Mares Market


John Boyce finds out how the old saying still holds sway…

The nominations market proved very resilient last spring at the start of the pandemic. Most continued with their mating plans in the expectation that the world would return to normal at some point in the future. In fact, 2020 was the culmination of a ten-year success story for the stallion business on these islands. The volume and value of business is at an all-time high and the only thing restraining it from further growth, pandemic aside, is a yearling market that had been edging up incrementally prior to 2020, keeping hold of an exuberant nominations market like a parent would of an unruly child. It’s clear that the expansion in the nominations market is putting considerable strain on profitability.

To get a sense of how successful the stallion markets has been in recent times we can look at the 20k-plus stallions in Britain and Ireland. Back in 2011, only 2,509 mares were covered by a stallion standing at £20,000-plus or €20,000-plus. Ten years later in 2020, that number had doubled to 5,522 mares. And yes, 2020 inspite of Covid was a record year for mares visiting elite stallions. Moreover, although average book sizes are responsible for some of the growth, it is the sheer number of stallions employed nowadays at 20k-plus that account for the vast majority of the increase. In 2011, 21 stallions stood at this level and by 2020 that count had doubled to 42 – again a record number. On the face of it, we ought to be pleased that there are so many breeders with budgets for elite stallions. That, in itself, is a sure sign of a booming market. But, of course, there are always unintended consequences.

Ten years ago, the 21 stallions advertised at 20k or higher attracted an average book of 119 mares – 15 fewer than the average book covered by the same cohort in 2020. That said, the number of elite mares per stallion has fallen from 60 to 39 in the period. So we have a situation of bigger books but with less quality. And we are all aware that it is the elite mare that can make a marked difference to a stallion’s output of black-type winners. Even the best need the good mares: Dubawi sires 19% Stakes winners from his elite mares, compared to 12% from his non-elites while Galileo doubles his output with elite mares. So, more and more mares does not necessarily equate to more success. In fact, it can appear to have the opposite effect.

First Season Sires in 2020

There were ten new stallions slated to cover at 10k or higher in 2020, and while Tally-Ho’s new Invincible Spirit stallion, Inns Of Court, 124-rated by Timeform and a G2 winner, attracted more mares than any of the 10k-plus brigade and topped the charts with 215 mares from his €7.5k fee, two freshmen stood head and shoulders above all others when it cam to attracting quality mares. Dalham Hall Stud’s Too Darn Hot covered 76 elite mares among his 170, while the same organisation’s Blue Point stole the show in Ireland from his Kildangan base, entertaining 62 elite mares from among his 192 total. To put Too Darn Hot’s numbers in perspective, it helps to know that only six other first-season stallions in the previous 20 years have covered more elite mares. 

It was a close run thing between the next three on the list, with Coolmore’s G1 Middle Park and July Cup winner Ten Sovereigns (33 elite mares), just a head of G1 Derby winner Masar (29) and G1 Futurity and 2,000 Guineas winner Magna Graecia (28). The reception for Derby winner Masar was particularly meritorious considering his £15k fee. In fact, his first book of mares was the best of any stallion in Britain at up to £40k or in Ireland at up to €25k. There were also plenty of quality mares for Arc hero Waldgeist, top sprinter Advertise and Kingman’s Coventry winner Calyx and the likes of the aforementioned Inns Of Court, Soldier’s Call, Land Force, Phoenix Of Spain and Invincible Army will all have plenty of representation with their first runners in 2022. No fewer than 13 first-season stallions attracted 100+ books.

Second Season Sires in 2020

The presence of a large quality group of first-season sires unfortunately has the effect of sucking the wind out of the sails of second and third year sires. The intake of 2019 featured 11 with 100+ books, but only eight held on to as many mares in their second year. The group’s leader was Coolmore’s Saxon Warrior who attracted 30 elite mares, down from 45 a year earlier. Tweenhills’ Zoustar managed 24 elite mares, 15 fewer that 12 months earlier. Cracksman, Expert Eye and Harry Angel all did well to maintain plenty of quality among their 100+ books, while US Navy Flag, Sioux Nation and Havana Grey also ensured strong continuity with big books. 

Third Season Sires in 2020

Coolmore’s dual Guineas hero Churchill was the standout stallion among the third-year stallions with 43 elite mares. Remarkably, the son of Galileo increased his book in year three to 236 from the 206 in his first two seasons and he’s managed to put together three strong books in succession. If his first two-year-olds take off this year, then he’ll have another two strong crops to follow up with. No fewer than nine third-year sires covered 100+ books, with Profitable (154) second to Churchill. There’ll be plenty of attention too on the first runners in 2021 of Highland Reel, Time Test, Decorated Knight, Postponed and Ulysses, all of whom attracted 100+ book in their toughest year so far.

The Leading Sires in 2020

Whilst Dubawi and Galileo attracted the best quality books in 2020 – Dubawi’s sixth straight year to lead by this category, by dint of more mares covered, the Juddmonte pair of Kingman (116) and Frankel (110) covered the most elite mares of any British or Irish stallion in 2020. Dubawi and Sea The Stars were next best with 109 and 105, followed by Ballylinch’s Lope de Vega with 99 elite mares. Of all the stallions with 50 or more elite mares in 2020, one stands out because of his low fee. Night Of Thunder’s 90 elite mares, covered at a fee of just €25k, is three more that No Nay Never’s total of 87. In the circumstances, it is no wonder that Night Of Thunder’s fee has tripled for the 2021 covering season.

Name YOB Sire Year FARM -
FEE (€) Mares Elite (%)
KINGMAN 2011 INVINCIBLE SPIRIT 6 Juddmonte GB 150,000 178 116 65.2
FRANKEL 2008 GALILEO 8 Juddmonte GB 175,000 172 110 64.0
DUBAWI 2002 DUBAI MILLENNIUM 15 Darley GB 250,000 151 109 72.2
SEA THE STARS  2006 CAPE CROSS 11 Gilltown IRE 150,000 205 105 51.2
LOPE DE VEGA 2007 SHAMARDAL 10 Ballylinch IRE 100,000 178 99 55.6
NIGHT OF THUNDER 2011 DUBAWI 5 Darley IRE 25,000 211 90 42.7
NO NAY NEVER  2011 SCAT DADDY 6 Coolmore IRE 175,000 188 87 46.3
GALILEO  1998 SADLER'S WELLS 19 Coolmore IRE Private 115 85 73.9
TOO DARN HOT 2016 DUBAWI 1 Darley GB 50,000 170 76 44.7
BLUE POINT 2014 SHAMARDAL 1 Darley IRE 45,000 196 62 31.6
INVINCIBLE SPIRIT  1997 GREEN DESERT  18 Irish National IRE 100,000 139 54 38.8
DARK ANGEL 2005 ACCLAMATION 13 Yeomanstown IRE 85,000 161 49 30.4
CHURCHILL 2014 GALILEO 3 Coolmore IRE 30,000 236 43 18.2
GLENEAGLES 2012 GALILEO 5 Coolmore IRE 35,000 168 38 22.6
SHOWCASING  2007 OASIS DREAM 10 Whitsbury GB 55,000 161 37 23.0
CAMELOT 2009 MONTJEU 7 Coolmore IRE 40,000 130 34 26.2
KODIAC  2001 DANEHILL 14 Tally-Ho IRE 65,000 164 34 20.7
TEN SOVEREIGNS  2016 NO NAY NEVER  1 Coolmore IRE 25,000 193 33 17.1
GOLDEN HORN  2012 CAPE CROSS 5 Darley GB 40,000 110 30 27.3
SAXON WARRIOR  2015 DEEP IMPACT 2 Coolmore IRE 27,500 159 30 18.9
MASAR  2015 NEW APPROACH 1 Darley GB 15,000 135 29 21.5
MAGNA GRECIA  2016 INVINCIBLE SPIRIT 1 Coolmore IRE 22,500 169 28 16.6
BATED BREATH 2007 DANSILI 8 Juddmonte GB 12,500 138 26 18.8
ZOUSTAR  2010 NORTHERN METEOR 2 Tweenhills GB 30,000 122 24 19.7
OASIS DREAM  2000 GREEN DESERT 17 Juddmonte GB 25,000 105 24 22.9
ULYSSES  2013 GALILEO 3 Cheveley Park GB 15,000 118 23 19.5
NATHANIEL 2008 GALILEO 8 Newsells GB 25,000 101 21 20.8