Case Study: Two High-End Stallions to Mitigate Risk



Two High-End Stallions to Mitigate Risk

The commercial market is infatuated with elevated stud fees and sales averages of stallions. If it were just that easy to “breed the best to the best”, the average to little guy wouldn’t have a shot. But, if the high-end of the market is where you choose to play, what are the best stallions to focus on for mitigating risk? What if you breed solely for the commercial market? What if you buy to race? What if you breed to race? What if you are forced to race because your commercial play didn’t sell?

I thought it might be interesting to take a look at where the real value lies with in the upper-end of the market. I didn’t want my commercial perceptions to get in the way, so I compiled a list of the 2020 Top 10 current active sires in America ranked by yearling sales average and then ranked them by their lifetime yearling averages.

NOTE: Stallions not used and reasons why

  • Giant’s Causeway – deceased
  • Kingman (GB) – stands outside of USA
  • Frankel (GB) – stands outside of USA
  • Galileo (IRE) – stands outside of USA
  • Gun Runner – no active runners
  • American Pharoah – private 2020 stud fee
  • Arrogate – deceased
  • Pioneerof the Nile – deceased
  • Nyquist – only has 2YOs racing, insufficient data
  • Churchill (IRE) – stands outside of USA

Breeding to Sell

A worthy group, indeed! Who wouldn’t want to breed to them given the means to do so? Great averages but what’s the risk involved to achieve those numbers?

Averages can be skewed by extreme highs and lows. I prefer to look at sales medians. The exact middle. Conservatively, I like to think about being right in the middle and making the numbers work from there. If a great individual is produced, bonus! If a less desirable individual individual is produced, you can live to see another day. Note the green ranking moving up while the red ranking moves down when compared to the initial rankings by yearling sales average.

With sales median being the primary focus, Speightstown and Ghostzapper clearly show the capacity to earn a profit above the others. I would hate to think that I was going to break even or lose money by breeding in this stratosphere. Keep in mind, these are just concrete prices. We haven’t even thought about production costs to get the mares bred and raising the potential yearling.

Buying to Race

The green rise and the red fall surprised me with some of these stallions when comparing their lifetime starter average earnings with the initial sales rankings.

Notice the clear line of distinction of the green and red. Also, observe the lower stud fees of the group that rise to the top. It’s sad but true, buying to race within this group of high-end commercial stallions appears to be somewhat of an overall losing proposition. Two caveats: you can catch lightning in a bottle and end up with a stallion prospect or have females that have good residual value as broodmare prospects.

Breeding to Race

Again, a clear line of distinction between risers and fallers with only two stallions making an impact.

In conclusion, I had no idea what I would find when I started this process. For this group of stallions, the outcome is clear. Whether breeding to sell or breeding to race, Speightstown and Ghostzapper cover both bases. Especially, if you intend to sell and you end up being forced to race. Of course, any mare bred to either should be both physically compatible and make sense on paper in combining pedigrees.

This methodology can be applied to any group. Preferably, a stud fee range that fits your situation can be applied to form a group to analyze. You may be surprised what you find!

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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