There is no shortage of comparisons to the lottery in the horse racing business.
A horse that receives the best characteristics of its parents is said to have hit the genetic lottery. One that’s sold for well above its expected value is often compared to hitting the jackpot, while the buyer of that same horse will say the prospect is their lottery ticket toward success on the track, and hopefully the breeding shed. Then, the ticket printer starts humming all over again.
For breeders who book their mares to Florida stallion Bucchero in 2021, the hyperbole is put to the side. They’re getting an actual lottery ticket.
To help drum up support for the stallion in his third crop, typically a challenging book to fill for any sire, managing partner Harlan Malter will buy a $2,000 lottery ticket in July, and anyone that sent a mare to Bucchero this year has the option to join it. One mare bred equals one share in the group ticket.
Malter has never been one to shy away from promotional hooks for the Grade 2-winning son of Kantharos. When the stallion’s first foals were born last year, he designed a website to show them off and create a marketplace to buy and sell the foals. Each season at stud has seen a unique incentive program, from offering lifetime breeding rights if his runners win graded stakes races to creating a “lock-in” plan to keep early-book breeders at the same stud fee in the future in the event Bucchero succeeds enough to raise it.
“Each year, I try to think of what would be something as a small breeder that would be fun or exciting,” Malter said. “For about a month straight, the Mega Millions was going up every single month. I think it ended up going over a billion dollars, and I felt like with all the national excitement about the lottery, it just kind of fit the comparison of what breeding is like. It’s like the lottery sometimes – you need lightning to strike.
“This one’s probably the longest shot,” he continued, “but it’ll have the biggest payout if something happens.”
Which particular lottery game would be played with the group ticket was still to be determined. Malter said he’d likely plunk the money down on whichever game had the highest jackpot in July, once the breeding season is over and the list of eligible players was finalized.
Malter said the lotto-ticket comparisons were especially true for breeders in a stallion’s third book. By the time the ensuing foals reach the marketplace as yearlings, Bucchero will have two crops of racing age on the racetrack, and his ever-important first crop will be in the midst of its 3-year-old season. The stallion’s reputation will be settling in the minds of potential buyers, and a fast start at stud could lead to a windfall for those third-book breeders who will have high-demand product at the right time. On the opposite side of the coin, if those first crops don’t come out running, they’ll bear the commercial brunt.
Fortunately, Bucchero will have about as many chances to get off the mark quickly as any stallion in North America. The 291 mares he covered in his first two books at Pleasant Acres Stallions was the most of any stallion in Florida over the same timespan. He defied convention last year when he covered more mares in his second book than his first, rising from 130 to 161 from year to year.
“We wanted to highlight that it’s an even bigger benefit to the breeder than it is to us, because they’ll be sitting on the product in that year,” Malter said. “If the horse does hit, and he’ll hopefully have all these chances, we hope it pays off for them.”
Bucchero has a while before his first foals hit the racetrack, but the early commercial indicators have been positive. He was the leading Florida-based sire of newly-turned yearlings by both gross and average, among those with more than one horse sold, with eight sold for a total of $135,000 and an average of $16,875.
“Obviously, I’ve had a tremendous amount of passion for Bucchero and his prospects, and he was very well received,” Malter said. “I was at the sale talking to people shopping and buying, and he brought the goods. He brought what you would expect from Bucchero.”
In particular, Malter noted that Bucchero’s broodmare sire, the leading California sire General Meeting, was showing through in his foals, giving them traits one might not expect from a stallion who was best known during his racing days as a turf sprinter.
“The words that I heard were, ‘athletic, strong, very good muscle tone,’” Malter said. “The thing I found most interesting, and I got this from a few people, was ‘I think I need to rethink what I was expecting of a Bucchero.’ I think the people who have never seen him in person think he was a very fast sprinter, and that you’re going to get a stocky, short-coupled horse. What I got from most people was they’re scopy, they’ve got nice leg. I think a good chunk of that is coming through with General Meeting in the bloodline, which I don’t think the East Coast saw much of. I was happy to hear from people that he was checking off pretty much all the boxes they were looking for.”
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