One sire has been on my mind lately – Empire Maker. He just had his 12th G1 winner in Eight Rings in the American Pharoah Stakes but his story is much more interesting. This is his first American crop since returning from a stint in Japan and he has been very well received upon return. The crop was produced on an $85,000 stud fee and he has stayed there since. Empire Maker has had over 100 foals in each of his crops since returning to America and they have been received well in the sales ring. In 2018 he was the ninth leading sire by average at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. This year he did one better and was eighth. Eighth was higher than such standout sires as War Front, Speightstown and Distorted Humor.
Aside from having strong sales results it is important to note that the mares bred to Empire Maker have been strong as well. The highest priced yearling sold in 2019 was a filly out of Lady Pewitt the dam of two stakes winners including last season’s Champion Two Year Old Filly Jaywalk. Obviously Jaywalk’s success proceeded the mating with Empire Maker and certainly was a factor in the high price but what is interesting is that Lady Pewitt comes from a family that has had a certain success producing sires. Her second dam La Paz produced both Mission Impazible and Forest Camp, leading sires in New York and South Korea. Obviously those are not leading breeding locations but the idea that each colt was given a chance to become a sire shows some respect for the pedigrees and performance and as most sires don’t succeed at all being a strong regional sire is a respectable trade. Another top mare bred to Empire Maker was grade one winner Rigoletta, dam of Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Battle of Midway who was retired to stud in Kentucky to great fanfare, only to be found to be subfertile. Mama Yay is another interesting mare bred to Empire Maker. She was a maiden mare when she produced a filly by him and she never raced but she is a full sister to the leading sire Dialed In.
I bring this up because Empire Maker’s success as a sire of sires is a large part of why he was repatriated and why his stud fee is so high. His son Pioneerof the Nile had become a leading sire prior to his death earlier this year. Obviously his best known offspring is American Pharoah, Triple Crown winner and now a leading sire of two year olds. He also has champion Classic Empire’s first crop coming next year. Along with Pioneerof the Nile Empire Maker sired Boedemeister whose first crop included Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming. It is interesting to note that during his initial time in America Empire Maker was thought of as a ‘filly sire’ as most of his best runners were females, lead by Royal Delta a three time champion.
Eight Rings is currently Empire Maker’s lone two year old winner from 18 starters. That speaks somewhat to his lack of consistency in getting runners to the track but when they win they tend to win big. Eight Rings was produced by grade three winner Purely Hot, a daughter of Pure Prize. While she was a top class racemare she did her best running at ages five and six, not a mare you would consider to produce a grade one winning two year old.
Empire Maker was initially rated very highly in the game before getting a significant downgrade. There was also some question of whether he was downgraded again the year Japanese sires were generally downgraded. While he may not be hitting the percentages he once was being downgraded from elite to very good is not a bad drop. His two year olds are winning well including two listed winners already (better than his real life stats). His price can fall into the 500s for bps which may be a bargain depending on your point of view and budget. If his new American foals continue to produce you may very well see a boost back to that elite status he once held. Perhaps not this year but next year he may be one to gamble on hoping for a 2021 boost.