A guest blog by Matthew Scott
I have just finished reading the book Bred to Run
, by Mike Helm. It is about Mike’s account of a one-week visit to Claiborne Farm in 1992. In a 1:1 interview with Seth Hancock
, Helm indirectly asked, why is there no stamina in US bloodstock anymore?
Seth had some very interesting theories, one of which is there are no US outcrosses for true stamina any longer. Just about all stallions in the US are speed horses, and those that can prove themselves at 1 ½ miles generally do so due to a “fluke” or not racing other stamina horses. Seth’s example was Conquistador Cielo
, who won the Belmont in the slop with no pace or closers.
Here’s my follow up question. If only winning the Belmont doesn’t prove stamina in today’s racing, what about gritty horses that prove themselves at 1 ¼ and 1 ½ miles? Since Seth isn’t here to answer, I’ll give it a shot. Pretty much only the Kentucky Derby
and Belmont Stakes
combo has this capability anymore. How many horses in the past 20 years have won both these races? Thunder Gulch
is the only one by my count
, and he sired another Belmont winner in Point Given
Lets take a look at Drosselmeyer
. He wins the Belmont and the Breeder’s Cup Classic (A.P. Indy is the only other horse to nail that combo) and commands a 1st year stud fee of $17,500. Whereas, Uncle Mo, never won at anything over 9 furlongs requires a 1st year stud fee of $35,000. Does a higher stud fee imply a better stallion?
But the saying goes, it takes two to tango, and if there are no stallions to introduce stamina, what about broodmares? Well, fillies and mares are never tested at distances beyond 1 ¼ miles in US racing. That is unless we get a very daring owner/trainer to face the boys in one of the few 10+ furlong stakes races remaining in the US. After they leave the track, broodmares will likely only produce no more than a dozen or so offspring, compared to top stallions that produce hundreds. It is proven in the business of horse breeding, that the top mares are only bred to the top-producing stallions, which just happen to be speed horses!! This halves our chances for stamina progeny right there…
In 2010, there where only 11 G1 races on dirt at 10 furlongs or longer in the US, and of those, only 6 where open to horses aged 3+. It makes sense that a practical businessman would ask why we would breed horses specialized in year’s worth of G1 races that have total purses of $14,050,000 at 10/10+ furlongs when we can breed them for G1 races totaling $36,100,000 at less than 10 furlongs?
I look at the sires available today, and the one that interests me the most is Afleet Alex. He won the Belmont in flashy style and his damsire is Hawkster. He has proven his ability to pass his stamina by siring Alfeet Again, the horse that won this year’s Breeder’s Cup Marathon (14 furlongs). But Afleet Alex
never raced after his 12 furlong romp at Belmont, and it can be argued that there were no true distance horses in that race either (see paragraph 2 above).
So is Afleet Alex our savior of stamina? Doubtful. But if I owned a 9+ furlong stakes winning broodmare, I would give a second look to Afleet Alex or Drosselmeyer. 14 million dollars is still a lot of G1 money, and with no one focusing on that distance anymore, all it takes is one good 10+ furlong horse to become a leading money earner and maybe the next triple crown winner.