LEXINGTON, Ky. — A victory in the Belmont Stakes by Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Alysheba would boost the colt's value as a potential sire, but not nearly as much as it would have just a few years ago.
"Sweeping the Triple Crown would enhance Alysheba's initial syndication price," said Nick Nicholson, director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Assn. "To be able to go 1 miles, 1 3/16 miles and 1 1/2 is a phenomenal feat and it takes a real athlete."
But while only four years ago 2-year-old horses were being syndicated for up to $40 million, the owners of Alysheba would probably be lucky to syndicate their horse for more than half that amount, even with a Belmont victory.
"Who could come into the marketplace right now and get a big price for a share?" said Barry Weisbord, president of Matchmakers Ltd., a breeding exchange. "The horse market is weak right now."
David Heckerman, an analyst with the Thoroughbred Record, said the top price the slumping market would bear is probably $500,000 a share, for a total value of about $20 million.
"I think $500,000 is the absolute top that any horse could attain," Heckerman said. "I think Alysheba might approach that but he might not hit that. He is a good horse with a good pedigree, but he doesn't have the final ingredient."
That final ingredient is Northern Dancer, the country's leading sire who just retired. While Alysheba's sire Alydar is ranked third in North America at stud, the success of Northern Dancer's products in Europe has boosted his bloodline's appeal worldwide.
Weisbord maintains because the Thoroughbred market is suffering what insiders like to call "a correction," a sweep of the Triple Crown is not essential to boosting Alysheba's value.
"I think with the sophisticated market that is now out there, with its emphasis on the proven horse, I don't think him winning the third one would boost his value all that much," Weisbord said. "Anybody who saw that horse fall on his nose and still win the Kentucky Derby, they know. The people setting the prices now are very knowledgeable."
Robert Clay, whose Three Chimney's Farm near Midway stands 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew at stud, agreed.
"It would enhance it some, but his value is determined by pedigree, conformation and racing ability. I don't think it would double it or anything like that," Clay said, adding the Belmont, as a 1 1/2 mile race, takes on the least significance of the three races for most breeders today who are looking to influence their products with speed.
Clarence Scharbauer Jr., whose wife and daughter officially own the horse, is the man who holds all the cards in the syndication game. Fending off all questions about possible syndication until after the Belmont, the only thing Scharbauer is sure of is that he wants the horse to stand in Kentucky.
"There is no question that would be the number one choice," he said. "It is just as important to get members of the syndicate who have good mares as it is to think about the most dollars. We are not trying to squeeze every dollar out of the market."
Scharbauer said he has been in contact with four or five "bona fide people" about syndication, declining to identify them.
One who definitely has been in contact with Scharbauer is Preston Madden, who bred and raised Alysheba on his Hamburg Place Farm outside Lexington.
"I make no secret of the fact I would like the horse here," Madden said, but declined to discuss any details of a possible syndication.
One of the major players in syndications in recent years, Seth Hancock of Claiborne Farm, said he was not interested in the horse. Hancock, who syndicated Devil's Bag for $40 million before an injury cut short the colt's racing career, said he vowed never to compete with another breeder for a stallion after he saw a champion he bred and raised syndicated by a competitor.
"I think Preston Madden should have the horse back," he said. "He has the wherewithal to have stallions and he was smart enough to breed and raise him and I'm not going to muddy the water by throwing my hat in the ring."
Another potential syndicator, Will Farish who has the two previous Kentucky Derby winners either standing at or pledged to his Lane's End Farm, might have an inside edge with his Texas connections.
But Scharbauer is playing it close to the vest.
"I don't mind telling you two or three of the top breeders have contacted me, but I'm not going to say who," Scharbauer said.
Clay, who agreed that Alysheba could become "a great horse," said he had not contacted Scharbauer. Yet.
"I do have an empty stall," he said.