It’s interesting that there are only two pacing stallions and one trotting stallion twenty or older in the $5,000 and up range standing in North America. Cam’s Card Shark, the sire of Bettor’s Delight and Roll With Joe, is 23-years old and currently stands for $5,000 at Hanover; he was at $15,000 five years ago. And 27-year-old Camluck, the sire of Michael’s Power, stands at Seelster in Ontario for $7,500 Cdn; he stood for $12,500 last year. Yankee Glide stands in Pennsylvania for $12,500; he was at $15,000 in 2013. The latter just turned twenty, but he has produced All Laid Out, Appomattox, Aperfectyankee and Aunt Mel in recent years. This represents a significant change from the way things used to be. Back in the day many stallions pushed on to thirty and beyond and were very productive in their later years. Most do their best work early in their careers, and that has always been the case, but some have been able to hold the breeders’ attention over a long stretch of time. No more.
The classic example is Big Towner, whose sire Gene Abbe was thirty when he was born, but there are many others. Stars Pride was productive in his later years. ACs Orion came along when he was 21. He was 22 when his greatest son, Super Bowl, was born. A year later Somolli, the unraced dam of 1978 Trotter of the Year Speedy Somolli, popped out. South Bend was also born in 1970. And a year later, when Stars Pride was 24, the Kentucky Futurity winner, Waymaker, came along. And he was 25 when the great Meadow Bright, division winner at two and three, appeared. Stars Pride’s son Super Bowl continued on that path; he was 26 when BC winner Catch As Catch Can was born and the same when Prime Mistress, the dam of Beer Summit and The Chancellor, appeared. Super Bowl was 28 when the World Trotting Derby winner Tejano was born.
Another trotting stallion, Florican, was a beast after twenty. The FFA trotter Elesnar and Oaks winner Gay Blossom were both born when he was 21. Two years later Hambletonion and Colonial winner Flirth and the outstanding filly trotter Honeysuckle Rose came along, as well as the Yonkers Trot winner Tamerlane. And when Florican was 25 another outstanding filly—and broodmare—Exclusive Way, the daughter of Kerry Way, was born. The Dexter Cup winner Songflori also appeared in 1972.
On the pacing side, Dale Frost, the stallion who reconfigured the breed when he gave us Meadow Skipper, was born when Hal Dale was 25-years old. And Overbid, the dam of Overtrick and Overcall, and one of the greatest broodmares ever, was born when Hal Dale was 28-years old. It’s a good thing they didn’t quit early on him.
Adios was 22 when Brenna threw Bret. Tar Heel was 28 when the great Hazel Hanover graced our presence. Good Time was 28 for Crash and Albatross was 25 when Oye Vay was born in 1993. Bret was 23 for Wilson winner Even Odds. And Falcon Seelster was 24 when the top notch filly De Lovely popped out. Cambest has produced Michaels’s Power, Mystician and Prodigal Seelster in his later years.
Meadow Skipper died from a heart attack at 22, but that year Chairmanoftheboard and Witzend’s Wizard were born. The year before it was Naughty But Nice, and when he was twenty, Green With Envy and Glen Almahurst came along.
So why have things changed? Bob Marks offers up two reasons, the first being that we use stallions much harder than we used to so they may lose potency sooner, and the other being the fickleness of breeders. He notes that once a horse is out of favor he no longer gets the good mares.
The shuttle stallion model that was not a factor when Stars Pride, Florican, Hal Dale, Adios, Tar Heel and Meadow Skipper were in the breeding business is no doubt a major contributor to burning out popular stallions. Syndicates and farms, being aware of the fickle nature of breeders, get as much as they can out of a stallion while he’s in favor. Everything happens faster. Speedy Crown was a very prolific stallion; he produced more than 1,300 trotters and pacers during his long career. His first crop came in 1974, and he was retired from stud duty after the 1996 season, but he seemed to go on; he sired a colt who was born in 2001. He died on May 4, 2000 in Goshen at age 32. His first crop stunk but by 1986 his yearlings sold for an average of more than $83,000, almost double that of his rival Super Bowl. He stood for $4,000 in 1977 and $50,000 in the late eighties. He was very popular. Compare that with the ill-fated Rocknroll Hanover, who produced only a handful of crops prior to his untimely death halfway through the 2013 breeding season, but will ultimately be within 20% of Speedy Crown’s output—in North America. Add in the Australian numbers and he no doubt outdoes Speedy Crown in simple production. Rocknroll would have turned 12 this year so he was 20-years younger than Speedy Crown when he passed.
As for the fickleness of breeders, it is sometimes dictated by results. Niatross’ initial stud fee was $35,000. There were 300 applicants for 150 spots on his list of approved mares. After some early success—Nihilator, Caressable, Barberry Spur—his fee jumped to $40,000. But the good times didn’t last. By 1986 his fee dropped to $25,000—a bargain? Two years later he was standing in New Jersey for $7,500, and after that it dropped to $5,000. That five million sucked out of the first crop owners proved to be very important, because the bubble burst. This was a clear-cut example of the breeders losing faith in a stallion due to a lack of production.
Fifteen-year-old Kadabra is an example of the sort of stallion who appears to be very successful but has fallen out of favor at the sales all the same. Kadabra is the sire of probable HOY Bee A Magician and the leading trotting sire in the Ontario Sire Stakes program, but his overall sale numbers over the last few years are disappointing in that context. This could have to do with geography: buying into the Ontario SS makes some nervous. But even before the sea change in Ontario, there seemed to be a disconnect between Kadabra’s production and his desirability. He’s holding steady at $15,000 (U.S.); we’ll see what the future brings.
We can only speculate about why the venerable old stallion who still pulls his weight has disappeared from the sport, but let’s hope 15-year-old Andover Hall and Art Major; 16-year-old Bettor’s Delight; 17-year-old Credit Winner; and 19-year-old Muscles Yankee and Conway Hall remain vibrant and in favor with the breeders well into their advanced years.