Constitution, Palace Malice See Biggest Year-To-Year Gains In Mares Bred In 2020

A sizable chunk of the stallion market is built on momentum. A stallion that gets hot at the right time can fill his books with mares for years to come, while one that gets cold could take just as many years to rebuild their base of breeders, if they ever do.

Building from that framework, it makes sense that the two stallions who saw the biggest year-to-year gains in mares bred from 2019 to 2020 were ones that went into last autumn with some of the nation’s top 2-year-olds, and carried that momentum into this spring as the breeding sheds opened and commitments were made.

WinStar Farm’s Constitution and Three ChimneysPalace Malice, each coming off electric freshman seasons in 2019, were the two North American stallions who saw year-to-year increases of more than 100 mares bred, among those who covered at least one mare in each season.

Constitution’s book saw a 146-mare shift in 2020, growing from 85 mares in 2019 to 231 last year, making the son of Tapit the fifth most active stallion in North America.

It’s easy and correct to trace Constitution’s rapid ascent with the trajectory of his best son, Tiz the Law.

The New York-bred quickly established himself as one of the best in his crop as a juvenile with a win in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes and a third in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. He then became the presumptive favorite for the Kentucky Derby, prior to its rescheduling due to COVID-19, over the spring with convincing wins in the G3 Holy Bull Stakes and G1 Florida Derby.

However, Tiz the Law was hardly a fluke for Constitution. He finished 2019 as North America’s leading freshman sire by winners and graded stakes winners, and he was second by earnings.

“He had a tremendous start to his career, not only in quality, but in the depth of his runners,” said Liam O’Rourke of WinStar Farm. “It seemed like every weekend, we’d see a new brilliant Constitution run through the latter half of 2019. You combine that early success with looking at him as an individual – the pedigree he has, the race record he has, and he’s a spectacular physical – all the ingredients were there, and the final piece was these horses performing so well on the racetrack.

“The breeders who put up the stud fees and trust in us and our product; it’s a very hard road, and when you have a stallion that works out the way he has, it’s rewarding to everyone that’s involved,” he continued. “We’re just thrilled for everybody who believed in the horse, to share the success with them.”

A top-shelf freshman season carried into the early Triple Crown trail, where Constitution not only had Tiz the Law making noise, he had significant Kentucky Derby qualifying point-earners in Jerome Stakes winner Independence Hall and Gouverneur Morris, who finished second in the G1 Arkansas Derby. Staying in the headlines with that kind of depth can help keep a stallion’s book full until the breeding shed closes.

“The spring was a continuation of what we saw early on,” O’Rourke said. “It validated what we had seen in late 2019, and it’s pushed him even further into early requests for 2021.”

Palace Malice covered 116 more mares in 2020 than he did the previous year, benefitting from a formula similar to Constitution’s.

The son of Curlin earned his high-level bona fides as a freshman sire with the undefeated Structor, who broke his maiden at Saratoga, then took the G3 Pilgrim Stakes before winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita. The baton was then handed to Mr. Monomoy during the spring campaign, when the half-brother to champion Monomoy Girl won the G2 Risen Star Stakes.

Palace Malice was third among North America’s freshman sires by earnings in 2019, and Structor’s $709,500 made him the highest-earning runner by a freshman sire last year.

Tom Hamm of Three Chimneys said Palace Malice’s high-level success as a sire of runners over both dirt and turf opened up the stallion’s options in terms of what types of broodmares might match well with him. That kind of versatility can bring in numbers.

“We’re very pleased with how well he’s been received,” Hamm said. “We believe in the horse. He has a great book of mares out there that he bred this year, so it’s only going to get better.”

Both Constitution and Palace Malice saw their jumps in their fifth books of mares, immediately in the aftermath of their first 2-year-olds completing their seasons. This was a common refrain amongst those seeing the biggest gains in mares bred, with half of the top 10 being in their fifth books of mares.

Joining them in the top 10 were Khozan (75 more mares in 2020), Tapiture (72 mares), and Tonalist (59 mares).

Especially in the commercial marketplace, breeder activity has become increasingly polarized toward first-year stallions and proven commodities. This puts extreme pressure on young stallions to roll out winners and expensive auction horses as early as they can during their freshman seasons, and preferably sustain them into the following spring, or risk facing a slower climb as breeders gravitate toward shinier prospects.

“If you have good winners at two, they’re loving you, and if you don’t have something by September or October, they’re looking for a reason to go elsewhere,” Hamm said. “At the end of the day, the sales are important for their first three years until they get runners. Then, once the runners get on the track, it’s just a matter of them performing.”

However, there were some stallions that took a slightly longer path to a bigger book in 2020.

Clubhouse Ride, who stands at Legacy Ranch in California, saw his book explode from 16 mares in 2019 to 97 this year. Ranch manager Terry Knight said it was a matter of his foals getting hot at the right time after an extended cold streak.

The son of Candy Ride went winless from six runners during his freshman season. The tables turned last year, though, and he finished the season as California’s leading second-crop sire and overall juvenile sire. He was led by Warren’s Showtime, who was a stakes winner during her 2-year-old campaign, then started the 2020 season with a pair of high-profile stakes wins at Santa Anita Park. Club Aspen bested Golden State Series rivals to take the King Glorious Stakes during December of his juvenile season, as well.

Once California’s breeders figured out that the Clubhouse Rides were late-maturing, but would often be standouts once they’re dialed in, Knight said the phone started ringing.

“People piggyback on success, and he had a couple runners that kind of got him jump-started,” Knight said. “They won a couple stakes, and then other horses started running in the fall. That’s when they started to get on to him. His 2-year-olds develop a little late, but by October, some of those horses started running as they progressed in distances and changed surfaces. I think the timing of everything just came along at once, and they followed the success of that group of horses that was running.”

The list of stallions that see significant bumps in mares bred often features a healthy number of horses that recently moved to new surroundings. A stallion that slipped through the cracks in Kentucky could be a much bigger fish in a regional market, and that was the case with the likes of Flat Out and Itsmyluckyday, who each saw bumps of 30 mares or more after moving from Kentucky to regional markets.

Clubhouse Ride was also standing at a new farm in 2020, having relocated within California to Legacy Ranch from Harris Farms. However, Knight said the change in mares had little to do with the new scenery and everything to do with the stallion’s performance.

“It’s certainly nothing we’re going to be able to do that the other farm didn’t do,” he said. “It’s timing. The results on the racetrack are either going to sell the horse or be the failure of the horse.”

The post Constitution, Palace Malice See Biggest Year-To-Year Gains In Mares Bred In 2020 appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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