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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Falling Stud Fees

Between the worldwide financial crisis and the anticipated end of the slots-at-racetracks program in Ontario, 2012 was a year when stud fees fell at a disturbing rate; those that managed to maintain their 2011 price level were considered lucky. And while many 2016 fees have yet to be announced, those that have dribbled out give every indication that 2016 will be somewhat similar to 2012.

Hanover keeps the highest profile in the sport; Pennsylvania is home to a lucrative sire stakes program and a state where one expects to find Grand Circuit worthy stock. Cantab Hall, Captaintreacherous, Donato Hanover, Western Ideal and Explosive Matter will roll over their 2015 fees, while Somebeachsomewhere, Well Said, Muscle Massive and Andover Hall will see reductions. There will be no increases. Contrast that with last year when SBSW was the only Hanover stallion to see a reduction, and Muscle Massive’s fee actually went up. (Crazed was shipped back to New York).

Well Said shows the deepest cut as his $15,000 fee, which has remained intact since he joined the Hanover stallion brigade in 2010, has been cut in half. Uffizi Hanover was the most productive issue from his first crop; she won the BC at two and the Fan Hanover at three, but she didn’t accomplish a whole lot beyond that. Tellitlikeitis was the top male; he won a Cup elimination and experienced some success in the PASS. Well Said has no millionaire offspring. Lost For Words is his richest son, and his claim to fame is winning a heat of the Jug. He also won the Standardbred and splits of the Bluegrass and ISS at two. Control The Moment won this year’s Metro and Nassagaweya and is his top freshman to date. Well Said sold a sale topping 61 yearlings at Harrisburg, at an average that was down 10% from last year. He should be popular at $7,500.

SBSW’s fee has been up and down like a yoyo. He was at $20,000 in 2011; dropped to $15,000  in 2012; back up to $20,000 the following year; jumped again, to $30,000 in 2014; down to $25,000 this year; and drops down again to $20,000 in 2016. He leads North America in gross earnings for two-year-old pacers and average earnings for the same group. And he leads in average earnings for the three-year-olds. Pure Country is the top freshman filly in NA, but SBSW comes up short at the top end of all other age/class groups—star power is lacking. The closest he’s come to duplicating himself is Captain T and that one is much better than the rest. There were 39 fewer registered foals in 2015 than there were the previous year, but still there were 91 of them. He led all pacing stallions at the Lexington and Harrisburg sales. The superstar pacer’s book remained open throughout 2015. Seeing his fee drop $10,000 in two years is alarming in some respects, but prospective breeders will be thrilled.

Muscle Massive, whose second crop was a big disappointment, sees his fee drop 46% to $4,000. And 16-year-old Andover Hall drops 20% to $8,000. He was at $30,000 back in 2008, but has been at $10,000 for the past few years. Nuncio raced in Europe this year, and Magic Tonight was off his form when he returned to NA. Kathy Parker generated early interest, and she won money, but a split of the Liberty Bell was her best win.  

The first crop of A Rocknroll Dance won’t race until 2017, but Diamond Creek dropped his fee from $6,000 to $5,000. And Father Patrick, who served a limited book in New Jersey at $30,000 this year, moves home to Pennsylvania at $20,000. His less than stellar foray into the aged ranks probably didn’t help. Ponder, who had a terrible year, drops from $4,000 to $3,500. Sweet Lou remains at $7,500 for his second season.

New York, which is, along with Pennsylvania, a lucrative source for sire stakes cash, is also showing signs that its stud fee structure is adjusting to market forces. Blue Chip Farms is top dog in the Empire State and Art Major and Credit Winner have been the most expensive pacing and trotting stallions, respectively, in the state for some time. Art Major held steady at $15,000 until 2013 when his fee dropped to $12,000. In 2016 the sire of JK She’salady and JK Endofanera will stand for a further reduced $10,000. And Credit Winner, who jumped from $12,000 to $14,000 in 2014 and remained there last year, will be dropping 28% to $10,000 in 2016. American Ideal will stay at $10,000.

Credit Winner, who was third on the two-year-old NYSS money list this year and second among the sophomores, got hammered at Harrisburg. And his average also dropped by $19,000 in Lexington. The high ticket individual sales that have buoyed him up until now abandoned him. Top tier performers have also been missing.

 NYSS rank means little: four of the top five trotting stallions on the three-year-old list are all experiencing stud fee cuts. Lucky Chucky, Crazed and Conway Hall are the other three. The latter leads both lists and his fee will be reduced by a third. And Lucky Chucky’s fee has gone from $7,500 in 2014 to $6,000 this year to $4,000 next year. Crazed gets his annual haircut, dropping from $5,000 to $4,000.

Art Major was top five among two and three-year-olds in the NYSS. JK She’salady retired and Travel Playlist lost his mojo in the fall, but JK End won the TVG, Allerage Open and Dan Patch. The sixteen-year-old stallion showed modest gains at the sales. However, his registered foal count was down 47 between 2013 and 2014.

Rocknroll Heaven, who was standing for $8,500 at Blue Chip, is now available for $6,500 in New Jersey. The sales weren’t kind to him and his sons have been slow to come around, but he does have the top two fillies on the sophomore money list for that division, presumptive division winner Divine Caroline, and recent Matron champ, Sassa Hanover.  Trixton will remain at $12,000 in New Jersey, where the sire stakes program has been restructured for the sake of volume and diversity.

The 2016 fees for the Midwestern states on the come—Ohio and Indiana—haven’t shown up yet. Rockin Image, the sire of Freaky Feet Pete jumped $500 to $4,000 in 2015, while Miki’s daddy Always A Virgin made the same move the previous year.

Ontario seems to be back on its feet. Bettor’s Delight and Muscle Mass have returned and Royalty For Life, He’s Watching, E L Titan, Archangel and Betterthancheddar have been added

to the mix over the past two years. Kadabra saw his fee drop from $15,000 US to $12,000 US in 2014 and it looks like it will remain there.

So to this point fees are taking a hit in Pennsylvania, where the politicians have been applying pressure to the tracks and horsemen, and in New York, where too many stallions are failing to produce: There are no New York sired horses in the top 15 on the all-horse money list. It will be interesting to see just how widespread will this trend be?

Joe FitzGerald

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