Case Study: A Look At Upstart’s Quick Start



A Look At Upstart’s Quick Start

Every year it’s a mad rush to breed to the first-year stallions. Some do it because they were great racehorses; some do it because they have great physicals; some do it because he may be by a sire-of-sires; some do it just because.

Upstart stands stud at Airdrie Stud in Midway, KY for $10,000 and has remained there from the start. Here is their description of Upstart on their website:

  • Multiple Graded Stakes Winner of over $1.7 Million
  • Stakes Winner and dual Grade 1 Placed each year from 2 to 4
  • Flatter’s Best Two-Year-Old
  • The East Coast’s Top Rated Derby Prospect Following his Brilliant 5-Length Score in the GII Holy Bull Stakes
  • Saratoga Debut Winner and Stakes Winner at 2, earning a sparkling 102 Beyer Speed Figure
  • Placed in the GI Champagne Stakes and GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes
  • Defeated the Top Class Frosted twice in First-Place Finishes in the GII Holy Bull and GII Fountain of Youth Stakes at 3
  • Winner of the GIII $350,000 Razorback H. at 4
  • Finished his Career with Back-to- Back Placings in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile and Grade 1 Whitney Handicap
  • An Absolutely Gorgeous Individual with Size, Scope and Class

Quite a resume!

In an average year, I will complete 100+ complimentary OPTIMAL Mating analyses for different individuals. There most always is one or two first-year stallions that stand out based on their pedigree compatibility to a broad base of mares. This has historically been a great predictor of stallions that consistently produce good racehorses. Regardless, of the initial stud fee, commercial appeal or even their actual book of mares. Some stallions actually do better with “lesser” mares. NOTE: A different subject for a different day!

The breeding season of 2017 happened to produce one of the stallions described above. I was amazed at the number of mares that he produced OPTIMAL Matings with. Upon my recommendations of Upstart, I was met with the typical arguments of why not to breed to him. “He won’t be commercial”, “His stud fee isn’t high enough to get a good sales horse”, “He’s by Flatter. He’s not a sire-of-sires” and my personal favorite, “He couldn’t win a Grade 1”.

I always like to be able to back up my initial pedigree findings with progeny that show athleticism and physical appeal. I saw exactly that the following two years with Upstart’s weanlings and yearlings. His weanlings averaged $64,733 in 2018 and his yearlings averaged $61,527 in 2019. Both averages are over 6x his stud fee! The physicals were definitely there.

But, the “horse shows” were over. Time to get to work! The 2020 2yo sales would require physicals and performance. Upstart’s 2yo sales average was $104,400 with the highest price being $600,000. By this time, I was all in and actually had already purchased a 2yo colt by Upstart in March. It was almost an impossible task to buy the right weanling or yearling by him without having to overpay, so I was happy to finally have an Upstart.

What did I see early on that got me focused on Upstart. The same thing that I see in many consistent racehorse sires. At least three running families and preferably one sire family represented by the four individuals (grandparents) in the stallion’s second generation. See my past post “Why Are Some Stallions More Consistent Than Others?” for a deeper explanation.


As of today, Upstart now has five first-crop 2yo winners, all in Maiden Special Weight company.

  • UPSTRIKER was a dominant 5 length debut winner for Ron Moquett at Ellis Park on Sunday 8/30 earning an 81 Beyer, the highest Beyer for a 2yo colt at the meet! Bred by B. C. Jones, he is co-owned with William S. Sparks
  • FOUNDER broke his maiden in eye-catching fashion on August 29th at Saratoga. He made a dramatic rally from last-to-first on a muddy surface to catch Chad Brown’s other runner, Highly Motivated (Into Mischief), to win by a neck in 1:10.01
  • REINVESTMENT RISK was a phenomenal debut winner of the storied maiden on Whitney Day at the Spa, earning a TDN Rising Star. Purchased for Klaravich Stables for $280,000 at OBSMAR20 by Mike Ryan, he is pointing to the G1 Hopeful S. next.
  • LADY GOLDSTART was a tenacious victress on debut at Ellis Park for Winchester Place Thoroughbreds and trainer, Ian Wilkes
  • Also the sire of Baytown Bear (MdSpWt winner) and stakes-placed Uptown (2nd, Hoover S., Best of Ohio Cleveland Kindergarten S.)

It’s a shame that Upstart never won that Grade 1! Experience tells me that he’s just getting started.

Whether you are new to the game, experiencing more losses than wins or just looking for a new approach, I am confident that I can help you breed or buy a better racehorse. To find out more about OPTIMAL Matings and how they can help your program, please subscribe to my Blog/News page HERE to receive future information on complimentary mating recommendations, sales short lists, stakes winner pedigree analysis, news on personal client success and any other random thoughts or ideas that I may have. Also, receive a complimentary copy of my report “Blind Luck or Designed Luck? – How A Kentucky Derby Winner Was Bred” sent directly to your inbox.

For inquiries or more information about Shepherd Equine Advisers, please contact Clark Shepherd at 859-321-6618, or by email at

I would love to hear any comments or questions that you may have. Please submit them below. Maybe we can address them in a future post!


I am a thoroughbred bloodstock agent and sales adviser. I help like-minded owners and breeders challenge the status-quo of commercial speculation by breeding or buying better racehorses via extensive pedigree analysis, physical evaluation and results-driven experience. To find out more about how my services can help your program, please contact me at 859-321-6618, or by email at

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