory Gallop with an average of $110,556 for nine weanlings sold; and Stravinsky's 20 weanlings averaging $103,328. This year's major yearling sales (Keeneland July, Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July, and Fasig-Tipton Saratoga) will be the first without offspring by Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew in 21 years. However, the planets may be aligned as 2002 will mark the first time in 63 years in which there are first-crop yearlings for sale from three Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winners. In the coming weeks, yearlings will be offered for the first time by Silver Charm (won the Derby in 1997), Real Quiet (1998), and Charismatic (1999). The Derby trifecta hasn't been hit since the summer of 1939, when first-crop yearlings were sold at Saratoga by Brokers Tip (1933), Cavalcade (1934), and Bold Venture (1936). Perhaps there was less demand for a Derby winner's offspring then, as their combined 30 yearlings sold for an average of $2,038--less than the overall sales average that year of $2,100.
Just as in 1939, don't count on a Derby winner leading the first-year pack after the season's kick-off at the Keeneland July sale. In the last 20 years, only two Derby winners have been the leading freshman sire at Keeneland by average: Spectacular Bid (1983) and Thunder Gulch (1998). b 2002 is the first year since 1939 that first-crop yearlings are available from three Kentucky Derby winners