Older Mares

“I must emphasize this point again and again, for I find from experience that there are many people who cannot be trusted with a generalization. You say seldom, and they quote you never. You say top-class race mares are the best prospects for broodmares and they quote you that only top-class race mares are good prospects for broodmares. You say that there are too many claiming races, and they want to know why you are trying to abolish claiming races.”

I quoted the above from “Uncle” Joe Estes about two years ago in a series on birth rank and age of mares posted on another blog. I have discussed this matter in public forums for more than 20 years now. Somehow or another, my words got misconstrued to mean that older mares (those age 20 or older at the time of producing the foal in question for purposes of this study) never produce stakes winners. To refer back to Uncle Joe, I might have said seldom, but I did not say never.

For evidence you need to look no further than last year’s Belmont winner Ruler On Ice (Roman Ruler out of Champagne Glow, by Saratoga Six). Champagne Glow was a foal of 1988. Ruler On Ice was a foal of 2008. Champagne Glow was 20 years old when she produced Ruler On Ice. Therefore, Ruler On Ice qualifies as being out of a 20+ mare.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that Ruler On Ice is “the greatest horse who over looked through a bridle.” In fact, he has not won a race since the Belmont. He has acquitted himself honorably though in those six starts since the Belmont, placing in three of them, including a third in last year’s BC Classic (G1).

Ruler On Ice is a gelding. He reminds me a little bit of another gelding, 1985 Belmont winner Creme Fraiche (nicknamed DI 39). Here is hoping that Ruler On Ice sticks around for several more years and acquits himself honorably and successfully in the highest levels of competition, just like Creme Fraiche did.

At any rate, I decided to have another go at this subject matter, this time concentrating only on progeny of 20+ mares. Listed below are the 31 stakes winners I found fitting that description among sales foals of 2003-2007. Ruler On Ice did not qualify because he was too young (as a foal of 2008, he could not have sold before 2008). I trust that the format is familiar to you by now. Discussion resumes at the end of the list.

Stakes Winner    Prices                                      PPI Age of Mare

Jonesboro           03Y27,000                            3,051           20

Sefapiano–Mom’s Command, Top Command

Arson Squad       03W20,000, 04Y100,000   2,690         20

Brahms–Majestic Fire, Green Dancer

Dancing in Silks  05W20,000, 06Y21,401     2,193           22

Black Minnaloushe–Lemhi Love, Royal and Regal

Flat Out                06W11,000, 07Y85,000    2,112           20

Flatter–Cresta Lil, Cresta Rider


Nob Hill Deelite     04Y45,000                          668             21

Afternoon Deelites–Nob Hill Native, Our Native

Ladyledue              07Y15,500                           647              21

Slewdledo–Exploded’s Girl, Exploded

Mr. Silver                05T120,000                      613             23

Concorde’s Tune–Clever Lou, Tri Jet

Knights Templar    04Y80,000                        578             20

Exploit–Religiosity, Irish Tower

Reaffirmed             05T28,000                         493              22

Quaker Ridge–Historic Mission, Laomedonte

Potosina                  07W85,000                        483              20

Cactus Ridge–Cristalline, Northair

Mulcahy                  05Y27,000                         449              21

Tribunal–Briar de La Rose, Regal Companion

Career Oriented     03Y45,000, o4T75,000   447             24

Cat’s Career–My Nanny, Quack

Storm Allied           05Y70,000                         429             21

Stormy Atlantic–Aliata, Mr. Prospector

Sunshine for Life   04W385,000                      422             20

Giant’s Causeway–Million Stories, Exclusive Native

Cherokee Heaven  06T290,000                      389              20

Cherokee Run–Heaven’s Nook, Great Above

Chief Jay                 07T3,500                           380              21

Ile St. Louis–Secret Squaw, Apalachee

Hatpin                     03Y100,000                      358              22

Smart Strike–Lafayette’s Lady, Young Commander

My Main Starr       06Y22,000                        342              20

Deputy Commander–Olatha, Miswaki

Mike’sgoodandtough 04Y20,000                    339              23

Good and Tough–You Snapped, Lord Gaylord

Daytime Promise    04Y27,000, 05T112,000 316              24

Five Star Day–Roan Promise, Wise Exchange

Sweetdownthelane  04Y57,000                       312              20

Quiet American-Loa, Hawaii

Gentleman James   06Y30,000                       297              25

Yankee Gentleman–Exceptional Value, Hold Your Peace

Hatfield                    07Y70,000                        272              20

Proud Citizen–Key Flight, Bates Motel

Glorious Appearing o4W14,000                      244              20

Kokand–Dead Letter, Kirtling

Amansara              04Y150,000                       241              20

War Chant–Marianna’s Girl, Dewan

Victorianna            05Y250,000                      237               24

Tale of the Cat–Savanna Anna, Vice Regent

Act of God              04Y75,000                        223               20

Black Minnaloushe–Green Boundary, Robellino

Gabe’s Prospect     03W22,000, 04Y45,000 199               20

Allen’s Prospect–Shaviana, Elocutionist

Wise Cookie             06Y6,500                         176               20

Wised Up–Doones Beauty, Doonesbury

Minnetonka Mist    07Y23,000                       167              20

Benchmark–Louisiana Flash, Future Hope

Our Table Mountain 04Y250,000                 138               20

Fusaichi Pegasus–Hidden Light, Majestic Light

You may have noticed that I arranged these 31 stakes winners by decreasing order of quality (Performance Points).  I did this partially to point out that four of these 31 stakes winners were pretty good indeed: Jonesboro (3,051 Performance Points), Arson Squad (2,690), Dancing in Silks (2,193), and Flat Out (2,112).

I have updated the stakes winners among sales foals of 2003-2007. They now represent 3.39% of all 70,714 foals (up from 3.36%), and they now average 608 Performance Points per stakes winner (up from 603).

There is a big dropoff from Flat Out to the remaining 27 stakes winners. The next best is Nob Hill Deelite with 668 Performance Points. Only two others managed more than 608 Performance Points (the new average). This is a somewhat polarized result. Only seven of the 31 stakes winners had more Performance Points than average (although four of those seven were very good). The remaining 24 stakes winners were all below 608 Performance Points (the overall average).

Good news and bad news next (“The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away). The good news is that four stakes winners with 2,000+ Performance Points is ABOVE average for the number of foals involved. The bad news is that 31 stakes winners overall is BELOW average for the number of foals involved.

These 31 stakes winners would be right around average if only 1,000 foals qualified. The only problem is that 2,143 foals (a little over 3% of all 70,714 foals) qualified as being the progeny of 20+ mares.

I now have an overall total of 2,399 stakes winners from 70,714 foals (3.39%). Of those 2,399 stakes winners, 94 achieved 2,000+ Performance Points. That works out to 0.133% from foals.

The 20+ category had four such stakes winners from 2,134 foals. That works out to .0187% from foals.

So the good news is that the 20+ mares did not have a problem producing the BEST stakes winners, based on this large sample. I suspect this might hold up over an even larger sample as well. I suspect this might be a general truth. Progeny of 20+ mares more than hold their own at producing the BEST stakes winners.

The bad news is that their overall results, including all 31 stakes winners and 2,134 foals, are pathetic. Thirty-one stakes winners from 2,134 foals is 1.45% (well below the overall figure of 3.39%). Thanks to the four stakes winners at the top, those 31 stakes winners averaged 643 Performance Points (above the overall average of 608).

Taking both quantity and quality into account, these 2,143 foals had a PPI (result) of 0.45, way below the overall average of 1.00. As I said before, that result is pathetic. And the problem is NOT producing the highest class of stakes winners. The problem is producing a sufficient number of stakes winners overall (and a polarity in quality among those stakes winners).

“For example, if a thorough study were performed relating average stud fee and age of mare, it would clearly show that younger mares are generally bred to higher-class stallions (as measured by stud fees), and therefore would be expected to have better results simply based on an ‘opportunity’ advantage related to which stallion they were bred to.”

I have heard this argument for about 25 years now. It holds no water, at least with respect to the overall sales population. Stud fees can be inaccurate. Sales prices can be inaccurate too, but overall they are a better indicator of expected quality of the foal than stud fees alone. Sales prices include quality of the stallion, stud fee of the stallion, quality of the mare, and physical quality of the individual foal, along with every other conceivable factor.

So if the quote above were true, sales prices for these 2,134 foals would be pretty low. In fact, they are only slightly low. These 2,134 foals sold for a gross of $102,147,623, an average of $47,666 (below the overall average of 54,140), and a maverage of 156.79 (below the overall maverage of 163.11). That works out to a Price Index of 0.96. A Price Index of 0.96 should produce results right around 0.96 as well. It actually produced a PPI (result) of 0.45.

Put it another way, given that these foals had a PPI (result) of only 0.45, their prices should have been less than half of the overall average ($54,140) and maverage (163.11). In reality their prices were only slightly below the overall average and maverage. Anyway you slice it, these 2,143 foals collectively were not “bargains” by any means.

“False beliefs die slowly in our business.” Amen to that, brother. I would categorize blaming the poor performance of 20+ mares on the sires to whom they were bred as one of those false beliefs.

Having said that, however, I do not advocate any particular strategy. I do NOT say NEVER buy a foal out of a 20+ mare. I do NOT say SELDOM buy a foal out of a 20+ mare. I would not even quibble too much with the observation that “a well made, athletic looking yearling out of an older mare has virtually the same (chance of) success as one out of a younger mare.”

Perhaps the problem is deciding what constitutes “a well made, athletic looking yearling.” Perhaps buyers have not been paying enough attention to the physical foal in front of them and have been concentrating too much on all the black type under the first dam of the progeny of 20+ mares.

I will give the last word to “Uncle” Joe Estes:

“Make the best possible estimate of the individual and its parents and you will never find it necessary to worry about birth rank.”

Or age of mares either.

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2 Responses to Older Mares

  1. Jim Culpepper says:

    Rob Whiteley would surely agree with you. The Janssen brothers produced the predominate family of racing pigeons by “breeding best to best, regardles of age or relationship.

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