The Nomination Struggle: Lucas Marquardt


Lucas Marquardt

   Chris McGrath’s Value Sires series in the TDN has frequently touched on the difficulty in selling nominations to stallions in their third-year at stud, as well as to solid, established stallions standing for a moderate fee. We asked stallion managers and nominations teams as well as bloodstock agents what changes could be made, if any, to help the situation.


Lucas Marquardt, Thorostride

This has been a great, informative series often approached as a supply-side issue. That is, viewed from the perspective of breeders and stallion farms, mostly through the lens of book size. As Carrie Brogden Saturday, and others before her have pointed out, breeders embrace 1st- and 2nd-crop stallions so enthusiastically for one reason: because buyers do. Obviously that’s the primary driver of book size.

But I was curious to view the situation from a slightly different angle–from the demand side–and wondered what percentage of the most commercial sale yearlings, in any given year, are by 1st- or 2nd-year stallions. (First year meaning those with their first crop of yearlings; second year meaning it’s the sire’s second crop of yearlings.) And how that, in turn, influences breeders’ decisions.

Looking at the last five years, from 2015 through 2019, it was relatively rare for a 1st-year stallion to break the annual Top 20 sire list by yearling average. That surprised me. Only Bodemeister, The Factor, Orb, Will Take Charge, American Pharoah, Honor Code, Nyquist, Runhappy and Frosted have done so. So I broadened the scoped and looked at the Top 50 yearling sires by average in that stretch, and then at the Top 100. Below are the results.

In general terms, from 2015-19, around 17% of the Top 50 commercial sires were 1st-crop sires. Combined, 1st- and 2nd-year sires made up 25% of the Top 50 sires.

A look at the Top 100, which would be more representative of the middle and lower ends of the market, reveals similar numbers. From 2015-19, about 18% of the Top 100 commercial sires were 1st-year stallions. An even 30% were 1st- or 2nd-year stallions.

These numbers lack context if we don’t look at the actual number of yearlings sold (table 1). Here things get more interesting. Give or take, the Top 100 sires of sale yearlings are represented by 4,700 yearlings through the ring each year, of which an average of 3,853 have sold over the past five years. Of these, on average, 22% are by 1st-crop sires. If we add in 2nd-crop sires, about 35% of that group of 3,853 sold yearlings will be by 1st- or 2nd-crop stallions.

Thirty-five percent is a lot of weight for buyers to throw behind largely unproven stallions, but is it too much? I’ll leave that to people smarter than me. Some of these stallions will be abject failures, but many more will just be average, and the market will move on to other, younger sires who will be similarly average. The hope, obviously, is to unearth the next Uncle Mo or Constitution in the process. In any case, these numbers represent an interesting facet of the conversation.

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