When stallion offers for promising colt I Am Unstoppable started flowing in August, exactly whose name came up on the phone of bloodstock agent and part-owner Mathew Becker mattered.

When it was Widden Stud principal Antony Thompson’s number making the enquiries both before and after I Am Unstoppable’s second placing in the Coolmore Stud Stakes, Becker’s confidence grew.

“We do care where the offers come from,” Becker says. “At the end of the day, we’re in the business to get the best price we can for our clients, but also to get a partnership that is aligned with where we want to go with the horse.

“We also want to make sure the horse gets the best possible opportunity at stud when he retires, and Widden ticked all of those boxes.”     

The Australian stallion game is a competitive one, a market for the biggest industry players. This week, that mantra was in full pop when Widden announced it had bought the three-year-old colt for an undisclosed figure.

Trained at Cranbourne by Lloyd Kennewell and Lucy Yeomans, I Am Unstoppable has so far won just the Listed Redoute’s Choice Stakes in terms of stakes wins.

However, in four subsequent starts since that race last April, he has placed at Group One, Group Two and Group Three level. His second to Ozzmosis in the ‘stallion-making’ Coolmore Stud Stakes, splitting that horse and Golden Slipper winner Shinzo, was his moment in the sun.

Widden secures I Am Unstoppable’s stud future
I Am Unstoppable has become the latest three-year-old stallion prospect to be secured by a major stud, with Widden Stud buying into the I Am Invincible colt.

I Am Unstoppable was, at that time, part of an interesting set of current crop three-year-olds yet to be secured for stud. Ozzmosis will likely head to part-owner Newgate Farm, as will Militarize, and Slipper winner Shinzo is owned by Coolmore. Cylinder and Tom Kitten are owned by Godolphin.

The timing of these stallion deals is always interesting, usually coming ahead of or after a key race. In the case of I Am Unstoppable, it occurred a month after his second in the Coolmore, with the horse to race on for key targets in the autumn.

Becker, of Group 1 Bloodstock, has been critical to the I Am Unstoppable story. He was a co-buyer of the colt in January last year (with Kennewell), he remained in the ownership, and he helped to negotiate the stallion deal this month.

Becker says the wider ownership group, many of them first starters in racehorse ownership, began to get stallion vibes with their horse around the beginning of this spring. 

“By that point, he was a stakes-winning two-year-old and he was on the watch list,” Becker says. “When he was third in the Vain Stakes behind Cylinder (on August 19), that’s when we started to get enquiries. There were no offers on the table; it was just passing comments, ‘keep us in the loop’, that sort of thing.”

Mathew Becker
Mathew Becker (Source: FBAA)

Becker and Kennewell know enough people at trackwork, at the races and in their everyday business to hear this kind of interest. 

“As we got closer to the Coolmore (in November), things became a little bit more formal,” Becker says. “We had people asking us if the horse could be bought before the race, but that becomes a harder thing again.”

Becker explains that stallion deals done ahead of a Group One race open the negotiation process right up. If owners commit to a sale and the horse then wins the race, or places well, they can be short-changed if conditions haven’t been put in place.

“You’re having to build the deal in such a way that the people selling the horse are not left short, that there are kickers in place,” Becker says. “The further out you make that deal, the harder it is to get your valuations right. It can be done and it does get done, and Ozzmosis is a good example of that.

“There would have been evaluations there had that horse won a Group One, and those people would have been paid accordingly when he did.”

I Am Unstoppable was a $65,000 yearling in the Magic Millions sale ring last year. He was a bargain thanks to unsatisfactory x-rays and he was passed in, unwanted.

But he came with a formidable pedigree. The first three dams on his page are all stakes winners and, excepting x-rays, he would have fetched significantly more than $65,000. For Becker and Kennewell, their decision, which proved correct, was that the x-ray issue was manageable. 

In the autumn upcoming, I Am Unstoppable will chase a Group One victory for Widden Stud, likely in the Newmarket Handicap and Black Caviar Lightning Stakes. His stallion value will be decided by victory in either of those races, or his overall performance in the remainder of his racing career.

Stallion deals and the best three-year old prospects - In conversation with Duncan Grimley
The major three-year-old races in Australia each spring unearth not only the future stars of the turf, but also stallion prospects worth tens of millions of dollars.

In other words, it won’t be the stallion deal, executed this week, that will determine the horse’s value.

“The value of a stallion deal isn’t particularly relevant in this instance,” Becker says. “There are so many factors that will influence what that horse will eventually be worth, and what he will stand for at stud, so the price he was traded at isn’t that relevant. It’s what he’s done when he retires that’s important.

“He’ll have a base value for what he’s already achieved as an undefeated stakes-winning two-year-old and Group One-placed three-year-old. But what he will retire with, and he might even run on as a four-year-old, is the determining factor.”

Becker says the I Am Unstoppable deal was straightforward. There were other interested parties, but it was all wrapped up within a week with Widden, which isn’t unusual. At times, these stallion deals can be done in 24 hours.

He also says that ownership groups do take an interest in who is buying. In this case, it was a happy situation that it was Thompson’s Widden Stud operation, which is not only one of the heavyweight breeders, but the longest continually operating thoroughbred farm in Australia. Thompson is no stranger to making stallions. Think Sebring, Northern Meteor and Zoustar.

For Becker, I Am Unstoppable is the second time he’s been involved with a stallion deal of this calibre. 

Early in 2020, he was among the heads that syndicated Tagaloa to Yulong. Again, the figures weren’t disclosed but the horse was a Blue Diamond winner on the paperwork, and it was claimed Tagaloa was the highest-priced stallion to retire to stud in Victoria.

“The stallion market is an incredibly competitive game,” Becker says. “There are a lot of influential players in that space and, when it came to I Am Unstoppable, we knew we had a son of I Am Invincible with credentials that people were going to take notice of, and that’s what happened. 

“When Lloyd delivered the news of the stallion deal, some of the owners in this horse were very emotional. They were so thankful because it’s been lifechanging to some people in certain cases. It’s these sorts of stories that really make you want to keep trying for that next one.”