Walking out of the barn on Saturday before the Belmont, Big Brown was looking like a six-figure stud to a lot of people; walking back after his shocking loss, the picture was a little fuzzier.
With a Triple Crown under his belt, the talk was that he might command a stud fee of $100,000, at least for the first four or five years, when his first crop of foals races as 3-year-olds.
Without it, he still might — Smarty Jones, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness only to come in second in the Belmont, does.
Thoroughbred consultant Lincoln Collins said he doesn't think Big Brown is worth any less now than he was before the Preakness, when Three Chimneys Farm bought a minority share of the then-undefeated colt. The total value of the son of Boundary has been rumored to be around $50 million..
Three Chimneys and Collins, a director of the farm, won't comment on the purchase price.
“There's obviously a short-term psychic price to pay,” Collins said Tuesday.
But Big Brown still won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in “imperious” fashion, Collins said.
“People will breed to Big Brown on the basis of the brilliance. His pedigree is not filled with stakes winners but he is filled with high-class blood,” Collins said.
He said the horse's worth does come down, to a degree, to perception.
And the perception of Big Brown is the only thing that's changed about him since Saturday morning.
“There's a balance one has to strike,” Collins said. “It matters whether he won the Triple Crown or not in terms of the stud fee he will stand for until his offspring are proven. Ultimately, the acid test, for any stallion, is what they can produce for the racetrack.”
Case Clay, president of Three Chimneys, said it is premature to speculate about Big Brown's stud fee because so much is riding on whether he races and wins again.
“We're happy with the deal we made,” Clay said.
A win in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August would erase the question mark from a lot of breeders' minds.
Doug Cauthen, president of WinStar Farm in Versailles, said Big Brown's next race is likely to determine his fee as well as the quality of mares that are sent to him next year when he retires to stud.
“The more you do, the fancier your dates are,” Cauthen said. WinStar bred Belmont winner Da' Tara and stands his sire, Tiznow.
While the now-pensioned Boundary might not have been the most fashionable sire, he produced “a rock-star racehorse,” said Cauthen, the brother of Triple Crown-winning jockey Steve Cauthen.
“There's no doubt it would only have enhanced his value to have done it,” Cauthen said of the Triple Crown. “But most people believe the real Big Brown didn't show up.”