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Friday, March 28, 2014

Mixed Results For Stallions Coming Out Of Retirement

These days many hit what was traditionally considered retirement age only to  find they need to keep bringing home a paycheck, right into their 70s, 80’s—90’s even. Others do retire but run out of money at some point and need to find a part time job. Well, for reasons that generally have to do with earning capacity, fertility and quality of production many of today’s stallions are coming back for a second act on the racetrack, and the results are mixed.

Archangel, who received a breeding exemption from Jeff Gural due to breathing issues after his three-year-old campaign, is apparently being prepped for a comeback. It’s a matter of simple economics. The now five-year-old, who won the Yonkers Trot and the Empire Classic, attracted 42 mares last year. His stud fee was $4,000 so he grossed a maximum of $168,000--unlikely. Twenty-five aged trotters earned more than that last year, including Zooming, Watkins and Hesgotlegs. It’s a safe assumption that Archangel would get less popular until his progeny hit the track and prove themselves, so his connections decided to unretired him.

The same thing happened with Broad Bahn, who also stood in New York. He had a higher profile than Archangel, having won the Hambletonion and his division, but they weren’t exactly lining up to spend $7,500 to book their mares to him. He was nominated to the top tier stakes for aged trotters in NA last year but wound up being sold to Europeans. New York is a tough market for marginal trotting stallions: Crazed was relocated to Pennsylvania, where his get sold like cassette players, and Cash Hall is now located in the new Mecca—Ohio.

The premier sons of Art Major are taking it on the chin in this regard. Hypnotic Blue Chip was retired to stud in November, 2011, after falling short of the $175,000 mark. He stood at Fashion Farms in Pennsylvania for $5,000. It wasn’t exactly an approved mares only situation: HBC attracted just four of them. He came back to the track in 2012 and earned almost $200,000. Last year he won twice in five starts for $26,000. He has one open win at the Meadowlands this year in five starts and has earned almost $30,000. It’s obvious that racing is his only option at this point. And another paternal brother, Art Professor, was touted as a great stallion prospect at the January Mixed Sale. Look out.

Nine-year-old Santanna Blue Chip, another struggling son of Art Major, got mares but his only hit was Windsong Jack. He was standing for $4,000, and that was reduced to $3,000; the next step was back to the track. Last week he finished out against NW8 at 23/1 from the rail. He has one win in eight starts and has earned $7,500. He hasn’t earned a dime in his four 2014 starts. He was no all-time great but he did win the BC and the Governor’s Cup and he earned 1.6 million. The top son of Art Major, nine-year-old Art Official, hasn’t come back to the track yet but his fee has been lopped in half since he started in 2010 and he’s now in last chance Ohio.

Six-year-old Up The Credit, who won the NA Cup as well as a split of the SBSW and the Simcoe, could barely get around the track in the Matron at season’s end. His connections announced that he would breed and race in 2011. His stud fee was set at $5,000. UTC stood at Seelster Farms, but to say his career as a stallion has been conducted under the radar is to engage in marked understatement. No son of Western Terror has done anything in the stallion ranks. He was back for the 2012 Molson Pace, but he looked awful. He was winless in eight starts, earning $42,000. Last year he only won twice—one of them a lifetime best :48.3-- in 24 outings, but he earned $88,000. He has made two unsuccessful starts this year.

Six-year-old Foreclosure, who was born Down Under, went from Peter Heffering to Richard Young to the Burke Brigade. He was very good for the latter in late 2012 but apparently had issues so he was retired to Sugar Valley Farm in Ohio, where he stood for $3,000. But it was back to the races last year as he earned $34,000 in nine starts.

Daylon Magician, who won the CTC and an O’Brien at three, failed his fertility test, then later on, after resuming his racing career, he apparently passed his fertility test. He made 12 starts in 2012, earning more than $300,000, but he didn’t race at all last year. Daylon has started five times in opens at the Meadowlands this year and has one win, earning $35,000. He has the potential to make more money racing this year than he would as a marginal stallion.  Winning Mister is another millionaire trotter who had to abandon that siring life. Although he set track records at the three Pennsylvania tracks, the Earl Rowe, Oliver and Reynolds are his only open stakes wins. He was retired at the end of the 2012 season, in which he earned about $320,000. He was placed at Linwood Farm in Pennsylvania and his stud fee was set at an overly optimistic $8,000. That was dropped to $4,500 in no time. Winning Mister was back on the track last year, making just four starts at The Meadows. He had one win, over NW9500L5.

Dali, winner of the Wilson and Niatross in 2007, is doing a double in Ontario this year. The son of Real Artist, who has been away from the track for three years, starts against NW28L5 at Mohawk tomorrow night. He was standing in Indiana for $3,000, and his small test crop was promising. This year he is priced at $2,000. While his fellow nine-year-old Santanna has already failed as a stallion and has nothing to fall back on, Dali has more options.

Returning to racing after failing at stud is not a new thing. Duke Rodney, who was retired as number three behind Su Mac Lad and Speedy Scott on the all-time earning’s list, and ultimately proved to be a failed stallion, resumed his trotting career in 1965 at age seven after a year of stud duty in New York. He was raced and bred throughout his career. Harlan Dean was brought out of retirement at age seven that same year by Del Miller, when he had a crop going to the sales. Seven-year-old Wishing Stone will apparently do a double this year. He stands for $5,000 in New Jersey—shouldn’t be too busy. The eight-year-old Credit Winner stallion, Calchips Brute is doing the same. He stands in New Jersey for $3,500—the next Ohio? He has one win in seven starts this year. Does losing in the Yonkers open every week enhance a stallion’s career? Calchip’s Brute represents the downside of dual-duty.

As the breeding market continues to shrink we'll see more of this. And while returning to the track can’t be quantified as an unmitigated success for any of these horses,  it is working out to some degree for Hypnotic Blue Chip, Daylon Magician and Up The Credit. On the other hand, coming out of retirement has not proven successful for Santanna Blue Chip, Winning Mister and Foreclosure. We’ll just have to wait and see how rewarding it is for Archangel and Dali.

Joe FitzGerald

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