The art of the broodmare purchase - part 2

13 min read
TDN AusNZ courted the opinions of a number of prolific mare buyers about their assessment criteria when sourcing broodmare prospects. Today, we complete our two-part series.

Cover image courtesy of Magic Millions

Australian bloodlines are admired around the racing globe and international interest is always piqued at major sale time, as was emphasised at last year’s Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale.

Highclere Stud’s John Warren, known around the world as the Racing Manager for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and son Jake, underlined that 12 months ago on the Gold Coast when they went to $2.3 million for the multiple stakes winner and Group 1 placegetter Missrock (Fastnet Rock) on behalf of clients.

“Missrock is currently at Highclere Stud and safely in foal to Galileo on a February service which is excellent,” Jake Warren told TDN AusNZ.

Missrock when sold at Magic Millions

“She was a rare one, whereby all her attributes were top class. She was a brilliant race mare, an outstanding physical, by a champion sire from a lovely female family so there was nothing not to like.

“We had a specific plan and Australia as a whole does present an opportunity to access the blood and speed we’re after to achieve our goals up here of breeding top class horses.

“In that sense, hopefully we have made a move in global terms and created an opportunity that might not be possible if you keep searching in your own back garden.”

“In that sense, hopefully we have made a move in global terms and created an opportunity that might not be possible if you keep searching in your own back garden.” – Jake Warren

Warren said in a perfect world they strived to tick three boxes when purchasing broodmares.

“Performance is high on the agenda for us, then of course a good size and correct physical gives you tremendous confidence as does an established pedigree.

“It’s often hard to find all three under the same umbrella so to speak. For us, it makes sense if we’re looking to export from Australia, to focus on the fillies out of training. To upset the mare’s breeding routine by transferring Hemispheres down the line after a foal or two can present some issues.”

Jake Warren | Image courtesy of Tattersalls

Warren said speed and size were among the attractions of purchasing Australian-bred mares.

“The Australian breeders have cracked the code in regard to getting their thoroughbreds to run faster than most other jurisdictions around the world and as such they have lovely big, strong physiques.

“This combination and the abundance of Danehill is very handy when mating to the leaner, athletic middle distance stallions up here, in particular Galileo and his sons.

“From a purely mating standpoint outside of the commercial sphere, the leading Australian broodmare sires make sense on so many levels given the desire for class speed and the pool of Danehill blood which is easy to place up here.

Warren noted that the 'combination and the abundance of Danehill (USA) [pictured] is very handy when mating to the leaner, athletic middle distance stallions'

“However, commercially one does have to keep an eye on what will make sense to the buyer and trainers in the region you are producing.

“However, commercially one does have to keep an eye on what will make sense to the buyer and trainers in the region you are producing.“ – Jake Warren

“There is great respect up here for the top shuttle stallions such as Exceed And Excel, Fastnet Rock and potentially Zoustar, but if you went heavily into a broodmare sire that is indigenous only to Australia, no matter how brilliant, you may struggle a little bit.

“Anthony Van Dyck winning the G1 Epsom Derby last year is out of an Exceed And Excel mare will have certainly solidified that opinion.”

G1 Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck (Ire)

The coronavirus outbreak will obviously prevent Warren from attending this year’s sale, but they will still be closely monitoring the action from afar.

“We’ll certainly keep a close eye on the sale, however with the obvious inability to inspect it does make it harder to have the real confidence required to step up,” he said.

“Having said that, we have some great associates that could help us out in that department, so should an opportunity present itself we could make it happen. "

Winning record

Boomer Bloodstock’s Craig Rounsefell has an impressive track record as the purchaser of the dams of Group 1 winners and young stallions Capitalist and Microphone and Group 2 winner Strasbourg.

His approach opens with an understanding of the client’s goals and then follows a step-by-step process of due diligence.

Craig Rounsefell (right)

“Pre-inspection research is incredibly important when purchasing a broodmare as there are many details that can be uncovered that are not on the catalogue page,” Rounsefell said.

“I prefer mares which were good looking yearlings themselves as I find that they are more likely to produce a good sort which will sell well in the sale ring.

“Once my pre-inspection research has been completed and the catalogue is shortlisted, conducting physical inspections is important, particularly if it is a mare that I have not seen before.

Rounsefell inspecting stock at Magic Millions | Image courtesy of Magic Millions

“When physically assessing a broodmare it is important to remember that you are looking at the factory. The mare needs to be well put together as you are trying to buy a solid-structured mare that has the physical capabilities to produce a strong foal.

“Generally, I like my mares to be 16 to 16.1 hands with a lovely deep shoulder and good width through their chest, girth and hip. I like to see a mare with a good stride and clean walk as I personally believe the mares movement is something which it passes on.

“I like to see a mare with a good stride and clean walk as I personally believe the mares movement is something which it passes on.” – Craig Rounsefell

“A nice big hip is also extremely important and I will never recommend buying a mare that is weak behind, particularly in Australia where we are generally looking to breed sprinters.

“A conformational trait which I would steer away from when purchasing a broodmare is back at the knee. This can be passed on to the progeny, making them more difficult to sell and more prone to injury in training.”


Rounsefell then undertakes extensive pedigree research with a quality broodmare sire at the top of his wish list.

“It is always an advantage, particularly in Australia, if the mare has been a 2-year-old winner as this displays soundness and a good constitution,” he said.

“If the mare has not performed well herself, there are always indicators further into her pedigree as to whether she has the potential to produce a good horse. A Group 1 winner or champion within the first two generations is always a big tick.

“Depending on the budget of my client, there are things which I would tend to be more forgiving on, but as a whole, I am aiming to purchase well-structured, high-quality types that I believe can produce good looking, sound racehorses that have the potential to be Group 1 winners.”

Type always to fore

Physique is a vital starting point for prominent bloodstock agent James Harron’s quest for top broodmare prospects.

“As with our yearling purchases, physical type is at the forefront when it comes to assessing a potential broodmare purchase. I'm looking for a strong, medium-sized mare with good quality and purpose to her action,” he said.

James Harron

“Naturally, mares will produce yearlings which share her physical characteristics. Therefore, it's important to start with a good physical in the broodmare.

“In tandem with physical type is a need for a mare to have some pedigree, with 2-year-old black type performance particularly attractive in a potential purchase.”

For obvious reasons, Harron is always on the lookout for daughters of Hussonet (USA), who he rates as his favourite broodmare sire for compelling reasons.

“I would have to say Hussonet, as the broodmare sire of our dual Group 1-winning 2-year-old King's Legacy, of our G1 Blue Diamond S. runner-up Pariah and also of our G2 Todman S. winner Gunnison.”

All three top juveniles were by Redoute's Choice or his son Not A Single Doubt.

The late Hussonet (USA)

Harron is also willing to overlook certain shortcomings, within reason.

“I tend to be fairly forgiving and understanding of front legs, as you see a lot of good race horses who are not perfect in front,” he said. “Also, the farriery and management of these horses is so good nowadays that it gives them every chance of fulfilling their potential. "

“I tend to be fairly forgiving and understanding of front legs as you see a lot of good race horses who are not perfect in front.” – James Harron

Purchasing broodmares in foal has an attraction to clients, but not always a deal breaker.

“Naturally, a mare being in foal is more commercially attractive to owners as they are potentially getting a return on their investment a lot earlier than they are with a mare who is not in foal,” Harron said.

“The flip side of that is fillies are often owned by people who are only interested in racing, so there is usually more choice at the sales among the mares not in foal off the track, rather than the more commercial mares in foal. "

James Harron with King's Legacy as a yearling

Harron also keeps an open mind on unraced prospects and thoroughly research reasons why they never made it to the track.

“I do place a huge amount of emphasis on race performance. As we all know, a horse may not reach the track for any number of reasons, and in the case of an unraced mare, we always do as much due diligence as we can to ascertain whether there was a reason for it other than lack of talent. "

Success stories

The proof of Harron’s approach is in the pudding with his lengthy and successful history of sourcing quality broodmares.

“We purchased Rose Of Cimmaron privately for Edmund and Belinda Bateman after being underbidder on her son, subsequent Group 3 winner and Group 1 placegetter Bull Point,” he said.

Siege Of Quebec selling as a yearling

“Since that purchase she's followed that up with Siege Of Quebec, who was sold for $1.2 million as a yearling. We also purchased Ballet d'Amour for the Batemans for $100,000 in 2015 in foal to Smart Missile.

“At the time, she had a Snitzel yearling colt who would grow up to be dual Group 1 winner Russian Revolution, while her 2-year-old at the time was an unraced Sebring filly called Turbo Miss, who went on to become a Group 3 winner.

“She produced a pair of beautiful fillies by Redoute's Choice, a current yearling, and Snitzel weanling to further bolster Belinda Bateman's breeding portfolio.

Ballet d'Amour when sold at Inglis

“Our first purchase for Donna and Rob Love was the 2-year-old stakes-winning mare Real Stolle straight off the track, and she's been a great servant for them. She was purchased for $325,000 and her yearlings have grossed over $1 million and include 2-year-old stakes winner Nomothaj, who was her first foal.

“A pleasing purchase for Fergus Doyle was the Group 3 winner Exclusive Lass, purchased for $460,000 in foal to Vancouver. Her in-utero colt was a cracking sort who sold for $600,000 to Coolmore at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale earlier this year.”

Major part of business

Purchasing broodmares is also an area of special focus for Melbourne agent Damon Gabbedy.

“Mares and matings are a big part of my business and it depends on the client. I have different clients at all ends of the scale and being a former Western Australian I still have a few Western Australian clients,” the Belmont Bloodstock Agency principal said.

“They can’t compete with the big studs so the criteria depends on the client. Whatever price range I’m working in, I ideally like running mares - those that have showed ability.

Damon Gabbedy, Sally Williams and Peter Orton (left to right)

“From a young age I was taught that if you’ve got ability you can throw ability. If you stick to the proven broodmare sires you obviously can’t go far wrong.

“When it comes to a yearling, presenting them out of the established champion broodmare sires gives a real advantage. Trainers and buyers have become more astute and tuned into these things.

“If you are presenting a yearling out of a Redoute’s Choice, Zabeel or Encosta De Lago mare you have got a great head start.”

Gabbedy inspecting Sunlight at Widden Stud | Image courtesy of Widden

Gabbedy said purchasing mares off the track was often a more viable option, but again depending on who he is acting for.

“If you’ve got a client looking at the bigger picture and has some patience, for say $200,000 can get you a better maiden mare off the track.

“If you’ve got $200,000 to buy a nice running mare already in foal you are discounting something, but if you’re buying without the pregnancy you’re getting better race fare or pedigree. But that is all dependant on the client.”

Bob Peters and Damon Gabbedy

Gabbedy will again be looking to fill a number of orders on the Gold Coast.

“It’s one of the biggest and best sales of the year. In the last couple of years I’ve been in the top three buyers of broodmares so it will be interesting to see if I can keep that up, it might be hard work this year,” he said.

“The market is proving to be incredibly resilient and holding up well. I see it as becoming more two-tired, at the top end demand is very strong and the bottom end has been affected and really dropped. The gap is widening between the top and the bottom.”

Forever thankful

Twin Hills Stud’s Olly Tait has experienced the thrill of ‘getting it right’ with a spectacular broodmare purchase at the 2017 Magic Millions Gold Coast National Broodmare Sale.

He bought Lipari (Redoute’s Choice), a daughter of the G1 Australasian Oaks winner Tully Thunder (Thunder Gulch {USA}), in foal to More Than Ready (USA) for $170,000 out of Widden Stud’s draft and sold her two years later for $1.6 million.

Lipari when sold in 2019

In between times, Lipari’s son Levendi (Pierro) won the G1 Australian Derby and the G2 Tulloch S. and Marcel From Madrid (Sepoy) won the G3 National S.

“We got $550,000 for the More Than Ready filly she was carrying. Lipari had the combination of performance, she was stakes placed. She was well-related being out of a Group 1 winner, she was by the great Redoute’s Choice and she was a very pretty mare,” Tait said.

“She was well-related being out of a Group 1 winner, she was by the great Redoute’s Choice and she was a very pretty mare.” – Olly Tait

“Obviously, I couldn’t anticipate what was going to happen after that, but she was a really attractive mare and I’ll be forever thankful to her.”

Tait said they were continually adding to the Twin Hills broodmare band.

Olly Tait

“We’re always buying mares, but we don’t specifically target mares for our own stallions, although the majority do go to our stallion. We play every mare by its merits.

“They need to look have a combination of performance, pedigree and looks. We’re breeding for the commercial market so we’re trying to find the mares that are going to produce yearlings that are attractive to the market.

“Solid race form, by a good stallion, some depth of pedigree and if they’re good-looking they are more likely to throw a good-looking horse.”