Will Mineshaft be a gold mine at stud?

In the lexicon of sports, it's common to refer to a special player on a team as a "stud." It is a badge of honor, the equivalent to being royally knighted.

Updated: February 25, 2004, 11:04 AM ET
By Kenny Rice | Special to ESPN.com

In the lexicon of sports, it's common to refer to a special player on a team as a "stud." It is a badge of honor, the equivalent to being royally knighted.

It's a term of endearment that no doubt was taken from the world of horse racing, because in our sport there is nothing more important than the stallion. A great sire is like a great songwriter, their royalties pay off long after the singer has had a brief run at the charts.

Baseball has Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey, Jr. and the Boone brothers. The NBA has Rick Barry's kids. NASCAR has Dale, Jr. But no sport places more emphasis on "Who's your daddy?" than horse racing.

Mineshaft
2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft winning the Sept. 27 Jockey Club Gold Cup.
With the breeding season underway, the stallion getting more attention than any other Mineshaft at Lane's End Farm in Versailles, Ky. He is being heralded as the next big thing and that's no surprise; Mineshaft is, after all, the 2003 Horse of the Year, a son of 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy, who in turn is sired by 1977 Horse of the Year Seattle Slew, out of a mare by one of the sport's greatest sires, Mr. Prospector.

His blood runs the bluest of blue and his over $2.2 million in purses won, earned from multiple Grade 1 victories, proves that the adage "Breed the best to the best and hope for the best" isn't just a quaint saying, but an almost required strategy. The hopes of co-breeders William Farish, James Elkins and Temple Webber, Jr. were realized and exceeded last season after plunking down a six-figure stud fee in 1998 and gambling that the resulting horse would at least earn that sizeable "wager" back. (A.P. Indy also stands at the Farish-owned Lane's End, where his stud fee is currently advertised at $300,000.)

Farish, the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, believes that like his sire and grandsire, Mineshaft could very realistically produce a Horse of the Year. And evidently, there are quite a few breeders who agree with him. Mineshaft has been nothing short of a hit in his first season at stud.

"With a top horse like Mineshaft it's much easier to set their books," Farish explains during a recent phone call from his London home. "It's not scientific with so many good mares being brought to him. Bred the way he is, the kind of horse he was on the track, he has everything going for him."

Farish, Elkins and Webber decided not to syndicate Mineshaft. "We decided early one once we knew what he was to keep him. We'll breed 20 percent to our mares and our clients' mares and this first season he'll breed to 90 to 100 mares overall. We could do more and some top stallions are bred 100 to 120 times, but while I'm not worried about his fertility or stamina. I want to see in May and Junes how durable he is, how he's adapting to being off the track and on the farm."

This type of precise, common-sense thinking has been used by Farish throughout three decades in building Lane's End into one of the most respected breeding operations in the world. His farm is the perennial leading consignor at Keeneland sales with an envied stallion roster headed by A.P. Indy and complimented by the likes of Kingmambo and Gulch.

For Lane's End, A.P. Indy has become what Storm Cat is to Overbrook Farm or Mr. Prospector was to Claiborne Farm. "You always want to have a great or very good stallion, you can't get enough of them," Farish laughs.

Last year Farish commissioned a statue of his outstanding stallion. "A remarkable horse. We bred him and sold him; he was the sales-topper. Then after winning the Belmont I bought back into him and tied up the breeding rights. So the farm has gone full circle with A.P. Indy, he's been a real bellwether."

And a stud that Farish never doubted was capable of producing an equally great runner, especially after establishing an early breeding pattern that eventually led to Mineshaft.

"With A.P.Indy very early ones, we found Mr. Prospector mares just fit him to a T. He produced Pulpit right off and any number of other good runners after. So breeding him to Prospectors Delite (Mineshaft's dam) was a natural. She fit in every way and was a fast Mr. Prospector. We've already seen that with Mineshaft, and now as far as a stallion, there's the impressive family and the outcross to all kinds of lines, right off the bat Northern Dancer."

If he lives up to his potential at all, Mineshaft's $100,000 first-year stud fee could turn out to be a real bargain for breeders, as well as a nice income for his connections. One hundred thousand dollars times 80 breedings (100 minus the 20 percent that Farish states he and his partners will keep) is $8 million in fees in Mineshaft's first year alone at stud -- nearly four times what he earned on the track as a racehorse. And if his sons and daughters perform well, that fee will very likely go up, making Mineshaft's golden years very golden indeed.