Filly walks by Smarty Jones...what's the price?

I live Kentucky, but I do not know much about horse breeding. A friend told me that horse owners are charged many thousands to have a single filly walk by Smarty Jones.

So, what’s the exact figure if there is one? How much does it cost these days for a filly just to shake some tail and the get the attention of a renowned stud? How much was a ‘walk by’ fee for some of the triple crown winners such as Secretariat and Seattle Slew?

I know that fees can be as much as half a million each time a top stud is bred with a mare, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised if a little tail shaking costs 5 figures.

I’m not a racing insider, just a former horse-crazy little girl, and I’ve never heard of a fee being charged merely to have the mare walk past the stud. What would be the point of that? If a mare needs to be “teased” to see if she’s in heat, any bargain-basement stallion will do, as long as he has functioning testicles; the owner doesn’t have to go to all the trouble and expense of having her shipped off to a winning stallion, just to have her walk past him to see if she’s ovulating.

Browsing around on Google, I can’t find any reference to the practice of charging just to walk a mare past a winning stallion, either.

And Three Chimneys, the owners of Smarty Pants, doesn’t mention any “walk by” fee on their website, just the $100,000 stud fee.

The Derby winner for 2002, Monarchos, doesn’t have any mention of a “walk by” fee on his website, just the $15,000 stud fee.

Perhaps your horsey friend was pulling your leg? As in, “Yeah, Smarty Jones is such a hot ticket that they charge thousands of dollars just to have the mares walk past him…”?

How much would it cost to get a mare to walk past Funny Cide?


Although if you really want to follow up the question of what it would cost to have a mare walk past Funny Cide, even though he’s a gelding, I happen to have contact information for one of his co-owners, thanks to a job I worked on where I had to correspond with him in his volunteer civic capacity.

Probably. I certainly was skeptical myself when I heard about the idea of a ‘walk by’ fee.

Yes – stud fees a paid based on there being a live foal. If no offspring is born, there is no fee.

The Real Costs of Breeding Your Mare

I visited a breeding farm in Kentucky last year, and a few interesting facts stuck in my head:

  1. The farm I visited has two fees; one is a “no-guarantee” fee, which means they couple once when the mare is fertile, and you takes your chances. This fee can be as low as 25% of the guaranteed fee, depending on the age and popularity of the stud. I don’t remember any “walk by” fee, but I can imagine that being an industry slang for the no-guarantee fee. “I couldn’t afford the full fee, so we just walked her past him and got lucky.”

  2. There are “teaser” mares kept on the premises whose job is to stand there and look pretty; they are the stud-farm equivalent of fluffers. I don’t think there were teaser stallions, but I could be wrong.

  3. There is all sorts of interesting hardware (slings, ropes, chains, block & tackle) used to keep the horses from injuring each other during their special time together.

  4. The breeding area is set up for maximum turnover. Even though they’re making five or six figures every time the horses successfully couple, they still place a premium on speed, and the farm I visited had a breeding barn that could handle several stud “appointments” in an hour, and five appointments for any one horse in a given day. This means that with one or two six-figure stallions (and this farm had at least three) you could easily have a million-dollar gross in one work day.

Some breeders do use teaser stallions preparatory to live cover. A mare can be unpredictable when she’s in heat but not quite ready to stand and be bred - for instance, she may put on her “come and get it” display but then kick out when the stallion tries to mount. The teaser stallion takes the hit if the mare is violently uninterested (he’s outfitted with a sort of apron to prevent accidental breeding if the mare IS cooperative).

Yes, teaser stallions *can * burn out on this profoundly unrewarding job.

I think Jurph mis-remembered some things from his farm visit.

No, it’s teaser stallions. Common at most breeding farms. What would be the point of teaser mares? Seeing if the stallion is ready to breed? Stallions are always ready!

Part of this is also that mares who are not ready to breed are quite emphatic in rejecting a stallion – kicking at them is common. You do not want to risk any possible injury to a valuable stallion like Smarty Jones. So you use a less valuable teaser stallion.

But really, at this price level, you’re more likely to use more exact methods, like checking the mares’ temperature daily to identify the proper time for breeding.

I doubt that was all for a single stallion – they probably had several standing at stud.

A stallion’s potency goes down as he is more heavily used, so he is less likely to settle the mare when used that often, making the breedings pointless. We never used any of our stallions more than 3 times a day, and we thought we were pushing it at that. ‘Several appointments in an hour’? – I don’t think that would be physically possible for a stallion. They seem to have a ‘recovery’ time of 90-120 minutes before they could be used again.

If you really want the maximum number of offspring, you would go to Artificial Insemination (AI). Using an artificial mare to collect the semen, you could split one ejaculation into enough ‘straws’ for a few dozen breedings. And keep it cooled for shipment to mares all over the country. Or flash-freeze it, and keep it available for years. Even after the stallion himself has died. There are foals born every year by deceased stallions. And this process ensures no injury or disease to your stallion from strange mares. But I believe the racing thoroughbred association still does not allow AI breedings, so this wouldn’t apply here.

Actually, it’s quite common for stallion owners to limit the number of mares that they will breed in a season. You’ll see ads for a ‘limited book’. Partly to protect the stallion, but also a bit of artifically limiting the market, thus raising the price for a breeding. And many stallion owners are picky about what mares they will breed to; they want the best, to improve the quality of the foals from their stallion (thus increasing his stud fee in the future). And it’s also fairly common for the fee to be negotiated a bit. For a really good mare, the stallion owner might drop his fee a bit.

That’s correct; this site (among others) says that a registered thoroughbred must be the result of “live cover.”

When collecting semen for artificial insemination, it’s not unheard of to use a teaser mare to get the stallion aroused so a collecting device can be placed. This is commonly done to train stallions to tolerate the device so they can be collected on demand.

I’ve also heard of stallions who are more readily aroused by a particular mare, or a particular color mare. An appropriate mare is brought around to pique his interest, after which his attentions are directed to the appropriate object (mechanical or equine).

I issue my thanks to all who have repied to my OP. Judging from the responses, it seems that not all farms have the same strategies used for live breeding.

How is this rule enforced? Does a registration official attend the live breeding session, or what?

I spoke to my sister, who works with Standardbred (i.e. trotting & pacing) horses. She said that the thoroughbred rule on “live cover” is enforced by the requirement that in order to race, a thoroughbred must be registered and have registered parents. To register a foal, a mating certificate must be submitted, wherin the owners of the stallion certify that a live mating took place on this date at that location.

The most often cited reason for the rule is to increase genetic diversity - with AI, one stallion can serve perhaps 10 times as many mares, so it’s feared that a limited number of popular sires would dominate. But the live cover rule does not apply to standardbreds, and (according to my sister) there has been no problem (thus far) with a loss of genetic diversity.

I definitely misremembered that – as soon as a Doper mentioned the “apron” I got the image back in my head.

Absolutely, yes. They had many of their young stallions going up to five times a day (but they stated that as a rare daily maximum, not a routinely-achieved rate). This farm had a stud “menu” with about twenty stallions on it, with stud fees from “only” $5,000 ranging up to $300K for a horse named A.P. Indy. Obviously some studs are more in demand than others, but by duty-cycling the stallions, they can keep their breeding room occupied at all times.

The gentleman who showed us around said five-per-day, but also mentioned that the older stallions were often used once per day, tops.

Well, yeah! Seattle Slew for a sire, and on the dam’s side Secretariat as a grandsire. And a bit of War Admiral back there too!

Yep, that’s a horse with real strong bloodlines.

See for his pedigree (and a photo).

By the honor system, mostly.

Stallion owners submit a breeding report at the end of the year where they list all the mares bred to this stallion, and the dates. The document states that the breedings were done by live cover, and they sign this document.

The owners of both the mare & stallion sign the registration application, stating that the foal is the result of a live cover breeding.

And that’s really about all – signed statements by the owners that it was a live cover.
But there are plenty of ways to investigate if suspicion arises.
Mares are typically bred several times over a period of a few days, generally at the stallion’s farm. There would be records of the mare arriving & departing, records from the transporters who hauled her there, the stud farm’s vet usually examines a mare for diseases before breeding, and the vet’s office would have records of this, most stud farms keep a daily breeding diary, etc.

Some of these could be faked, but that gets harder as there are more of them, or they involve records at other places. Financial records, like receipts from the gas station where the transporters filled up gas, or checks to the vet, etc. are hard to fake.

And suspicion could arise easily. This isn’t really something that would be done by a single person, there would be several people involved. From stable hands at both the stallion & mare farms to the FedEx guy who delivers the distinctive liquid nitrogen cooled container of semen. Counting on all of them to keep this secret forever is unlikely. Especially if the foal goes on to become a famous racehorse. There is a lot of gossip in the racehorse breeding business, and something like this would be a really juicy item. It’d be very likely to slip out.

And the Registry has very extensive powers to investigate this – much more than a Court of Law. To start with, you have the burden of proof to prove that your foal is eligible to be registered. If you don’t cooperate, the Registry can suspend your membership, meaning all your other foals couldn’t be registered either. And other horses owned by you might not be allowed to race. The Registry takes such allegations very seriously, and investigates thouroughly.