Stars and Stripes: Buying American mares

6 min read
Newgate's Henry Field and Randwick Bloodstock's Brett Howard spoke to TDN AusNZ about the keys and challenges to finding the right broodmares at the major American sales.

A look at the results of either the yearling sales or major races in recent years gives a strong indication of how valuable American-bred broodmares have become to the Australian thoroughbred industry.

In the past two years, there have been 17 yearlings from American mares which sold for over $500,000 at the two major Australian sales, while on the track, American dams have produced seven Group 1 winners in Australia since the start of the 2016-17 season.

Russian Revolution (Snitzel - Ballet D'Smour {USA}) is the poster boy for the Australian-American hybrid, winning two Group 1s before retiring to stand at Newgate Stud Farm.

Newgate, through their association with SF Bloodstock, see great value in continuing the program of finding American broodmares which suit the Australian market

Russian Revolution as a yearling

"American broodmares have been very successful in Australia over the journey," Newgate's Managing Director Henry Field, told TDN AusNZ.

"Newgate through the farm, and with SF Bloodstock and Matthew Sandblom, the partners in the farm, have invested heavily in US mares in the past couple of years. It's been a very successful program."

"The results, in my view, have been exceptional," Brett Howard on the record of American broodmares.

It’s a similar story for Randwick Bloodstock's Brett Howard, who has been going to the big American sales for 30 years. He's still a strong believer that you can get outstanding results with the right purchases.

"I've been a great advocate of buying out of America because of the number of mares which have gone to America from Australia," Howard said. "The results, in my view, have been exceptional. There have been very few mares imported, but what mares have been, produce a very high percentage of stakes winners."

The Australian Studbook confirms that 62 broodmares were imported from the USA in 2017. It’s a continuation of a trend which successful breeders in Australia have been following for a long time.

"You only have to look at Gooree's (Stud) broodmare band," Field said. "They have been one of the strongest importers of mares out of the United States and they set the benchmark as breeders in this country."

Getting access to fast, well performed mares

Newgate and SF Bloodstock are following a strategy they believe gives them the best chance of continuing that success.

Fundamentally, Field says, it’s about getting access to well-performed fast mares.

"In America, horses run fast. It doesn't matter whether they run six furlongs or ten furlongs," Henry Field.

"People generally go to America to buy performance-based mares. We are a very performance driven operation. We are big believers in race form, both from the stallions that we stand and the mares we bring in to our broodmare band," he said.

"In America, horses run fast. It doesn't matter whether they run six furlongs or ten furlongs. They jump out of the gates and they go really quick. When you combine that speed with our speed, it's a good fit."

That's a factor which Brett Howard also thinks is important is assessing what mares are the right fit for the Australian market.

"Because of the way they run their races, there is usually good speed from the start and most of their best racing is up to a mile and just beyond. A lot of those speed mares have done well in Australia," Howard said.

Looking for the right fit

But for Randwick Bloodstock, racetrack performance is only useful if you can also get access to the right physical type of mare.

"I'm looking for mares that I think have some physical characteristics that suit our market. Namely mares that with a bit of bone and a bit of substance if possible. I'm looking for mares with good leg conformation as well," Howard said.

"We are trying to find mares that won't have too many issues which our market wouldn’t like."

"Pedigree is very important too, but race form is something we value very highly," Henry Field.

The opportunity to access external pedigrees for the Australian market is also significant for both Field and Howard.

The Not A Single Doubt colt out of US mare Quiet Maggy (USA) sold for $1.25 million at the 2017 Inglis Easter sale

"Pedigree is very important too, but race form is something we value very highly," Field said. "I think the combination of that and the fact they are genuine outcross pedigrees is the reason it's created a lot of genuine hybrid vigour in Australia with our gene pool."

Howard's take on accessing fresh pedigree is that it represents both an opportunity and a danger.

"You need to get that right. If the buyers here don't fully appreciate the female lines these horses come from, or the stallions, you are possibly not going to get the full bang for your buck," he said.

Bang for your buck

Interestingly enough, 'bang for your buck' is the other driving force behind SF Bloodstock's focus on bringing American mares to Australia.

"What has appealed to me, Gavin Murphy and Tom Ryan (who run SF Bloodstock) is that we can get access to some very high-quality race performed-mares with blood that will cross very well with what we have here," Field said.

"The last couple of years that we've found the broodmare market to be so strong in Australia that it has given us opportunity to go and buy and get good value for money over there."

A Snitzel colt out of US mare Tara From The Cape (USA) made $1 million at the 2017 Inglis Easter sale

"Their market's bubbling along well and America is very much an international market," Brett Howard.

Growing Australian interest

Field says Australian interest in the big breeding sales at Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton has been piqued by the promotion of them by key people within the local thoroughbred industry.

"I think Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton do an excellent job promoting their sales. Certainly I believe with Keeneland using Barry Bowditch and Fasig-Tipton using Andy Williams, they’ve got two of the most energetic young guys on the ground in Australia who are promoting their product very heavily," he said.

Multiple Group winner Foxplay is out of an imported American mare, Butters (USA)

Howard agrees that the increasing globalisation of racing, means the new generation of thoroughbred professionals are going to have a much stronger understanding, and interest, in the American market.

"Their market's bubbling along well and America is very much an international market.

"They are attracting buyers not just from America, but Europe, South America and other nations. The broodmare sales coming up are a hot market. It's a strong buying bench across the board.

"You've got enough people now with some international idea. Quite a few of the younger up and coming people have spent time overseas, working on stud farms in Kentucky and Europe, and so they’ve had exposure to the racing and bloodlines over there, so when they return to Australia, they bring back that knowledge," he said.

"These guys are now taking on major roles with studs and racing stables."