Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stud Fees, Auction Prices: Good Handicapping Tools When Assessing Maidens

by Jerry McMahon

A few years back, Daily Racing Form incorporated a couple of important items into its racing Past Performances relating to breeding and auction markets. These are the current stud fee for a runner’s sire, and the auction sale price (if any) for the runner itself. Each can be helpful in assessing potential, particularly when it comes to handicapping maidens in their first few starts. When both items are included for the same horse, they can be used together to present a better picture of how the horse in question might be expected to perform.

For example, newly retired Storm Cat, sire of the recent La Canada winner, Life Is Sweet, has been one of America’s most successful stallions on the track and in the auction ring. Over the years, his stud fee has been as high as $750,000, and his auction yearlings routinely commanded seven figures. On that information alone, his progeny have always garnered respect in their first few races.

Be that as it may, there have been plenty of occasions when his sons or daughters have brought less than $100,000 at auction. Generally speaking, that occurs when a sale prospect has serious conformation defects or significant medical issues that have been uncovered prior to the auction. Astute handicappers therefore give a lot less credence to his first-time starters that have been bought at auction for a relatively small percentage of his stud fee.

We’ll use the recently completed Ocala Breeders’ Sale of Two-year-olds in Training for an example at the other end of the spectrum. Hip Number 197 in that sale was grey or roan filly by the previously unheralded sire, Concorde’s Tune.

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Florida-based Concorde’s Tune currently stands for an advertised fee of $2,500. The filly in question was knocked down to the highly-experienced Irish buyer, Dr. Demi O’Byrne, for the tidy sum of $225,000, nearly one hundred times the stud fee! Of course the Paul Harvey (...the rest of the story) on this was that the filly worked an eighth in less than 10 seconds and galloped out like she could run all day. The sale price coupled with the stud fee should catch the eye of discriminating handicappers when the filly makes her first start, probably later this year.

Keep in mind that Daily Racing Form attempts to provide current stud fee information. Therefore, the fee listed on the past performance line might be substantially different than what the breeder paid at the time of conception. The trend behind the change can be just as important as the fee itself. Similarly, the auction data presented for each runner is only the most recent information available. Quite often horses have been through more than one sale prior to making their first start.

Interested fans can easily bolster their knowledge on these issues by visiting thoroughbredtimes.com, bloodhorse.com, and thoroughbreddailynews.com. Just click the free links related to stallions, sales, or auctions.

McMahon is an auction industry consultant and former founding president of Barretts Equine Limited, California's premier regional sales company. He has more than 35 years experience in the racing industry, having previously served as auction sales manager for CTBA Sales and vice president of Fasig-Tipton California, Inc. In his previous guest post, McMahon discussed commercial bloodstock markets and supply. Watch for his upcoming guest posts.

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