Breeders Cup Winner Flightline Sold at Implied $186M Valuation: A Deal or Fool’s Gold?

Breeders Cup Winner Flightline Sold at Implied $186M Valuation: A Deal or Fool’s Gold? article feature image

Picture by Getty Images. Pictured: Flightline and jockey.

A historic Thoroughbred sale took place on Monday: A chance to buy a piece of one of the greatest horses of all-time.

The sale was unprecedented in that it came 43 hours after the horse cemented himself as one of the most valuable of all-time.

The opportunity was up for grabs to buy a piece of Flightline, the horse who won all six of his starts, including Saturday’s Breeder’s Cup Classic by 8 1/4 lengths. He won all six of his races by an astounding average of nearly 12 lengths.

When all was said and done, a bidder — reported to be Dutch Coffee co-founder Travis Boersma — agreed to pay $4.6 million for a 2.5% stake of Flightline, which implies an insane $186 million value for the horse.

For reference, the last Triple Crown winner Justify had his stallion rights bought for $75 million by Coolmore in 2018. Adjusted for inflation, that's roughly $89 million.

But could $186 million possibly be a decent deal for this year's Breeders Cup winner? Well, let’s do the math.

With Flightline now retired, how much profit the horse yields is entirely dependent on how well he breeds.

Terry Finley, president and CEO of West Point, which owns 15% of Flightline, said the horse will stand between $175,000 and $200,000 per live foal. Only three current horses have a stud fee of more than $200,000.

Lane's End — the breeding farm that will be used for Flightline — is typically more conservative than its competitors Spendthrift and Coolmore, which will send its horses to the breeding shed at least 200 times per breeding season.

Flightline may end up with about 130 foals during his first breeding season, a requirement of payment.

At $200,000 per foal and 130 total foals, an estimate of roughly $26 million will be spread amongst Flightline's owners.

There are now six principal owners of Flightline. The previous five ownership groups paid a combined $1 million for him in December 2019.

Here’s how the shares break down:

  • Hronis Racing: 37.5%
  • Summer Wind Equine: 25%
  • West Point Throughbreds: 15%
  • Sienna Farm: 10%
  • Woodford Racing/Lane’s End Farm: 10%
  • Winning Bidder: 2.5%

So Hronis will receive $9.75 million for the first year, Summer Wind will get $6.5 million, West Point will generate $3.9 million and so on.

The new winning bidder, at 2.5%, will stand to make roughly $650,000 during Flightline's first three breeding seasons.

After that, it's entirely dependent on how Flightline's progeny looks on the race track and to the eye test.

Let’s assume — like Flightline's sire Tapit — the horse's foals do well and stud fees for 2026 and 2027 increase to $250,000, which is a pretty aggressive assumption.

Assuming 130 live foals a year, the winning bidder would stand to profit this much year-to-year:

  • 2024: $650,000
  • 2025: $650,000
  • 2026: $650,000
  • 2027: $812,500
  • 2028: $812,500

That would be $3.57 million for the 2.5% share. A great return over the first five years? Maybe not. But to say you own a piece of one of the greatest horses ever? That’s gotta count for something.

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