The Twenty Times Stud Fee Rule

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By Dean Arnold

The time of year is at hand when just about every racetrack cards at least one two-year-old maiden race each day. Many of these races are full of first time starters, giving handicappers only breeding, connections, and workouts to go on. However, there is one measuring stick that can be used as a dead giveaway for talent. Any horse bought at auction for at least 20 times its sire’s stud fee can be considered an automatic play when it makes its debut.

As a simple comparison, suppose there are two first time starters showing an auction price of $250,000 each. The first one is by Tapit, a $200,000 stud fee sire. The second one is by Algorithms, a $5,000 sire. Despite the lofty reputation of Tapit as a sire, the horse that goes for a high multiple at auction from a relatively unknown and unproven sire is a more interesting prospect when both are debuting.  

For the purpose of spotting precocious two-year-olds, it has to be considered a key piece of information any time a horse from modest breeding goes for a high price at a sale. Such a horse is showing he or she is worth far more than most of its siblings. The auction process gives you added assurance that multiple parties were willing to bid a lot of money for the juvenile, since it wasn’t just one buyer simply smitten with the horse.

The more recent the sale, the more important the sales price. Weanlings are bought on looks and breeding. Yearlings are bought on breeding and confirmation. Two-year-olds in training are bought on breeding, confirmation, and ability displayed in public workouts. A horse that struts its stuff in a March or April two-year-old in training sale will be bought on indications of ability.  A horse that sells for many times its sire’s stud fee is showing that it is either a gem of a specimen from that sire, or is a raw talent regardless of breeding.

There is nothing in particular that makes 20 times the stud fee the right multiple for all cases, but it is a large enough spread to catch anyone’s eye. Any horse that sells at auction for six-figures, yet comes from a $5,000 or less sire qualifies in this sense. Any sire under $10,000 that has offspring going for over $100,000 is still making the breeders a great return on investment. Horses that sell for $200,000 and up are a select group, and almost always come from sires in the $20,000 and up range. When you spot one that isn’t from an elite sire, draw a big circle around that horse in your program.

If a horse like this starts for a trainer with good debut percentages, it’s an automatic bet first time out. If a horse like this starts for trainers that usually give the horse a race or two, it often wins early, but sometimes it takes a second or third start.

Requirements to Play The 20x Stud Fee Rule:

– Any horse bought at auction for 20 times its sire’s stud fee can be considered an automatic play when it makes its debut.

– The more recent the sale, the more important the sales price. A horse from a March or April two-year-old in training sale was bought on indications of ability. 

– When these horses debut for a trainer with good debut percentage, they are an automatic bet. – If the trainer usually gives the horse a race or two, consider a bet today, and if it doesn’t win, consider betting its next (or third) start.

Be sure to check out Dean Arnold's handicapping book, A Bettor Way, on sale now through Amazon.

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