This was tweeted out this morning:
It may be moving that way in thoroughbred racing, but in harness, have we moved at all off that opinion? I'd have to surmise we haven't.
We see it each year - a big name horse is retired and his stud fee is huge; Deweycheatumnhowe, Donato Hanover, Somebeachsomewhere to name but three. The breeding farm goes all in and brings the best mares they can find for the first crop, hoping they have a supersire (or trying to make it a self fulfilling prophecy). Yearling buyers line up for the new, new thing, and away we go.
This season at Harrisburg, the second crop of Donato Hanover was all the rage. His foals sold like gangbusters. He had two or three very nice horses in his first crop and we all heard about them. Not following his first crop via its hard numbers I was sold too - wow, the son of Dtrain is really mowing them down. So was the narrative.
But as I looked deeper into his numbers, expecting to see the hype confirmed, I found something different.
From the published statistics on Standardbred Canada:
Out of his first crop of stellar mares, 100 were registered. 43 made it to the track for a 43% start rate, 18 took a lifetime mark in a race. 4 out of the 100 made over $100,000. 15 out of the hundred (15%) made his stud fee back at two.
If we contrast that with an "old" sire, who has good press but is not in the first crop narrative, we see a difference.
Kadabra had 30 taking a lifetime mark in a race. He had 60 out of 109 make it for a 55% start rate. He has (at the time of writing) 6 horses who have made over $100,000. 28 have made more than his stud fee.
If we look at only the numbers, and factor in the amazing group of mares Donato got when compared to Kadabra, one may think that Kadabra rules the roost. But that would not be correct.
Donato stands for double Kadabra's price. At Harrisburg, Donato had three foals sell for $200k or greater, one for $290k. At all the sales Kadabra had $210k filly sell, with everything else around $100k or lower.
We've seen this time and again, in my opinion, with first crop sires who catch, or first crop sires in general. The buzz, the excitement, the buy the hype is there. And it seems to happen each year.
Donato had a good year and looks like a nice sire (especially when you factor in the talented and wonderful Check Me Out), but is he that good?
Is the first crop sire method a mugs game, a self-fulfilling prophecy, or is it simply good business?
It might be a little bit of all three.