The final instalment of the U. S. Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, run on Saturday, was won by the second favourite and sixth in the Kentucky Derby Tapwrit. The colt is the third son of Tapit, the most expensive U.S. stallion today, to have won the Belmotnt in the last four years and there is much class on the maternal side of the pedigree, too, as his dam Appealing Zophie won the Gr.1 Spinaway Stakes. A great stallion prospect, one might say. However, a look on the stud career of the Belmont Stakes winners in this century shows that the triumph in the longest American classic race is no guarantee of a prominent position at stud. Rather the contrary, it is often an air ticket to countries with less developed racing industry than in America.
But let numbers speak. Of eighteen Belmont Stakes winners since 2000, fifteen are at stud plus Rags to Riches, the single Belmont Stakes winning filly since Tanya in 1905. The 2008 winner Ruler On Ice is a gelding and this year’s winner is yet to go to stud. Of fifteen stallions, ten has runners, the youngest of them, Union Rags, is represented by his first crop of three-year-olds. The most successful of them is Empire Maker, sire of fifty-five black-type winners, who launched his racing career at Juddmonte Farm, Kentucky, but after seven seasons was sold to Japan. His son, Pioneerof the Nile, however, meanwhile produced American Pharoah and the stallion, successful through Bodemeister and his son Always Dreaming in this year’s Kentucky Derby, returned to the U. S. last year and is based at Gainesway Farm today.
Empire Maker isn’t by far the only Belmont winner whom the American breeders gave up. The very first winner in this century, Commendable, spent four years at stud in the U.S. (during which time he produced a single black-type winner) and then was sold to Korea. Jazil and Da’ Tara left to Venezuela, Summer Bird and the last year’s winner Creator left for Japan.
The Belmont Stakes winner to leave to stud with the highest credit (until the arrival of American Pharoah) was the 2001 winner Point Given, also the winner of the Preakness Stakes, Travers Stakes and Hollywood Futurity, the 2001 Horse of the Year. Unfortunately, Thunder Gulch’s son gradually lost his credit and although he produced three Gr. 1 winners, the demand for him is on the decrease and his original fee of USD 125,000 dropped to just 5,000. Even so, with his thirty-two black-type winners he is the second most successful Belmont winner since 2000. Afleet Alex has just two winners less but he went to stud four years later in 2006. His fee, too, is on the decrease but not such a steep one – his fee this year is USD 10,000, 25% of his initial fee at stud.
The 2004 winner Birdstone had an excellent kickoff at stud as his first crop included two classic winners – the Kentucky Derby winner-outsider Mine That Bird and the winner of the Belmont Stakes (but also the Travers Stakes) Summer Bird. His fee after these achievements soared to USD 30,000, but since his next crops were not that successful, it is at USD 5,000. The three-year-old U.S. Champion Summer Bird spent two seasons at stud at Paul’s Mill, Kentucky, then was sold to Japan, where he soon died of a colic and left only eight stakes winners.
The 2010 winner Drosselmeyer, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic at four, has his second crop on the racecourse. So far he has produced twelve black-type winners, including four Gr.1 winners, but all won their Gr.1 races in South America, where Drosselmeyer shuttles on the regular basis.
Add to this five black-type winners by Union Rags, eight by Jazil and two by the 2002 winner Sarava, who took the Belmont at the historically highest price of 70 to 1, you’ll get to 173. This is the number of black-type winners produced by all Belmont Stakes winners in this century. Palace Malice, Tonalist and American Pharoah yet wait for their first progeny but the demand for them is high. Last year these three covered 504 mares in the U.S. The demand of Japanese breeders for Creator is to be seen in a couple of months.