Let’s say you have $100,000.
Where would you invest? Forget about the stock market.
Australian horse racing saw a $603 million prize money return last year.
But you can set that aside too.
Because Thoroughbred Breeding, as it turns out, is where the money is.
Though just like the sport of kings itself, it’s a game of luck.
And a sound investment plan can improve your odds.
That’s where you’ll need a head-ache free guide.
To make the boring stuff—statistics, history, industry trends and breeding process—easy or even fun.
Homework hack. This thoroughbred breeding guide has you ‘covered’.
What Makes Thoroughbred Breeding Australia Lucrative?
If Prizemoney is up and export is high, it’s because everyone is looking for a winner.
According to Racing Australia, there was a record of 20, 127 broodmares and 588 stallions last year.
The result of over 20,000 matings were 6,070 foals.
That’s a lot of crops.
Enough to make Australia the second largest producer of Thoroughbreds in the world, next only to the United States.
For those living under the rock, a colt is for a male and filly is for a female.
The colt is a baby male horse who’ll become a stallion when he turns four. Meanwhile, a young female horse is a filly and becomes a mare when she turns four.
Fillies or colts, the cream of the crop can win in over 19, 235 local races happening at 360 racecourses, and join over 2, 634 meetings each year.
Or they can race elsewhere.
Last year, over 1635 horses were exported, most of them went off to New Zealand (642) China (261) and Hongkong (172).
Thoroughbred Yearlings for Sale
For the record, Black Caviar’s half-brother, back in 2014 was sold for a historic deal of $5 million at Inglis Easter Yearling Sale.
In 2018, The colt of the year was Fastnet rock from Arrowfield.
He was sold for $2.3 million to Anthony Freedman also at Inglis Easter Yearling Sale.
Twenty-two yearlings more cost more than a million.
All progenies of top thoroughbreds commanded a price of $500,000. That’s higher than the average rate of $80,000 in 2017.
You see the potential here?
Australian thoroughbreds can be sold at any age—as weanlings (less than one-year-old), yearlings (one-year-old), unraced two-year-olds, broodmares or stallions.
They can end up in two of Australia’s biggest bloodstock options: Magic Millions and William Inglis, each holds an annual yearling sale in various states of Australia.
The bottom line: you can chase a million-dollar dream by selling a thoroughbred or winning a racing prizemoney.
But it’s nothing compared to what the horse can earn as a stud.
Thoroughbred Breeding Australia Stud Fees
How does $700,00 per stud sound?
The retired Irish thoroughbred Galileo is the most expensive stallion in the world with a stud fee kept private by Coolmore Stud.
It’s reported to cost as much as $700, 000 per stud. That sounds surreal for sex.
In reality, the highest stud fee in Australia today is $220, 000.
That’s how much owners are willing to pay the stallion Snitzel from Arrowfield Group for less than a one night stand with a mare.
I am Invincible from Yarraman Park follows with $192, 500 fee per stud.
It’s also worth noting that the lowest stud fee is not at all that low, at $4,400 this year.
Think about this, how many times can a stallion mate in a day?
The average stallion can do it two to three times a day or cover 100 to 200 mares in one breeding season.
Do the math and you’ll know some owners are bound to rack up millions in just two days.
Take a look at the top stallion stud fees this year:
The Odds of a Profit
Here’s the reality though, Thoroughbred breeding is lucrative for big players, but for everyone else, it’s risky.
The risks of investing in breeding horses are:
- Stillborn foals
- Broken legs in colts and fillies
- Racing performance that doesn’t match the price
- Poor-performing stallions
- Death in mares while giving birth
You may also like: The 7 Most Common Horse Health Problems.
And more. Don’t forget that for each horse you want to race, you need to invest at least $30,000 to 45,000 a year to pay for food, vet bills, transport cost, racing and training fees.
But Aushorse claims, a horse will cover these fees by winning just one city race a year.
That’s a $120,000 minimum prize money on any given Saturday race in the city.
Race your horse in Sydney, and if you win you can take home as much as $125, 000.
|Race Type||Current Minimum||Min prizemoney from Sep 1||% Increase|
|Metro Public Holiday||$50,000||$60,000||20%|
|Group 3 Races||$150,000||$160,000|
But again, racing is a game of probabilities.
Where there are more losers than winners.
Just take a look at the figures from last year were over 28, 636 horses took part in the racing season. We analyzed the stats and here’s what we found:
- Over 13% have won nothing from the prize money
- At least 50% earned between $1000 to $10,000
- The minority of 3.21% earned $100,000 to $500,000
- Only 5% earned more than $500 million
In summary, the chances of the average breeder to own the next Makybe Diva or Winx is less than 0.1%.
So if you’re not breeding for racing, you can breed for selling.
You can sell a thoroughbred from $70,000 after the first year or more.
After all, experts say the most profitable racehorse tend to cost between $70,000 and $250,000.
The good rule of thumb when investing in thoroughbred breeding is this:
Out of 100 horses, expect that you’ll lose money since 65 of those will be unremarkable.
You can probably sell them from a few bucks from $5000 to $15,000.
You can break even with the remaining 35 which you should be able to sell for above $50,000.
To make a huge profit, you need to have at least 5 thoroughbreds that can earn you a six-figure income.
Take note, buyers are looking beyond the bloodline. They factor in muscularity, form and even personality.
As the man who found Winx (based on instinct) said:
“If they’ve got the right sort of demeanor, I think it helps them become an athlete and run.”
Can you make big money in Thoroughbred breeding?
Given the right circumstances. Yes.
Don’t worry, small players are most welcome.
According to Thoroughbred Breeders Australia, the vast majority of breeders are.
They are taking their chances by initially having one or two mares. Then expand.
More than half of all mares are owned by small breeders who have less than five horses.
You can choose a stallion, whose stud fees you can afford, breed and hope for the best.
As an average racehorse breeder, even if you make a profit though, you’ll have to consider the “labor of love” spent to earn every $1000.
If you get lucky—because luck here is just as critical—all the hard work will be worth it.
The only guarantee is this: you have a potential to make a lot of money and it can be fun.
Now, given these facts, no one can stop you from pursuing money-making from thoroughbred breeding.
Let’s give you a rundown of the Australian thoroughbred breeding industry. Here’s everything else you need to know, starting with history.
Origins of the Thoroughbred
The first thoroughbreds in Australia were imports.
A horse called Rockingham started it all in 1799 followed by 400 more imported stallions in 1880.
Thereafter, Australian Turf kings mostly came from New Zealand like Carbine, Phar Lap, and Tulloch.
Even the one horse called the Star Kingdom—said to have shaped thoroughbred breeding in 1951—was from Ireland. The star stallion though had 910 descendants in Australia listed below his pedigree.
Then came Danehill in 1990, whose blood runs in top stallions of today like Fastnet Rock, Redoute’s Choice and Exceed and Excel, among a few.
Imports aside, we have our own thoroughbreds foaled in Australia.
Wasn’t Black Caviar all Australian?
One with an undefeated racing history too.
Plus, she isn’t the only one who is world-class.
For eight years in a row, Able Friend was also rated as the world’s top sprinter and he too was bred in Australia.
Other top-rated Australian thoroughbred sprinters in the world include Chautauqua and Lankan Rupee.
Are Thoroughbreds the fastest horse?
Yes, if the basis would be the breeds of legends that have dominated horse racing in any race track in the world.
Think Phar Lap, Man o War, Secretariat, American Pharaoh and more. Which makes thoroughbreds the kings of turfs and horse breeding.
Furthermore, the Guinness world book of records claims the highest race speed ever recorded belonged to Winning Brew—a two-year-old American filly thoroughbred—at 70.76 km/h (43.97 mph) in over two furlongs.
However, one study found that Quarter horses achieved faster-racing speeds than do other breeds. But’s just one study against a proven history of Thoroughbred winners.
Are Racehorses all male?
A racehorse can either be a filly (females up to 3 years old) or a male horse—a colt or a gelding (males up to 3 years old).
It would seem that male horses rule the race but in the history of Australian racing, three of the most remarkable turf champions ever are thoroughbred females: Makybe Diva, Black Cavier, and Winx.
Read more: The 5 Most Common Horse Breeds in Racing.
How old are the horses that race?
Thoroughbreds can begin competing in horse races in as early as 2 years old. With the peak performance of a horse achieved at the age of 4 to 5.
As a three-year-old (technically), Rekindling is the youngest winner of the Melbourne Cup.
Identifying Thoroughbreds in Australia
The first attempt to record matings and Thoroughbred bloodlines were in 1859.
Since then, the ledger has lived on to ensure the standard and integrity of Australian thoroughbred breeding.
The Australian Stud Book (ASB) officially holds the published records of Thoroughbred bloodlines in Australia.
It’s is the second largest studbook in the world with more than 43,000 broodmares, 70,000 foals and nearly 20,000 breeders listed.
Why Do Thoroughbreds Have to be Registered with the Stud Book?
Under Australian Rules of Racing 15A, a horse cannot race until it has been registered in the ‘Australian Stud Book’ or in any other authoritative stud book in the world.
The Studbook lists not only the parentage, pedigree and identification records of Thoroughbreds but all racehorses foaled in Australia.
Registering Thoroughbreds in the Stud Book
Once you have purchased a mare, stallion or bred a foal, have it registered at the Australian Stud Book. You can do it online to get a 5% discount.
Identifying Thoroughbreds are strict in Australia because registered racehorses are freeze branded, DNA tested and implanted with a microchip.
First Step: Freeze branding. All registered racehorses have 2 freeze brands. This confirms the horse’s date of birth and the branding of the owner.
Brands must be clearly visible as permanent white hair markings.
Second Step. Microchipping. The ASB will forward a microchipping kit to the breeder where authorized vets can implant it.
Third Step. DNA Testing. An authorized vet will extract the hair from a foal and use the identification kit sent by the ASB to verify its Thoroughbred parentage.
Note, all of these steps should begin within the hour a foal is born.
After a positive DNA verification, the ASB authorized vet is required to complete the sample form, confirming the microchip, DNA testing and freeze branding.
Records will be returned to the Australian Stud Book.
Can a Thoroughbred horse be artificially inseminated?
No. The Australian Studbook bans any form of artificial insemination to breed a foal. Thoroughbred breeding has to be done naturally, between mating a stallion and a mare.
Otherwise, horses produced from any form of artificial breeding will not be eligible for register at the Stud Book or racing.
That goes for any foal of a mare who has been the subject of any artificial breeding procedure 385 days before giving birth.
One former Sydney bookmaker challenged this at the court claiming the restriction is anti-competitive and a restraint of trade.
The argument is, it may reduce the stud fees of stallions, not to mention the transportation cost of moving stallions and mares. However, the court ruled against it.
Australian Thoroughbred Breeding Season Dates
Did you know that all Australian horses celebrate a birthday on August 1?
The breeding season is standard.
To be able to put racehorses in the same age group come racing season, the breeding season starts September 1 every year and ends until May 31.
At What Age Can Thoroughbreds Mate?
While a Thoroughbred filly can be bred at the age of two, the ideal age for mares should be at the age of 3, at the peak of their health to breed, for a foal at the age of 4.
One study found that fertility in mares decrease with age and as the mare gets older, the higher the risk of losing a pregnancy.
Whereas, breeders should wait for a stallion to turn 3 before setting him on a breeding spree.
Stallions will remain fertile anyway until old age of 20, or beyond, it’s a case to case basis when it comes to stallions.
However, the same study notes that old age and mating a mare 20 days after giving birth lowered the risk of pregnancy.
Champions of the Future: The Breeding Process
For first-timers, it helps to understand some Thoroughbred breeding terminologies first.
Foal is a newborn horse up to 1 year old.
Stallion is a male horse used to produced foals.
Broodmare is a female horse who can produce foals.
Covering is the natural mating process between a stallion and a mare.
Now, here’s how it works.
First, a stallion must be booked to cover a mare, for a fee. Both mare and the stallion will be hosted at a boarding stud.
Come the ovulating period of a mare, a “teaser stallion” will first enter her shed and flirt with her to ensure she’s in heat and receptive.
The teaser stallion can’t impregnate the mare because breeders will put him on a heavy-duty condom.
You’ll feel sorry for the teaser stallion who will enjoy the ride but won’t come to his journey’s end—he will be pulled out.
The expensive stallion will finish the job for him.
Horse Breeding is anything but Romantic
It’s in fact, bound to be loud, wild and risky.
If all goes well, the stallion will continue to ‘cover’ the mare as some trained personnel looks on to make sure no one gets hurt in the rendezvous.
That stallion will pleasure no more than 3 mares a day (to ensure sperm quality) or 100 to 150 mares in a 9-month breeding season.
Perhaps more if he goes abroad to have sex with other mares and increase his stud earnings.
It is the stallion who brings home the bacon in any stud farm because come to think of it the mare can only be bred once during the entire breeding season while the stallion needs to ‘work hard’ the entire breeding season.
Finally, here are some common steps professionals take to make sure success is born:
- Prepare for the risks of a live cover such as aggressive behavior from horses
- Ensure both horses have high-fertility and are fit physically and mentally
- Induce chemistry (stallions and mare have mate preferences too)
- Reduce stress, which can affect fertility
- Imitate nature as much as possible
Horses in the wild have 95% foaling rates compared with the 75% success rate of planned Thoroughbred breeding.
When breeding thoroughbreds, the foal is the ultimate goal but safety is the first priority.
There is Nothing Certain but the Uncertain
In life, we all know this to be true.
Even Thoroughbred bloodlines. Geneticists claim that DNA only accounts for around 30% of a horse’s performance.
The rest is divided by the Thoroughbreds’ training, diet, track conditions and luck.
Even if you breed the best with the best, it still doesn’t guarantee anything.
Yearlings like Royal Battalion have been purchased for millions ($2 million), trained under the likes of Gai Waterhouse and won nothing.
He retired leaving the owner zero in the bank and there are many more expensive flops than this untrainable colt.
Meanwhile, rags to riches tales are a hit in Thoroughbred breeding. Remember The Cleaner? He was the cheap horse everyone was rooting for.
And who could ever forget about Joe Janiak’s Takeover Target?
The 4-year-old gelding was bought for a measly sale of $1375 and came with leg problems.
Anyone who would look up his parents would know they weren’t up to much either.
Yet, he took over the racing world, with $6,0328,311 wins in prizemoney for Joe Janiak.
We can all conclude that Thoroughbred Breeding relies on the Science of uncertainty and the art of probability.
No one knows for sure when a filly or a colt could beat other horses worth millions more or could get beaten by something that cost five figures less.
Because, just like any gamble, there’s luck.
The element of chance is why all of us can afford to dream.