FELD OF DREAMS
BY EMILY SHIELDS
Sean Feld is on a mission to shake up the Thoroughbred breeding industry, and the 30-year-old pioneer is well on his way via his Climax Stallions. The syndicate group puts a modern twist on an old system, with new stallions in California a part of the venture.
Feld was born in Pasadena and spent the majority of his childhood at Santa Anita. His father, Bob, and uncle, Jude, were both working on the track. Jude was a trainer, and Bob advised on such purchases as Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner Adoration and Hollywood Futurity (G1) hero Siphonic.
The younger Feld won’t even admit to his age when he started walking hots at the track – “I was probably not legally allowed to yet” – but a career in racing was always in the cards for him.
“Other than mowing people’s lawns and a random babysitting job, I’ve only ever had jobs in the industry,” Feld said.
While in high school, he spent summers in Kentucky working at 505 Farms and later worked as a jockey’s agent at Del Mar. While attending the University of Kentucky, he worked in the press box at Keeneland and has been working sales since 2003.
“The very first sale I ever worked was the CTBA Del Mar yearling sale for Gayle Van Leer,” Feld recalled. “Leave Me Alone was in our consignment.” California-bred Leave Me Alone went on to win the grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga and earn $653,300 with five wins in 18 starts.
Feld graduated during the economic downturn in 2009, and despite all of his experience, he could not find a job.
“The business was in disarray,” he said. “I took a commission job for Walmac selling stallion seasons, then worked for Spendthrift for three years. That’s when Bullet Train happened, and I went out on my own.”
Group stakes winner Bullet Train, a three-quarter brother to the legendary runner Frankel, arrived in Kentucky from Europe under the managing eye of Feld, who received a great deal of support for standing the horse in the United States. That one stallion quickly evolved into Feld’s current project, Climax Stallions, which is a twist on the old way of syndicating sires.
“We want to be a West Point Thoroughbreds, an Eclipse Thoroughbreds, or a Team Valor, but for stallions,” said Feld. “They do syndicate stallions, but it’s through the farm and it’s structured, more or less for the sake of math, with 50-share syndicates. What we are doing is having 10-share syndicates, and we are the machine behind the marketing. We take care of all of the stuff into standing the stallion ourselves and outsource the farm part.”
Bullet Train sold out quickly, prompting Feld to acquire another stallion. Curlin to Mischief, now standing in California, came next.
“When I worked for Spendthrift, I had a big hand in buying Beholder as a yearling,” Feld said. Multiple champion Beholder earned more than $6 million while winning three Breeders’ Cup races. She is also a half sister to Into Mischief, a grade 1 winner and standout sire with three millionaires in the United States in a young career.
“I was following Beholder’s career, and noticed her half brother by Curlin was really attractive. This was before Curlin got hot, which goes to show you how good-looking this horse was. He went through the ring for $300,000 to Juddmonte, but didn’t run. I thought he was a good prospect for a stallion, and some people told me it was the best idea I’d ever had while others said I was nuts. That’s all I needed to hear.”
Feld spent months trying to acquire the colt, later named Curlin to Mischief, privately, but finally had to go after him
in the sales ring.
“I raised $220,000 to buy him,” Feld said. “He went through the ring for $20,000. The rest is history.”
Feld shipped Curlin to Mischief to Santa Anita to go through brief training so that potential breeders could see him in action. After a month of galloping, Curlin to Mischief retired to Rancho San Miguel in San Miguel. The son of Curlin—Leslie’s Lady, by Tricky Creek, is standing for $3,500.
“There might not be too many better-blooded stallions in the world,” Feld said. “He sold out very quickly.”
The excitement surrounding a young stallion is similar to that behind a yearling or an untried juvenile.
“There’s no reason that Curlin to Mischief couldn’t be standing for $100,000 one day,” Feld said. “We’re obviously excited for various reasons.”
Feld has since brought a second stallion to California, that being Kentucky transplant Haynesfeld. The son of Speightstown—Nothing Special, by Tejabo, will stand alongside Curlin to Mischief at Rancho San Miguel for $5,000. Haynesfeld is already an established commodity, and Feld explained that sometimes that is a safer option.
“Economically, it’s just as good, if not better, than starting a stallion out fresh. Of course, people would rather buy the
dream, but Haynesfeld is established and going to be at a certain level for the rest of his life.”
Feld pointed out that with only two crops to run, Haynesfeld is already California’s second-leading living sire, behind only Bluegrass Cat. The stallion was standing at Airdrie Stud when Feld purchased him. He is the sire of grade 1-placed Realm.
“Our idea is that he could be the next Lucky Pulpit-type there,” Feld said.
Standing stallions in California comes with a built in reward system, too. “California has such a good stallion awards program,” Feld said.
Shares are still available in Haynesfeld, which Feld attributes to the fact that he was purchased midway through his second-crop season. Climax Stallions will surely add more studs in the future.
“We have an open-door policy,” Feld said. “As long as you have 10% of what we’re asking, you’re in.”