How To Pick a Stallion

Picking a stallion isn’t easy. There are literally hundreds of them scattered across the great racing states of Kentucky, Florida, New York and California. We have specific traits we look for when matching mares for our clients.

One of our recent matches was the mare Wild As Elle to Preakness Stakes winner Lookin At Lucky. After reading this you should have a general idea of what we found appealing in Lucky.

When deciding upon the right stallion for a mare we must answer an imperative question before we even begin.

That question is: Are we breeding this horse for sale or are we going to keep and race the resulting colt or filly? Depending on the answer, you could wind up with a very different selection. We are going to focus in this article on how we would pick a sire for a foal that we intend to sell.

Commercial sires likes Malibu Moon, Smart Strike and Distorted Humor are currently very popular at the sales. The farms that handle them know this and that means their stud fees are very high. Turning a profit on a horse from one of these stallions can be done, but with the higher stud fees comes greater risk. That’s why we prefer to go with moderately priced proven stallions or first and second year sires.

Taking a freshman stallion for your broodmare has some of the same risk factors, but with less cost. If a breeder correctly predicts which freshman stallions are going to have great looking and marketable progeny before the fact, he will reap big profits when his horse goes through the sales ring. Keep in mind, that only 10% of new stallions will make it in a top market like Kentucky.

Race record is the first thing we consider when seeking out a sire for our mares. While nothing is black and white, the majority of the best sires throughout history have been graded stakes winners. We like horses that showed brilliance as a two-year-old and then again as a three-year-old.

Let’s take Tapit for example. The son of Pulpit won the Grade 3 Laurel Futurity as a juvenile and captured the prestigious Grade 1 Wood Memorial as a three-year-old. His career at stud started in 2005 for the very affordable price of $15k. Just seven years later he is  booked solid at $125k.

Another great example is City Zip. As a baby he won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and Grade 2 Hopeful Stakes. The following year he triumphed in the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes and was third in the King’s Bishop and Fountain of Youth Stakes, both Grade 1 races. He started his career standing for $7.5k and is listed for $20k for 2012. It’s also worth mentioning that City Zip was purchased for just $9k as a yearling.

The next factor to consider is pedigree. It comes after race record though. Sires with impeccable pedigrees that were not top racehorses are a dime a dozen.

Tapit and City Zip both came from top sires themselves. Tapit was sired by the Bluegrass Stakes winner Pulpit and City Zip comes from Carson City, sire of over 100 stakes winners.

Having a strong female family is also of paramount importance. City Zip’s dam, Baby Zip, also sired Horse of the Year Ghostzapper. She was a stakes winner too. Tap Your Heels, the dam of Tapit, is a daughter of Breeders Cup Classic winner Unbridled.

When evaluating a stallion we typically like one that has some size to his frame. Big stallions that are at least 16 hands will go to the front of the line. It’s a big plus if the stallion had a career without serious injury.  Often when a horse is injured it can be due to a weakness they have due to a heritable trait, such as unsoundness in the legs.

We like to stay away from sires that cost more than $30k. Like we talked about earlier, as the cost increases, so does the risk.

Lookin At Lucky is a sire that has all of the aforementioned traits. He was quite brilliant at 2 and 3, has a great pedigree and is listed at an affordable price.  The old saying goes breed the best to the best and hope for the best. Breeding is an inexact science, but following these guidelines can help narrow things down quite a bit.

So there you have it, now you know some of the things we do to match stallions with our mares. If you need help be sure to contact us. We are always happy to assist you.


  1. I am wondering what your opinion is as to how far back in a pedigree you get an inherited trait (distance, soundness, bone, temperament)–for example: if a son of Roberto is a reliable jump horse stallion line, that is rather diluted now by years, does a grandson of Roberto still have that claim (apply to soundness, temperament….)? This has been a cloying question of mine for some time now.


  1. […] more about stallions, check out my work at SouthCoast Bloodstock. I recently did a piece entitled How To Pick a Stallion. Check it out! Filed Under: Horse Handicapping Tagged With: ashford stud, coolmore, daddy long […]

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