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This year’s Little Brown Jug was the 10th anniversary of Mr Feelgood’s win – the one I was privileged to see in person in Delaware. I was reminded of that by an article in Harness Racing Update where driver Mark Macdonald recalled the moment prior to the racing:

Ten years ago in this very stall, Mr Feelgood stood, virtually unnoticed,as a crowd gathered around his neighbour, straining to see the dog-sized speedster named Doonbeg. “Everyone wanted to see the little horse. Adam Hanley was (Mr Feelgood’s) groom and he was standing there with Mr Feelgood and it was like a joke,”Hey guys, Mr Feelgood over here.” But no one wanted to see him.He was put off,because he loved the horse so much and I said,”We’ll get them on the track, don’t worry about it,” MacDonald said.

Doonbeg

The pint-sized Doonbeg (shown here in his stall on Jug Day) captured everyone’s imagination but Mr Feelgood captured the Little Brown Jug. Photo: Bee Pears

I confess I put my money on Doonbeg, but it was Mr Feelgood who won, and went on to many more wins including the Interdominion Championship and Hunter Cup in this part of the world, and a siring career that has been somewhat strange – his first crop was born before he had officially started at stud, his biggest crop in Australia is the result of a free service deal which has resulted in 227 foals born in 2015, and yet in New Zealand (where he raced very well for trainer Tim Butt) he has been totally ignored. They haven’t been able to give his semen away!

Well, there are a handful of us New Zealand breeders who have grabbed the opportunity, and it is appropriate that (fingers crossed for a safe landing) I will have a Mr Feelgood foal landing later this year from my Dream Away mare Dreamy Romance. Maybe if it is brown, it will have its name pretty well sorted! You can still get Mr Feelgood’s frozen semen at extremely good price ($1,750 + gst) from Lee Morris at Equibreed, and there may still be some at Nevele R Stud if you ask. Remember this was a fast (1.49 at 5yo), durable (raced until he was 8 and was still winning big stakes at the top level), and rich (lifetime earnings well over $3m) horse, with a maternal line (the K Nora/Adora family, Leah Almahurst branch) which is firing so beautifully at the moment.

I’ll be heading back to him again.

Betting Line’s family

Unfortunately this year’s Little Brown Jug has ended in a cloud that will be hard to disperse for a while, regardless of test outcomes, for winner Betting Line.

Betting Line

Betting Line gets a cool down after racing.

It is the old story – justice has to be seen to be done, and clean trainers have to be seen to be clean. So anything, any talk or action that could be misinterpreted should be ringing alarm bells. Perhaps a simple notification to the stewards that vanilla yogurt was going to be administered would have avoided all of this. It is really sad, as Coleman is an extremely good, hard-working trainer, and Betting Line is a very good horse. An 8-length win should be something we are all celebrating, instead of just hoping it was all done right.

Putting that to one side, let’s have a closer look at Betting Line – he’s a Bettor’s Delight from Western Hanover mare Heathers Western, who was a Pink Bonnet winner. Betting Line already has three well performed siblings from other sires – All Or None (2006 mare, $225,053) by Cams Card Shark, Full Picture (2007 mare, $581,876) by Artsplace, and  JK Folly (2011 mare, $176,872) by Art Major. A mare that can produce quality foals like that from a range of sires – two siring lines in common, to be sure – is a sign of a really good broodmare.

Betting Line’s grandam is Santastic, a Camtastic mare. If that rings bells, she is the dam of Santastic’s Pan who has stood at stud in Australia for many years. In fact I am sure he was at the same Little Brown Jug day when Mr Feelgood won – and if I recall, he was a winner there of the Jug Preview and I had a bet on him because I was a Camtastic fan at the time! Just checking on Santastic’s Pan siring stats in Australia, I see he has had 66 foals for 35 starters and 22 winners, but these are dribbled over 8 breeding seasons and the most mares he’s ever had in a season is 23. But those results are not disgraceful from such limited opportunities, and it is interesting to see some of his best are from In The Pocket mares, much like Camtastic himself. It’s interesting that both Betterthancheddar and Betting Line are both sons of Bettor’s Delight that carry Camtastic in their maternal lines.

This is a really strong family and if you use the Classic Families pedigree option to show X factor individuals, you will see Santastic’s maternal line is chock full of good things. So if Betting Line (who I think is a colt) ends up down here as a sire in future, I think he will a better chance of showing off his strong maternal foundation.

 

 

Introducing Isa The Great

Kym Kearns describes this colt as probably the best type her mare Sun Isa has produced to date, and that’s a big call since the siblings have all been very good-looking horses.

Angus Hall x Sun Isa yearling colt.

Isa The Great

Isa The Great after his weekend wash.

“Hank” as we call him, is the 6th foal from Sundon mare Sun Isa and her 4th son. She leaves strikingly good-looking horses, big and bold, and with plenty of ability.

Kym retained the previous foal, a filly named Library Lady, who is now a very strong 2yo with a lovely trotting action.

Previous foals from Sun Isa are: Flying Isa (56 starts, 17 wins, $481,667), Isa Smiling (very talented, 3 wins, now dam of a 2yo colt), Angus Fogg (late developing but talented 5yo trained by Derek Balle), Isa Flyer (died recently in paddock accident),  Library Lady, and Isa The Great. The first four foals were all sold at the PGG Wrightson yearling sales, and that is where Isa The Great is heading to.

Sun Isa

Kym with Sun Isa at Isa Lodge, after her Spring wash and brush.

Introducing The Blue Beat

The more I see this filly (out my window every day) the more I like what I see.

A Rocknroll Dance x The Blue Lotus yearling filly.

The Blue Beat

After her shower, looking gorgeous.

“Iris”, as we call her, moves easily, naturally and she has attitude but manners. She is starting to mature and understand things.

Last weekend, we brought the mums in from other paddocks for a wash, and then their yearling offspring at our home paddocks, also for a wash and brush. Lots of winter hair was shed, lots of enjoyment under the shower!

Below: The Blue Beat – finally got a registered name for this filly, and it is a cracker! The Blue Beat, the rock n roll song made famous in Australasia by our own wonderful Dinah Lee. “Come on and do the blue beat, the blue beat, and you’ll never be blue!” Hey, if you’re my age you will remember bopping around the living room to this song.

The Blue Beat

A Rocknroll Dance x The Blue Lotus

Below: The Blue Lotus, dam of The Blue Beat, Amazon Lily (3 wins, 6 placings from 13 starts) and Blackend (Shadow Play colt broken in well for Australian owner Domenic Martello) looking great and very much in foal with her next Shadow Play offspring.

The Blue Lotus

The Blue Lotus

Mare x Sire

The Blue Lotus

The Blue Lotus (Grinfromeartoear x Zenterfold) in foal to Shadow Play and getting a wash at Isa Lodge yesterday.

My last two blogs have deliberately reversed the usual sire x mare breeding notation in the title of the blog. That’s for a reason. For me, the mare plays such an important role in terms of her genetic structure (what she brings to the table), and how good she is as a broodmare (her ability to conceive, carry and deliver a healthy foal, and her ability as a mum, because the foal will have 1000% more to do with her than with the dad!) Her own history will also come into the equation – what she has left so far, what issues if any are there, what in her family is showing up now or could be showing up later…

So I know and respect the conventions for breeding notations which put the sire and his pedigree double-ups first.

But that’s not the same as making a decision about breeding.

For me, once you have a potentially good or good broodmare, she must have the strongest say in your choice of sire.

It is easy to latch on to a sire that you like.  There is such a line-up of well-performed, handsome horses coming to a siring career each year. There is also a handful who have conquered the challenges and become “the chosen ones”, our proven sires like Bettor’s Delight and Art Major. And then another market of the “repêcharges” – sires both new and established who are carving out a specific career for themselves – Badlands Hanover has been a master of this, Live Or Die also successful, Grinfromeartoear finding his niche nicely over the years, and the new guns like Sunshine Beach, A Rocknroll Dance, Sportswriter, Auckland Reactor, Sir Lincoln and Tintin In America trying to get a foothold in a very competitive race.

Sometimes, when your budget doesn’t extend to the top commercial sires, there are rich selections amongst these “been there, done that” sires and the “going places if you let me” sires. They offer incredible value for money if you have done some thinking about why you are breeding and what your mare needs.

The one to give you the best answer about that isn’t me.  It’s your mare.

Treat her right. Do the thinking. Make the choice. And then look after her interests each step of the way – through the 11 months and 11 days and beyond.

In a very real sense, breeding is not a partnership of Sire x Mare, but more about how well you as a breeder can find the best mate for the mare. That’s actually what many of us breeders are about, what keeps us going. Some might be pimping for sheer profit, but most of us are searching for something deeper than that – a sire that suits our mare, and then a foal that goes on to be a really good racehorse!

Bingo! (Has that name been taken??)

Nostalgic Franco and her Tintin In America colt foal at Macca Lodge

Nostalgic Franco and her Tintin In America colt as a foal last year at Macca Lodge

Nostalgic Franco is the second of the two mares I am breeding this season – a Rustler Hanover mare I bought at a mixed sale in foal to Tintin In America. That was a cross I really, really liked the look of and the resulting (now yearling colt) foal is a very nice type and I will go back for more in future. The mare then had a year off.

I look at the reality of Nostalgic Franco: a mare with some ability as a racehorse but quite one-paced, who has been bred to Nevele R sires as part of a broodmare band, and done well with that opportunity – but more potential is there, not yet the speed sire to click her genes into a new gear. That is my challenge.

According to my breeding formula I also needed to sort out WHAT I am breeding this next foal for, and what I would optimally want to do with it. It is a question that stops you going in wider and wider circles (which I started to do, just out of interest), and narrows your options to a reasonable number of sires you can afford and match your aim.

I decided I wanted to breed from a commercial sire to give me the option of selling as a yearling (depending on the sire’s commercial appeal at the time and the quality of the foal, of course).  That didn’t mean the 4 to 5 top sires. For financial reasons, they were out of the question. The Art Major choice for Zenterfold is where any savings are going! So I was left with considering sires that were within my budget but are likely to be or could be commercial about 3 years from now. And that gets further reduced by sires that for genetic reasons might be totally unsuitable.

When you look at it that way, you can see why breeding to sell early is extremely difficult. But the good news is there is plenty of choice, thanks to a very competitive Australasian market for new and enduring sires in the $4000 to $6000 bracket.

Long story cut short, I have looked closely at (in alphabetical order) A Rocknroll Dance ($6000), Betterthancheddar ($4000), He’s Watching ($6000), Rock N Roll Heaven (borderline at the $7000 price I recommended in my blog lol), Roll With Joe ($5,500), Shadow Play ($4000), Sportswriter ($4500), Sunshine Beach ($4000), and Sweet Lou ($6000). These are great horses, proven on the track, good pedigrees, etc.

Interestingly, several are from the same Western Hanover sire line as my mare. But I think my mare’s family (and I’ve talked about this with someone who has been closely involved in that maternal family for many generations) overall needs injections of speed almost every generation. It is the maternal family of Cardigan Bay. But it doesn’t have that underlying speed factor coming in genetically from its mares – it seems to rely on injections from sires who add value AND speed. Even then, the progeny tend to be good types, reasonable size, who are a little “one speed” and lack that ability to crank up another gear or two quickly. (Which is of course what most horses lack, as we humans do!)

So part of my elimination rounds – a more sporting term for “mulling” – was looking for a reinforcement of speed genes and quick flex ability, rather than strength and stamina.  The end of my mulling has been A Rocknroll Dance, and it is the combination of several factors. First, I like the match in terms of pedigree. The Western Hanover line seems to be competing with the revived Direct Scooter line as the “line of speed”. That is from a siring perspective. But for an overall match this is something quite new for me, considering how many times Wendymae Hanover pops up (3f,5m, x 4m) but this is more breeding to strong mares – both Wendymae Hanover (and her maternal package) and Rich N Elegant (and her maternal package) are coming close up.

You know I am a great admirer of strong maternal influences and much as the strong engine room sires and damsires. So I like seeing Overtrick in good places on this match.

The mare’s bottom line feeds into this in a less obvious way. Back further there are more synergies and duplication from good lines. But my focus is bringing speed and ability in, to update the family rather than reach backwards. So it is a fairly new and exciting breeding in that regard.

On type, I have kept a close eye on the foals A Rocknroll Dance is producing, including the filly I have out in the paddock here. He really stamps his mark as a sire on type – proportioned and athletic. That doesn’t mean all his foals are like that, but like some other successful sires, many of his offspring have a similar look. Signs of a sire that can make it? I don’t know but I think many breeders and buyers will take a chance on it.

 

A Rocknroll Dance x Nostalgiic Franco

 

 

 

Zenterfold x Art Major

I’m breeding just two mares this year, Nostalgic Franco and Zenterfold. The other two (Dreamy Romance and The Blue Lotus) are having a year off. That gets them an earlier start next time, but it also takes some financial  pressure off.

Last blog I shared once again the simple formula that helps me work out these things. And one of the biggest considerations is “what is this breeding for?” The answer may be varied, complex, simple or even “I don’t know but I just want to do it!” But at least you have thought about the possible purpose – which can influence what sire you may choose from a number of sires with a suitable pedigree match, or how much money you spend, and so on.

Bee with Zenterfold May 2014

Bee with Zenterfold May 2014

For me, the aim with both these mares is to breed a foal that may be commercial enough to sell at yearling sales. That’s given me enough scope of sires to choose from, and with Zenterfold a wider range because she is a proven breeder of commercial foals and has a good track record of performers. In the past I have had the same aim, but selected a suitable sire from the borderline commercial sires in terms of yearling sales – Grinfromeartoear (x2) and Real Desire. I bred Tintin In America when McArdle was very new and unproven (which worked out well for me, less so for McArdle who has struggled to define himself as a sire). And last time I tried to go more commercial and more expensive with Rocknroll Heaven, only to come away with a lower return (but selling a really nice filly).

That’s all water under the bridge and winners on the track now. This time I am playing safer, with Art Major.  It is my most conservative selection ever, but also my most expensive. So there is risk involved for sure.

However there is a lot more to the equation than just the potential commercial appeal of a foal. The match still needs to be right on a range of other grounds – as the equation says: what the sire offers, what the mare offers, how that works in combination, and the effort that goes into developing a foal.

Art Major has several elements in his pedigree that I believe match really well with Zenterfold, and what I have learned about her breeding.

  • Starting with the top line, he is a son of Artsplace, as is Grinfromeartoear, and I was particularly pleased with the two foals I bred by Grin. So that gives me some confidence.
  • What I like even more is Art Major’s maternal side. Firstly, Nihilator is there sitting in exactly the same spot (as damsire) as he does for McArdle. I’ve blogged before about how I see a lot of Nihilator’s influence in Tintin In America (by McArdle) – type, physical and mental. So again, this element gives me confidence on past results.
  • Then on Art Major’s bottom line he brings in both The Old Maid – another strong connection for Zenterfold, and a beacon for many of my breeding decisions for the mare – and the great family of Romola Hal through one of her most current branches. I’ve done a whole series of blogs on that family which you can find by searching on romola hal in the blog search box.
  • Art Major also carries Shadow Wave in his maternal line through Big Towner, the sire of Rodine Hanover. I love the way Shadow Wave and The Old Maid seem to work together in a pedigree matching. And of course Zenterfold has both these influences in her own maternal half, through New York Motoring and Bachelor Hanover.
  • And finally, Art Major brings in Tar Heel through the mating of Tar Heel and Romola Hal. In Zenterfold’s pedigree Tar Heel also lies in really important places – as the damsire of In The Pocket and the grandamsire of New York Motoring.

As a bold type of horse physically, Art Major will hopefully add a bit of  size and scope into the equation too, and that is very important when you are selling a yearling.

Now going back to the “golden cross” concept, if you merely talked of an Art Major x In The Pocket cross, you would be ignoring some of the most important influences that arise from Zenterfold’s maternal family in the cross with Art Major! That’s why as breeders we need to look deeper than just “golden cross” statistics or marketing ploys.

Art Major x Zenterfold pedigree match

Art Major x Zenterfold pedigree match

We are just about to officially click over to our official breeding season, 1 September.

Usually I have my breeding decisions sorted well and truly by now. I’ve studied, thought, mulled (with the help of a little vino), and I’ve looked at the sire and the mare naked in the paddock (them, not me of course). I’ve talked with a few people and mulled again, and then I trust my instincts and go for it. Basically, I work through the equation I have always put out there for breeders, not as an equation for glory, but as an equation for good results from what you have and where you want to go.

Breeding this way can still be incredibly exciting and outside the square. All it does is make sure you think things through – and make whatever decision you want! Breeding horses is something that gives us a sense of control over nature, while still being totally at the mercy of nature. Actually, we are just trying to get “in synch” with nature AND the market place. But nature is the best poker player you have ever sat round a table with…lol  And I am not sure that too many of us walk away from that poker table with a profit!

This is the formula I have always put up for breeders to use to make informed but personal decisions  (note: there is no subscription fee or theory you have to follow):

1 + 2 + = + $ + V + U + ?

Which translated means:

1  What the mare brings to the table, plus
2  What the sire brings to the table, plus
=  How those complement each other, plus
$  Your budget and what’s good value
V  The added value of how you raise the foal
U  Your goal – what you are aiming to succeed in, plus
?  An element of luck.

 

This year I am only breeding two mares – Zenterfold (to Art Major) and Nostalgic Franco (to A Rocknroll Dance).

I’ll blog on both of those breedings next time, as the Zenterfold one in particular ties in with the conversation we are having about the limitations of simple “golden cross” matches compared to looking at what might be driving things in the maternal lines.

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