By The Numbers

The most in-demand stallions in the sales ring

In his final By The Numbers column, Bren O’Brien answers which Australian stallions have the highest percentage of their crops sell through the yearling ring?

I have been fortunate to receive many requests from readers on potential topics for By The Numbers.

Fortunate in a couple of respects. Firstly, to have an audience which is enthusiastic enough to offer requests and secondly, because coming up with three topics a week has, on occasion, proven a challenge, and all help is appreciated.

In my final column for ANZ Bloodstock News, I have decided to answer a query from within. Journalist Tim Rowe and I have spent many evenings after a yearling sale over a couple of drinks, mulling the results of the day and what they mean in the broader context.

It might not always make us the best dinner company, but our shared interest in the market and my fondness for stats was the genesis for the idea behind By The Numbers.

So fittingly, the honour of determining the topic of the last By The Numbers column in its current guise goes to Tim, who asked me recently ‘which sires have the highest percentage of their yearlings go through the ring?’

As is often the case, there are a dozen different ways to cut the question. Consideration has to be given to how the data will be collected and what is a meaningful sample size. Methodology included collecting data from the Australian Stud Book (book size, foal crop size) and matching it up with Arion (volume of sales, average, median etc).

The scope of the study has to be carefully considered as well and so I decided to focus on the 2023 yearling season and the top 20 stallions ranked on mare book size from the 2020 breeding season. The corresponding foals from that season arrived in the spring of 2021 and went through the yearling sales this year.

Those 20 sires produced 2,632 live foals between them, around 20.5 per cent of the 2021 Australian foal crop of 12,813. Of those 2,632 foals, 1,840, or 70 per cent, were offered through the yearling sales and 1,540, or 58.5 per cent, were sold.

Just a quick note on the data. That total of 1,840 offered is likely a slight over-representation of the true figure, as some yearlings, between two and three per cent, are offered multiple times through the sales season.

That average sold rate of 58.5 per cent gives us a good baseline to work on when we are comparing which stallions have the highest percentage sell through the yearling sales.

The answer to the question in 2023 is quite clear, Written Tycoon (Iglesia), who is now resident at Yulong, but in 2020 spent one season at Arrowfield Stud.

Of his 153 Arrowfield-conceived foals, 129, or 84.3 per cent, were offered through a yearling sale and 118, or 77.1 per cent were sold.

It is the most sold of any sire and it is also the most Written Tycoon yearlings sold in a single season. Those yearlings sold at an average of $295,226.

That was a slight step back from the $310,570 he averaged in 2022, but that statistic comes with a couple of important notes. Firstly, only 71, or 66.4 per cent, of that previous foal crop sold and that crop was conceived in his final season at Woodside Park off a service fee of $110,000.

Written Tycoon’s fee dropped to $77,000 at Arrowfield in 2020, hence the big jump in mare numbers – 138 to 199. While his average yearling-price-to-service-fee (ex GST) percentage in that final Woodside crop was 311 per cent, this year it jumped to 422 per cent.

The particular circumstances of that season played a significant role in why Written Tycoon heads the table. His one season in the Hunter Valley saw many new breeders support him, and with the son of Iglesia having been subsequently crowned Australian champion sire, with his service fee jumping to $165,000 the next year, they rightly sought to cash in.

Written Tycoon – yearlings sold per crop

Sales Year Crop Yearlings Sold YS/Crop
2023 153 118 77.1%
2022 107 71 66.4%
2021 123 78 63.4%
2020 132 74 56.1%
2019 176 116 65.9%
2018 134 85 63.4%
2017 129 69 53.5%
2016 102 54 52.9%
2015 88 38 43.2%
2014 115 43 37.4%

Second on our list is a first-season sire, Pierata (Pierro), who had 74.8 per cent, or 86, of his 2021 crop of 115 sell through the 2023 yearling sales. He began his career at Aquis at a fee of $44,000 and moved to Yulong in 2023.

While return-on-investment is always important, stallion farms are often keen to see as many of the early progeny of their stallions find new homes through the sales. Pierata had a very high overall clearance rate of 89.6 per cent, but this willingness to sell didn’t adversely impact his commerciality. His average of $136,307 was a 341 per cent return on his initial stallion fee (ex-GST).

Widden’s Zousain (Zoustar) was another stallion whose yearling progeny had a high clearance rate, 89.8 per cent, and a high percentage of his first crop sold, 70.3 per cent, placing him third overall. He started out at $19,800 – and his average of $114,351 represented a more than six-fold premium. He had more yearlings, 108, sold than any other first-season sire.

Newgate’s Brutal (O’Reilly) and one-time Aquis stallion and now Kitchwin Hills-based Dubious (Not A Single Doubt) are other freshman sires who had a high percentage of their foals sell as yearlings – 67.5 per cent (93) and 67 per cent (79) respectively. That placed them sixth and seventh.

The now-pensioned Deep Field (Northern Meteor) was also prominent, in fourth place overall with 68.5 per cent (87) of his foal crop sold through the 2023 yearling sales. That figure is lower than what it was for his previous crop (74 per cent), while his number of yearlings sold also dropped by 41.

With less supply, his average for 2023 jumped to a career-high of $227,545, supported by continuing demand from Hong Kong, while much discussed fertility issues also seemed to put a premium on his crops coming through. It will be interesting to follow that trend in 2024.

In fifth place is I Am Invincible (Invincible Spirit), a favourite subject of this column, who grossed more in yearling sales in 2023, $62.1 million, than any Australian stallion in history.

Vinnie had 67.6 per cent, or 92, of his crop of 136 sell as yearlings. That is the third highest percentage of any of his crops to date, behind only his 2017 and 2015 foal crops.

Those 2023 I Am Invincible yearlings averaged $675,489, or a 356 per cent return on the 2020 service fee (ex-GST) for the dual Australian champion sire.

I Am Invincible – yearlings sold per crop

Sales Year Crop Yearlings Sold YS/Crop
2023 136 92 67.7%
2022 146 91 62.3%
2021 163 104 63.8%
2020 151 89 58.9%
2019 155 107 69.0%
2018 153 100 65.4%
2017 153 116 75.8%
2016 136 86 63.2%
2015 109 71 65.1%
2014 101 67 66.3%
2013 96 52 54.2%

His great contemporary Snitzel (Redoute’s Choice) didn’t make our sample, as he didn’t feature in the top 20 busiest stallions that year, but we have looked at his stats, which show 76 yearling sales in 2023, representing 62.3 per cent of his 2021 foal crop.

The sire with the biggest foal crop that year was Newgate’s Capitalist (Written Tycoon) with 171 foals. Of those, 65.5 per cent, or 112, were sold as yearlings, placing him eighth on our list.

Coolmore’s So You Think (High Chaparral) had the biggest mare book of any sire, with 261, from which emerged a crop of 166. Of that group, 62 per cent, or 103, sold through the 2023 yearling sales.

Those who backed So You Think in that 2020 season, when he stood for $38,500 (inc GST), and then sold them as yearlings, were rewarded with an average return of 515 per cent on service fee.

Selected stallions ranked by percentage of yearlings sold in 2023 per foal crop   

Stallion Crop Yearlings Sold YS/Crop Ave Ave/Service Fee (ex GST)
Written Tycoon 153 118 77.1% $295,226 422%
Pierata 115 86 74.8% $136,307 341%
Zousain 138 97 70.3% $114,351 635%
Deep Field 127 87 68.5% $227,545 455%
I Am Invincible 136 92 67.6% $675,489 356%
Brutal 120 81 67.5% $64,733 259%
Dubious 97 65 67.0% $66,754 556%
Capitalist 171 112 65.5% $165,540 414%
Dundeel 144 93 64.6% $159,816 266%
Shalaa 107 68 63.6% $63,246 211%

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