Bren O’Brien



Australia’s most valuable race? The true worth of the Coolmore Stud Stakes

What does it actually mean when a race is called a ‘stallion-maker’? Bren O’Brien examines the economics of the Coolmore Stud Stakes and how success in the three-year-old sprint impacts the long-term value of a colt.

Twelve months on from his emphatic win in the G1 Coolmore Stud Stakes, Home Affairs is deep into his first season at stud at the farm which sponsors the race which officially made him as a stallion.

With the highest first-season service fee, AU$110,000 (inc GST) of any Australian-bred stallion in history, there is considerable expectation from the Coolmore team on what he may earn from the breeding barn.

Among the bevvy of elite mares who are already in foal to him are Sunlight and Nechita, winners of the Coolmore Stud Stakes in 2018 and 2012. This breeding season is the first time that winners of the Group 1 Flemington feature have met in the breeding barn, with a sense of kismet that both matings took place on Coolmore’s Jerrys Plains property.

So given he stands for an unprecedented first-season fee for an Australian-bred horse, where does that put Home Affairs value?

First of all, the point is somewhat moot as he was already owned by a Coolmore-led syndicate, who paid $875,000 for him as a yearling. Bred by Torryburn Stud, the son of I Am Invincible and Flying Spur mare Miss Interiors had ‘future stallion’ marked on him as soon as he entered the (virtual) sales ring at the 2020 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale.

There is an old rule of thumb that the approximate value of a stallion can be worked out by multiplying their first-season service fee (minus GST) by around 450, that is the amount of mares they will likely service in their first three seasons.

It’s a simplistic, and perhaps outdated formula given Australia’s leading stallions routinely service over 200 mares a year.

It also doesn’t account for the often-complex nature of stallion agreements, partnerships and shareholdings, nor the physical attributes of the stallion and its fertility. Then there is the stud’s willingness to sell breeding rights or enter foal share agreements, which all impact the actual number of people paying full price on the service fee, and therefore how you determine their value.

But it does give those on the outside a ‘dartboard’ to aim for when it comes to working out the comparative value of stallions.

In the case of Home Affairs, this simplistic method puts his value at AU$45 million: $100,000, his ex-GST fee multiplied by 450.

When you consider that he will likely serve 200-plus mares at that $100,000 price tag in his first year, the argument could be made that that valuation is conservative.

So how much of that value can be attributed to his brilliant win in the Coolmore Stud Stakes?


Northern Meteor winning the 2008 Coolmore Stud Stakes. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

History gives us somewhat of a guide to that, with nine colts to date having gone from Group 1 victories in the race to careers at stud.

In the case of three of those nine colts, it was the only Group 1 victory of their careers, so we can assume that a large part of their service fee was determined by their Flemington win.

Northern Meteor became the stallion who made the stallion-maker that is the Coolmore Stud Stakes, with his electric victory in 2008 paving the way for his spectacular, but short career at Widden Stud.

It was the only Group 1 win in his nine-start career. He then started his first season at $33,000 (inc GST), putting his value at an approximate AU$13.5 million. He would only serve four seasons at stud, sadly dying the day he was crowned Australia’s Champion First Season Sire.

But his influence and success with those four crops proved enormous, defining the Coolmore Stud Stakes as a stallion-maker.

In the next six years, multiple Group 1 winners Star Witness ($33,000 service fee), Sepoy ($66,000), Zoustar ($44,000) and Brazen Beau ($44,000) would head to stud careers with their victories in the Coolmore Stud Stakes as the centrepiece of their on-track achievements.

In 2016, Flying Artie won the Coolmore, his lone Group 1 win, and headed to Newgate, standing his first year at $38,500. That put his value, according to the above formula, north of $15 million. It is the exact same service fee (and estimated value) which 2019 victor Exceedance, another one-time Group 1 winner, stood at Vinery in his first season.

2016 Coolmore Stud Stakes winner Flying Artie (Photo: Sharon Chapman, Courtesy of Newgate)

2019 Coolmore Stud stakes winner Exceedance. (Photo: Vinery Stud).

Merchant Navy is the other Coolmore winner to have headed to stud as a stallion, but he had the extra value of a victory in the G1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes win at Royal Ascot as a cherry on top. As a result he stood at $55,000, an estimated value of $22.5 million.

Media reports of Merchant Navy’s sale to Coolmore after his Flemington win put his value at $30 million. However, details of the commercial terms of a stud deal are rarely, if ever, released, and there is often a ‘your guess is as good as mine’ approach to media reporting of these deals.

That’s not to say the $30 million is incorrect. It wouldn’t be the first time Coolmore, or any other leading stud, have paid a premium for a stallion. The Australian stallion market has been the most robust of any in the world in the past decade.

So what would a victory in Saturday’s edition of the Coolmore Stud Stakes do to the value of the 13 colts engaged (there are also four fillies)? It would depend greatly on the individual, their profile, pedigree, physical make-up and a host of other factors.

But the history of the race tells us that a winning colt would stand for at least $35,000 as a future stallion. That makes them worth at least $15 million on the open market, a substantial multiple on the $1.2 million in prize money they would win on Saturday, and greater than any winners’ purse for a single race in Australia.



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