Horse Breeding

Otoe, the $20,000 Yearling

March 25, 2011

Otoe might have been the first horse to bring “big money.”

By Jim Jennings in America’s Horse

Otoe with handler Jerry Wells at the Houston Livestock Show. AQHA file photo.

In the July 1961 Quarter Horse Journal, there is a small article with the headline “Yearling Son of Sugar Bars Sells for $20,000.” The yearling was Otoe, who was bred and owned by AQHA Past President Bud Warren of Perry, Oklahoma, who also owned both Sugar Bars and Leo. Otoe was purchased by Dr. Jack Donald of Sulphur, Oklahoma. The article talks a little about the horse and his breeding and concludes by saying, “The future of this fine colt is before him, at the track and in the stud. Quarter Horse men will look forward with interest to his efforts to justify the somewhat unusual price of $20,000 paid for a yearling colt.”

To set everything in perspective, let’s take a look at 1961. The average income in the United States that year was $5,315. A new house cost $12,500. The cost of a new car averaged $2,850, while gas was 27 cents a gallon. A first-class stamp was 4 cents.

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And horses were not bringing a lot of money. The Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association Exhibitors Sale that year averaged $574. The high-selling horse was a mare that brought $1,450. Breeding fees were relatively cheap as well. Top Deck, the sire of Go Man Go, was standing for $1,000, as was Leo San, the sire of Peppy San and Mr San Peppy. But for $500 you could breed to Aledo Bar, Cutter Bill, Kings Pistol or Sugar Bars. Yes, Sugar Bars, the sire of the yearling that had just sold for $20,000.

But Dr. Donald knew what he was doing. Otoe was out of Juleo, who was by Leo and was a full sister to Flit, a top race mare back in the ’40s. And Sugar Bars had already proven himself as a good race sire, so Dr. Donald first sent Otoe to the racetrack. The horse posted a speed index of 95 and earned about $4,600 with a record of two wins, two seconds and three thirds. That, by the way, was pretty good for a 2-year-old in 1962.

Next, Dr. Donald hired a young man by the name of Jerry Wells, and, in 1963, sent Jerry and Otoe to the Fort Worth Stock Show, where Otoe won a halter class of 33 young stallions. In a 1993 Journal article, Jerry said that when they came out of the show ring, they were instantly surrounded by people wanting to see this ex-racehorse and his unknown handler.

Roll It!

Watch the 1986 American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show in Oklahoma City, where world-renowned horsemen Bob Avila and J.D. Yates share exhibitor duties for Superhorse Smoke Um Okie.

“All the high-powered horses of the day were there. The King Ranch had brought a van load; we had one horse. I had no appreciation then of what we’d done, how remarkable it was for an unknown to come in and beat all these horses at Fort Worth.”

The next year, Jerry took the horse back to Fort Worth. He won a class of 46 and stood grand champion.

Dr. Donald started standing the horse that year, advertising him at $350 – a stud fee that increased over the years as Otoe proved successful in the breeding barn as well.

Although the stallion lived only 11 years and had a total of 381 foals, he sired one world champion, four reserve world champions and two year-end high-point champions. His foals earned 2,755 halter points and 3,140 points in performance events. And he sired the earners of about $78,000 on the racetrack.

The article in the Journal didn’t say whether $20,000 was a record price for a yearling. It did, however, question the judgment of Dr. Donald for paying it.

Question no more. The record stands.

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