Monday, July 27, 2009

'Prospects' do not a racehorse or broodmare make

I have reached the conclusion that perhaps the most misused term in the thoroughbred business is the word "prospect."

Either the word is getting tossed out like candy from a parade float or it's getting dropped from conversation entirely at times when its use would actually be appropriate or necessary. Sometimes I might even be guilty myself.

The notion comes to me upon reading the Virginia Thoroughbred Association's blog this morning. The post in question tells the story of a Virginia-owned filly -- Funny Moon -- who became a Grade 1 winner over the weekend by taking the Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park.

My sincere congratulations go out to the winning connections, who I hope don't take this post as a criticism of their filly; it isn't.

But the retelling of her story -- from yearling purchase to G1 winner -- also offers a forecast of her second career as breeding stock, a projection that demands the use of the aforementioned word "prospect."

VTA Blog writes: "Easter purchased two fillies for McNeely at the 2007 Saratoga yearling sale. Funny Moon, by Malibu Moon out of Fun Crowd by Easy Goer, cost $175,000, and Saturday she became a first class broodmare while repaying her purchase price with the $180,000 winner’s share of the C.C.A. Oaks’ purse."

At the risk of sounding a bit like Mr. Rogers, can you tell, kids, where the word "prospect" is missing in the preceding passage? ... I think you can.

It's possible that the VTA Blog accidentally left out the word. I do it over here sometimes, and have to go back later and correct myself. I type around 100 words a minute and sometimes my fingers still can't keep up with my thinking. Errors and omissions do occur. So I apologize if the intent of the blogger was to write something a bit less definitive about the mare's future as a producer.

But it's worth noting that winning a Grade 1 race does not make a filly a "first-class broodmare." It makes her a "first-class broodmare prospect."

Tossing in the word "commercial" wouldn't hurt, either.

Certainly Funny Moon elevated her stock considerably with the Grade 1 win.

(And every 3-year-old filly that wins a G1 this year should thank their lucky stars Rachel Alexandra has aimed her guns at the boys a couple of times instead. ... I'm just sayin'.)

If I were the owners if this filly, I'd almost certainly plan on selling her first couple of foals. She's by a $40,000 sire with a strong reputation, and her dam, though unraced, has produced at least two other blacktype foals, including multipe-stakes winner Throng (Silver Deputy) and the Aqueduct stakes-placed filly Home Crowd (Came Home).

The prices should be high for the first two or three babies from Funny Moon (provided they aren't terribly crooked), especially if the connections have selected wisely from the available stallion offerings.

But once Funny Moon's foals start running, all bets are off.

Could be the first few foals run very well, and the racing expectations and resulting prices for Funny Moon's offspring just keep rising. Or, she could be like Winning Colors (one of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby) or Hall of Famer Bayakoa or any number of other mares who never quite (or at all) produce foals that can run like their dams ran.

Then again, there are other mares that produce tremendous race winners despite modest pedigree or personal race performance. But that doesn't make every thoroughbred with ovaries a "broodmare prospect," at least, not for racing purposes.

Yet day after day, I see ads touting off-track mares -- or, worse, unraced, incorrect, or unsound mares, often from demonstrably untalented families -- as "broodmare prospects." Maybe the owner is thinking of any selling point he can in hopes of finding the mare a new home.

But many of these mares -- while they might make wonderful companion horses, trail-riders, or even mounts for more athletic pursuits like eventing -- shouldn't have the words "broodmare prospect" anywhere in the advertisement unless prefaced with the word "marginal."

Be certain of this: I'm not a pedigree snob. I'm not one to dismiss a mare merely because she lacks an obvious "page," or significant individual racing history.

My own small broodmare band is composed of two mares that earned no blacktype of their own and aren't from stellar pedigree; the family of one is downright obscure. But I pride myself (or hope to prove myself at least) on trying to find diamonds in the rough, inexpensive mares and racing prospects who are being ignored because so many buyers are swayed by fashionable names and lines, or who get starry-eyed and loose with the wallet upon seeing blacktype anywhere on a page without due consideration to what that blacktype means and how much it really should be credited or discounted in the evaluation of the particular mare or foal that's for sale.

In any event, until a given skill or career aptitude is proved, a horse is merely a "prospect." You can only hope that yearling or 2-year-old in training you bought is going to pan out as a racehorse. You might spend $3,200 on a yearling and watch him win the Breeders' Cup Mile (Singletary) or $16-odd million and see the horse do much of nothing at the racetrack (The Green Monkey).

(Ask yourself what it says about our breeding business that the former is standing for $2,500 in California while the latter stands for an advertised $5,000 in Florida, billed as a "world record setter" -- they forget "for biggest auction bust" -- and "the one they all wanted.")

Similarly, winning a Grade 1 race absolutely sets up Funny Moon as a mare whose foals will likely be big-sellers in a few years, especially since (we hope) the general economy will be back on the rise.

But we won't know whether she'll qualify as a "first-rate broodmare" until she's 10 or 12 years old; certainly not at 3, a day or two after her first blacktype win.


  1. This sport never seizes to amaze. I wasn't aware that The Green Burner was a stallion at all.

    5K? That would be a good main prize for the "Tell us a good excuse for whatever made experienced horsemen spend 16 million on the progeny of a completely unproven, 'accomplished-nothing-on-the-track'-sire"-childrens-essay contest.

  2. Glen, come on, prospect, who wants to use that, it means they “may” fail; however proclaiming her a “first class broodmare” virtually assures success. All you have to do is bring in your stallion and pick up the million dollar check when the yearling sells. What could get easier?

    Another example of this is when you log on to the Bloodhorse, probably 85 to 95% of the time you’re forced to stare at an ad for Big Brown, must be costing Three Chimneys a ton in advertising, but hey they bought a bill of goods with bad feet now their trying to get others to pay for their mistake.

    Don’t know if you heard when the Green Monkey went to stud the farm he’s at stated peopled were “flocking” there to see him, course their wasn’t any mention as to how full his book was.

  3. So what your saying is that I should keep the Green Monkey countdown to profitablility going? (currently stopped at minus $16,128,000) I need to find out how many mare he covered in 2008.

  4. Sorry to be late in approving your comments. I was on the road today.

    And yes, the Green Monkey Countdown to Profitability is an intriguing feature!

  5. Personally I like the Green Monkey countdown, may take a couple hundred years to become profitable though.


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