California Stallions

Oregon Stallions

Washington Stallions

Bloodstock Agents & Consultants
Farms

Handicapping/Wagering
Organizations
Racehorse Conditioning
& Rehabilitation

Racing Media
Training Centers

Search this website:

The Imported Sire Syndrome

From The T I A Newsletter.

     In Thoroughbred breeding, nothing is more important than probabilities. 
     Sire records, catalog pages, pedigrees, or whatever, they're all about probabilities. 
     Breeders do their best to arrange matings that provide the highest probability of producing a good racehorse. Conversely, breeders do their best to avoid matings with low probabilities, such as sending a non- winning mare from an unproductive female family to a stallion who has demonstrated that he can't sire quality runners. 
     Every spring hundreds of California breeders seeking to get the odds on their side book their mares to stallions who give them much poorer probabilities than they realize. Those are the sires, sometimes pretty glamorous, who come to California after standing for several years in other states or even in other countries. 
     They frequently boast statistics that place them high in the California sire standings, and breeders flock to them. In almost every case, those breeders pay for much more sire power than they actually receive, and the result is an enormous loss of money and a crippling misuse of California mares. 
     Most mare owners don't realize it, but the record shows that in the entire history of California breeding, only one stallion has done as well in California as he did where he came from. This phenomenon, which we have called the Imported Sire Syndrome (ISS), is so well-established that any California breeder who books to one of those sires without taking it into account is reckless indeed. 
     Probabilities are at the heart of the mating game, and the probability that an imported sire will maintain his pre-California record is small. Such stallions have stood for huge stud fees after coming to California; in several instances they became the highest-priced sires in the state. Mare owners flocked to them, and in almost every case they got very little for their money. 
     The single exception was Pia Star, whose record improved after he was brought here from Kentucky. He died after siring only three California crops, so it's possible that even he would have fallen victim to the ISS if he'd lived longer. The records of all the others--and there has been a multitude of them--deteriorated after they came here, and in most cases the plunge was spectacular. 
     Nobody knows what causes the ISS, but there's no question that it exists. Recognizing that fact can save California breeders huge sums of money and vast amounts of disappointment and grief. The simple message is this: Don't expect an imported sire to do as well in California as he did where he came from. It's possible, of course, that another Pia Star will come along--he may already be here--but the clear lesson of history is that it isn't likely. 
     Longshots do come in, but breeders who send mares to those imported sires are bucking daunting odds. 
     Californians of the current generation may remember such recent failures as Tell, Pretense, Search for Gold, Forceten, and Torsion, but those were only the most recent of a long string of imports who arrived with great expectations that never were met. 
     The table accompanying this article shows in detail the records of the 15 most successful sires ever imported to California. The list is restricted to sires with at least 100 foals before coming to California and at least 100 after their arrival. One of the other sires on that list, Promised Land, put together a respectable sire record. It just wasn't as good as the record of his pre-California crops. And only Pia Star did better. 
         Because of incompatibility of foreign and domestic sire statistics, the records of horses who stood in other countries before coming to California aren't shown in the accompanying table. That group includes *Migoli (sire of *Gallant Man), *Khorassan II (sire of Tulloch, at one time the leading money-earner in history in Australia); *Grand Rapids (sire of *Colorado King, a record-setting stakes-winner at Hollywood Park), *Yatasto, *Tirreno, *Pampered King, African Sky (GB), and Adios (GB). 
     All sank without leaving a trace after they came to California. 
     No one knows why Pia Star did better in California than he did in Kentucky, and no one knows why the others didn't. The most widely held belief is that those horses got poorer mares in California, but some of them certainly got many of the state's best, and a sire that Kentucky was willing to part with surely wasn't getting the best mares in the Bluegrass. 
     Batonnier improved in two of the four categories; his case is easier to diagnose. He was owned by a breeder who bred, raised, and raced almost all his foals, maintaining quality control throughout, and unquestionably gave him better mares than he received before he came to California. Mares and their sucklings also were not shipped to breed to stallions standing at other farms.
    High Brite was not among the most successful sires imported to California, but his popularity with the state's breeders makes him relevant.
     High Brite's runners are still racing. The records below compare his seven Kentucky crops (335 foals) with his first six California crops (335 foals), the sixth of which will complete their 5-year-olds seasons in 2007. Their averages are likely to change little in the time remaining in their careers.
     The high quality of racing in California certainly has been a factor, and it's possible that differences in farm size and farm practices have played a part. It's baffling, but it's important and it's real, not some abstract philosophical puzzle. It's a question of getting full value for stud-fee money. 
     Regardless of its causes, the ISS is a major factor in California breeding, because a high percentage of the state's most popular stallions are booking mares and collecting stud fees on the basis of sire records created when they stood elsewhere. A Californian who breeds to one of those sires just has to hope that he'll turn out to be another Pia Star, but past performances say he probably won't. 
     Here are the before-and-after records of the 16 most successful sires who have been imported to California--plus Batonnier and High Brite. The list is restricted to stallions with 100 or more registered foals sired at each location. Stakes-winners are those conforming to blacktype rules. The top line shows the stallion's record for crops sired before his arrival in California, the second line his record for California crops. Under "Earnings," the second number is average earnings per starter. All percentages are relative to registered foals. 
  . 
 

Amasport
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
9 crops
136 foals
110 
80.9%
88 
64.7%

5.1%
$3,915,311
$35,594
7 crops
128 foals
64 
50.0%
27 
21.1%

 0.0%
$433,740
$6,777
 
Batonnier
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
7 crops
108 foals
86
79.6%
60
55.5%
6
5.6%
$2,016,370
$23,446
15 crops
247 foals
187
75.7%
126
51.0%
14
5.7%
$8,389,108
$44,861
 
Beau Max
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
15 crops
153 foals
0135 
88.2%
113 
73.8%

5.9%
$3,587,408
$26,573
 7 crops
134 foals
96 
71.6%
59 
44.0%

1.5%
$843,924
$8,791
 
Decidedly
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
 9 crops
175 foals
148 
84.6%
118 
67.4%
15 
8.6%
$5,411,466
$36,564
11 crops
178 foals
139 
78.1%
95 
53.4%

1.7%
$3,617,992
$26,028
 
Forceten
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
5 crops
132 foals
100 
75.8%
82 
62.1%
10 
7.6%
$4,690,105
$46,901
10 crops
184 foals
96 
52.2%
61 
33.2%

0.5%
$882,538
$9,193
 
High Brite
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
7 crops
335 foals
278
83.0%
241
71.9%
18
5.4%
$14,768,290
$53,123
6 crops
335 foals
246
73.4%
191
57.0%
7
2.1%
$12,828,970
$52,159
 
Impressive
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
10 crops
247 foals
205 
83.0%
170 
68.8%
14 
5.7%
$5,649,342
$26,797
10 crops
238 foals
155 
65.1%
98 
41.2%

2.9%
$3,384,109
$21,833
 
Irish Stronghold
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
   5 crops
108 foals
90 
83.3%
71 
65.7%

4.6%
$2,345,489
$26,061
11 crops
134 foals
80 
59.7%
54 
40.3%

0.0%
$990,897
$12,386
 
Judgable
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
   9 crops
154 foals
132 
85.7%
107 
69.5%
10 
6.5%
$4,211,730
$31,907
   8 crops
139 foals
82 
58.9%
  41 
29.5%

0.0%
$663,509
$8,092
 
Kennedy Road
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
   7 crops
154 foals
127 
82.5%
101 
5.6%
10 
6.5%
$5,234,175
$41,214
11 crops
387 foals
264 
68.2%
179 
46.3%
12 
3.1%
$8,838,437
$33,479
 
Pia Star
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
10 crops
186 foals
160 
86.0%
129 
69.4%
18 
9.7%
$8,897,891
$43,109
   3 crops
102 foals
   90 
88.2%
73 
71.6%
11 
10.8%
$3,717,021
$41,300
 
Pretense
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
13 crops
360 foals
285 
79.2%
187 
51.9%
21 
5.8%
$8,069,981
$28,775
6 crops
130 foals
81 
62.3%
47 
36.2%

0.8%
$1,411,676
$17,428
 
Promised Land
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
7 crops
105 foals
90 
85.7%
70 
66.7%
11 
10.5%
$2,676,431
$29,738
8 crops
248 foals
201 
81.0%
140 
56.5%
17 
6.9%
$3,360,206
$16,717
 
Search for Gold
 Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
   6 crops
130 foals
111 
85.4%
94 
72.3%

6.9%
$4,587,606
$41,330
14 crops
464 foals
325 
70.0%
191 
41.2%

1.3%
$5,160,464
$15,878
     
Slewpy
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
7 crops
279 foals
198 
70.1%
151
54.1%
15
5.4%
$10,419,334
$52,623
3 crops
133 foals
85
63.9%
51
38.3%
5
3.8%
$3,114,477
$36,640
 
Tell
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
10 crops
201 foals
176 
87.6%
141 
70.1%
27 
13.4%
$6,332,153
$35,978
11 crops
267 foals
205 
76.8%
127 
47.6%

0 .4%
$3,096,382
$15,104
 
Third Martini
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
7 crops
103 foals
88 
85.4%
75 
72.8%
7
6.8%
$2,503,735
$28,452
9 crops
190 foals
155 
81.6%
122 
64.2%

2.1%
$2,739,420
$17,674
 
Torsion
Starters
Winners
SW
Earnings
10 crops
357 foals
314 
88.0%
241 
67.5%
14
3.9%
$11,300,472
$35,989
   7 crops
195 foals
145 
74.4%
98 
50.3%
 2 
1.0%
$  2,254,825
$15,551
 
To The Thoroughbred Showcase of the West home page.