The first part of American Pharoah’s legacy is complete.
From his juvenile championship campaign to his historic Triple Crown sweep to his crowning as the 2015 Horse of the Year, the son of Pioneerof the Nile has been the towering benchmark against his peers.
The impact the Zayat Stables homebred had on the racetrack is equal parts indelible and indisputable. This month, American Pharoah begins the next chapter in defining his greatness, one that will shape his influence on Thoroughbred racing for generations to come.
With the 2016 breeding season set to begin this month, American Pharoah starts his second career in a familiar position — at the forefront of what is being hailed as an outstanding group. Now a resident in the main stallion barn at Ashford Stud, the Kentucky-based arm of John Magnier’s Coolmore Stud operation, the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years is arguably the most anticipated freshman sire of the last few decades.
American Pharoah’s advertised stud fee of $200,000 for his first season ties him with proven Claiborne Farm stallion War Front as the second-most expensive stallion in North America for 2016, behind only leading sire Tapit, who will again stand for $300,000 at Gainesway. It is also the highest for a first-year stallion since 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper entered stud at Adena Springs in 2006 at the same fee.
It is a wildly ambitious price point for any stallion — never mind a first-year sire — but the appeal of a Triple Crown winner with pedigree to match is a unique factor in the market.
American Pharoah’s advertised stud fee of $200,000 for his first season ties him with proven Claiborne Farm stallion War Front as the second-most expensive stallion in North America for 2016 behind only leading sire Tapit, who will again stand for $300,000 at Gainesway. It is also the highest for a first-year stallion since 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper entered stud at Adena Springs in 2006 at the same fee.
In addition to the support American Pharoah will get from top-class Coolmore mares, outside domestic and global support is already lined up. Japan-based Shimokobe Farm specifically purchased Canadian champion Conquest Harlanate for $450,000 at the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages sale to send her to American Pharoah.
“We are obviously hugely excited to have American Pharoah standing at Ashford. Horses like him only come around every so often, so it has been a real thrill for everyone here to be associated with him,” said Dermot Ryan, manager of Ashford Stud. “As you can imagine he is very popular with breeders and has a high-quality book of mares lined up.
“The exact number of mares he breeds will depend on how the breeding season pans out, but he will get every chance to prove himself as a sire.”
The breeding shed can be a humbling world for even the bluest of blood and best of talents. While Hall of Famers Northern Dancer, Native Dancer and Seattle Slew were able to become breed-shaping sires, Secretariat and Affirmed — winners of the 1973 and 1978 Triple Crowns, respectively — had stud careers that fell short of their legendary on-track exploits, though Secretariat’s impact as a broodmare sire still endures.
American Pharoah’s bloodlines do offer him added opportunity to cross with some exceptional mares as he is free of major sire lines like Seattle Slew, Danzig and Sadler’s Wells. He will, however, have some of the toughest competition of his life if he is to emerge as a success from this group of freshman sires.
The list of new stallions for 2016 can easily be called the best assembly of horseflesh to enter the breeding ranks in at least the last decade. Lane’s End Farm has all three finalists for 2015 champion older dirt male on its roster in divisional champion Honor Code, Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map and multiple Grade I winner Tonalist.
WinStar Farm, which stands American Pharoah’s sire Pioneerof the Nile for $125,000 in 2016, has its own murderers’ row in the making with Grade I winners Carpe Diem, Constitution, Daredevil and classic-placed Commissioner all standing their first seasons.
Further strengthening the mix are the likes of Palace Malice, winner of the 2013 Belmont Stakes and 2014 Met Mile, standing his first year at Three Chimneys and 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern entering his first year at Hill ‘n’ Dale.
“It’s an outstanding group. I think you’re going to have two or three really good sires come out of this group,” Elliott Walden, president and CEO of WinStar Farm, said of the 2016 freshman sires. “I think from a physical standpoint all four (of the new WinStar stallions) are outstanding physicals and … they present three sire lines with Tapit and A.P. Indy on the one (Constitution and Commissioner), More Than Ready and the Halo line (Daredevil) and then obviously with Carpe Diem, the Giant’s Causeway and Storm Cat line.”
Carrie Brogden of Machmer Hall — which bred reigning champion turf female Tepin — calls the 2016 crew the “best group of stallions in years and years and years.” What Brogden warns of, though, is how key the initial pricing of a stallion is to that sire’s long-term success.
It is always better to underprice and create demand and value than to overprice. Always. Horses that were seen as value, horses like Liam’s Map or Carpe Diem, Honor Code, they are booked full and have a giant waiting list behind them.
Carrie Brogden, Machmer Hall Farm in Paris
Overprice a stallion, and a farm will end up having to backpedal in a hurry in order to get market support. And with stallion fees on the whole ticking upward again, now is an optimal time for a freshman stallion to potentially pick up mares that may have gone to a more proven product.
“I do think there are a lot of exceptional stallions that have retired. But — whether people want to admit it or not — we are in a flat market and there are a lot of world events … that are scaring the hell out of people and I think people are retreating to value,” Brogden said. “I think the most important thing stud farms can do is price these horses so they are perceived as value for the race records and their physicals and who they are by with their female families.
“It is always better to underprice and create demand and value than to overprice. Always. Horses that were seen as value, horses like Liam’s Map or Carpe Diem, Honor Code, they are booked full and have a giant waiting list behind them.”
At his price point, American Pharoah is trying to be the exception to the rule. He already brings something to the table no stallion has offered since Affirmed entered stud in 1980.
“I have mares booked to him but they (Ashford) have had to do some flexing,” Brogden said. “It is one of those things where, I’m such a fan of American Pharoah that I knew kind of no matter what he was priced at, I wanted to send a mare to him. I have our van drivers fighting already about who gets to take (the mares) to the shed.
“So, American Pharoah is a little bit of an anomaly. But people are still business people. And he was aggressively priced. Very, very aggressively priced.”
Notable new Kentucky sires for 2016
Ashford Stud: American Pharoah ($200,000 stud fee), Competitive Edge ($12,500)
WinStar Farm: Carpe Diem ($25,000), Constitution ($25,000), Daredevil ($12,500), Commissioner ($7,500)
Lane’s End: Honor Code ($40,000), Tonalist ($30,000), Liam’s Map ($25,000), Mr. Speaker ($10,000)
Hill ‘n’ Dale: Bayern ($15,000), Secret Circle ($5,000)
Three Chimneys: Palace Malice ($20,000), Fast Anna ($7,500)
Gainesway: Karakontie ($15,000)
Spendthrift Farm: Wicked Strong ($10,000), Hampton Court ($7,500), Race Day ($7,000), Palace ($6,000), Medal Count ($5,000), Danza ($4,000)
Claiborne: Lea ($12,500)
Crestwood Farm: Jack Milton ($6,500)
Airdrie Stud: Summer Front ($10,000)
Darby Dan: Tapiture ($7,500); Sky Kingdom ($5,000)