View Full Version : Paying out a fortune in stud fees can’t guarantee a Derby winner

Dec. 19, 2007, 05:38 AM
An interesting news article for you guys I suspect. What do you make of it all? Im not very knowledgeable about racing, but it struck me as being quite correct!


Ill try and see if I can get a copy of the original paper for you.

Dec. 19, 2007, 06:25 AM
“It is likely that those breeders best able to pay high stud fees are also those who are able to spend more on care of the horse, how it is trained and who rides it – all of which will contribute more to how much it will win.

“Of course, if every breeder is spending lots on the care of the horse, then the difference between winning or losing will come down to the smaller details, such as who the parents are. So picking the best genes can give an edge, but it’s by no means clear that the best genes come with the highest price tag.”


1st off the writer is missing the entire point. Yes I understand if you take a so so mare and breed to a so so stallion but....provide the best possible care, training, nutrition, enviroment, etc...chances are pretty good the horse will do alright...thats barring any injuries occure in the mean time that may other wise compromise the horses performance in the long haul.

2nd off...stallions who are big bucks are there for a reason. No the average breeding is not able to afford breeding to them....but then these boys arent looking for average!

No where does the writer mention the real goal for these big $ stallions. The larger stallions are about BLACKTYPE PRODUCTION! not career earnings over a 5 yr racing career. They want foals who run in the big oney and who sell well. Do they see as many money getting foals over all? Maybe not...but they generally do produce many outstanding runners...and yes sufice it to say many times is due to a better gene pool...breeding producers to producers does improve your chances. on the flip side of that note...we do see many times where a non raced or poorly raced broodmare produces a stellar foal....again gene pool!

Now I think what the writer is saying is that you need not got spend $300K on a fee to get a solid runner. But it all depends on your goals. We do see many times where a less then commercial sire jumps up and produces a nice runner....can we asy that sire will not produce 20 stakes runners in his life? DOUBT IT. But we might be able to say...this sire is a steady source of soundness, and solid perfomance...however may lack commercial ability.

My case in point the stallion Good and Tough. Great pedigree, great racehorse, a nice looking animal in person ( I loved him) BUT...no love at the sales even though his foals to indeed run. Hes now either $3500 or $5000 in la. a great value in my book but maybe not the type of sire you breed to for sales results. Want a racehorse...hes your man!

Dec. 19, 2007, 06:46 AM
Heres the abstract, afraid i cant link you to the full text.


Horse racing is a multi-million pound industry, in which genetic information is increasingly used to optimize breeding programmes. To maximize the probability of producing a successful offspring, the owner of a mare should mate her with a high-quality stallion. However, stallions with big reputations command higher stud fees and paying these is only a sensible strategy if, (i) there is a genetic variation for success on the racecourse and (ii) stud fees are an honest signal of a stallion's genetic quality. Using data on thoroughbred racehorses, and lifetime earnings from prize money (LE) as a measure of success, we performed quantitative genetic analyses within an animal model framework to test these two conditions. Although LE is heritable (VA=0.299±0.108, Pr=0.002), there is no genetic variance for stud fee and the genetic correlation between traits is therefore zero. This result is supported by an absence of any relationship between stud fees for currently active stallions and the predicted LE for their (hypothetical) offspring. Thus, while there are good genes to be bought, a stallion's fees are not an honest signal of his genetic quality and are a poor predictor of a foal's prize winning potential.

Dec. 19, 2007, 06:51 AM
Well since only ONE horse can win the derby ONE time in his or her life, its really reduced to somewhat of a lottery. Breeding and past performance of the sire and dam just gives you more tickets, but in the end, you still have to get really lucky and have your number be the one drawn.

Dec. 19, 2007, 09:51 AM
The same study was the basis of this article in The Telegraph (UK)

Telegraph 12-19-07 " High price may not make champion horse" (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/earth/2007/12/19/scihorse119.xml)


The researchers compared the stud fees, winnings and lifetime earnings of over 4000 horses used for racing and breeding since 1922. Only 10 per cent of a horse's winnings can be attributed to parentage, according to a study published in the journal Biology Letters.

The majority - up to 90 per cent - of a horse's lifetime winnings rest on how the horse is reared, trained and ridden and not to its genetic inheritance.

Dr Alastair Wilson of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, who did the work with Andrew Rambaut, said: "The offspring of expensive stallions might tend to win more money, but not necessarily because they have inherited the best genes.

"It is likely that those breeders best able to pay high stud fees are also those who are able to spend more on care of the horse, how it is trained, and who rides it - all of which will contribute more to how much it will win."

He stressed the findings did not mean stud fees were a waste of money.

I don't think the results are that much of a shock as common sense and logic has always dictated that a well trained horse, who has been kept fit, and focused does exceptionally well in the right races. Look at The Green Monkey for an example of money not equating to talent or return. Yet I'm sure that horse could do very well in the $25k claiming ranks.

The study if anything reaffirms the success that some trainers will have with horse transferred into their barns who otherwise have been so-so. Look at Golden Hare: since his last transfer his success has been magnificent.

Look at the exceptional horses in the US in the last half-century - all of them were trained by very, very talented trainers. Can anyone think of a great horse on the track consistently who had an idiot for a trainer?

Dec. 19, 2007, 10:27 AM
Can anyone think of a great horse on the track consistently who had an idiot for a trainer?

I'd prefer not to answer that question! ;) :lol:

Bottom line, I think this article is very good. But it is just common sense.

It's a shame that focus of breeding has shifted from producing winners to producing top selling horses. Breeding/sales and racing have almost become two separate games.

I think it would be great fun to equally divvy up all the thoroughbreds born one year. Just randomly assign them in barns, regardless of their pedigree. Put Better than Honour's foal in a barn at Beulah and put the foal by Who? out of Huh? in an outfit in SoCal. Then let's sit back and watch the races.

Dec. 19, 2007, 11:15 AM
In the US, most of the highest value babies (highest stud fees/best mares) are bred for SALE not the track. They are considered a success if they SELL for over their cost to breed and raise, even f they never race.

Stallions like AP Indy, Storm Cat and Distorted Humor stand for $300k and sire over 100 babies a year. Even if one of those stallions sired EVERY Derby winner for the next decade, it would still be 10 out of 3000 foals who won the Derby. (Realistically this unlikely as about half the foals are fillies and SC will not likely be active for 10 more years.)

Dec. 19, 2007, 12:16 PM
While the OP cited an article that was fixated with the Derby (Epsom Derby I presume since the paper was British and study was Scottish) the same elements of proper training, conditioning, and riding still tend to be more crucial factors resulting in wining any graded stakes race vs. simply being from the bloodlines of Northern Dancer.

In the same sense, realistically, no buyer at auction bidding on a yearling or unproven 2-yr old can go by much more then bloodlines and what they've yielded before with performance.

It is the same logic that applies with maiden runners.

A horse trained out of the Pletcher barn simply will go off at or near the lowest odds just because of the strength of his barn. Bettors are going to assume right or wrong that the horse has received the correct training in breaking from the gate, how to pace themselves, how to listen to the jockey, et al which has been seen with other horses.

Dec. 19, 2007, 01:30 PM
Of course there are some in the media who can read a report and manage to screw it up entirely ... from India: A racehorse’s success lies in its genes (http://www.topnews.in/health/racehorse-s-success-lies-its-genes-2253)

the very much wrong article

Whether a horse will be a winner or a loser on the racetrack depends on the kind of genes it has.

Evolutionary ecologists Alastair Wilson and Andrew Rambaut at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland conducted a new study, which showed that genetics play a significant role in whether a racehorse would win or loose.

Amazing :D

Florida Fan
Dec. 22, 2007, 01:01 PM
Having lived in the racing world as a licensed trainer for 25 years, with a modest stable of 15 to 25 runners, I can tell you that the best horses have the classic pedigrees. First and foremost, no "smart money"breeds a mare of mediocre pedigree to a top stallion, the top stallions do not accept them. Just because the mare has a recognizeable name of top quality in her pedigree, if it is not a currentlywinning/money making line of that family, it is not considered productive. It is however the genes go together. At the sales, the young horses with the dams with the bold black type bring the most money. Add a top producing stallion, which most bold black type mares are bred to--that brings the bid up even more. There are exceptions to every rule, every now and then you can luck into a great one for a modest price, but we are talking the big percentage is not a "fairy tale". Check it out for yourself. In the showhorse world, we think some ribbons make our horses a success (they are!). But in the runners it is all money beside their names. As for trainers--most of the ones who get the top, top horses, have trained others in that category. When Pletchers, or other top trainers, horses go off at short odds, it is really because he and others like him do not accept horses that he does not perceive as moneymakers.

Dec. 22, 2007, 02:11 PM
but in short it seems to suggest to spend the 300k studfee on the care and training is wiser...but then again, people who can risk 300k stud fees won't be pressed to shell out 20 or 50k a year for training...

Dec. 22, 2007, 08:43 PM
but in short it seems to suggest to spend the 300k studfee on the care and training is wiser...but then again, people who can risk 300k stud fees won't be pressed to shell out 20 or 50k a year for training...

I think a lot of you guys are missing the point. By and large the people paying 300k on a stud fee have little or no intention of racing the horse. They intend to sell the horse as a yearling. If they are lucky they will make a couple of hundred grand. If they are real lucky they'll make a million or two. If they are not so lucky they will take a loss.
The people that buy them after that are probably the ones taking the biggest gamble. But even then, a well bred horse with testicles attached has residual value and the ability to recoup the investment over time, even if he never recoups it all on the track. A stallion covering 40 mares at 5k a pop brings in 200k a year. If he gets a few stakes winners he can make more.

In the grand scheme of things I don't see that it's any more or less foolish than Venture Capitalists pumping millions into a start up. It's all a gamble.
People like to point to the Green Monkey and laugh saying what idiots would pay $16m for a horse and have it turn out to be a flop? The answer of course is the same idiots that operate the most successful stud/racing operation the world has ever known. The GM is just minor blip in their overall numbers game.

Florida Fan
Dec. 22, 2007, 10:59 PM
Not missing any point----if some of the high dollar sales horses don't win for in good class, the stud fee will fall in a hurry! As I live in Fla. and have always bought from the early sales there, I can tell you that unless you are "in the game" you can only speculate as to what really goes on. I saw Green Monkey do his record shattering work, (he's fast),owners thought he might be able to carry that speed further as an older horse----owners like to try and get the "running freak". They have $$$$ to speculate---doesn't always work. The racing business is a high risk deal, those same guys will be there for another high adrenaline deal, which we all like to see and comment on.
Incidently, if the print was not incorrect, you can breed an approved mare to Invasor for 35k. Talk about a runner------

Dec. 23, 2007, 01:23 PM
I currently have a colt representing a $225k stud fee at home on layup. A common question when people look this muddy, disheveled horse is "what makes a stallion worth $225k a pop?" It's hard to explain to people who aren't in the business. My general response has to do with a stallion's ability to get the big horse and his foals' residual value through his ability to be a broodmare sire and/or sire of sires. This makes sense with established sires, but frankly I'm not sure how to explain what makes a first year stallion worth $100k.

I think a lot of you guys are missing the point. By and large the people paying 300k on a stud fee have little or no intention of racing the horse. They intend to sell the horse as a yearling.

I'm not sure I would go as far as "by and large," but regardless of whether they were bred for the commercial market, whether they were bought as weaners or yearlings by pinhookers, obviously someone thinks horses by these big stallions are worth the money because there is a good chance the person who sells them for the final time as a racing prospect will make money.

The bottom line is: I think a horse by a $300k stallion does get you a better chance of playing in the top levels of this sport. There are tons of exceptions, but if I had a burning desire and the bankroll to make it feasible to be competitive in the classics, I'd go for some Distorted Humors or Storm Cats, etc.

Incidently, if the print was not incorrect, you can breed an approved mare to Invasor for 35k. Talk about a runner------

It's correct: Invasor is standing for $35k. That price is reflective of his less-than fashionable pedigree and his looks. If he stamps his babies, I doubt they will sell well - he just doesn't have the look. If breeding to race, I'd definitely go to him over some of the higher priced young stallions, but I'd be hesitant from a commericial standpoint.

Dec. 23, 2007, 08:33 PM
Paying a fortune in stud fees can't even guarantee a money earner, why start with the Derby?

Dec. 24, 2007, 06:56 AM
I guess this SORT of applies...
The lady I ahve break and start all of our horses that we intend to retain to race...She has indeed been involved with a Derby winner who was also a Triple Crown Winner....

She said she has people call her many times and the first words out of their mouths is "I WANT TO WIN THE KY DERBY!" She tells them "to have a goal and a dream is wonderful...however with 35,000+ foals born every year why do you think THIS one horse is so gifted? Do you have the kind of money needed to campain a horse of that caliper? "

She told me people think just because she got one horse to the derby and the triple she can do it again...thats when she snaps them into reality....

"I was merely one of many people involved with the horses success...one of MANY! No one person, no one trick no one trainer no one horse will guarentee you success at anything you wish to do."

So the moral of the story...Yes Seattle Slew was a cheap buy and a 1 in a million horse. BUt the money that went into him as support for his god given talent...chances are if you are paying $75,000 - $300,000.00 for a stud fee you arent looking to take this off spring to the local Claiming trainer at Mountaineer Park! The foal isnt going to get broke in your back yard by some gutsy yet clueless backyard horsemen (not that there arent a few nice horsemen in the back yard world) and I do doubt the foal is going to be raised and trained in a HAPHAZZARD manner. Providing that horse the best possible nutrition, Care and management is also going to help ensure (NOT GUAREENTEE) a likelyhood of Success. AGAIN with 35-37,000 foals born every year only ONE can will the big race!

With that said...I'm happy just to see a check from a race! ANd my horse to come back to the barn in one piece!