By Sid Fernando
Had the opportunity last month to stop off at historic Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., to visit the stallions and take a walk through history. Not much has changed on this 3,000-acre property that the Hancocks have cultivated for more than 100 years since Arthur Boyd Hancock established it through marriage to Nancy Clay in 1908. It’s now under the stewardship of president Walker Hancock, 25, the son of Seth Hancock, who’d taken over at age 22 from his late father Arthur B. “Bull” Hancock Jr., the son of Arthur Boyd Hancock. There isn’t another farm in North America with its longevity and continuity under one family, and there isn’t another farm on this continent as storied or as influential in the history of the Thoroughbred as Claiborne.
There have been epoch-making sires on this property as far back as the 1920s and Sir Gallahad III, right through the middle of the 20th century with Nasrullah, Princequillo, and Bold Ruler to the latter part of the century with Nijinsky, Mr. Prospector, and Danzig, among so many others I wouldn’t have the space to list in this modest post. For more detail, I’d suggest picking up Frank Mitchell’s excellent book “Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks,” which is out of print but available now on Amazon as an ebook.
The latest great-young-sire-in-the-making at Claiborne under the Walker Hancock era is, of course, War Front, a son of Danzig. He stood the 2014 season at $150,000 live foal—if you could actually get a farm season to him—and he will stand in 2015 at something far higher than that because No Guarantee seasons to him are trading at between $250,000 and $300,000. Yes, you read correctly.
War Front’s rise to the top ranks in North America—along with Tapit’s—is already legendary. War Front entered stud at Claiborne in 2007 for $12,500, creeped up to $15,000 by 2011, jumped to $60,000 in 2012, then to $80,000 in 2013, and from there the big bang up to $150,000 in 2014. And 2015? It buckles the knees to think.
Success on the track—he’s the sire of 28 SWs and five G1 winners through four full crops; 29 SWs, if you include one two-year-old SW of 2014—has led to the demand in the sales ring, especially from Europeans. This affects stud fee, particularly so as Claiborne’s books are smaller than the norm and they have a policy of not shuttling horses to the Southern Hemisphere. In light of this, consider these mind-boggling stats: in 2013, 48 War Front yearlings averaged $363,001 off a $15,000 stud fee in 2011, the year they were conceived.
Speaking of War Front auction yearlings, two-year-old Souper Colossal was a domestic purchase by Live Oak Plantation. Keep in mind that many of the War Fronts, like the Danzigs, have a penchant for turf, hence their Euro appeal, but Souper Colossal, despite having a massive turf family, is undefeated in three starts on dirt, and he bears watching. Click here to view Souper Colossal’s five-generation pedigree and here to view his sales catalog page from Fasig-Tipton Saratoga 2013, and here to view photos of him at eleven months old on Frances J. Karon’s Running Rough Shod blog.
This colt was picked out by John Greathouse as a weanling for $100,000 and pinhooked for $350,000 to Live Oak at Saratoga through Four Star Sales. Last out, Souper Colossal won the Sapling Stakes, long a graded fixture at the track at six furlongs but run this year at a mile and ungraded for the first time. Click here to view the chart. Should he go on to win graded races this fall as a potential classics prospect—he’s bred to stay all day—he’ll inspire more domestic buyers to compete with the Europeans for War Front’s yearlings, and that’s a scary thought.