Case Study: A Look At Upstart’s Quick Start



A Look At Upstart’s Quick Start

Each year, a mad rush to breed to first-year stallions occurs. Some do it because they were outstanding racehorses; others do it because they have outstanding physical characteristics; still others do it because he may be descended from a sire-of-sires; and still others do it simply 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

That is quite a resume!

On average, I conduct over 100 complimentary OPTIMAL Mating analyses per year for various individuals. It is almost always the case that one or two first-year stallions stand out due to their pedigree compatibility with a diverse range of mares. Historically, this has been an excellent predictor of stallions who consistently produce good racehorses. Regardless of the stud fee, commercial appeal, or even the number of mares in their book. Certain stallions thrive on “lesser” mares. NOTE: This is a different subject for another day!

The 2017 breeding season produced one of the stallions described above. I was astounded at the number of mares with which he achieved OPTIMAL Matings. Upon recommending Upstart, I was met with the standard arguments against breeding to him. “”He will not be commercial,” “His stud fee is insufficient to obtain a good sales horse,” and “He is by Flatter.” He is not a sire-of-sires” and, my personal favorite, “He was incapable of winning a Grade 1 race.” “,

I always like to be able to substantiate my pedigree conclusions with progeny that exhibit athleticism and physical attractiveness. That is precisely what I observed over the next two years with Upstart’s weanlings and yearlings. In 2018, his weanlings averaged $64,733 and his yearlings averaged $61,527. Both averages exceed six times his stud fee! Physicals were unquestionably present.

However, the “horse shows” had concluded. Now is the time to get to work! Physicals and performance would be required for the 2020 two-year sales. Upstart’s two-year-old sales averaged $104,400, with the top price reaching $600,000. By this point, I was fully committed and had already purchased a two-year-old colt by Upstart in March. It was nearly impossible to find the right weanling or yearling without overpaying, so I was relieved to finally have an Upstart.

What did I notice early on that drew my attention to Upstart? That is exactly what I see in a large number of consistent racehorse sires. At least three running families and, preferably, one sire family are represented by the stallion’s second generation’s four individuals (grandparents). For a more detailed explanation, see my previous post “Why Are Some Stallions More Consistent Than Others?


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 offer my expertise as a bloodstock agent, sales consultant, and pedigree analyst to assist in breeding or purchasing superior thoroughbred racehorses through sound pedigree principles, horsemanship, and consistent implementation of well-designed plans. 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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