As quick as we manufacture comment on this subject, so the experts appear to respond. In a treatise on America’s two leading sons of Gone West (remember Western Winter is also a successful son of Gone West), Andrew Caulfield speculates on the impact of the increasing fees of Elusive Quality and Mr Greeley, both of whom started life at a price of US$10,000 neither having posted anything more prestigious than Grade Three victories as sprinter-milers. As pedigree gurus go, Mr Caulfield knows his subject as well as anyone plying his trade, and his views on the subject are worth reading. His speculation on the somewhat erratic lull in the performances of both these stallions (as well as Gone West’s other one-time highly performed son, Grand Slam) suggests that increased nomination fees and escalating prices in the sales ring, might have put the stallions beyond the reach of the very people that made them in the first place, and it strikes a chord with our own reflections on the current state of the upper-end of the South African stallion market.
You see, our market could perhaps support one horse at R200,000 plus, but with three occupying this ethereal space, and several others evolving into the vacuum created behind them, a vortex of unrecoverable value in the form of escalated production costs, is bound to develop in an environment which is strongly defined by the domestic nature of our market and the inhibiting limitations on the export of our horses. Until we achieve the levels of maturity prevalent in the European, USA and Australian markets. It’s our view (and that of some of the world’s top experts, it seems) that our current situation is unsustainable. Andrew Caulfield’s remarks are well worth reading.
“Of course, Elusive Quality and Mr. Greeley originally made their name at much lower fees, neither of them having won anything more prestigious than Grade III events during their careers as sprinter-milers. Elusive Quality spend his first four seasons at only $10,000 before a strong showing from his first juveniles in 2002 created considerable demand for his 2003 services at $30,000. The exploits of such as Omega Code, Great Notion, Gimmeawink and Chimichurri helped raise Elusive Quality’s fee to $50,000 for 2004—with this fee being set before a second-crop two-year-old called Smarty Jones gained his first stakes success.
Interest reached fever pitch during the 2004 covering season when Smarty Jones was establishing himself as the champion colt of his generation, and Elusive Quality’s fee consequently rose to $100,000 in 2005. Mr. Greeley also started out at $10,000 during his days at Dixiana Farm. Each of his four seasons spent at that fee yielded at least one Grade I winner—El Corredor in his first, Celtic Melody and Reel Buddy in his second, Nonsuch Bay in his third and Whywhywhy in his fourth— to set his fee rising, but it wasn’t until 2003 that his fee reached $50,000.
It’s natural to expect a steep rise in fee to translate into a similarly steep rise in the stallion’s achievements, but this doesn’t always follow. This can happen because a rise in fee inevitably affects the type of mare sent to a stallion- perhaps switching the emphasis from hard-knocking mares below graded level to less tough types with classier bloodlines. The emphasis can also switch from speed to a more Classic type. Another possible factor is that rising nomination fees and escalating prices in the sales ring can put the stallion and his progeny beyond the reach the very people who helped make the stallion’s name.
It is worth mentioning that Elusive Quality finished third on the international first-crop sires’ list of 2002, which was headed by Grand Slam, another son of Gone West. Grand Slam’s fee rose from $25,000 in 2002 to $30,000 in 2003 and then to $75,000 in 2004 before peaking at $85,000 in 2005. But his fee was on the slide before his higher-priced crops had had a chance to prove themselves, and he was down to $35,000 this year.
The question with Grand Slam is whether his current two-year-olds, the product of his $75,000 season, will do well enough to set his fee climbing once again. Judging by his very talented English filly Laureldean Gale, a recent acquisition by Godolphin, they might just do it.”
Extract from TDN 04.09.07