By Katie Ritz
Since the loss of Taylor Made's signature stallion Unbridled's Song seven years ago, the farm has worked to regain its footing in the ever-evolving, ever-competitive business of stallion development. The first step, finding prospective stallions that fit a specific program, often proves to be the most difficult.
“What do you look for in a stallion?” asked Taylor Made's Frank Taylor. “The one thing we know is nobody knows who is going to be a great stallion. If anybody tells you they do, they're not telling the truth.”
Ben Taylor, Vice President of Taylor Made Stallions, added that once you find a good fit, the price tag behind the prospect can often make consideration unrealistic.
“We are constantly on the lookout, but the market has been so difficult in the last few years and the competition so fierce,” Ben said. “Everybody seems to be after the same ones and the payouts are just so astronomical that we haven't been able to get some of the upper-end stallions. So we just pick our spots and try to be ready for opportunity when it presents itself and take advantage of it. We're trying to get stallions that we believe in and can get behind, but it's tough. We really needed a horse like Not This Time to come on.”
Not This Time (Giant's Causeway), currently the leading first-crop sire by winners, has been an up-and-comer to watch all year with his offspring showing his precocity on the track while proving to be increasingly popular at the sales.
“They're early, I think they're going to go the distance and they're running on both surfaces,” Ben said. “He reminds me of Unbridled's Song in that he's good-looking, his horses are talented and are all a pretty good size. In fact, I think he may be a little better than Unbridled's Song from a physical standpoint because he gets the perfect-sized horse. He's flawless and his babies resemble him.”
“Princess Noor is unbelievable,” Ben said. “They really haven't asked her to run yet, so they say, so it'll be interesting to see what happens going forward. She's an unbelievable talent for sure.”
Her sire had shown the same promise as a juvenile under Dale Romans, breaking his maiden by 10 lengths and then taking the GIII Iroquois S. by just under nine. After a close second in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile, a soft tissue injury forced the son of Giant's Causeway to end his racing career.
“We're very lucky to have Not This Time,” Ben admitted. “If he would have gone on and had the opportunity to compete as a 3-year-old, we probably wouldn't have him.”
“He's a little bit under the radar, I think,” Ben said. “But he's had a few horses run really well in major maiden races with quality fields. They're horses that want to go longer, so a lot of them haven't started yet, but they're showing a lot of talent and I think you're going to see more of them popping up.”
Two Midnight Storm yearlings brought six figures at the Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase, and several dozen youngsters are catalogued to go through the ring in the following days at Keeneland. His headliner at Fasig-Tipton, a colt out of Chickasaw Gal (Indian Charlie), brought $200,000 off a $12,500 stud fee.
“The yearlings that have sold so far have sold well,” Ben said. “From day one, we've had reports from people who bred to him say, 'Hey, I got a great one. I want to breed another mare.' He's from a sire line that I'm really excited about and I think is going to make a big impact going forward.”
“I'm very excited about Instagrand because he is a powerful, strong, good-looking horse and he's by Into Mischief, who is just dominating the business right now,” Frank said. “Instagrand's first two starts were unbelievable. The greatest stallions, I think, have brilliance.”
A $1.2 million joint sale-topping purchase for Larry Best's OXO Equine at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale, the flashy colt broke his maiden in near record-breaking fashion at Los Alamitos and then took the GII Best Pal S. at Del Mar by over 10 lengths. After a layoff, the sophomore placed in two graded stakes including the GI Santa Anita Derby.
Frank said he believes that one of the keys to Instagrand's early success at stud will be the support he receives from first-time stallion owner Larry Best.
“Instagrand has OXO Stallions behind him and Larry is very excited,” he said. “He's going to support him with a lot of mares, and he's going to buy his weanlings and yearlings at the sales. So he believes in the horse fully and is going to put his power behind him, which is going to be a great thing for breeders. We think he's got a really big shot.”
Frank reflected on the eventful season it has been for the Taylor Made Stallions program.
“We've been doing it for 20-some years and we've had great success. We've gotten really lucky and blessed now to have Not This Time and to have Midnight Storm and Mshawish coming up. We're really excited to add Instagrand to the program.”
Ben agreed that in the game of making stallions, luck is always a major player.
“We've been very fortunate to have the success we have had with the limited number of stallions. We've had Saint Ballado, Unbridled's Song and Forestry. Something I always ask to myself is 'How many times are you going to be lucky?' And it takes luck to have a stallion reach the top, no matter how good a job you do.”