Archive for March, 2011

(A rich and elegant puzzle Part 3 of 3) With all things lined up in their favour, why are four of Rich N Elegant’s sons not proving to be top sires? And why is there one son who is?  That’s the intriguing question I posed to Ray Chaplin of Australian pedigree consultancy equineexcellence.biz

This blog can only summarise Ray’s work  – his full report with the tables is available free of charge by emailing contact@equineexcellence.biz and it is well worth a read.

So good on paper and on the track – but not the impact at stud: Why? – by Ray Chaplin

Considered by many to be the greatest standardbred mare in harness racing history, Rich N Elegant is the first mare ever to produce three sub 1:50 performers: Red River Hanover (1:48.4), Royal Flush Hanover (gelding) (1:49.3) and Rocknroll Hanover (1:49.4).
Assessing her dam line

Rich N Elegant is by Direct Scooter out of the Abercrombie mare Proven Perfect who had four foals for three winners (75%wtf). Her second dam Shifting Sands by Shadow Wave from the Ensign Hanover mare Golden Miss had thirteen foals for eight winners (57%wtf). These results indicate a significant genetic upgrade has taken place.

We identified the source and positioning of this EEATM Genetic Excellence Affinity between Direct Scooter and Proven Perfect and armed with this information we researched the breeding barn performance of Rich N Elegant’s second and third dams. From the nineteen progeny of these mares one stood head and shoulders above the rest – the 1969 Bret Hanover colt Strike Out. Strike Out exhibits the same EEATM “Genetic Excellence Affinity” between sire and dam as does Rich N Elegant, and both these performers are by sires with proven superior genetic attributes – Direct Scooter and Bret Hanover.

Assessing her sires:

Rich N Elegant has produced top performing racehorses from three different sires: Western Hanover (for Rustler Hanover, Richess Hanover, and Red River Hanover), Cam’s Card Shark (for Royal Flush Hanover), and Western Ideal (for Rocknroll Hanover).

We assessed the genetic excellence indicators of the dams of each of these sires and compared the strengths of Wendymae Hanover (dam of Western Hanover) with Jef’s Magic Trick (dam of Cam’s Card Shark) and Leah Almahurst (dam of Western Ideal).

Western Hanover takes the bronze medal, Cams Card Shark the silver and Western Ideal the gold, based solely on the race and breeding record of their dam.

We believe that the dam line of a sire plays an important role in the overall genetic makeup of any progeny the sire produces. Western Ideal has a significant genetic strength advantage over Western Hanover.

Assessing her sons:

We then assessed and compared the race records and premier racing achievements of Rich N Elegant’s big four stallions. These results were benchmarked against leading stallions in the USA and Australasia today – Bettors Delight and Art Major.

Rocknroll Hanover clearly shines, with Bettors Delight and Art Major following. Rustler Hanover and Red River Hanover rate less, and Richess Hanover rates least.

These same sires were next assessed and benchmarked on their progeny records to date, looking at USA, Australian and New Zealand results as at October/November 2010.

Rocknroll HanoverWith far fewer starters, Rocknroll Hanover is already ahead of the accumulated totals of his three siring siblings in terms of worldwide starters, $1M plus earners and $500K plus earners.

Interestingly, of Rocknroll Hanover’s five $500K plus progeny to date, four (including his highest two earners Rock N Roll Heaven and Put On A Show) are from quality Artsplace mares.

Whilst it is early days, these insights may have important implications for those breeding to Rocknroll Hanover in Australasia. Currently he has thirteen Australasian bred 3yo+ foals but none of them are from Artsplace mares. Given the limited number of Artsplace mares in Australasia, time will tell if Rocknroll Hanover is able to emulate his North American breeding barn performance in the Southern Hemisphere.


Well, the research evidence in this report does not provide a categorically proven answer to the question “What’s going on here?”

However our research suggests that the reason is primarily linked to “genotype” excellence factors of the individual stallions, the genetic strengths of the mares they served and the number of those that created a proven EEA™ “Genetic excellence affinity©” between sire and dam when expressed at conception.

Of the eleven progeny $500K+ that were sired by Rustler, Red River and Richess all exhibit the same common EEA™ “Genetic Excellence Affinity©” between their respective sires and dams as does the leading lady in this report “Rich N Elegant”

Another factor may well be how many quality well matched mares each stallion received in his first two books which would contribute to ongoing stud success as a result of attracting a continuing supply of quality mares

Finally there may be a “halo” effect resulting from the combined racetrack success of Rich N Elegant’s three Western Hanover colts and therefore a tendency to evaluate each of these sires on the basis of their combined efforts rather than as individuals (even though they are full brothers).

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(A rich and elegant puzzle Part 2 of 3) Why do the sons of successful sires and top broodmares sometimes not make it as a sire? That’s the question I posed to New Zealand breeding consultant/writer Frank Marrion.

The proof of the pudding – by Frank Marrion

I think it is important to remember that no two horses are the same genetically.

You might have brothers and sisters and three quarter brothers from the same mare, but they will still be individuals with strengths and weaknesses.

The foals from Rich N Elegant are a good example.

I don’t know a lot about Richess Hanover, other than that he went amiss as a 2yo and has just been fair at stud standing in Illinois.

Rustler Hanover had some conformation issues which showed up in his foals, while Red River was a big horse who had ‘wheels in his head’ i.e. a nervous temperament. On the whole it seems many of the Red River Hanovers don’t want to ‘be there’ and lack that real genuine racehorse quality where they will always try their best whatever the limits of their ability.

As an individual, Red River was a very good horse of course, winning a North America Cup beating Mach Three, but after that he proved a very difficult horse to get the best out of because he had such a nervous disposition.

I can recall talking to Brett Pelling about him and he was saying that the horse was so ‘wired’, he would never sleep. We can almost certainly attribute this to his dam being by Direct Scooter. While that sire line is a legitimate source of speed, it is also a source of ‘craziness’ and the reason Direct Scooter was not a good sire of fillies.

Red River Hanover progeny and the Direct Scooter line generally produces horses that can be ‘fiery’ or ‘hot headed’ types. They may come with degrees of ability, but getting them to consistently show this or getting them to fulfil their potential, can be entirely different matters.

We can double up to Direct Scooter in various ways, one example being Red River Hanover over In The Pocket mares, and this can produce very ‘speedy’ horses, but one also runs the risk of breeding a horse which is just a lunatic and no racing proposition at all.

Rocknroll Hanover has done very well with his first crop, but it remains to be seen whether he can maintain that momentum with his follow up crops. He would have got a great book of mares when he first went to stud, but that quality mare support would have shifted to other sires straight off the track such as Somebeachsomewhere, because the American breeding scene is very much geared towards first crop sires at the yearling sales.

If there is a problem with a sire, that quality mare support just disguises the inevitable.

I don’t mean to bag Rocknroll Hanover, but I’m not getting too carried away just yet. Very few sires at all make it commercially, so I don’t see a surprise that Rich N Elegant’s foals have not transferred racecourse success to breeding barn success, outside of Rocknroll to date. That is just the way of things.

Pedigrees and bloodlines actually have very little to do with it when a sire does succeed – most of those sires that did find success weren’t rated at all when they first went to stud.

Meadow Skipper could hardly get mares for a start because he had a bad hitch in his gait, and look what he did!

It is mostly about the individual as a type, and whether or not they possess the genetics to be prepotent.

Most sires don’t…and you never really know that until the ‘proof of the pudding’…

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(Part 1 of 3) Here’s an intriguing question: Why are the fabulous sons of amazing broodmare Rich N Elegant proving a mixed blessing as sires?

First, let me set the scene. Every year the latest hotshot colt is retired off the track and heads straight into a career as a stud. He will join several others who probably raced alongside him, sometimes losing to him and sometimes beating him, and now they are taking on an even more challenging career. Being a great sire.

To have a shot at success as a sire, a colt  must have performed well enough to catch the eye of the trainers and breeders who will be buying his future yearlings. He will have a reputation and a racing media profile that his stud managers can build on. Ideally, he comes from a proven or very commercial sire line. Even better he will link to a strong maternal line that is well liked. His pedigree may offer outcross or ‘golden cross’ opportunities with a large pool of mares in the country or state where he stands, because that will help with the marketing and hopefully the outcomes. Preferably he is a good looker (although a skilful photographer can work wonders). And of course he needs to be fertile.

But even when all the stars are lined up – by a champion sire, from an exceptional broodmare, top earner as a racehorse and brothers who also performed superbly and have gone to stud, a reputation of being from one of the hottest families in harness racing, and good looks…. he might still not strike gold as a sire.

In this blog, I want to take a look at a “rich and elegant puzzle”, a classic example of this situation, and ask the age-old question: Why?

Rich N Elegant - photo by Aaron ReRich N Elegant is one of those mares often referred to as a broodmare gem. She wasn’t a bad racehorse herself, pacing 1:57.4 at 2 and 1:56.8 at 3, and earning almost $US100,000. But it is as a broodmare that she really makes her mark. She’s the dam of 12 foals over the age of 3, and these offspring have already earned just over $US7.6 million to date.

Most remarkably, five of her sons are standing at stud – Richess Hanover, Rustler Hanover, Righteous Hanover, Red River Hanover and Rocknroll Hanover.

Here’s the puzzle. To date, the first four Western Hanover sons have been disappointing at stud. I’m not saying all their offspring are flops. Red River Hanover’s Mister Zion, Red Zone, Code Red, River Field and Garnett River are just a few who have done well. Red River Hanover now stands at Warwick Stud in Victoria for $2500. Rustler Hanover has built up some credentials as a sire in America. He stands at Winbak for $US4500 and is more a mid range journeyman sire now. His seasons in Australia have resulted in only a handful of really successful progeny. Righteous Hanover was a high priced yearling who was lightly raced due to injury and retired. He stands at Stallion Station for around $1500 and has only had a handful of foals with good percentage success but nothing really outstanding so far. Richess Hanover, who raced successfully as a 2 year old, now stands in Illinois at $US3500 but was never available ‘downunder’.

None of them rate as top sires in the highly competitive world of stallions at stud.

Red River HanoverThere were only six Red River Hanover yearlings in this year’s 2011 New Zealand yearling sales, and four of those were in the last day at Christchurch. That, and the shifting location and pricing of the stallion himself, tells a story. The expectation when he first stood here was based on a strong foundation, but that expectation hasn’t been fulfilled. Neither the stud who stood him nor those people who bred to him could have predicted that.

Or could they? There’s an intriguing question!

This article is not slagging off these talented sons of a wonderful mare, or the many horses that are sired by them, or the breeders who spotted an extremely well credentialed sire and booked their mare. I will be the first to crack open a bottle of bubbly if, for example, Champagne Kiwi (Lot 362 in Christchurch) goes on to win some of the classic 2yo and 3yo races or ends up as our Interdom champ!

What I’m trying to find out is why the excellent pedigree and performance credentials of Rich N Elegant’s sons haven’t led to them becoming reliably good sires.

And then there’s another fascinating question: Why is one out of the five Rich N Elegant sons at stud (Rocknroll Hanover) bucking the family trend and becoming a super sire?

To help me answer these questions, I asked New Zealand breeding consultant/writer Frank Marrion and Australian pedigree consultant Ray Chaplin (www.equineexcellence.biz) to present their viewpoints.

Ray Chaplin uses his analytical techniques to find some possible answers. He assesses the EEA(trade mark) Genetic Excellence Affinity of Rich N Elegant herself with the three stallions she has used, and then compares those stallions’ records in siring champion horses with each other and with two different ‘top sires’ we can access: Bettors Delight and Art Major. The results are fascinating. This blog can only summarise Ray’s work briefly – his full report with the tables is available free of charge by emailing contact@equineexcellence.biz and it is well worth a read.

Frank Marrion takes quite a different perspective, looking at the overall chances of picking a future champion sire based on pedigree and performance, and throwing light on individual characteristics that can have a huge influence on siring success.

Both of them highlight that getting the right type of mares – genetically or temperamentally – can make a big difference to a sire’s early success and reputation.

These views are expressed in the following two blogs.

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