After waiting 37 years for a Triple Crown winner to come along, the industry has finally put a value on what it's worth. Breeding to American Pharoah, North America's 12th winner of the Triple Crown and the first since Affirmed, will cost $200,000 in 2016.
There was plenty of speculation as to the fee for the son of Pioneerof the Nile as he worked his way through the classics earlier this year, with many pegging his stud fee in the $75,000-$100,000 range based on market predictors. However, the legend grew as the charismatic colt put an exclamation point on his career in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). It remains to be seen if his price will stop owners of top-end mares from trying to procure a contract from Ashford Stud.
Of note is not only American Pharoah's fee, but the fee of his sire and grandsire. Popular from the get-go, Pioneerof the Nile sees his 2016 stud fee rise to $125,000 from $60,000, and American Pharoah's grandsire, Empire Maker, has returned from Japan to stand at Gainesway in 2016 for a fee of $100,000—the same price the classic winner stood for prior to the Great Recession. Those three books could account for 500-plus mares for the 2016 breeding season to the Unbridled-line stallions.
American Pharoah's fee matches the first-year fee for Ghostzapper in 2006 and is the first six-figure opening fee since Bernardini commanded $100,000 in 2007. Either the lack of a true superstar, or the post-recession market kept most first-year fees in check since.
From 2011-14 the top price was set at $35,000 and last year's chart-topper Will Take Charge stood for $30,000. While stud fees at the top end of the market appear to be on the rise, the price-point on American Pharoah is not indicative of the overall market, so much as the appearance of the first true superstar at stud since the hey days of the mid 1980s.
Following is information on incoming stallions to Kentucky standing for $10,000 and up and on select leaders in other markets:
American Pharoah $200,000
Pioneerof the Nile—Littleprincessemma, by Yankee Gentleman
American Pharoah set out to be a star before the Triple Crown as the champion 2-year-old male of 2014 without even running in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). He excelled at the classic distances and hails from a North American classic sire line. Because he sports only a 5x5 cross to Northern Dancer, breeders have many options with American Pharoah. Even those detractors who may question his bottom line as being a little light can take solace that Littleprincessemma is a half sister to two graded stakes winners, so the class is there.
Honor Code $40,000
A.P. Indy—Serena's Cat, by Storm Cat
Highly touted at 2—for good reason; he won the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) and was beaten a neck in the Foxwoods Champagne Stakes (gr. I) in 2013—Honor Code had his classic run derailed by a tear in his right hind upper suspensory in March 2014. He returned to win three graded stakes in 2015, including the NYRA.com Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) and Whitney Stakes (gr. I), two of the more important races on the calendar. Known for his powerful late run, he came up short in his finale against American Pharoah in the Breeders' Cup. From the last crop of stamina influence A.P. Indy, Honor Code has an important female family. His third dam is Serena's Song, a matriarch of racing and commercial class.
Tapit—Settling Mist, by Pleasant Colony
Winner of the 2014 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), Tonalist won six graded stakes overall, including three grade I events, and earned $3,647,000 in a 16-start career for Robert S. Evans and trainer Christophe Clement. HIs racing career concluded last November with a victory in the Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I). From the Pleasant Colony mare Settling Mist, Tonalist is from the immediate family of Horse of the Year Havre de Grace and multiple grade I winner Riskaverse.
Selling for $1.6 million as a juvenile preceded the racing success of Carpe Diem, who lived up to the hype by winning the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) by 6 1⁄4 lengths. The son of three-time leading sire Giant's Causeway won the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) by open lengths prior to being the 7-1 third choice to American Pharoah in the Run for the Roses. A half to Breeders' Futurity winner J. B.'s Thunder, Carpe Diem is out of a mare by Unbridled's Song, who is a son of Unbridled.
Few horses' trajectories rose higher or faster than Constitution's, breaking his maiden at first asking in mid-January 2014, then winning the Besilu Florida Derby (gr. I) less than 11 weeks later. A hairline fracture kept him from the classics, but he returned to capture the grade I Donn Handicap earlier this year. He's one of three sons of leading sire Tapit to enter stud in 2016, joining Race Day at Spendthrift Farm and Normandy Invasion at Keane Stud in New York. His female family is packed with class, being out of a half sister to grade I sprinter Emcee and from the family of Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) winner Awesome Humor.
His brilliance turned the racing world on its ear while just failing to hold off Honor Code in the Whitney, then winning the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga by 4 3⁄4 lengths. His victory in the Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) was the highlight of day one of the World Championships at Keeneland. An $800,000 sale yearling, he was produced by a hickory-tough mare who won 11 times with eight placings and earned $880,915. He has only one line of Northern Dancer and that is in his sixth generation.
Palace Malice failed to come back with the same pop this year that he showed at 3 and 4, but let's not forget he was beaten a neck in the Blue Grass and later won the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and at 4 took the Metropolitan Handicap in 1:33.56. The latter was an end point of a well-orchestrated four-race win streak. Palace Malice's sire Curlin is a top 10 sire of 2015 whose fee has advanced from $35,000 this year to $100,000 for 2016.
Bayern bounced back off losses to post scintillating scores on more than one occasion. He ran seven furlongs in the Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) in 1:20.75 in a 7 1⁄2-length romp followed by a 7 1⁄2-length victory in the nine-furlong William Hill Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I). He then added the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) as well as the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) in back-to-back efforts to close 2014. While his dam is the unraced Alittlebitearly, Bayern's female family is as strong as any others in the Stud Book; his third dam is the bluest of blue hens Courtly Dee. Offlee Wild sired Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner She Be Wild in his first crop and was the leading juvenile sire and leading freshman sire of 2009.
The Niarchos family's Japan-bred colt was a surprising winner of the 2014 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) but had shown class at 2, winning the Qatar Prix Jean Luc Lagardere Grand Criterium (Fr-I) and followed that with a score in the classic Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French Two Thousand Guineas, Fr-I) at 3. His third dam is Miesque, Hall of Fame member and dam of two group I classic winners including Kingmambo. Dual classic winner Sunday Silence was the leading sire in Japan 13 times. Karakontie is one of 90 stakes winners for Bernstein (by Storm Cat).
From the first crop of 2010 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Super Saver (second on the second-crop sire list for 2015), Competitive Edge tore a hole in the wind taking last year's Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) by 53⁄4 lengths at Saratoga. At 3 he was impressive in Churchill Downs' Pat Day Mile Stakes (gr. III; former Derby Trial Stakes). A $750,000 sale 2-year-old, he comes from a solid female family. This prospect's second dam is a half sister to Blue Grass Stakes winner Wild Syn.
This chestnut colt was sharp enough to win the Champagne Stakes in just his second start in October 2014. He returned at 3 to run a good second in the seven-furlong Fasig-Tipton Swale Stakes (gr. II) and was fourth to Frosted in the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I). More Than Ready is a top stallion in both hemispheres, and Daredevil's half brother Albertus Maximus won the Donn Handicap and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
Lea, a hard-charging chestnut, ran first or second in 13 of 19 starts--nine graded stakes--and earned $2,362,398. He finished second in four grade I races with three thirds including the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (UAE-I). He also won at the graded stakes level on turf. Lea closed his career with a good second to Liam's Map in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. His broodmare sire, Galileo, has sired 223 stakes winners.
Mr Speaker, a four-time graded stakes winner and millionaire, won the 2014 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (gr. IT) at 10 furlongs. He is a son of Pulpit out of Salute, by Unbridled, and his second dam is Hall of Famer and Kentucky Broodmare of the Year Personal Ensign. He is inbred 3x4 to Mr. Prospector.
From the second crop of War Front--who along with Tapit is the most commercial sire in North America—Summer Front won or placed in 15 stakes from 23 career starts with three runner-up efforts in grade I races. A $475,000 sale 2-year-old, Summer Front is a half brother to Laragh (by Tapit), winner of the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (gr. I) and third in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IT).
Wicked Strong won the 2014 Wood Memorial Stakes, and ran a good fourth behind California Chrome in last year's Kentucky Derby after breaking from post 19. He also won the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) at 3. There is plenty of class in the dam, a half sister to graded winners Gulch Approval and Rusty Slipper.
Grade I-winning Imagining made 26 starts in a five-year racing career; 12 of those starts came at the highest level. He was a two-turn specialist by a three-time leading sire with plenty of Phipps Stable power in the dam. He's the second foal out of grade II winner Daydreaming from the family of Dance Number, the dam of Not For Love, the top sire in Maryland for the last decade and is poised to assume the throne in a state with a resurgent breeding program.
Golden Ticket dead-heated with fellow New York stallion Alpha in the 2012 Travers Stakes. He's a son of top sire and champion sprinter Speightstown whose later career was placed more in the mold of a miler and was second in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. He's out of a Deputy Minster mare whose dam won at the grade III level and is a stakes producer.
Japan is a full brother to multiple graded winner Al Khali, who is also an incoming stallion to New York. Their third dam is grade I winner Chic Shirine, who is responsible for multiple grade I winners from Keen Ice to Verrazano. Japan won the WinStar Easy Goer Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard earlier this year and placed while facing grade I winners Texas Red and Frosted in Saratoga's Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II).
Balance the Books, a son of classic winner, champion, and steady sire Lemon Drop Kid, was a top juvenile on the turf in 2012, winning a pair of graded stakes and running a good third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT). His international family boasts second dam Kooyonga, a champion and classic winner on the track. Plenty of distance, turf ability on offer here.
Khozan was a seven-figure sale 2-year-old who made only two starts, winning both earlier this year by 3 3⁄4 and 12 3⁄4 lengths at Gulfstream Park. By a leading sire out of one of racing's royal dams, Delta Princess, this colt is a half to multiple grade I winner and multiple champion Royal Delta and to grade I winner Crown Queen. Khozan's dam, Delta Princess, is a half to a grade I winner and a group I winner.
The Big Beast was a big-time winner of the Ketel One King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga last year and ran second in a pair of grade Is at the Spa this year. With the recent death of Yes It's True (sire of 56 stakes winners), The Big Beast could fill the gap, especially in a market traditionally geared toward precocity and speed.
A grandson of A.P. Indy, Pants On Fire made 35 starts--winning four graded stakes--in an era where most incoming stallions have made a third as many starts. He won the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) as a 3-year-old, proving to be a good miler later in his career. His third in the 2014 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile came behind Goldencents and Tapiture. His female line traces back to a top family for the late Edward Evans, producing 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam.
Ontario-bred Conquest Curlinate was a hard-luck second in both the grade II Peter Pan Stakes and Illinois Derby (gr. III) this year. He is another incoming son of the popular Curlin and is out of a Can-II-winning mare. His half brother is grade III-placed Tapit's World.