Can racehorses make more at stud than racing?

The very simple answer to this question is yes they can. A successful racehorse can win a great deal of prize money during its career. But that’s not the end of its ability to make cash for its owners. Once a racehorse has retired, it can go to a stud farm and be even more financially lucrative.

Success follows in the family

When you next check out the form of a horse you fancy backing with the bookmakers, don’t just look at how they got on in their last race or two. Look at the breeding because that is an important part of horse racing. It’s the same in other sports. For example, the England cricket team has Stuart Broad and Johnny Bairstow, both whose fathers also represented cricket. The phrase ‘it’s in the genes’ is one to use here. A successful horse can breed others that will follow in its footsteps and have highly profitable careers.

Most of the horses that enjoy success over the flat only race for a few years before retiring. After winning big races, their stud value will rise. Rather than going on for another year and perhaps tarnishing their reputation, owners can retire them and send them off to the stud farm.

Top stallion on and off the track

Sea the Stars is a prime example of how much money can be made at stud. His career is regarded as one of the most successful stallions ever. Wins came in the 2000 Guineas, the Derby and the Eclipse Stakes. A win in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe followed, but it wasn’t a great surprise that he was so successful. Sea the Stars is a half-brother to Galileo who also won the Derby and both are sons of Urban Sea who won the Arc.

With that kind of family history and success on the track, it’s no surprise that there’s a big queue at stud for Sea of Stars. He’s expected to cover (so much nicer than saying ‘have sex with’) at least 100 mares a year.

The owner of the mare currently must pay $150,000 (around £115,000) for this to happen, but if a successful horse is bred, that could turn out to be a fantastic piece of business. His racing career saw Sea the Stars earn just over £4m, so his time at stud is going to raise a considerably higher amount. He could be covering mares for well over a decade!

Tiger on a Roll

It’s not just horses that race over the flat that can go to stud. Tiger Roll has won the last two Grand Nationals. He bids for a historic hat-trick this year. He’s the current 5/1 Grand National favourite at many of the bookies, who know a thing or two about a horse’s pedigree. If he does win the National again, it’s likely to be the end of his career and he could well head off to stud to make even more money for his owners.

Frankel keeps on delivering

You don’t have to be a winner of the Derby or the Arc to make millions at stud. Frankel bagged just under £3m in a career that saw him win all 14 of his races. His victory in the 2000 Guineas was one of ten Group 1 race wins. Frankel was never tried at the mile and a half distance of the Derby but by the time he retired, had become the horse with the highest ever rating. No wonder a figure of $175,000 (£135,000) can be charged at stud. He’ll make far more money off the track than he ever did on it.

Those fees can increase in time if the resultant racehorses go on to be successful. That’s been the case with Sea the Stars with several classic winners being bred. 2014 saw Taghrooda win the Oaks and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. The 2016 Derby was won by Harzand whose sire was Sea the Stars, so going to stud and paying to have your mare serviced by Sea the Stars can be well worth it.

Current stars can do the same

A horse such as Anthony van Dyck (who also has Galileo as his sire) who won the 2019 Derby can be expected to head off to the stud farm when retiring and make even more money.

The current favourite for this year’s 2000 Guineas is Pinatubo, just 11/10 at and 6/1 to win the Derby. Unbeaten last year in five races, he was rated the best two-year-old in 25 years. A successful career as a three-year-old would see his stud farm value rocket. So, when you back top horses this year, don’t be surprised if, in a few years, you’ll be backing their offspring at the bookies, too.

Was Frankel the best horse ever?

Between August 13, 2010 and October 20, 2012, Frankel won all 14 of his races, including ten at Group One level and, in so doing, became the first horse since Abernant, in 1948, 1949 and 1950, to be the best of his generation at two, three and four years, according to Timeform. Indeed, following an 11-length win in the Queen Anne Stakes, over a mile, at Royal Ascot in June, 2012, Frankel was awarded a provisional rating of 147 – the highest ever in the history of Timeform – and the same rating, again, following a 7-length win in the Juddmonte International Stakes, on his first attempt over a mile-and-a-quarter.

The following January, his Timeform Annual Rating was confirmed at 147 and, according to World Thoroughbred Rankings, he was rated 140, making him the highest-rated horse in the history of that organisation, too. However, the 2012 World Thoroughbred Rankings did involve what was called ‘historical recalibration’, which saw the rating of the previously highest-rated horse, Dancing Brave, reduced from 141 to 138.

Frankel was widely hailed as the ‘best horse ever’, but it is worth remembering that Timeform ratings were only first published in 1948 and until fairly recently only included horses that raced in Britain. Similarly, World Thoroughbred Rankings were only first published in 1977 and before 1995 did not include horses that raced in North America. Frankel was, probably, the best horse of the modern era but, because he cannot be compared, at least not empirically, with the champions of yesteryear – such as Kincsem, Man o’War and Secretariat, to name but three – whether or not he was the best horse ever is really just a matter of opinion.