Who do you trust?
For all the glitz and glamour that the commercial market places on the hot new things and the chart-topping breed-shapers, there is a quiet fraternity of sires who breeders on a budget trust to get their broodmares off to the right start.
Though they might not be the types of sires whose foals are going to rain down seven figures in the sale ring, their basements for quality are so high that a breeder can trust them to put a reliable foal on the ground, win some races, and carve out a decent living. If they can grab some black type along the way, even better.
These sires are invaluable to help provide stability for a broodmare that might have something shaky about their resume, whether it’s physical, pedigree, or performance, and once those mares prove they can produce a winner, they can move up the commercial ladder. Mizzen Mast was the king of this move before his pensioning.
Fortunately, many of these stallions can be booked for $20,000 or less, meaning we’ve got a deep field of proven contenders for the All-Value Sire Team’s “Veteran” position. These are the stallions who, by my eye, are among the most trustworthy for the price in North America.
We’ll also take a look at a pair of sires with appeal for breeders looking to create high-level one-turn runners on a budget.
If you’ve missed any previous installments of the All-Value Sire Team, they can be found below.
Part 1: The ground rules, Team Captain, and Turf Sire
Part 2: The Rookie and All-Weather Sire
The Veteran: A sire with at least five crops of racing age in 2023. His reputation is pretty much set in terms of what kind of foal he can get you, which means it’s easier to plan what kind of mares might work best with him.
First Team: Midshipman
Ch. H., 2006, Unbridled’s Song x Fleet Lady, by Avenue of Flags
Standing at Darley, KY, $20,000
He might not be mentioned in the same breath as the Into Mischiefs and Tapits of the world that top the auction leaderboards, but few sires have an approval rating during casual back ring conversations that can match Midshipman.
It’s easy to see why. When I was putting together my list of serious contenders for this category, and arranging them by various statistical categories, Midshipman seemed to keep finding himself near the top of each list.
He gets 78 percent starters from foals of racing age, and 57 percent winners from racing-age horses, both of which are outstanding. His runners have also won 16 percent of their total starts, which is more than a lot of pinnacle-level commercial sires can boast.
However, what separates Midshipman from the pack in this division is that his copious starters and winners don’t just come in rank-and-file races. His six percent lifetime stakes winners from horses of racing age is equal to that of the mighty Gun Runner, and just one percentage point behind the likes of Uncle Mo and Quality Road.
All those back ring conversations are starting to lead to raised hands in the sale pavilion, too. Midshipman’s average yearling sale price has grown by 84 percent from 2020 to 2022, finishing at a healthy $61,463 this season.
Physically, Midshipman varies a bit from what I typically expect from a product of Unbridled’s Song. In my mind, Unbridled’s Song adds stretch to his sons, with the extreme end of that spectrum being the appearance of being fine-boned. Even a horse with a ton of substance like champion Will Take Charge still had a degree of length to let you know he’s a son of Unbridled’s Song.
That’s not as easy to find with Midshipman, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. He cuts a compact sprinter’s frame with a huge engine and a ton of bone. He has a history of putting substance on a foal, and that’s clear to see from his own silhouette.
Midshipman doesn’t have any active sons at stud, but he’s starting to carve out a nice career as a broodmare sire. The elite turf sprinter and debuting sire Golden Pal is his best example to date.
Last year, Midshipman stood for $10,000, and Darley justifiably bumped him up to $20,000 for 2023. He’s earned that distinction, and he still represents an incredible value for what he can give you in return. Meriting that kind of trust is worth the investment.
Second Team: Sky Mesa
B. h., 2000, Pulpit x Caress, by Storm Cat
Standing at Three Chimneys Farm, KY, $10,000
I’ll be honest, I didn’t go into this exercise expecting to put Sky Mesa on the team. I knew he was a reliable stalwart in the Kentucky stallion ranks, but sitting down with the numbers revealed that he’s much more than that.
Like Midshipman, Sky Mesa just kept showing up at or near the top of nearly every category with which I sorted the top value veteran sires. He gets 80 percent of his foals to the track, and 60 percent winners. Both of those figures are higher than any sire currently in the top 10 by progeny earnings in 2022 except Tapit (82 percent starters, 62 percent winners) and Speightstown (81 percent starters, 62 percent winners).
Also like Midshipman, Sky Mesa gets six percent stakes winners from foals of racing age, and he’s got four Grade/Group 1 winners on his resume, including dual-surface Grade 1 winner and Kentucky Derby starter General Quarters. Sky Mesa has proven himself capable of getting a runner under whatever conditions are thrown at them, and his average progeny earnings of $71,248 is among the best of the value sires.
General Quarters is among the five active sons at stud for Sky Mesa, which trails only Lookin at Lucky’s six for the most among active North American sires standing for $20,000 or less. Granted, he’s had nearly two decades of active stud duty to accumulate that number, but there are stallions just as experienced looking up at him on the chart.
One of the only things that kept Sky Mesa from reaching the First Team – or perhaps even Team Captain status – was his lack of momentum in the commercial market. That’s why I initially wrote him off when considering who might make noise on the All-Value Sire Team. I just don’t hear his name called a lot in the sale ring.
His average yearling sale price has been floating around $25,000 or less for the past few years, and as a stallion that’s been covering mares since George W. Bush’s first term in office, that needle’s probably done moving. Still, if you’re breeding to race, Sky Mesa represents an incredible bang for your buck.
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The Sprinter: A veteran sire who either has a proven track record of getting successful sprinters, or a young sire who has the racetrack performance or pedigree to suggest his foals will excel around one turn.
First Team: Jimmy Creed
Ch. H., 2009, Distorted Humor x Hookedonthefeelin, by Citidancer
Standing at Spendthrift Farm, KY, $10,000
In 2018, Jimmy Creed was North America’s leading sire by year-over-year gains in mares bred, jumping up by 98 mares from the previous breeding season.
Since then, Jimmy Creed has proven himself able to get Grade 1-caliber sprinters while never standing for a fee higher than $15,000 over the course of his eight years at stud.
That high ceiling is what makes Jimmy Creed stand out in this division. He’s gotten 39 percent winners from starters in sprint races in 2022, which puts him shoulder-to-shoulder with other notable sires in the value division, but his six stakes winners and four percent stakes winners from starters vaulted him to the head of the line.
His average 2022 sprint earnings of $31,292 was well ahead of many of the top contenders for this spot, as well. All of the above numbers are a fairly significant improvement from his 2021 campaign, but he was still very much in the hunt among this division’s best last year.
On a greater scale, Jimmy Creed gets 71 percent of his total foals to the racetrack, so breeders can feel confident that sending a mare to him will result in a foal that’ll at least get a chance to prove themselves at the races.
Jimmy Creed was himself a Grade 1 winner around one turn on the dirt, but the horse driving the bus for his prowess at stud is Casa Creed, a multiple Grade 1-winning turf sprinter, having won each of the past two editions of the G1 Jaipur Stakes at Belmont Park. Though Jimmy Creed has yet to see a son retire to stud, it is likely that the $1.7-million earner will have a home on someone’s roster at the end of his career; better answering the “can he get you a stallion?” question.
All four of Jimmy Creed’s career graded stakes winners have earned their merits around one turn. In addition to Casa Creed, he’s had Grade 2 winners Kanthaka, Spectator, and King Jack, all over the dirt.
Casa Creed might stand out among that group as the lone turf-leaning horse, but Kanthaka came within a neck of winning the 2020 Jaipur, and his slate of 2022 runners also included the promising juvenile Private Creed, who won one-turn stakes races on the grass at Kentucky Downs and Keeneland before finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
Commercially, it appears Jimmy Creed’s sweet spot is in the pinhook market. Private Creed brought a healthy return at this year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, bringing $155,000 off a $45,000 yearling purchase, and two of his four graded stakes winners were either re-sold at auction or went through the ring as a yearling and came back to sell at two.
Once they set hoof to the track, either to race or breeze for a sale, a good Jimmy Creed can quickly start paying for itself.
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Second Team: Volatile
Gr. or ro. h., 2016, Violence x Melody Lady, by Unbridled’s Song
Standing at Three Chimneys Farm, KY, $12,500
Volatile at Three Chimneys 7.20.21
It’s probably a little too ambitious to place a stallion this new in a spot this high, but I just find Volatile so intriguing.
His race record is rock-solid, winning five of six, all sprints, including victories in the G1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap and listed Aristides Stakes.
He beat some really horses in both races, including champion Whitmore and Grade 1 winners Mind Control and Firenze Fire in the Vanderbilt, and the likes of Honest Mischief and Manny Wah in the Aristides, which he took by eight lengths. I wish he’d have run more, but he collected some impressive notches in his belt along the way.
What really captured me about Volatile, though, was his physical. Violence is good at imparting his own length and scope into his runners, and broodmare sire Unbridled’s Song was known for the refinement of his foals. By all rights, Volatile should be all leg and spindly-looking, but he’s got the substance I’d want to see in a sire of sprinter.
He stands 16.2 hands tall, and his proportions are well balanced between his legs and the rest of his body. He’s got a solid foot under him, and he’s filled out wonderfully in the shoulder and rump after two years at stud. With that being said, he’s still not overly bulky, so I don’t see a huge risk in breeding same-to-same to him in terms of body type. I suppose his foals will prove or disprove that notion as they mature.
Early buyers seem to like what they see, as well. Volatile’s first weanlings have averaged $80,742 during this year’s mixed sales, topping out with a colt bringing $325,000. I expect that number to go down over the next few years after his commercial premium for first-year sires goes away, but that’s still a fine place to start, and I expect they will be just as well-received next year as yearlings.
Breeding to any stallion in his third book is a leap of faith, but at the $12,500 price point, that leap could provide some healthy dividends if his first foals come out running, and I’m sure they’ll be given every chance to do so.
Check in for future installments to see who made the All-Value Sire Team among stallions of various ages and specialties, including freshman sires of 2023, sires awaiting their first yearlings, regional sires, and more.