What Sire Made the Biggest Impression with Their First Foals in 2017?


Muhaarar | Shadwell 

By Kevin Blake

The old saying may well be “foals are for fools,” but that doesn’t stop an army of pinhookers from descending on the sale grounds of Ireland and England every November and December in pursuit of what they hope will prove to be a bargain at the foal sales.

Not only do such buyers have to assess the likely physical progress of what are very young and immature animals, they also have to speculate as to what the market will want by the time the yearling sales come around less than a year later. Despite the multiple pitfalls of the pursuit, it is a challenge that seems to engage the bloodstock industry like no other.

One segment of this market that is always a hot topic of discussion at the sales is that of the first foals by new stallions. While it might seem illogical to concentrate on unproven stallions over proven stallions given the statistically low success rate of new sires, considering the speed with which nomination fees rise after initial success of a sire’s progeny on the racecourse, attempting to identify the next success story amongst the new stallions is a highly-popular pursuit in the bloodstock world.

That said, analysing the results of foal sales is a tricky game, primarily due to sample size issues. This is particularly true in the case of the sires with higher nomination fees, as a general rule is that the higher the fee, the less foals by that sire that will be offered at the foal sales. However, such analysis can be particularly informative in the case of sires who stand at the lower end of the nomination scale and are represented by a more significant sample of foals at the sales.

With talk of overproduction having returned to the industry of late, it is very interesting to note that the 2017 foal sales saw an increase in representatives of first-season sires. Bearing in mind that the 2015 foal sales saw the progeny of nine new sires with 75 or more foals and 2016 saw 14 such sires, it will catch many an eye that there were 16 such sires in 2017.

As anyone that is familiar with my style of sales analysis will know, I feel that when assessing the average and median sales price statistics of a stallion’s progeny, it is important to add in the sire’s nomination fee as well as fixed production costs into the equation. Using this method serves to level the playing field on which raw average/median prices are skewed in favour of stallions that stood at lower nomination fees.

Calculating a fair figure for fixed costs incurred from the birth of the foal up until they sold at the foal sales is a tricky business. While foal registration/levy and sale entries are the same for all, the keep costs involved for a hobby or small breeder will be lower compared to those of a breeder whose mare and her progeny reside full-time at an expensive boarding stud. Thus, finding a one-size-fits-all figure that is a fair reflection of the industry average will never be straightforward, but the figure that will be used here is 4,000gns.

The following list is of the relevant numbers relating to every stallion based in Great Britain and Ireland that had their first live foals on the ground in 2017 based on data provided by Weatherbys. While these numbers are accurate up to the end of December, some of the mares covered by the sires in question have not had a return made by their breeder yet. There tends to be live foals amongst those that have yet to be registered, so it is reasonable to expect these live foal numbers to rise slightly between now and the yearling sales.

In terms of what Euro/Sterling exchange rate to use, given that some stud fees are paid as early as Oct. 1 in the year the mare is covered while others may not be paid until the summer months after the foal is born, in an effort to find a fair mid-point an exchange rate of 86p to €1 from Mar. 1, 2017 has been used.

Here is what the data tells us, with the sires being put in order of the highest-to-lowest median price expressed as a multiple of their stud fee plus fixed costs.

While his sample of foals that went to the sales might not be big, the one that immediately jumps off the page is Muhaarar (GB) (Shadwell). The son of Oasis Dream (GB) was in exceptionally high demand in his first season at stud with him being restricted to just 120 mares and those breeders that got into him and sent the resulting foals to the sales were very well rewarded. When the average and median sales prices of his progeny are expressed as a multiple of his covering fee plus costs, they come out at over double that of any of his rivals, which is a quite phenomenal margin of superiority.

Of course, that Muhaarar only had 11 foals representing him at the sales makes analysis of his results less reliable, but it was certainly a very taking first impression for his progeny to make. While it remains to be seen just how many of his 100 or so first-crop foals end up at the yearling sales, his first runners are sure to be amongst the most anticipated of the first-season sires in 2019.

For all that Muhaarar’s stats are attention grabbing, the real benefit of analysis such as this is in assessing the performance of stallions that stood for more commercial fees and were more strongly represented at the foal sales. In that category, the stand-out performer of 2017 was Gutaifan (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) (Yeomanstown).

Eyebrows were raised last year when it was revealed that Gutaifan had covered no less 203 mares in his first season at stud, but any fears that the market would be saturated by his first crop were quickly quashed at the foal sales, with his progeny registering the best stats of all the sires standing for £30,000 or less. The fact that this was achieved despite him having by far the biggest numerical representation at the foal sales makes it even more impressive.

While it would have been widely expected that Yeomanstown Stud would support Gutaifan’s progeny at the foal sales, it was not the case they propped up his results. Of the 54 offspring of Gutaifan that changed hands, Yeomanstown only bought five of them, including two of his three highest-priced offspring that realised 125,000gns and €120,000 respectively.

There was a wide variety of leading names amongst the purchasers of his progeny such as Peter Doyle, Glenvale, Lynn Lodge, Mags O’Toole and Mouse O’Ryan, with the last-named agent securing Gutaifan’s highest-priced offspring, a half-sister to the smart juvenile Great What Eagle (Elusive Quality) that realised €155,000 at Goffs. One of the more eye-catching purchasers of his offspring was Juddmonte who paid just 22,000gns for a colt by him at Tattersalls.

The results secured by Gutaifan’s offspring at the foal sales suggest that he could be the commercial first-season sire that really takes off at the yearling sales in 2018. Longer term, with him having the numbers on the ground to ensure that he is likely to be a leading fancy for the title of Champion First-Season Sire in 2019, there is an awful lot to look forward to with the progeny of Gutaifan.

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