Archive for August, 2012

A few blogs ago I described two vary different racehorses (later to both become very successful sires and damsires), Spencer and Scotland. Spencer was a big, lanky horse; Scotland a sleek medium sized one.

This same pattern occurs in several famous pairs of horses who later became excellent sires and damsires –

  • Tar Heel and Adios;
  • Most Happy Fella and Albatross;

In all these cases the first of the pair was a bigger, rugged type and not the smoothest gaited horse, while the second of the pair was the smaller handsome one with the gorgeous gait.

As I said in my blog about the three very different Jamaicans in the Olympic 200m final, speed and greatness can come in very different packages.

And although I often talk about the advantage of having a great gait (what I call ‘gait speed’) it’s good to be reminded of champion horses who didn’t have that advantage but delivered brilliance anyway – on the racetrack or in the siring shed or both.

In the chapter on Tar Heel in John Bradley’s “Modern Pacing Sire Lines” he describes Tar Heel like this:

A big-headed coarsely made horse who was not especially good-gaited….One of the racing scribes of his era commented on his gait by saying “It was hard to tell what he was doing, but we called it pacing.”

Adios, on the other hand was a stunningly handsome horse, medium sized with a beautiful fine head – and very good gaited. (I found this great article about Adios’s career in Sports Illustrated May 14, 1962, when he was still alive at 25 years of age.)

Of course these two horses are present in so many pedigrees – the Golden Adios/Tar Heel Cross. See this good article in Sports Horse Breeder website that looks at some of the genetic reasons this was a good combination – but just their complementary attributes and physical types must be a key factor.

Most Happy Fella – big and rugged

Most Happy Fella was a big, rugged looking colt who was bothered through his career by a hock injury, leading to a somewhat rough-gaited style of going. In fact trainer/driver Stanley Dancer is quoted as saying:

What a nasty horse he was to drive. You never knew when Most Happy Fella was going to make a break. He went with such a tight hobble, and he still felt like he was going to put in a step. I was surprised he was such a great sire. He sired some good-gaited horses.

Many of Meadow Skipper’s racing sons were big, bold horses – and Most Happy Fella also had a big dam (Laughing Girl), surprisingly a Good Time mare because Good Time was under 15h himself and often left smaller horses.

Albatross, on the other hand, was an atypical son of Meadow Skipper – he stood only 15.1h but with a long-barrel and “an unattractive head which seemed very disproportionate to the remainder of his conformation.”  He was a very well balanced horse, however, and his gait was superb.

Albatross’ hallmark, and his greatest contribution to the breed, was his gait. Dancer believes that Albatross could have raced free-legged, such was the purity of his motion. It was free-flowing, solid and allowed Albatross to carry his speed through three demanding seasons.” (John Bradley)

These four fantastic horses illustrate just how different the qualities of top horses (and top sires/damsires) can be.

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It’s finals day. Timely to remember two Kiwi horses who won 3yo Breeders Crowns and are now at stud here – Changeover and Tintin In America, both at Nevele R.

Two quite different horses and both offering a lot to New Zealand and Australian breeders.

Changeover is a big powerful fellow (16hh) who was okay as a 2yo but really blossomed at 3yo – 5yo into such a tough stayer who always gave his best, a Cups winner. In The Pocket out of a Vance Hanover mare. Standing at NZ$4000. Good fertility.

Tintin In America, smaller type (15.1), incredible speed and mentally assertive and tough. He was outstanding at 2yo and muscled up as a 3yo and 4yo to become a very consistent competitor in top races, including winning 5 Group 1 races. His win in the Messenger and 2nd to Monkey King in the Auckland Cup hinted of things to come, but he was retired due to a reoccurring injury. McArdle out of an In The Pocket mare. Standing at NZ$2250. High fertility.

Both these sires have solid proven maternal lines and are well positioned to cross with a range of mares. Of course there is a prevalence of In The Pocket and Falcon Seelster blood in our broodmare pool that rules out some mares for Tintin In America (although I wouldn’t be averse at trying a Falcon Seelster mare)  but makes him very suitable for others – I’d love to see some Armbro Operative, Badlands Hanover and Live or Die mares heading his way – and Art Major or Perfect Art mares could suit. And mares that carry Soky’s Atom/Albatross in their bottom line. His maternal family loves great old blood – Breath Of Spring, Old Maid etc.

Zenterfold, Tintin’s dam, is medium sized herself and throws foals of different sizes; small foals are not a feature of the wider family (also his sire McArdle is 16hh), so I would not expect him to necessarily leave smaller types. But I do believe he will bring speed to the party, as it is in his genetic makeup from several different sources.

These are two great horses from our recent racing past. It has never been easy for outstanding local racehorses to convert themselves into top commercial sires here – but I would love to see these two stallions get a damn good chance to do so.

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There are plenty of examples of full and half brothers standing as sires, but very few where two or more brothers have made the grade as outstanding commercial sires. Will recent arrival Roll With Joe, full brother to Bettor’s Delight, be an exception?

In New Zealand and Australia, the ‘brothers at stud’ situation has usually involved an imported brother to a top sire we have not been able to access with our mares for one reason or another – an example is Chill Factor, the brother of Artsplace.  With frozen semen and shuttling much more common now, this reason is less prevalent. The other common situation is when a good (but less well performed or known) brother stands at a much cheaper price than the ‘original’ in the hope of capitalising on the glow factor and drawing breeders in a different price range – an example is Extreme Three/ Mach Three, and Julius Caesar/Christian Cullen who are standing (but not really competing) in the same market.

To be top performing racehorse is hard enough, but to be a top sire is even harder. And to get progeny from one mare that can achieve both these things more than once is exceptional.

Four sons of Rich N Elegant have tried, but not succeeded in terms of siring careers at the top end (Western Hanover full brothers Rustler Hanover, Red River Hanover, Richess Hanover and Righteous Hanover), but their Western Ideal half brother Rocknroll Hanover is certainly making a great job of his chances, and may even be starting his own siring line. I’ve covered more of that in a previous blog series collaborating with equineexcellence’s Ray Chaplin.

Probably the most famous successful example is that wonderful mare Amour Angus and her siring sons Angus Hall, Andover Hall and Conway Hall, who have all performed as credible sires in their own right and are now sires of sires.

Perfect Profile left two excellent performing sons who went successfully to stud – Art Major and Perfect Art, although the latter died before his true legacy as a sire could unfold. Although perhaps not “gold” ranked (on Ray Chaplin’s equineexcellence.biz criteria) Perfect Art was definitely “silver”. Of course he wasn’t directly competing as a sire with Art Major in the same market.

Marketing Joe
The interesting thing about Roll With Joe is that he is being placed in the market at $6000, which means his owners and Pepper Tree Farm are taking a punt on him in his own right. He may well be a less expensive siring option for breeders than Bettor’s Delight, but he is certainly not cheap. In New Zealand, he’s probably competing in a similar market (for type of sire) as newcomers Well Said (at Nevele R, $8000, frozen) and even more so with Big Jim (Alabar, $4,500) as a well proven top end racehorse who could be attractive commercially and may deliver speed.

His mid zone price category is a tricky one, with most of our NZ studs lowering their prices from this level, so his key competition at the same price may well turn out to be his colleague at Pepper Tree Farm, Sportswriter.

Roll With JoeSo is this “Bettor’s Delight but bigger”? Well, he is a bigger horse than Bettor’s Delight, although 15.2 is really only medium sized and both his sire Cam’s Card Shark and his dam Classic Wish were smaller, quick type of horses, so I would not place too much emphasis on Roll With Joe’s bigger size considering his parents. Genes may well dictate that more often than not he will leave medium or smaller horses, and for that reason I would look to bigger mares for him in much the same way that you might add that into consideration for Bettor’s Delight.

At $6000, the idea of “two Roll With Joes for the price of one Bettor’s Delight” would be a risky strategy – breeders with $6000 to spend on their mare will probably be at the commercial end of the market and may be willing to pay more for the proven brother, or breeders that prefer to shop in the mid-range (currently $4000 to $5500) of sires but may be willing to stretch a little bit to get something special – and is Roll With Joe that special as a sire?

His brother or his mother?
I think he could be.  He was a very good racehorse, but what interests me from a siring perspective much more is the recent blossoming of his maternal line thanks to some great breeding choices over the past couple of generations.

Roll With Joe doesn’t have exactly the same genes as Bettor’s Delight – we know from our own human experience that although they share the same parents, siblings can be very different physically and in talents.

What you are getting with Roll With Joe is not a clone of Bettor’s Delight but rather a proven performing racehorse from the same genetic foundation but with his own unique combination of “nature and nurture” factors.

Take the x factor/heart size gene as an example. As a colt he must take his x chromosone from his dam – but she has two x chromosomes on offer, and which one Bettor’s Delight got and Roll With Joe got may not be the same. That’s where the quality of their dam really comes into play.

And what a mother she’s turned out to be. She is the dam not only of top sire Bettor’s Delight (by Cam’s Card Shark), but of excellent racehorse and proven sire No Pan Intended (by Pacific Fella) – and it is her ability to produce horses from different sires who can then succeed as racehorses and as sires that is really exceptional – and a marker of great genes.

 (Quote from article Classic Wish: A Maryland Mare of Distinction by Ted Black.) “I think I got lucky when I purchased her,” says Thompson (Classic Wish’s owner Joe Thompson of Winbak Farm). It was one of those things where I thought she would boost our breeding product because of her speed. Some people may not have taken a chance on her, but in business you have to go away from the norm sometimes and do things that others might not try. It’s worked out for me so far. She’s a great broodmare … and I hope she keeps producing quality racehorses.  What I liked about her was her breeding and her speed,” Thomson said. “She was by [Canadian Hall of Famer] Armbro Emerson and out of an Albatross mare, and she had a mark of 1:52, which for mares back then was very fast. It’s still a good time. She’s one of those mares that has been good right from the start.” Though not a big mare – she stands just 15.1 hands – Classic Wish possesses a long body. During his years in the breeding business, Thomson has discovered that mares built this way often develop into top broodmare prospects. “I think the lengthy mares cross better with many of the sires,” he noted. “[And] the big mares don’t often pan out as productive broodmares.” Thomson also called Classic Wish a “nice” mare. “She’s got a great disposition,” he said. “A lot of mares that raced for years can be nasty, but she’s actually quite pleasant.”

Classic Wish’s sire Armbro Emerson was a very good millionaire son of Abercrombie who won a Breeders Crown at 4yo and took a time of 1.52.3. He become a sucessful sire based in Canada. He’s bred 4×3 to Tar Heel and 4×4 to Adios. His maternal line includes the wonderful racemare of the 1950s Dottie’s Pick and of course Most Happy Fella. Dottie’s Pick traces back to the great Extasy/Ethelwyn family.

So in conclusion, the greatest attribute for Roll With Joe as a potential siring success story will be the strong proven genetic foundation from his maternal side, rather than the more obvious marketing association with Bettor’s Delight. Like Bettor’s Delight, it is a pedigree that should suit a wide range of our New Zealand mares, particularly (once again) the amount of Tar Heel that lurks relatively close up in many of our pedigrees.

When breeders consider going to either of these sons of Classic Wish, what they will get is always partly the roll of the genetic dice. However thanks to the classy foundation of Classic Wish, the dice may be a little more ‘fixed’ in their favour!

In a coming blog, I’ll look at the potential impact of large numbers of Bettor’s Delight mares (and possibly Roll With Joe mares!) in our future gene pool – can you get too much of a good thing?

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This blog is “Part 3” of an article written by Ray Chaplin and myself for the latest edition of Breeding Matters, the magazine of the New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Assn.  You can read Part 1 and Part 2 in the latest issue of the magazine at the association’s excellent website http://www.harnessracing.co.nz/

The article looks at the sire sons of Life Sign in Australasia  (Island Fantasy, I Am A Fool, Day In A Life, Peruvian Hanover and Real Desire) , and asks the question: Why have they failed to become commercially successful sires, whereas Real Desire appears to be making his mark?

Part 3: Real Desire – speed sire has a rollercoaster start

Real Desire’s first few years at stud here (with Alabar) have been a bit of a rollercoaster ride.
Firstly, he didn’t settle here in his first shuttle season as Alabar’s New Zealand manager Graeme Henley explains:

“Real Desire didn’t handle the shuttling that well in his first season (2007/8) and he was a bit below par after he returned to the US. The owners decided to not send him back for the next season – they wanted to give him a season off to recover and make sure there was nothing seriously wrong with him. Anyway, with the break he was back to his usual health and condition and he has been back shuttling without any problems since.”

He got 202 mares in his first season here. However a year out of the limelight meant he struggled a bit for numbers when he returned to shuttling, dropping to just 68 in 2009 and 52 in 2010. The quality of his mares dropped as well, which meant Real Desire was hovering on a well-known slippery path that many sires have trod before him.

Then his first yearlings didn’t sell that well – “He is a plain type himself and leaves very plain types as a rule and I don’t think the buyers got their heads around this. Even now buyers go for the big, showy Christian Cullens and under value the little plain Bettor’s Delights for example,” Henley says.

However some of the Real Desire’s started showing up as 2yos – and they displayed that rare and highly valued ingredient: natural speed. With Let’s Elope and Cowgirls N Indians getting Group wins and others showing ability, there was a growing sense of a “speed sire” in the making.

Then Cowgirls N Indians went amiss and Let’s Elope went through a flat patch, plus Real Desire had no yearlings coming through the 2011 sales, and therefore no 2yos and only 3yos to fly his flag in the 2011/12 racing season.

But in the later part of the season, several Real Desires were catching the eye as they developed more physical and mental maturity to go with their speed, and Let’s Elope regained his mojo. At the end of the 2011/12 season, Real Desire has had 55 starters for 28 winners which is a good enough record for his only crop here of racing age. The next couple of years will still be awkward for Real Desire as his missing crop is followed by the two smaller crops, so it will be some time before larger numbers of Real Desires hit the tracks again. However his progeny should get better with age, and that will help keep his profile up.

Although yearling sales buyers have been cautious, breeders have seen enough evidence of speed in Real Desire progeny both in his North American crops and his New Zealand foals to take a punt, and (I am sure to Alabar’s relief) he served 212 mares in the 2011/12 breeding season, including my own mare Zenterfold, the dam of Tintin In America.

If you take any direction from his North American “crosses of gold”, Beach Towel, Albatross and Direct Scooter mares do stand out, but he has performed well with a number of others including Artiscape and The Panderosa. Of more interest to Kiwi breeders, his results in America with Falcon Seelster mares (from only a few foals) is poor to date, from Artiscape mares (from 19 foals) is good, and Presidential Ball mares (from 8 foals) is average. These statistics are updating all the time of course, and worth keeping an eye on.

In New Zealand remember Real Desire’s oldest crop is 3yo (at time of researching in late July, so now have just officially turned 4yo on 1 August) with no 2yo crop here at all, but some statistics of interest include:

  • 23 foals from In The Pocket mares, 13 are 3yo, 9 starters and 7 winners.
  • 32 foals from Holmes Hanover mares, 21 are 3yo, 7 starters and 4 winners.
  • 16 foals from Christian Cullen mares, 11 are 3yo, 7 starters and 2 winners.
  • 9 foals from Falcon Seelster mares, 6 are 3yo, none qualified.
  • 8 foals from Presidential Ball mares, 6 are 3yo, 3 starters, 2 winners.
  • 11 foals from Sands A Flyin mares, 3 are 3yo, none qualified.
  • 7 foals from Beach Towel mares, 4 are 3yo, 1 qualified.
  • 4 foals from Artiscape mares, 1 is 3yo, qualified and exported to Australia.

In most cases, the mares we can offer Real Desire have quite a different look from what he is accessing in North America in terms of their maternal lines and damsires, and the results to date look particularly promising for our In The Pocket mares, and I have heard some good reports on his yearlings from Christian Cullen mares too.

Real Desire has two foals as a damsire in New Zealand (by Bettor’s Delight and Sands A Flyin) from one imported mare.

Real Desire’s ability to be a quality sire that can leave speed sets him apart from the other sons of Life Sign who have been offered here. The answer to a large extent lies in his maternal genes. As pedigree analyst Ken McKay points out: “His maternal pedigree, Golden Miss “The Queen Of Gait” and her daughters are a running line and also one that leaves significant siring prospects amongst it’s male members. If you have great gait then the speed will follow.”

Of course that line has also produced sires with too much fizz (Red River Hanover) and more grit than sheer speed (Grinfromeartoear).  However I think the presence close up in his other maternal line of the fast Troublemaker, bringing with him Most Happy Fella and Bret Hanover, helps keep speed in the frame. It’s good to see New Zealand breeders are doing their bit to keep adding that speed element, rather than relying on a sire to do all the work for them!

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Men’s 200 metres final – what a race! What athletes, and what a beautiful ‘freak’ Bolt is. Jamaicans 1-2-3.

And that’s where my interest lies – what makes them so good at running so fast over short distances? It’s easy to point to the things about Bolt which make him stand out – his height and hence the length of his stride being the obvious ones. I heard him quoted as saying that if he is in front with 10 metres to go no-one can catch him because he covers that 10 metres in 3 strides. It is awesome to see. He reminds me of those beautiful big racehorses with extended loping strides that seem to effortlessly cover the ground. They (like Bolt himself) are often not the quickest out of the gate, but once they get into their rhythm they are glorious and fast.

Yes, all things being equal, size and length of stride are winning assets. But not enough on their own. If the horse (or the person) doesn’t have the physical strength and balance or the mental maturity to match, size can be a handicap. Often those qualities come with age, if we are patient enough to wait. Sometimes precocious talent can be spotted in a big, lanky young horse (or person) and they can even perform well as a youngster, but time is their friend. Bolt is 30 (sorry, incorrect) 25 years old and at his peak, but he was showing huge talent as a much younger man, winning junior world titles. In a much closer to home comparison, you can see some amazing precocious talent in some big young trotters and pacers, and will hear their trainers, owners or commentators referring to them with affection (“big, dumb thing with heaps of raw ability”) knowing that time and experience will add the physical and mental strength they need.

Blake, Bolt and Weir – Photo Reuters

What really interested me and surprised me most was the physical difference among those 3 wonderful medal winning Jamaicans:

Bolt, tall, long limbed, running with a fluency and natural balance that takes your breath away.

Yohan Blake, broad, very muscular upper body as well as powerful legs.

And then Warren Weir, the surprise package – small and wiry, flying into 3rd.

Three Jamaicans, yes, but three completely different body types. All very fast.

Usain Bolt – in the harness racing world we know of many 16 plus hand horses who perform superbly as racehorses and as sires – Western Ideal was 16.1, Artsplace and Rocknroll Hanover, Art Major all 16h, Panspacificflight 16.2h and what a stride! I think he is the one that reminds me most of Bolt. We have had some great examples in New Zealand too – very big horses with massive strides, although several of them have battled soundness problems.

Yohan Blake is more the Christian Cullen style of champion horse – broad chest, big muscular shoulders, strength in his heart to pump very strong (but not exceptionally long) legs.

And then Warren Weir, a Tintin In America type – lean, speed machine. We are not short (if you excuse the pun) of smaller horses who did the job themselves and can rise above the perceptions of their size to become top raceshorses and sires – currently Courage Under Fire (not even 15h) and Bettor’s Delight (15.1h), and in pacing’s history we find ones like Good Time who were so small and so good.

Speed and greatness comes in many shapes and sizes.

I’ve talked before about what I call “gait speed” – the advantage of having a very good gait. This includes a very efficient and clean action, good balance, the strength to reach out in front and to push from the back, and just the sheer length of stride. Great gait delivers speed and soundness – and it is a precious thing to find in a horse. It too comes with all sizes. But as with Usain Bolt, all things being equal the length of stride does give a tremendous advantage.

Right at the start of this blog, I mentioned genetics. I’ve listened to a few discussions on whether the success of the Kenyans in distance running and the Jamaicans in sprinting has a genetic factor. One view I heard on the Jamaicans is the those more recently coming from Africa can tap into a much broader and deeper gene pool with potential for more mutations that can lead to standout variations on the main theme, while those of us who migrated away from that original gene pool a long, long time ago took with us a certain limited range of genetics and thus have been playing in a much smaller pool ever since. I can’t say what truth lies in that – but there are interesting similar discussions to be had on the genetic history of the horse and particularly for us, the standardbred, such as  the mutation theory for the development of the X factor/big heart gene, and the issue of whether we are breeding ourselves into a genetic cul de sac (see the recent blog about cross-breeding, and one I will do over the next month or so on dominant pedigrees in a small breeding population).

The same academic/commentator who talked about the African gene pool viz Jamaican runners, also made the remark that many other factors must play a part in the Jamaican excellence at sprinting, including the “glow” effect of success breeding success, and the sporting culture in Jamaica that makes this and cricket “theirs” in much the same way we might see rugby and rowing, and therefore there are greater numbers of children involved in those sports to start with and talent is spotted at an earlier age, cherished and developed.

My hope is that our increasing emphasis on 2yo racing and on speed is done in that context too – identifying, cherishing and developing talent. Rather than a ruthless way of testing which horses are going to meet the grade or which can show up early for quick gain regardless of the long term cost to the horse.

Getting onto the podium makes all the time and effort worth its weight in gold.

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Oh yeah, baby. It’s business time. And what many breeders are hoping over the next few months is that their mare will get “in conchord” with the stallion of choice.

Thanks to artificial insemination, chilled and frozen semen and different breeding seasons in north and south hemispheres, our mares and breeders have more options and less stress (and often less costs) than the thoroughbreds. But even so, we know that decisions made now can play a major part in future prospects for us (return on investment, meeting our aims whatever they are) and our mares (increasing their value and the family’s reputation, the risks of breeding). 

So I imagine right now there are many breeders who (after putting out the recycling and cleaning their teeth) are settling down in bed to study the register of standardbred stallions, or the latest newsletter from one of the studs, or perhaps something they found of interest on the web…or like me might take John Bradley to bed for a little flick through the pages. Yes, it’s business time! (For those who wonder what the hell I’m talking about, a little google on Flight of the Conchords, lyrics It’s business time will give you the reference.)

My biggest tip to those who are looking to breed, is to work out what your aims are, what you want to achieve. Without this focus you are sailing without a compass. If you really want to get a stunning price at the yearling sales, or if your goal is to breed a NZ Cup winner, or to breed an affordable bread-and-butter- racehorse for you and your friends to enjoy, then you need to be clear about that BEFORE you make your breeding choices.

That’s the b4 part of b4breeding (as well as being my name Bee) because I’ve learned from even my limited experience how important it is to have clear goals and work towards them. My goal for the mare Zenterfold, for example, is to keep enhancing and building the reputation of the family for delivering very high quality performing progeny. That means my focus is on breeding the best possible racehorses (male or female) that I can, not just the quickest commercial return for myself at the yearling sales. Hence, why my choice of sires so far for this wonderful mare may have some people scratching their heads. Unproven McArdle when he first arrived? Grinfromeartoear twice? Why not Bettor’s Delight and Art Major? (Both of which have credentials for this mare).

While it is lovely to have the choice of so many good sires, choice can be confusing unless you have goals.

The next thing you need to think about (after your own goals) is your mare. Because she, more than anyone else, has the information you need to make a good decision on a sire. Listen to her, look at her, read her record, know her strengths and weaknesses, and be honest about her credentials. And be good to her. If she is worth breeding from, she is worth looking after – before and after “business time”.

The Blue Lotus just born

The Blue Lotus a few days after being born – not pretty but real

I’m lucky (or is that unlucky) this year because I have no choices to make. My mare Zenterfold is already in foal and her next turn lies with Geoff and Aria Small, so I don’t even have to think about suitable sires. Her Grinfromeartoear daughter The Blue Lotus has a first foal deal with the small group of owners who leased her for her racing career. They’ve made the decision to go to Bettor’s Delight and then she returns to me after her first live foal. It’s been a good arrangement that takes the pressure of me financially for the racing period, which I could not afford to do on my own,  but gives those who front up with the money (the leasees) for racing seasons a ‘sweetner” in getting the first foal to sell (or not) from the horse when she retires. It’s all built into the written agreement.

The Blue Lotus qualified as a 2yo, same as all Zenterfold’s progeny to date, and raced very well as a 3yo for a couple of wins and her main claim to fame is a third in the Sires Stakes Fillies Final, chasing home those fantastic fillies Carabella and Under Cover Lover, which makes third place, running on but lengths behind, a lot sweeter! However after a tear in a tendon, she was retired as a broodmare. What she showed in her racing career was grit, toughness, competitive streak… and that’s worth it’s weight in gold. In conformation and size, she took after Grin, and in temperament and speed (1:56.6) I can see Zenterfold.

The next foal from Zenterfold I bred was also from Grinfromeartoear, but a completely different type – quick, early type (Destination Moon now with Gareth Dixon). Which reminds me of Jack Glengarry’s advice: if a mating makes a big appeal employ it at least twice in case the union didn’t fire in the first instance. Given the nature of genetics, it is sound advice, so long as the mix is well founded to start with. I’ve been lucky enough to get a big, strong mare and a quick looking young colt because the sire (Grin) had attributes that click with the mare regardless of particular individual type and the sex of the foal.

It’s a fascinating business – and at “business time” as breeders we are challenged to do more than just tick the boxes. The best steer we can get is to be clear about WHY we are breeding, and WHAT our mare needs.

To be honest, we are spoilt for options for globally known sires once we have have sorted out our own end of “the business”.

For a really interesting, readable account of “business time” with stallions and mares (mainly thoroughbred but includes a chapter or two with really up-close-and-personal observations on Western Hanover, Sierra Kosmos, The Panderosa, Big Towner and others), I recommend “Stud – adventures in breeding”, by Kevin Foley published by Bloomsbury 2002, a “strange and seductive” (and detailed) account of breeding stallions.

You may need to explain to your spouse/partner/occasional friend why you can’t put it down at bedtime!!

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This blog continues looking at the two new sire sons of Western Ideal that are being offered to New Zealand breeders this year.

Both Alabar and Nevele R have taken a punt on a son of Western Ideal for the coming breeding season – Big Jim for Alabar and Vintage Master for Nevele R.  How do these two new siring sons of Western Ideal compare? In the previous blog I looked at Vintage Master on pedigree and type and suggestedwhat mares might suit him. Now it’s Big Jim’s turn.

Big Jim is a big black stallion who will be sold as a sire on his speed, particularly his precocious 2yo speed. Whereas Vintage Master couldn’t win a race at 2 and take a record of only 1.57.4 as a 2yo, Big Jim not only won plenty of 2yo races but took a time of 1.49.2. But as we know, sires with great speed themselves may or may not leave it in their progeny.

What gives Big Jim hope in this regard is the strength of his maternal line. He has the medium sized, very fast Big Towner as his damsire, and on both his maternal lines goes back to the speedy trotting mares Nedda Guy and Nedda (see my blogs on them).  His dam Bold Pink reflected that breeding in her own ability, taking a mark of 1:51.6 herself and leaving four sub 1:55 foals, although Big Jim is by far the biggest earner in stakes. The strength of his maternal genetic structure is, in my view, similar to Vintage Master. It’s very good proven quality, solid rather than spectacular. His dam, grandam and great-grandam all won over $100,000 in stakes, in some decent times, and all produced good performers from a range of sires – a sign of quality heart genes being passed down the female line.

However he was not sound, and in the end niggles forced his retirement before the end of his good 3yo season. It appears the problem was in his ankles and was found to be bone bruising, and started to cause problems even before the end of his 2yo season. Whether the soundness factor is something breeders will take into consideration is uncertain – we do tend to rate speed so highly these days and be willing to take the consequences. People will say: genes don’t get sore. That’s true, and I don’t know enough about what might cause bone bruising in ankles to make any comment on whether it signals anything more than the pressures of racing on a young physical skeleton.

There’s been little doubt in Canada where his first book is full and closed.

Big Jim in full flight

He is a big powerful stallion. In terms of mares here who may suit Big Jim, I would look for pedigrees that would be compatible with his Big Towner factor. I think Big Jim could be very compatible for Falcon Seelster mares, for type and genes, as would Christian Cullen mares be. Also Elsu mares, but for a different reason than Falcon Seelster. Going outside the square,  Dream Away mares could be okay, especially smaller ones – there’s a double up to Sonsam which I don’t mind at all and he added value/speed into both sires’ maternal lines. Big Towner of course has my old mate Shadow Wave lurking close behind, and that opens up mares from the quality maternal lines of Shifting Sands such as Grin, Red River/Rustler Hanover –  although many of these were bigger mares and it will be a while before we see if Big Jim stamps his size.  Mares with plenty of Albatross and Meadow Skipper blood will find Big Jim an option, but Big Towner (an outcross sire with no Meadow Skipper) again provides a way of avoiding just too much of a good thing.

And yes, Art Major mares (eventually) would be a very interesting match.

At $4500 Alabar have, like Nevele R with Vintage Master, gone for a price that is affordable for breeders without attracting too many ‘back paddock mares’ desperate for a miracle.

As you can see from this and my previous post, I’m seeing these sires less in terms of the Western Ideal factor, and more in terms of what their overall pedigree might find compatible in our likely broodmare pool, particularly how breeders might build on the strengths in these sires’ maternal lines, which are well structured and have shown speed.

I’d be happy to have any comments from others on what they think of this approach and what matches they think might work.

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Both Alabar and Nevele R have taken a punt on a son of Western Ideal for the coming breeding season – Big Jim for Alabar and Vintage Master for Nevele R.

Although very good horses in their own right, and both with solid pedigrees, I think a major influence in bringing these sires to New Zealand is also the success of American Ideal (at Woodlands) and of Rocknroll Hanover (by frozen semen) over the past couple of years.

If the Western Ideal sire line is the next big thing, then a stud needs to have one of his top sons on their books, otherwise they can’t offer what breeders appear to be looking for.

Western Ideal

But are New Zealand breeders attracted to American Ideal because of the Western Ideal factor and what is a successful trend in North America? I’m not sure. Western Ideal himself was offered here by frozen semen (via Nevele R) for a couple of years but there wasn’t a lot of interest, perhaps because of the price but also because Western Ideal is not one of those racehorses who reached globally to capture our Kiwi imagination. I would say the attitude to him is more one of huge respect but not excitement – and the lack of familiarity with Western Ideal as a racehorse or a sire (as well as the frozen semen factor) could have made breeders wonder: “Will this be a wow factor for buyers at the sales? Is it worth the price and the risk?”

However American Ideal’s growing reputation through the type of progeny he is leaving and his strike rate (23 starters for 15 winners in 2012), means a market has potentially developed for sons of Western Ideal standing here at affordable prices (compared to Rocknroll Hanover’s top priced frozen semen which is on a different tack).

So how do these two new siring sons of Western Ideal compare? I haven’t seen them in the flesh so I’m relying on photos and reports for that side of things.

They have both taken after their sire in having size (Western Ideal was over 16 hands), which is also the case with Rocknroll Hanover, although American Ideal is medium sized and is tending to leave medium sized foals. Perhaps that is the influence of American Ideal’s damline, which might also be a steer for breeders.

Both Vintage Master and Big Jim have strong maternal lines that could be complemented by broodmares here.

But as racehorses they were very different – Vintage Master tough, tractable, performed best at 3yo, kept going through to the end of the 5yo season.

Big Jim, very speedy 2yo and consistently fast in top races, mentally mature, retired due to soundness problems.

I’ll take a closer look at Vintage Master’s pedigree and what might suit him now, and turn to Big Jim in my next blog. These are, of course, just my views and based on a number of factors, research and thought – not pushing any particular barrow, sire or stud.

Vintage Master

Vintage Master took time to develop – he wasn’t a naturally early type and his fastest time 2yo was his qualifying one of 1:57.4. He matured in his 3yo season to win the Cane, Adios, Bluegrass and Tattersalls (and the bulk of his earnings), and the next couple of years he performed well as a tough pacer with enough grit and versatility to keep winning well-staked, if not top, races. I understand he wasn’t quick off the gate but had strength to hold his speed and, I would guess, the temperament to be very tractable in his racing. He accumulated over $2 million total career earnings but in terms of really top races it was that burst as a 3yo that really set him up. He retired sound after his 5yo season.

Vintage Master – strong maternal line

What I like about Vintage Master’s pedigree is his very well performed maternal line that carries proven speed performers. I think the size of Vintage Master meant he would always take time to find his speed, but it’s good for breeders to see where the speed is and figure out how they might reinforce it through mares with potentially compatible genes and/or type. Specifically Vintage Master’s dam has produced 4 winners from 5 foals and all of those winners have taken <1.55 marks. The fastest earliest is a three quarter brother (interestingly by American Ideal) who paced 1.50.4 at 2yo.

Vintage Master’s grandam is Napa Valley, a sister to the excellent racemare Silk Stockings – who of course appears in Live Or Die’s maternal pedigree. Napa Valley (by Most Happy Fella) was a good racemare herself, and half of her foals turned into <1.55 winners. Two of her fastest were by Storm Damage, the son of Breath O Spring and damsire of Grinfromeartoear.

So when looking for a type of mare that might suit Vintage Master, I’d look for maternal lines in particular that include some of these top quality elements – and Live Or Die and Grinfromeartoear mares would stand out for me.

I’d also look for Most Happy Fella in the maternal lines of sires that could add a bit of speed as well – so Mach Three and McArdle mares would fit that bill. Or looking back a bit, if anyone has still got Road Machine, Pacific Rocket mares around, they might be worth a try if they showed some speed themselves or come from a family that did.

Mares by In The Pocket would also help keep that ‘smaller, quicker’ type that I think this sire (and the Western Ideal line in general) will need. On type alone, many Courage Under Fire mares could suit Vintage Master.

Nevele R have positioned him in the $4000 price range which is trying to attract reasonable quality and numbers of mares. It is a tough ask at the moment for a sire we don’t know much about. But it doesn’t compete with their top line latest edition Well Said (by Western Hanover) who is priced at $8000 and will be marketed as a speed sire.

The more I look into Vintage Master’s pedigree, the more I think he could offer something here in that medium price range that would particularly suit breeders with good but not “sales” mares who are wanting a sire that will add value and are not obsessed with producing very early speed.  He’s unlikely to upgrade slow mares from poor families, and very few sires can. But he could do well with smaller or medium sized mares with the right pedigrees and type for him.

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