The 2022-23 All-Value Sire Team: Part 2 - Rookie Of The Year - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

The 2022-23 All-Value Sire Team: Part 2 – Rookie Of The Year

Greatest Honour

How do you place value on an asset that hasn't yet proven itself to be valuable?

Breeders face this task at the beginning of every season when they take stock of the first-year stallions on offer, attempting to hitch their wagon to the right rookie and take advantage of a commercial marketplace that places an ultra-premium on those newcomers.

First-year sires are typically among the most active in the country by mares bred, and their foals get attention at the sales completely out of balance with their level of accomplishment. If they get out fast at the races, though, a young stallion can quickly find himself set up for the rest of his life.

If that happens, a stallion's starting stud fee might look like a gift in retrospect. I'm sure there are plenty of breeders who would love to hop in a time machine and send mares to Into Mischief at $12,500 when he debuted in 2009, as opposed to the $250,000 he'll command next year as one of the world's premier sires.

This time around, I'll look at which rookie stallions appear to be the most generously-priced in the 2023 market, as well as which stallions might be a value for breeders looking to maximize performance on all-weather surfaces.

Gulfstream Park now offers year-round opportunities on its Tapeta surface, and purses have never been higher at Turfway Park. Pair that with long meets featuring good purses at Woodbine, Presque Isle Downs, and Golden Gate Fields, and there is a roadmap to running exclusively on synthetics over the course of a year and making a living. Even Belmont Park might be getting into the mix with a synthetic surface before too long. The sample size may not be huge, but it can be a lucrative niche for the right horse.

To get a rundown on my criteria for what it takes to make the All-Value Sire Team, and to see its first members, click here.

The Rookie: A stallion standing his first season in 2023.

First Team: Greatest Honour
B. h., 2018, Tapit x Tiffany's Honour, by Street Cry
Standing at Spendthrift Farm, KY, $7,500

Jose Ortiz and Greatest Honour at the wire in the Holy Bull Stakes

Timing is everything when it comes to retiring a stallion. Flightline is probably the best-case scenario. His value at stud was already white-hot going into the Breeders' Cup, he ran the best race of his life in front of nearly every major breeder in the country, and he promptly rode off into the sunset when his stock couldn't possibly be higher. Getting into his inaugural book is going to be harder than getting front-row tickets for Taylor Swift.

Greatest Honour was arguably on the other side of that spectrum. After building up a ton of good credit on the Gulfstream Park road to the Kentucky Derby, an injury knocked him out of action for the rest of the year, and he never quite found his groove during an abbreviated 4-year-old campaign in 2022.

Because the foundation of the North American commercial market is “what have you done for me lately?” it makes sense that Spendthrift Farm went low for Greatest Honour's inaugural fee at $7,500. This looks to me like an absolute gift. If the ball had bounced a few different ways, Greatest Honour has the background and physical to have stood for much more.

Greatest Honour is one of the least expensive options among sons of Tapit standing in Kentucky, and the aforementioned premium on first-year sires gives him a higher early commercial ceiling than his contemporaries in the four-figure range.

Beyond that, consider the stallion's on-track resume. Before he got knocked off the 2021 Kentucky Derby trail with an ankle injury, his stock was high, winning as a 2-year-old, then rolling off visually impressive scores in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes and G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes before running third as the favorite in the G1 Florida Derby. If he'd have stayed healthy, he'd have certainly been among the top Derby choices – or, if he'd never returned to the races and retired sometime over the summer of his 3-year-old season, he'd have likely left enough to the imagination to command a higher fee.

If Greatest Honour were from a non-commercial pedigree, his race record might be an easy factor to ignore, but his page is impossible to overlook.

His sire, Tapit, speaks for himself. He is one of the greatest commercial forces of our time, and a sure-fire stallion-maker. Zero concerns there.

The bottom side of the pedigree is just as strong. His second dam is 2007 Broodmare of the Year Better Than Honour, putting him in one of the richest black type families in the stud book. The family has traditionally done better with fillies than colts, but Grade 2 winner Casino Drive was Japan's leading freshman sire of 2015. There is ample sire power here.

Greatest Honour stands up to his on-paper accolades when you see him on the end of the shank. He's got the A.P. Indy side of Tapit in his frame, with the kind of curvaceous rump that I saw in the late Spendthrift Farm resident Malibu Moon, who was himself a son of A.P. Indy.

He's already filled out into a sturdy frame, but he's got plenty of leg under him to add athleticism to the power he displays in his shoulder. It matters much more how they ran than how they walk, but his walk was a head-turner during Spendthrift's stallion open house.

It's no secret that Spendthrift Farm can get mares to their stallions like no one else in Central Kentucky, and the breeders who get in on Greatest Honour at that price point could end up looking very smart in a few years. He has all the tools to succeed at an incredibly fair price.

Second Team: Mo Donegal
B. h., 2019, Uncle Mo x Callingmissbrown, by Pulpit
Standing at Spendthrift Farm, KY, $20,000

Mo Donegal

Spendthrift Farm sweeps the division. Mo Donegal isn't here necessarily for where he is now, but where he could be in the future. Among the commercial-level stallions standing for $20,000 or less, I see Mo Donegal as the most likely contender to leave this price bracket behind once his runners hit the track.

Uncle Mo is a proven sire of sires, and owners Mike Repole and Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing have pledged their support with mares. Repole often buys big when his stallions' foals hit the sale ring, too, so those early sale prices should be solid.

On his own accord, Mo Donegal is an accurate reflection of his sire, getting all of Uncle Mo's long legs on top of a body that wonderfully balances power and scope. With a build like that, it makes sense that Mo Donegal was able to both win a graded stakes race at two and carry the same frame over 1 ½ miles in the Belmont Stakes. He's also got a decent-sized foot under him, which makes me think he could be a sneaky good turf sire, just like Uncle Mo.

Mo Donegal is set up to have every chance with his first book at stud, and watching him walk out of the stall feels like a big deal. I expect him to rise to the challenge.

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The All-Weather Sire: A stallion with proven success getting runners over all-weather surfaces, or a young stallion whose pedigree and on-track performance suggests he could succeed as a sire of synthetic runners.

First Team: Classic Empire
B. h., 2014, Pioneerof the Nile x Sambuca Classica, by Cat Thief
Standing at Ashford Stud, KY, $15,000

Classic Empire at Ashford Stud

Finding value in this space turned out to be more difficult than I expected. Many of the leading sires over all-weather surfaces are either traditional powerhouses on any footing who don't fit this price bracket, or they're Canadian-based sires who would be a tough sell on the greater North American commercial market, even though their bona fides over Woodbine's Tapeta are firmly established.

That's what made a horse like Classic Empire really stand out on the list. His first crop of 3-year-olds have gone off over the all-weather tracks this year, with 17 winners from 32 starters. No stallion at any price point with 20 or more synthetic starters in 2022 has a starter-to-winner percentage higher than Classic Empire's 53 percent. His average synthetic earnings per starter of about $21,000 is also among the best in North America this year.

The leader of that charge is Beautiful Empire, who won the listed Star Shoot Stakes in April over the main track at Woodbine, shortly after a four-length score at the same track earlier that month. Beautiful Empire spent the past winter at synthetic-only Turfway Park, where she added a third in the Valdale Stakes to her record. The Turfway winter meet also saw Twenty Four Mamba finish second in the Leonatus Stakes before winning a couple races at the optional claiming level at Woodbine.

Beautiful Empire and Twenty Four Mamba are both trained by Mark Casse, who also conditioned Classic Empire to an Eclipse Award-winning campaign. Casse is a perennial leading trainer at Woodbine, and a vocal supporter of all-weather surfaces, so it makes sense that runners by a stallion he supports would get opportunities over the synthetic and seize them. However, Casse is not the sole reason for Classic Empire's success over the surface in 2022.

At Presque Isle Downs, the 2-year-old Yes Day had a stellar debut season for owner Novogratz Racing Stable and trainer Glenn Wismer, winning on debut at the track, then finishing third in the Presque Isle Debutante Stakes.

Of course, one does not make the All-Value Sire Team based strictly on racetrack performance. His average yearling sale price of $71,371 is the best current among value sires that entered stud in 2018, and it's in the upper echelon of all sires standing for $20,000 or less next year. Whether you're breeding specifically to run on synthetic, or looking for a horse that provides some options on the track or in the sale ring, Classic Empire's numbers show he can cover the bases.

It might be based on just one full year's crop, but it's impossible to ignore how well the Classic Empires are getting over the synthetic. As they become eligible for even more races as older horses, his potential only stands to grow.

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Second Team: The Factor
Gr. or ro. h., 2008, War Front x Greyciousness, by Miswaki
Standing at Lane's End, KY, $15,000

The Factor, a son of War Front, at Lane's End in Versailles, Ky.

Leaving his runners completely out of the equation, The Factor's own resume as one of the top sprinters during the brief all-weather era in Southern California is enough to merit serious consideration in this category. We don't have a huge sample size to prove that all-weather success is a trait that can be passed along at stud like we do with dirt and turf, but The Factor is perhaps the best example we have.

Fortunately, that notion has played out with The Factor's offspring, making him one of the most consistent sources of synthetic runners over the past couple years. He finished atop all North American sires by wins over all-weather surfaces in 2021, with 42.

From 105 runners over synthetic tracks in 2021 and 2022, The Factor has sired 39 percent winners from starters, which is better than a lot of his Kentucky-based brethren that place highly over that surface.

Beyond the synthetic, The Factor just gets horses out on the track and winning races. He's got an 85 percent rate of starters from foals of racing age on all surfaces, and 64 percent winners. That's tough for any sire in the country to match.

Check in for future installments to see who made the All-Value Sire Team among stallions of various ages and specialties, including freshman sires of 2023, sires of sprinters, regional sires, and more.

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