The recent corrections to the auction market values of yearlings, foals and broodmares have been a tough but necessary burden to bear for many. It has affected every level of the yearling market where most commercial breeders make their money, but the correction only manifests when this year is compared with 2022.

Just look at the median prices achieved at Tattersalls October Book 2 – a bellwether sale if ever there was one – over the past ten years. It has all but doubled and the 62,000gns median of 2023 is the joint second highest-ever achieved behind last year’s 70,000gns.  In fact one is left wondering why there is always a squeeze on profits at the yearling sales given that they seem to be  flourishing when compared to almost any other economic sector. The answer is, of course, rising production costs and by that I mean stud fees. It seems that the various auction houses are having to constantly provide ever increasing prices just to stay ahead of a burgeoning stallion market.

Judging by the latest return of mares, the trend in ever-increasing numbers of expensively produced yearlings is still in the ascendency. In 2021, when this year’s yearlings were conceived, 22  stallions standing for £30,000 or €30,000 or higher attracted 3,334 mares. Ten years ago, the equivalent number was 2,348 – almost a thousand fewer. By no means is this bad news. It indicates that the stallion market is healthy and growing with more people willing to get involved.

This expansion will inevitably put pressure on profitability come sales time

However, this expansion will inevitably put pressure on profitability come sales time. So next year we will have yearlings produced from the 2022 coverings coming to sale and there were 3,853 mares serviced by the 30k-plus stallions, an increase of 519 or 16% on 2021. Then in 2023 – the yearlings of 2025 – we saw 4,058 mares visit 30k-plus stallions, another 215 mares or 6% more than last year and 22% up on the number of mares that produced this year’s yearlings, which all goes to demonstrate the relentless pressure on profitability that will be present at the sales in the coming years.

The busiest Flat stallion in 2023 was Coolmore’s Saxon Warrior with 248 mares covered at an increased fee of €35,000, up from the previous year’s €20,000 on account of the very promising  showing by his first-crop two-year-olds. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Victoria Road headlined his 22 first-crop juvenile winners, and they also featured a pair of Group 3 winners in Lumiere Rock and Moon Ray. It was enough to provide a book of mares that ought to produce some talented runners for the Classic-winning son of Deep Impact from 2026 onwards.

Yet in the short-term Saxon Warrior has had his fee trimmed to €25,000 for 2024 to reflect market conditions, which saw his yearling average fall from €86,000 to €59,000 this year, no doubt partly attributed to the fact that he added only one more Group winner to his resume during 2024.

200 club

Another member of the 200 club is Tally-Ho Stud’s Mehmas, who attracted 239 mares from a fee of €60,000. It is the third year in succession that the Acclamation stallion has covered over 200 mares and there is far more quality among them than was present in his first four books which contained only 30 elite mares in total, a far cry from the 220 or so in his latest three books. But like Saxon Warrior, even with so much promise coming down the line, he too has had his 2024 fee reduced, in his case to €50,000 on the back of a decrease in yearling average, which slipped by about
€10,000 from last year – although with over 150 sold this year there was always going to be downward pressure on his average yearling price.

Coolmore’s Wootton Bassett and Churchill are the other two with 200 or more mares. Breeders who have used Wootton Bassett in the past three years will have been particularly pleased that he came up with three new Group 1 winners this year in the shape of Champion Stakes winner King Of Steel, plus two-year-olds Bucanero Fuerte and Unquestionable. In the three seasons he’s been at Coolmore, the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner has had untold riches bestowed upon him – almost 400 mares from 700 can be classed at elite – so from next year on he ought to be in a position to sire more runners like Almanzor (TF133) and King Of Steel (TF125) . We should also expect an upgrade in his current career stakes winner-to-runner strike-rate of 8.7%. Given that his yearlings this year were from his first Coolmore crop, it was no surprise to see his average reach an all-time high at over €300,000 and consequently his fee for 2024 climb to €200,000.

Five stallions attracted over 100 elite mares in 2023

Five stallions attracted over 100 elite mares in 2023 with Frankel (166) leading the way from Dubawi (125), Wootton Bassett (124), Sea The Stars (118) along with Baaeed and Kingman locked on 101 apiece. First-season sire Baaeed was immensely popular, so much so that his first book of mares was bettered only by Frankel in the past ten years, and he served the same number of elite mares as Too Darn Hot did three years earlier.

Among the second-year stallions, both St Mark’s Basilica and Palace Pier, as befits sires who stood for €65,000 and £50,000 respectively, maintained high-quality books, while the Dubawi stallion Space Blues enjoyed an increase in the number of mares covered as did the National Stud’s Lope Y Fernandez further down the price scale. Meanwhile, Darley’s Ghaiyyath and Pinatubo headed their intake year in terms of mare quality as they have done in the previous two seasons, and it was no surprise to see both of them top the yearlings sales averages among third-year sires.

Finally, there were three stallions that added an extra 100 mares to their 2022 totals. The first was the aforementioned Churchill who increased from 91 to 224 mares on account of Vadeni’s stellar
three-year-old season and Blue Rose Cen’s win in the Prix Marcel Boussac. Calyx and Cracksman were the other two.