Who landed the big fish?

Pinhookers generally had a good haul at the 2023 yearling sales, but some sires caught the imagination more than the others. In the first of two articles, John Boyce identifies those sires standing at less than £15k at the time of conception who tipped the scales decidedly in pinhookers’ favour 

The foal to yearling trade is an integral part of the modern bloodstock business. In 2023, 23% of all yearlings sold in Europe had been sourced at the previous year’s foal sales. From a monetary perspective they made up £67 million of the £369 million paid for all yearlings this year which equates to 18.2%. The numbers make for a sound business platform when you get things right, the gross profit margin for the 1,083 pinhooked foals being £30.7 million on an initial investment of £29.8 million. On average a £37,057 foal was traded back to the market at price of £75,245 so you can understand why there are so many traders in the business. Of the 1,083 sold back as yearlings, 805 (74%) bettered their foal price, some in spectacular fashion. As many as 120 made at least a £100,000 gross profit, with 42 clearing £200,000 and six making £300,000 or more.

Of course, as the 23% number pinhooked and the 18.2% receipts suggest, things are tighter further down the fee spectrum. For the stallions who produced their yearlings at a fee of below £15k things were a good deal tighter. In this sector the average foal price was £20,215 and the average resale price just £36,000 a markup of 78%. Nevertheless, when you factor in keep at around £10,000, only 267 (45%) of 594 made a net gain.

Those who gambled on sending a mare to Whitsbury Stud’s Havana Grey in his third year were the big winners. Ordinarily, a sire’s third crop selling after his first crop is fully exposed means disaster, but if you are prepared to take the risk and the stallion succeeds as well as Havana Grey did, it can be a licence to print money. The grey stallion stood at only £6,000 in 2021 and as such has become one of the most profitable stallions at the yearling sales this year. It won’t surprise anyone to know that the four most profitable pinhooks among yearlings whose sire stood below £15k are all by Havana Grey. The most spectacular was in fact his most expensive foal last year, the 250,000-guinea son of Arcamist by Arcano resold by Stauffenberg Bloodstock to Godolphin at Tattersalls October Book 1 for 600,000 guineas. The other three cleared £360k, £234k and £214k in gross profit. In fact Havana Grey was responsible for ten of the top 20 profit makers in the sub-£15k sector of the market and all 39 of his pinhooked yearlings made more than their foal price and 37 made a net profit.

The Havana Grey colt out of Arcamist, bought for 250,000gns as a foal and resold as a yearling by Stauffenberg Bloodstock to Godolphin for 600,000gns at Tattersalls October Book 1.

The Havana Grey colt out of Arcamist, bought for 250,000gns as a foal and resold as a yearling by Stauffenberg Bloodstock to Godolphin for 600,000gns at Tattersalls October Book 1.

It was impossible not to be impressed with Havana Grey’s year on the racecourse. He’d done plenty with his first group of two-year-olds last year, siring 43 individual winners featuring three at Group 3 level, but this year he has been a revelation. Among his 35 juvenile winners so far is the dual Group 1 winner Vandeek, who is rated the best sprint two-year-old in Europe following his successes in the Group 1 Prix Morny and Group 1 Middle Park Stakes. Havana Grey is also sire of Group 2 scorer Jasour and French Group 3 scorer Elite Status. No wonder his fee has climbed to £55,000 for next year.

Havana Grey’s chief rival last year was Sioux Nation, and he too falls into the category of cheaply produced yearlings selling after he’d created a favourable impression with his first runners, his 50 individual winners last term featuring a pair of Group 3 winners, plus Matilda Picotte, who trained on to win the Group 2 Challenge Stakes and Group 3 Sceptre Stakes this year. Like his first crop, Sioux Nation’s second group of two-year-olds also features two Group 3 winners, the Acomb Stakes winner Indian Run and Round Tower Stakes winner Letsbefrankaboutit. All of the Coolmore stallion’s 11 pinhooked yearlings out sold their foal prices plus £10,000, so he is the only sire in this cohort with 100% record in this regard.

It is another son of Scat Daddy in Sergei Prokofiev who was the third most profitable with his pinhooked yearlings among sires with 10 or more. Just like his stud companion Havana Grey (63%) and Sioux Nation (52%), most of Sergei Prokofiev’s first crop yearlings – 55% – were found at the foals sales and 33 of the 41 (81%) went for more than their foal price, but again adding in £10,000 in keep fees knocks his number of profitable yearling down to 19 or 46%. He did however provide very good business for two vendors – Glenvale and Tally-Ho – who each netted big profits from their 220,000-guinea Tattersalls October Book 1 colts out of Music Lesson and Squash respectively.

The Sergei Prokofiev colt out of Music Lesson was another to net a big profit for his vendor, Glenvale Stud, when resold as a yearling at Tattersalls Book 1.

The Sergei Prokofiev colt out of Music Lesson was another to net a big profit for his vendor, Glenvale Stud, when resold as a yearling at Tattersalls Book 1.

The Group 3 Cornwallis winner was the most successful sub-£15k first-season sire with his pinhooked stock. Other freshmen among this group were Far Above (by Farhh, 47% profitable), Without Parole (by Frankel, 53% profitable) and Arizona (by Scat Daddy, 50% profitable) half of whose pinhooked yearling made profits after the obligatory £10,000 for upkeep is added.

The Teofilo stallion Havana Gold no doubt basked in the reflected glory of his son Havana Grey’s success, with nine of his 12 (75%) pinhooked yearlings showing a clear profit. Darley’s Territories sired the Group 1 Sprint Cup winner Regional this year and seven of his ten made good money for their vendors. The fourth crops of both Ardad and Cotai Glory also had their moments, each posting well over 50% profitable yearling from among their pinhooked stock which is commendable given that fourth crops tend to be a sire’s weakest. Both have since had significant hikes in fee after early success so there are probably even better days ahead for them.


Sire Crop 2021 Fee Currency Pinhooks % In profit % Foal Avg. £ Yearling Avg. £ Diff £
Havana Grey 3 6,000 GBP 39 62.9 37 94.9 38,717 110,957 72,240
Sioux Nation 3 10,000 EUR 11 52.4 11 100.0 22,649 49,524 26,875
Sergei Prokofiev 1 6,500 GBP 41 55.4 19 46.3 31,093 50,938 19,845
Soldier's Call 2 7,500 EUR 12 24.0 3 25.0 22,677 42,089 19,412
Bungle Inthejungle 7 8,000 EUR 10 25.6 4 40.0 9,909 28,825 18,916
Territories 5 10,000 GBP 10 30.3 7 70.0 19,469 36,993 17,524
Havana Gold 8 7,500 GBP 12 38.7 9 75.0 23,323 40,547 17,224
Cotai Glory 4 5,000 EUR 14 38.9 8 57.1 16,869 34,020 17,151
Ardad 4 4,000 GBP 19 47.5 11 57.9 16,682 31,987 15,305
Kodi Bear 5 6,000 EUR 23 37.7 8 34.8 24,519 39,184 14,665
Far Above 1 5,000 EUR 15 57.7 7 46.7 12,762 25,092 12,330
Without Parole 1 10,000 GBP 15 48.4 8 53.3 31,132 43,351 12,219
Arizona 1 7,000 EUR 14 48.3 7 50.0 16,552 27,418 10,866
* Includes £10k keep costs                    

About the author

John Boyce

John Boyce grew up on a stud farm and is a bloodstock journalist and former editor of Pacemaker and of The Thoroughbred Breeder. He was part of the Darley/Godolphin team from 2001 to 2022 as Group Marketing Head and then Group Head of Research. He is currently a partner in a data analytics company based in London.

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