Fourth Season – Conundrum or Cash Maker
Tara Madgwick - Monday August 28
A stud tour around the Hunter Valley is always interesting and enjoyable and invariably gives me food for thought on many topics with the conundrum fourth season sires pose for broodmare owners an obvious place to start.

A fourth season sire in terms of the breeding shed is a first season sire in terms of the racetrack and this is where it gets interesting.

For the first three seasons a stallion is at stud there is no real way of knowing whether that stallion will ultimately be successful so the studs can spin the fairytale of how good and wonderful the stallion is and there is absolutely no hard evidence to suggest otherwise.

Come the fourth season and these stallions have had their first yearlings offered and sold and many of those youngsters are now broken in and have been tried to some an extent on the track.

In another month or two their progeny will be out there racing and in the next 12 months will need to make some sort of impression if their sire is to gain any traction in the marketplace going forward.

This is a time of year when research and the ability to discern fact from fiction may bring you to a smart choice or allow you to avoid an expensive mistake.

It's time to go through those sales results and see just who bought the progeny of these sires and for how much and who is training them.

Good trainers get results and some trainers are very good at getting two year-olds up and running, others less so. If you expect a stallion will get two year-old winners make sure they are in a stable that can achieve this!

If you were in the Hunter in the past week you will have heard all the stories of how well this horse's progeny have broken in and what the trainers are saying…. take it with a grain of salt.

All breakers send back good reports, it's their job to put the basics in place - steering, starting and stopping - most horses can do this pretty well so will be the subject of glowing reports, make of that what you will.

"They move well,"- here's another old chestnut that comes up in the early reports and one I know quite a bit about.

Back in my days as a work rider I have ridden some beautiful movers, that couldn't go quicker than a working gallop and some of the best horses in the country that shuffled around like cripples until they hit three-quarter pace at which point they found light speed and showed why they were superstars.

Moving well often means nothing in terms of moving fast – two very different things!

Collective thinking in the early spring often means some fourth season stallions become popular based on some very sketchy evidence and others are dismissed out of hand.

Nearly always there will be discounts on fourth season sires, so if you can make a good decision the dividends can be impressive as by the time you go to the marketplace with your foal, judgement will be well and truly in on the sire and that can mean a massive bonus if your choice is a winner.

The leading first crop sire by winners for 2016/2017 was Widden Stud's Your Song and he's a stallion that was dismissed this time last year by the 'collective thinking' and as a result covered just 46 mares.

Shamus Award12 months on and his fee is back at $22,000 after dipping to $16,500 last year and his book is full.

Antony Thompson was pro-active at the Widden Stud stallion parades in addressing the fourth season issue for his Cox Plate winner Shamus Award, a son of reigning champion sire Snitzel.

He told the crowd he was offering the best deal on any fourth season sire in the Hunter Valley and it's a good one.

For any suitable mare booked to Shamus Award this spring, Widden Stud will not charge anything for the service fee until the resulting foal is sold and when that occurs the breeder takes the first $30,000 of proceeds, Widden Stud take the second $30,000 and any additional funds go to the breeder.

A champion son of a champion sire, there is every reason to believe Shamus Award can be successful.

Going to a stallion in their fourth season that does ultimately find fame and fortune is often the last time you can go to them at a modest fee, so is another great reason to take the gamble.

I Am Invincible was priced at $11,000 in his fourth season and he now stands at $110,000, while Snitzel was $22,000 in his fourth season and now stands at $176,000.

Written TycoonSometimes broodmare owners identify a left field fourth season stallion based on the early evidence and get it right as happened with Written Tycoon.

He stood at a fee of $8,250 for his first two seasons then dropped to $6,600 for seasons three and four and in that fourth season covered a whopping 198 mares.

That fourth crop produced five stakes-winners headed by Group I winner Music Magnate, Group II winner Rich Enuff and Group III winner Written Dash.

Written Tycoon now stands at a fee of $88,000.

Click here for the full list of sires whose first progeny will race this season making them fourth season sires if you have a mind to send them a mare.