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 Editorials

Thoughts from our editor, Joe Clancy. For archived editorials click here.

Now hear this, I’m no pedigree expert. But breeders might want to start paying attention to Maryland stallion Blofeld.

The young sire went on a run to start 2022, pushing his statistics to a ridiculous 12 winners from 13 starters (92.3 percent) and average earnings per starter of $28,468 in his first crop through March 13. The win total put him in the national top 10 among second-crop sires, with fewer than one-quarter the chances of some, by progeny earnings. Kentucky-based stallions Practical Joke (66 starters), Gun Runner (47), Cupid (59) and Keen Ice (59) rank above Blofeld, but he’s in there swinging.

And hitting. His sons and daughters Beach Daze, Gamestonks, Crabs N Beer, Charming Way, Goldenize, Miss Casey, Royal Spy, Blo My Budget, My Dixie Lass, Road Party, Orashi and Oak Hill Lg won in 2021 and 2022. Only Vinny was still a maiden as of March 13, and he placed twice and missed a start when Laurel Park canceled due to weather March 12.

I know, I know . . . small sample size . . . but do you really want to take that stance? With Blofeld’s entire second crop yet to race? The gray son of Quality Road could be America’s, or at least the region’s, next phenom. He might also be Murmur Farm’s next big name – following the likes of Our Emblem, Deerhound, Norquestor and others. The Murray family’s Darlington operation doesn’t get ahead of itself, but once hosted Hollywood for a scene in xXx: State of the Union, complete with exploding barn doors so – hey – you never know. Blofeld could be a blockbuster.

See page 18 for more, and forgive my optimism in those previous four paragraphs. I know fairytales – while not impossible – aren’t exactly common in Thoroughbred racing. Stars are stars. Big names usually stay that way. Blofeld’s chances at stallion stardom might not be any better than the other up-and-comers in the Mid-Atlantic.

And that’s the shame of it. Most regional stallions, sorry, won’t get bred to enough mares to have fair chances at national success. There will be blips of progress, a breakthrough horse now and then, some grind-it-out numbers, a few Kentucky transplants with big books behind them, even a young buck like Blofeld who shakes things up. But Blofeld’s second and third crops aren’t any bigger than his first, and he can’t possibly continue to produce winners at 92 percent. Any momentum he gets from 2022 in terms of additional mares won’t be felt until 2025 or 2026. By then, there might be another Blofeld making noise.

I root for all the regional stallions and would walk a mile barefoot in the snow to make a case to breed to one of my favorite horses of all-time Imagining, but the business can be all uphill. Just look at Blofeld’s rivals near the top of the second-crop leaderboard. Every other horse in the top 10 has at least 128 foals in his first two crops. Blofeld? Forty-three. Fellow regional stallions Divining Rod (86), Madefromlucky (64) and Holy Boss (68) were making a stand, but still well behind the big national names. Lists of all stallions show an even bigger concentration at the top.

Quality prevails, I get it. I heard the college lectures about free enterprise and supply and demand just like everyone else, but the North American Thoroughbred foal crop was 38,365 in 2005 and was estimated to be 19,200 in 2021. At the same time, books for top stallions have expanded – meaning it’s more difficult than ever to attract mares to regional stallions. While helping regional stallions wasn’t exactly the goal, The Jockey Club tried to implement a cap on mares bred by individual stallions. The number was going to be 140 a year, based on 27 percent of all stallions exceeding that total in 2019 compared to 9.5 percent in 2007. Of course, some big farms sued, and the Kentucky state legislature even put forward a bill hinting at the creation of a new breed registry, so the rule was rescinded before it ever got started.
Probably doomed from the start (I’ll leave that to legal minds), the rule was a noble goal. If part of The Jockey Club’s mission is to preserve the Thoroughbred breed, shouldn’t sire books be part of the discussion? And if an actual cap on the number isn’t at least part of the answer, then what is?

Blofeld and I would like to know.

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