The Nomination Struggle: Mark Toothaker


Mark Toothaker | Chris McGrath

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.

If I knew the answer to this, it would sure make my job a whole lot easier. I wish I had an easy answer or the ability to know how to fix it.

I think the situation all started in 2008. When the market crashed, there was an absolute flocking of people heading to proven stallions. Then as we have gotten farther and farther away from 2008, folks are after the first-year stallions and high-end proven stallions. Everything in between is just caught in the wake.

What we have to do at Spendthrift and what every farm around town is doing is coming up with creative programs or offering deep discounts for year three and year four horses.

Year two stallions have held up fairly well for us if they are a higher-priced second-year horse. This year, we are totally sold out on Bolt d’Oro, but that is more the exception than the rule. Generally in year two, you start seeing a drop off and then in year three and four it’s extremely difficult.

For moderate-priced proven horses, those are challenging as well. You have a horse like Cross Traffic. He was the leading freshman sire of his class, had a dual Grade I winner in Jaywalk, has seven stakes winner, and has a few horses on the Derby trail this winter. Last year we had 190 mares to him but this year we are in an all-out campaign with promotions and everything else to try to get another nice-sized book of mares to him. It’s a constant roller coaster ride.

I think the only thing that can change this industry-wide problem will take another event like we saw in 2008, where the market went into a different direction. It brought buyers back to the proven horses.

At that time, there wasn’t a lot of pinhooking. Horses were worth 50 cents on the dollar, so it was a major struggle for those folks to survive and stay in the business. These people who are still doing business in 2020 that were there in 2008 are survivors.

It will take a market correction of some type to send people back to the proven, mid-level stallions. Right now if you have a high-end proven stallion, an Into Mischief, Curlin, Quality Road, or Malibu Moon, there’s no shortage of mares to be had. But if you have a workman-like, proven stallion that stands for under $15,000, it’s a struggle to find mares.

If anybody finds an answer to this, send them my way.

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