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Stud Notes: Selling a New Stallion

By Roberta Smoodin

KarakontieUnless you're standing a horse with instant name recognition and a high profile career (think American Pharoah or Honor Code), getting mares booked to a freshman sire can be a daunting proposition. As lower end horses sell worse and worse at auction, while competition for the few mares, two year olds, yearlings and weanlings who are in foal to or by the hottest horses (think Tapit and War Front) and who tick all the boxes in terms of physical perfection heats up, stud farms must bring more and more creativity to their marketing of young stallions, such as Spendthrift's “Share the Upside” proposition that has found such popularity with lower end breeders.

Gainesway Farm faces such a dilemma with their new stallion, Karakontie. The winner of the 2014 Breeders' Cup Turf Mile, and a horse who raced successfully on two continents, name recognition becomes a real issue: what is a Karakontie? How do you pronounce it? And why should anyone breed to a turf horse?

Karakontie is the Mohawk word for “flying sun,” a fabulous race horse name, actually. Gainesway's aggressive advertising campaign for him stresses his stunning good looks and his equally stunning family: Miesque herself, multiple champion and winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile-G1, twice, against the boys,  is his third dam, making him from the female family of the glorious Kingmambo. Kingmambo was a great success at stud at Lane's End, and Gainesway keeps reminding breeders of this in their ads. Karakontie earned over $1.9 million, and was a multiple Grade and Group 1 winner, so his $15,000 stud fee seems a bargain. How will Gainesway distinguish him from all the other relatively low priced new stallions of 2016?

The answer to that question is, by demonstrating their own commitment. Gainesway will breed 40 of their own mares to Karakontie. One can assume that the Niarchos family, who raced and own Karakontie, will bring some of their own mares to the young stallion as well, making his first book both interesting and impressive.

Gainesway has a history of importing stallions with European bloodlines and making them successful here. That list includes such greats as Riverman, Green Dancer, Irish River and Blushing Groom. So, clearly, it behooves breeders to consider Karakontie seriously—breeding to him will put one's mare in elite company. When Tapit retired to stud, his fee was the same $15,000. And look at him now.