As mid-February rolls around, love is in the air. Heart-shaped chocolate boxes fly off store shelves, oversized teddy bears stuffed into cars, rose petals littering kitchen countertops as the big day commences. For Thoroughbreds, a similar sense of love is in the air, as Feb. 15 marks Opening Day of the breeding season.
McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds will stand Central Banker and Teuflesberg in 2017, and is partners with Sequel Stallions on Forty Tales and first-year stallion Laoban.
“The stallion business is the highest risk part of the business you could be in,” said Joe McMahon, who has been in the stallion industry since the early 1980s. “For a farm like this in New York, part of the way people can get New York-bred status is to breed back to New York registered stallions, so it helps to have a stallion on a farm like this to fill your barns for boarding mares. The stallion business is a tough, tough business.”
After Central Banker was bred to the Noonmark mare last Friday evening, McMahon sat around the fireplace in his rustic brick home to discuss his 2017 stallion roster.
Son of Speightstown entered stud in 2015, after a successful racing career highlighted by a victory in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes. Bred to about 120 mares in his first season in 2015 and 99 last year, Central Banker stands for $7,500.
“Trainer Al Stall mentioned in an article that they were retiring him and they were looking for buyers. That was during August three years ago. We went and saw him at the racetrack at Al Stall’s barn and we liked him, we thought he was an attractive horse but we couldn’t get together a price on him right then so we didn’t buy him actually until the fall in November.
“We like his babies. We bred a lot of mares to him; I think 118 the first year. So he’s got a lot of foals out there. We sold two in the November sale last year. One brought $75,000 and the other brought $48,000. So we thought that was a good start, a pretty good price for an original stallion. He’ll probably breed about 80 this year.
“He’s a very good-looking horse. Physically, he’s got the type of physical that goes with a lot of different types of mares. He’s not overly big, and he’s not small. He seems to be siring consistent good-bodied babies with good hips and good shoulders and I think they’ve got a little more leg than he has.”
The son of Johannesburg entered stud in 2008 and is the sire of 2012 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner and champion sprinter Trinniberg. He stands for $3,500.
“Teuflesberg’s a horse that’s had kind of a cloud following him around. He was a very good racehorse and was raced a lot. He eventually got hurt pretty badly and they didn’t even know if he was going to survive, and we thought we were going to buy him then right when he retired. First time we saw him was down at Rood & Riddle’s hospital down in Lexington right after he’d had a pretty big surgery. At that point we didn’t even know if he’d be able to stand at stud. We didn’t get him, we got outbid in the process and he went to stud at another farm in Kentucky.
“Fortunately for him, he did sire a top horse from his first crop – a horse that won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. So we had liked this horse, we were very impressed with him. We liked his physical and he had moved farms from the original farm he was at and went to a farm down in Florida. The partnership that had him kind of fell apart, and we were able to buy him right before the Breeders’ Cup about four years ago – a couple days before the Breeders’ Cup Sprint where his 3-year-old Trinniberg won and we’d had him bought and under contract, so we were feeling really good about him. We brought him here to New York and had great support for us standing him; we sold a lot of shares in him.
“As luck would have it, we started breeding him in the spring and he didn’t get any mares in foal. We sent him down to the clinic down in Pennsylvania and they had him for a month and a half and at the end of the day they said this horse is infertile, forget about him. So we brought him home, let him be in his paddock for the next couple months, and waited until the fall and decided to test breed a couple of mares to him, and low and behold he got one of them in foal. So we decided to breed some more mares to him, only eight or ten, but he did get them all in foal. Those foals are 2-year-olds now and will come to the races this year.
“We never had any doubt at all that this horse could sire nice horses. We’ve got several of them in Ocala that we own and they’re doing real, real good. The trainers are very high on them. So maybe we’ll get lucky and revive him again.
“He’s already bred five or six mares and we don’t like to book him to too many mares but he’ll probably breed 25 or 30 mares. He has a little bit of a following in New York, a lot of people that like him and have had good foals by him. The foals are leggy and well-balanced, they’re attractive, sound looking horses.”
The upset winner of the Grade 2 Jim Dandy last summer at Saratoga, son of Uncle Mo enters stud in 2017 and stands for $7,500 at Sequel Stallions in Hudson.
“Some fairly significant entities in the business – Sequel, ourselves, and Matt Lyons of Woodford Thoroughbreds – have gotten together and bought a horse. We partnered with the people who raced him, Mike Moreno (of Southern Equine), and it’s kind of significant that we were able to buy a horse of his caliber and put him here in New York and certainly hope that that’s something we can keep doing.
“He’s one of the first Uncle Mos to go to stud. He was impressive when he broke his maiden, he beat a very good field of horses, and he’s a big, handsome horse. He’s 17 hands.
“He’s going to breed likely 120 or 130 mares. He’s been breeding mares for 25 days now and I think he’s got 10 mares in foal to him. We’re sending some very nice mares, good stakes producing mares that we like, and some young mares that are well-bred. We think this horse will be a very good horse for selling yearlings. He’s a big, pretty horse and I think he’ll get very attractive-type yearlings.”
After a successful career that included multiple Grade 2 victories, the son of Tale Of The Cat began his stud career in 2014 at Sequel, where he still stands for $6,500 this season.
“Forty Tales’s first foals are 2-year-olds this year. He had a rough start getting going, he was very shy breeding and we didn’t really get a lot of mares covered by him for the first month because he was too shy. So he lost a lot of people who were planning on breeding to him, because they were tired of waiting and went to other stallions. So we had kind of a small book, but he’s had some very good looking foals.
“He was a fast horse; he’s a real good-looking horse. There’s not a better horse in the state as far as his physical frame. He’s a very, very attractive horse. A little on the small side, but we’ll see what happens.”
Here Comes Ben
After entering stud in 2012, the Grade 1 winner had outstanding 2 year-old and yearling prices. However, he will not stand at McMahon of Saratoga in 2017.
“His oldest foals are 4 this year. Here Comes Ben is probably the biggest disappointment we’ve ever had. He was a well-bred horse by Street Cry; won a Grade 1 in Saratoga, beat a good, good field of horses. So we were very lucky to get him.
“His first foals, he was well supported and had a lot of foals, probably 100 in his first crop. They sold really well as weanlings, yearlings and 2-year-olds, but they’re not running the way we wanted them to so he’s moving along.
“He’s gone; he’s going to Jamaica, mon. He sold to a stud farm down there and left last week.”