Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Breeders' Cup Classic Victory Key to Kentucky


2014 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Bayern
After Bayern put in another disappointing run on Sept. 26 in the Awesome Again Stakes, the colt was retired to Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm early in the week to prepare for the 2016 breeding season.

One of 19 Breeders’ Cup Classic winners to return to the track the following year, Bayern’s record of two thirds in five starts is probably most similar to Wild Again, who raced four times after his victory in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup. However, while Bayern raced in graded stakes all year, Wild Again only made one stakes start after his Classic victory, retiring with a second in the Grade 1 Meadowlands Cup.

Overall, Breeders’ Cup Classic winners have combined for 33 wins in 103 post-victory starts for a 33 percent strike rate. While you expect a Classic winner to be a classy runner even if they have lost a step post-Classic, those 19 Classic winners also combined to have 41 second or third-place finishes in addition to the 33 wins for 74 total on-the-board finishes (72 percent strike rate).

On the breeding end of the Classic winners’ resumes, unsurprisingly all but six of them (included in that count of six is the mare Zenyatta, who cannot stand at stud but retired to the broodmare pasture at Lane’s End) started their stud career in Kentucky. Perhaps more surprising is the number of stallions still in Kentucky as of their last season standing at stud. Fifteen of the 27 stallions who have already entered stud (Bayern and Cigar are removed from this count) were still in Kentucky as of their last season in the breeding shed. 

In 2012, I researched where each of the Triple Crown race winners since 1985 had stood during the beginning and end of the stallion careers. While obviously some of this data is outdated now, in 2012 only eight winners of the Kentucky Derby and/or Preakness ended their stallion career or stood in Kentucky in 2012 with nine Belmont Stakes winners standing in the state.

Stallions leave Kentucky for a variety of reasons but with so much emphasis put on getting horses to the 3-year-old classics (the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont), it is interesting to see so many more Breeders’ Cup Classic winners standing in the big Kentucky market compared to those other races.

On first glance it could be assumed by this information that Classic winners are more successful sires than 3-year-old classic winners. But before jumping to that conclusion, it should be pointed out that as of Sept. 30, the only winner of either race in the Top 10 on the General Leading Sires list on Stallion Register was Curlin (who won both the Preakness and the Breeders’ Cup Classic) with two other 3-year-old classic winners in the top 20 compared to one other Breeders’ Cup Classic victor. 

To figure out which race throws the better sires will take more research (and words) than I have room for in this post, but just looking at the locations of the winners draws an interesting picture that opens up discussions about the (future) sire strength we see when the horses load into the gates for these big races.

To see the post-victory record and stud location of all the Breeders’ Cup Classic winners, look at the chart below.


*Invasor currently stands in Uruguay but is only leased to the country for three years.

+Tiznow won both the 2000 and 2001 Classic so his post-win record reflects his retirement after that second victory.

*Cigar was infertile so even though he entered stud at Ashford, he never produced a foal while there.

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