Archive for September, 2012

In my previous post I talked a bit about Cam’s Trickster (a full brother to Cam’s Card Shark), who stood in New Zealand for several years, but without much success. And in my blog called Cam Fella 3×3 I did a quick overview of the fairly sparse success of sons of Cam Fella who have stood in New Zealand.  There are not very many Cam’s Trickster or Camtastic mares still being bred from in New Zealand, but Presidential Ball (who was a much more successful siring son of Cam Fella) is developing plenty of support as a broodmare sire. However I noticed in a decent race on the card at Addington tonight for 4-7 win horses, 4 out of the 10 horses in the field have Camtastic or Cam’s Trickster as their damsire, being (with lifetime earning to date):


Flyover – Live Or Die-City Plan(by Camtastic(USA)) $71,758
Temudjin – Christian Cullen-Mainland Reign(by Camtastic(USA))  $38,349
Samuel James – Christian Cullen-Ascot Cam(by Cam’s Trickster) $53,444
Magical Mel – Live Or Die-Magical Muffin(by Cam’s Trickster) $77,790
Plus: Kotare Yakov – Falcon Seelster-Kotare Yoyo(by Presidential Ball) $48,739

Just a quirky Cam coincidence! Or an omen “First 4” bet??

Also I wanted to refer back to my blogs about Mr Feelgood, where I asked what other horses had managed to establish top level successful careers in both hemispheres?  I agree with comments (posted in response on the Race Cafe forum) that Lyall Creek and Young Quinn are also in that category, as well as Cardigan Bay. I had under-estimated the number of seasons both “Creek the Freak” and Young Quinn had raced over in the States. Of course all three were geldings so never had the chance to pursue success at stud as well. But tip o’ the hat to those wonderful horses. Mr Feelgood remains the only one I’m aware of who has succeeded in the north to south direction.

Last thing, I’m interested to know more about the change of Northern hemisphere racing in the ‘old days’ from heats to non-heat racing.  What triggered the change? And were heats ever used in earlier Southern hemisphere racing? (I think they may still be used in some European trotting races). I read with amazement stories of true heat racing in the 1930s, 40s, even 50s where heats were not just eliminations but the same field in total racing 2, 3 even 4 times to find an eventual winner. What does this say about the quality of racehorse (heart?) that we have today compared to those days. Could many modern horses cope with that now? Or has the speed of our racing been the gain we have made in exchange for such displays of durability and heart? Comments and information on this topic welcome.

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2012 Little Brown Jug winner Michaels Power had all the racing and pedigree credentials to win the Little Brown Jug but flew a little under the radar, mainly I think because he has predominantly raced in Canada and therefore has not been in the face of the US fans (particularly the New Jersey/New York scene)  in the same way that Rocknroll Dance and Bolt The Duer were. Likewise for me it was Michaels who? and quite a bit of googling to find out more.

Taking nothing away from the horse, he made the most of great draws in both heats and used his great early speed to get and keep the lead in the final, while Rocknroll Dance, for example, was parked out (as we call it) by Sweet Lou on that 25.5 blistering first quarter, and then caught three back on the rail for much of the rest of the race. Others were forced to come wide – Bettor’s Edge showing guts to move up wide to take third. Bolt The Duer was scratched from the final.

Michaels Power was a bit of a “dark horse”, accumulating reputation and money mainly in Canada’s top age races and outside the main limelight, but proving to be consistent and very, very smart. As trainer  Casie Coleman is quoted as saying:

“Up until we won the Confederation Cup and entered the Jug, this horse got absolutely no press whatsoever,” said Coleman. “I have never seen a horse make a million dollars so quietly.”

Of most interest to me was discovering that Michaels Power’s grandam Jef’s Magic Trick is the dam of Cam’s Card Shark. What a family this is turning out to be!

Michaels Power’s dam is the Artsplace mare Michelles Jackpot who won $695,439, and is a half sister to Cam’s Card Shark. She’s a 100 per cent producer, including two other $500,000-plus winners — American-bred Michaels Marvel, who banked $810,412, and Camluck daughter Michelles Power, who earned $1.38 million in her career. So Michaels Power is not flash in the pan.

Jef’s Magic Trick is setting up a very nice reputation:

JEFS MAGIC TRICK p, 2, 2:02f -’81 ($28,340) 2 wins, by B GS BUNNY p, 3, 1:54. From 14 foals, dam of 10 winners(3 in 1:53, 5 in 1:55, 8 in 1:57, 9 in 1:59) including-
CAMS CARD SHARK (h, Cam Fella) p, 2, 1:55.2, 3, 1:50 -’94 ($2,498,204) 20 wins.
MICHELLES JACKPOT (m, Artsplace) p, 2, 1:54.4f -’96 ($695,439) 9 wins. Winner of 1996 HTA Nova Award for Two Year Old Pacing Fillies and 1996 USHWA Dan Patch Award for Two Year Old Pacing Fillies. At 2, winner of Breeders Crown elim at Mohawk, Int’l Stallion S. div at The Red Mile, Lou Babic Memorial final at Freehold, Molly Pitcher S. div at Freehold, Three Diamonds S. elim at Garden State Park, final at Garden State Park; second in Breeders Crown final at Mohawk, Sweetheart Pace elim at The Meadowlands; third in Bluegrass S. at The Red Mile, La Paloma S. final at Yonkers, Lou Babic Memorial elim at Freehold. At 3, winner of NJSS div at Freehold, div at The Meadowlands; second in Lady Maud S. elim at Yonkers, Miss NJ S. elim at The Meadowlands, final at The Meadowlands; third in Nadia Lobell S. elim at Garden State Park, NJSS div at Freehold, final at The Meadowlands, Tarport Hap S. leg at The Meadowlands. Dam of-

  • MICHELLES POWER p, 2, 1:52.2s, 3, 1:50.1s -’07 ($1,287,400).
  • MICHAELS POWER p, 2, 1:55.2s, 3, 1:49.2s -’12 ($1,196,056).
  • MICHAELS MARVEL p, 2, 1:53.1, 3, 1:52.2, 1:49.3f -’07 ($794,068).
  • MILLIONAIRE CAM p, 2, 1:51.2s -’08 ($177,494).
  • LUCKY JACKPOT p, 2, 1:57.2s, 3, 1:55s -’04 ($146,573).
  • ROCKNROLL JACKPOT p, 3, 1:56.4h, 4, 1:54.4h -’11 ($53,524).
  • BIGTIME JACKPOT p, 2, 2:00.1f, 1:59.4f -’09 ($31,148).
  • MICHELLES PRAYER p, 2, 1:57s -’07 ($28,518).
  • MIKES JACKPOT p, 3, Q1:57.4s -’03 ($19,204).
  • MICHELLES LOVE p, 2, 2:03h, 3, 1:57.2f -’02 ($17,602).
  • Alexas Jackpot. Now 2.

CAMS MAGIC TRICK (h, Cam Fella) p, 2, 1:55f, 3, 1:52.4f -’93 ($469,899) 13 wins.
DIRECT CURRENT (h, Direct Scooter) p, 2, 1:58.1, 3, 1:57f, 1:54.2 -’90 ($378,403) 32 wins. Exported to Ireland.
BRITTS BEST (g, Troublemaker) p, 3, Q1:56.1f -’89 ($221,381) 17 wins.
CAMS TRICKSTER (h, Cam Fella) p, 2, 1:56.3, 3, 1:52.2 ($59,350) 8 wins. At 3, winner of Trendsetter II Series div at The Meadowlands.
MAGIC OF MICHELLE (m, Presidential Ball) p, 3, 1:56f -’02 ($17,514) 4 wins. As Above.
TWIST IN THE WIND (h, Storm Damage) p, 3, 2:00h, 4, 1:57.3f -’96 ($16,584) 9 wins.
Colonels Orderly (h, Direct Scooter) p, ($9,927).
ARTS CARD TRICK (h, Artsplace) p, 2, Q2:04.1h, 3, 1:56.2 -’04 ($5,657) 3 wins.
Cam Magic (m, Cam Fella) p, 2, 2:06.2h, 3, 2:04.1h ($3,639) 2 wins.
Michelles Destiny (m, Artsplace) p, ($408).
Carta Final (m, Camluck)
Feel The Wind (g, Storm Damage) p, 2, 1:54.3. At 2, second in NY Fair S. div at The Syracuse Mile; third in NYSS div at Monticello. At 3, third in NYSS div at Monticello.

In his chapter on Cam’s Card Shark, John Bradley (Modern Pacing Sire Lines, 1999) has this to say about Jef’s Magic Trick and her maternal line:

Cam’s Card Shark comes from the maternal family known as Macketta or Maud (by Trombone). This family has several major branches and they seem to be improving over time, especially in this one particular branch that includes Cam’s Card Shark. …The B.G.’s Bunny mare Jef’s Magic Trick….has been an incredible producer with six sub-1.55 performers and five $200,000 winners among her nine winners from 10 foals.

Bradley goes on to point out three of her top sons were by Cam Fella

But this mare has also proved she can do it without Cam Fella, which means, to me, that she is a very prepotent mare.

Bradley notes that

The stallion Overtrick may be playing a significant part in the success of this cross [with Cam Fella]. His daughters proved to be outstanding broodmares and were particularly effective when bred to Albatross. Jef’s Magic Trick is the result of a son of Albatross [B.G.’s Bunny] being crossed with an Overtrick mare. Another interesting example of crossing Cam Fella with mares carrying Overtrick blood is the fastest Standardbred ever, Cambest… whose third dam is by Overtrick.

Michaels Power is a son of Camluck, so the family’s successful link with the Cam Fella line continues. Camluck (a Canadian based sire) also brings to the match a very strong  maternal line, with a dam who was a very tough fast race mare and a forgotten grandamsire Truluck who was a very successful 2yo star himself.

For those readers who have kept with me on this rather long analysis of this Little Brown Jug winner, you may well be thinking – ah yes, but what about the failure at stud of Cam’s Card Shark’s brother, Cam’s Trickster, who stood at stud in New Zealand from 1993 to 2000 for the final tally of 164 winners from over 600 foals as a sire, (but perhaps a little more impressively can claim 77 winners to date as a damsire, seeing many owners would not have kept or bred his mares to top stallions).

Yes, it is another example of excellent families with brothers or half brothers that perform so well on the track but where perhaps only one can make the transition as a successful sire in his own right. Check out the articles Ray Chaplin and I wrote about Rich N Elegant’s famous sons at stud as another example. The transition depends on many factors, including the broodmare gene pool the stud can access – and maybe in the era that Cam’s Trickster stood here he did not have access to the number of quality mares that his brother (in fact brothers) did in North America. Looking at the list of broodmare sires of Cam Trickster’s progeny, we may still have been putting our tough, heavier built mares to him when, as I have said previously Cam Fella line sires need constant injection of speed genes.  But more likely, it is also a fact that a prepotent sire is a rare beast, and full brothers do not share identical genetic, temperamental or physical attributes – they are not clones.

So Cam’s Trickster’s failure at stud is neither exceptional nor unexpected (in hindsight).  And it appears some of his mares are proving reasonable broodmares when given a chance with quality compatible sires.

However Cam’s Trickster’s full brother Cam’s Card Shark is, of course, a different story. His success as a sire of racehorses and in future as a sire of sires is gathering momentum.

Check out his impressive list of $1million plus progeny: (currently)

SHARK GESTURE $2,818,021
ROLL WITH JOE $1,805,102
VILLAGE JOLT $1,634,220
SHARKY SPUR $1,004,618

Some are already making it as sires. Shark Gesture was available in New Zealand last season (2012) at Wai Eyre Farm and served 57 mares but isn’t back again this year – his early crops are showing signs of success. Four Starzzz Shark has been available here as frozen semen for a few years but only had a very small number of foals and is doing ok in the US but also with small numbers; Riverboat King stood here for some years and is a sire that probably was oversold on the speed he had himself and therefore may have fallen into the same trap as other sires who attracted mares who were not contributing much in that department themselves – he is now standing in Australia and has produced some very nice performers, and in the US where his foals include the $1.8million mare Anndrovette.

But really the star for Cam’s Card Shark is Bettor’s Delight – an exceptional sire. Roll With Joe and Classic Card Shark ( classy racehorses and BD’s full brothers) are being given the opportunity to prove they can match the family credentials as sires.

Michaels Power, however, won’t have the opportunity at stud that his ‘uncle’ Cam’s Card Shark has had – because Michaels Power is a gelding.

Cam’s Card Shark himself is in his early 20’s now and in the 2012 breeding season was withdrawn from service:

“Cams Card Shark suffered a scrotal hernia. He had surgery last Tuesday (April 17) and had his right testicle and several feet of small intestine removed,” Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky explained. “He is recovering well, back to eating his full feed and we hope to bring him home to Hanover Shoe Farms tomorrow (Thursday, April 26) if he has a good night tonight.” Trot Insider has learned that Cams Card Shark will not be collected again this season, but his connections are hoping that the stud recovers completely and is able to breed in 2013.

Cam’s Card Shark is already turning up as a damsire of very good horses, including the Little Brown Jug third placegetter to Mr Feelgood, Armbro Deuce, in 2006 – now at stud.

And talking of damsires, if anyone was particularly interested in the reference to Overtrick in this blog, I am hoping to persuade New Zealand breeder Tony Dickinson to give me some of his views about this underrated damsire in a future blog.

All comments, always, welcome.

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Part 3 of this Feelgood mini-series looks at Mr Feelgood’s siring prospects. He is standing in New South Wales, Australia, and only available to Australian breeders this season.

I love what he offers as a sire, pedigree-wise and his own attributes.

He’s not a big, striking type of horse – more medium, athletic, and quite fine boned. He has thrown to his dam’s side and to Jate Lobell (who developed a reputation as a sire of speedy earlier types) than to his sire Grinfromeartoear. Grin of course can leave them big, small and inbetween, but Mr Feelgood doesn’t have much at all of Grin in his physical appearance that I can see – definitely not that Grin head! I would expect Mr Feelgood’s progeny to be naturally earlier types than Grin’s often are.

Mr Feelgood combines the great Golden Miss family through Grin, and the great K Nora/Adora family through his own maternal line – what riches there, with many echoes in the maternal lines of damsires in Australia – Life Sign, Red River Hanover, Panorama, Safely Kept etc.

John Coffey of Alabar Australia is a man who has kept the faith re Mr Feelgood over a period of time, and has kindly shared the story. John has a lovely way with words, so I will simply quote him below – not as a marketing push, but as a tale of belief in a stallion.

Graeme Henley [Alabar New Zealand] and myself have been been visiting North America for the past 7 or 8 years , usually around late May / early June. In 2007 we visited Brittany Farms in Kentucky where Mr Feelgood was two thirds of the way through his first season at stud. He had won the Little Brown Jug in September 2006. We were both highly impressed with the horse as a type – just a glorious athletic individual. We did even engage in conversation with Art Zubrod , the Manager of Brittany, about the prospect of Mr Feelgood being sold down under as Stallion prospect.

At that stage Mr Feelgood was predominantly owned by the group of people who had raced him the year before. However Kentucky is not really the State in USA to stand a Stallion to give him a great chance – there is only limited racing and not that many mares – there are hundreds of beautiful Farms , but not many keeping Standardbreds.

Anyway Mr Feelgood only attracted around 30 to 35 mares in that first year , resulting in 23 Foals . The owners then decided after the Breeding season had finished to put him back into training and he made a return to the Racetrack in late 2007. From memory he raced very successfully into 2008 until around May or June and somewhere around that time or shortly after , the Southern Hemisphere connection came into play. The Butt Brothers and Aussies Kevin Seymour and Peter O’Shea purchased Mr Feelgood to race down under. As you may recall he had his first Aussie start in the Bendigo Cup in January 2009 – second start won the Shepparton Cup , third start ran second in Ballarat Cup and then in 4th start won the Hunter Cup. Couple of months later he became the first horse to defeat Blackie [ Blacks A Fake ] in the Inter Dominion Final.

Although we hadn’t pursued Mr Feelgood after seeing him in June 2007 , we were delighted and so impressed with his ability to adapt to the Aussie style of racing and to win a Standing Start race over 3200 metres (the Interdominion) was a real feather in his cap.

A couple of months after the Inter Dominion Final , both Brett [son Brett Coffey] and myself met with Kevin Seymour in Brisbane to discuss a future Stud career for Mr Feelgood. At that stage Kevin was non committal , which was understandable given the horse’s remarkable return to the racetrack. For the next 3 years we have stayed in touch with Kevin Seymour always expressing an interest in having Mr Feelgood in an Alabar Stallion paddock one day. Well that day has now arrived.

Apart from Feelgood’s obvious race record , he is a superb individual and has an unbelievable temperament for a Stallion – Tim Butt and Luke and John McCarthy can give plenty of testament to that. The other massive string to his bow is his Female line. I believe many experts around the World regard the pedigree tracing back to K Nora and then further to Adora and Romola is the best of the best. Mr Feelgood’s dam is a half sister to Western Ideal and a daughter of the millionaire mare Leah Almahurst. I’m sure I don’t need to rave on for the next hour about its credits – you would be well aware.

So that in brief is how Mr Feelgood found his way from Brittany Farms in Kentucky as a foal to Alabar in Aussie. He is still owned by Kevin Seymour and Peter O’Shea.

I believe he will have the ability to Sire early 2yo’s with speed – although he won some races by leading or breezing , I felt he raced best off a helmet when he could display high speed. He did have 26 quarters in him.

John Coffey also has some interesting comments on type and observations of the experimental crop of foals he left in Australia, now just turned 2yos.

Mr Feelgood must have thrown to the dam somewhere – he is very fine boned , canon bones about the size of a small wrist and smallish feet. I remember commenting to John McCarthy not long after he had taken him over that he didn’t look anything like Grin. John said at the time he was worried about the size of his feet and whether he would stand up to racing on the hard tracks , but sure did pretty well.I think his action where he tended to glide across the ground was a big help in his soundness.

I have been visiting Kevin Seymour’s property around Toowoomba on the Darling Downs in Queensland for 3 or 4 years now – an annual pilgrimage to Queensland, and the people who run his property Peter and Leanne Bell are such a nice couple. In 2011 we were shown the Mr Feelgood weanlings that Kevin had bred with some frozen semen – was very impressed with them as types.

So this year when I visited the Farm , those same 6 yearlings now were there , having been broken in and back at the farm for a spell. They really do look very athletic types and you can imagine all of them making it to the races as types at least. On the Saturday night I was at Albion Park for the Queensland Derby and was introduced to the guy who broke the 4 Mr Feelgood fillies in, and he put a big wrap on them – great pacers , great attitudes etc. I know it is only early days , but these Yearlings do give you a good feeling about Breeding to him.

We have decided this year at least just to breed mares in Australia – he will probably breed a book of 120 to 140 this year and see how he goes, that’s assuming he gets that many Bookings – will be disappointed if he doesn’t.

Thanks to John for sharing that information. I’m outside my comfort zone when considering Australian mares, as I don’t know enough about their type and families. The Alabar website comes up with a wide range of mating hints and possibilities (as studs usually do) although I don’t personally follow the “sons of” logic.  Mr Feelgood has a pedigree that is open to a lot of mares –  and those with Abercrombie and/or Cam Fella in their genes may complement Mr Feelgood’s finer side – I like Pacific Fella in particular (Big Towner sitting there to keep the speed factor up). I’d love to see him cross with Mach Three mares! And mares with Most Happy Fella sitting behind them.

This colt by Mr Feelgood out of Heavenly Grace (D M Dillinger) sold for $9,500 at the 2012 Melbourne APG Yearling Sale.

Mr Feelgood will need ‘luck in the running’ to make a mark as a sire in such competitive and tight breeding times. His first yearlings (3 fillies, 1 colt) sold at the APG Sales earlier this year at okay prices in a fairly difficult economic climate. The photo here of the colt (from a D M Dillinger mare and bred by Benstud Standardbreds) looks a nice athletic type, not unlike his sire.

I hope Australian breeders give Mr Feelgood a chance – and that at some stage New Zealand breeders get the opportunity to breed to him as well.

Just a note to add to this blog – I think one of the challenges Mr Feelgood will face is our ‘downunder’ preference for what you might call the “Christian Cullen” type of horse (particularly yearlings), the strong, bolder and bigger looking yearlings. The finer “North American” type of yearling can still struggle to overcome ingrained preferences regardless of the sire’s credentials. Mr Feelgood looks a handsome, medium sized horse, and a very athletic type himself. I noticed a ‘racey’ type of foal in some of the Shadow Play weanlings I’ve seen to date, and of course In The Pocket was like that himself and often threw a finer, athletic type of progeny).  They are well worth a punt by breeders particularly when the sire is like that and has shown all the strength, toughness and durability a buyer could ask for, as well as the speed you might expect.  And of course athleticism and speed make a great complement to a bigger mare or mares from sirelines like Cam Fella, or with Cam Fella in their damlines or indeed Christian Cullen mares!

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This is part 2, following my previous blog, and a part 3 is coming….(Yes, I intended to get it all written today, but I got completely diverted building another chook house in the rain. I wish weekends were longer!)

In my last blog I recalled Mr Feelgood’s Little Brown Jug win, and the fact he had then gone on to an exceptional career as a mature horse – he earned over $3 million from a 2yo through to a 9yo, racing in three different countries and adapting to completely different hemisphere styles of racing.

What he has earned, in addition to the money, is a huge amount of respect.

And that, in my view, is one of his strengths as he takes on all comers in the race for success as a sire.

Because standing as a sire is just as competitive and challenging as any part of Mr Feelgood’s racing career.

There are many other horses who have similar attributes – a solid maternal family, closely related to excellent horses, performance statistics that confirm both speed and toughness at the highest level…

But as far as I am aware, there are very few horses that has achieved what he has – two successful careers at the top level, one in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere, and in races that even on their own would have earned him the respect of trainers, punters and breeders. Combine Mr Feelgood’s achievements in one curriculum vitae, and you can see why this horse is so exceptional.

Mr Feelgood

Trainer Luke McCarthy runs his eye over 2011 Len Smith Mile hopeful Mr Feelgood at his Cobbitty property yesterday.
Photo: Jonathan Ng

The only hiccup in Mr Feelgood’s racing record is that his initial sojourn in New Zealand in 2009 was not particularly successful, as he came to terms with the new environment and, under Tim Butt’s guidance, learned a new style of racing. His southern hemisphere career has been mainly based in Australia, with the McCarthys, and that is where he has built an enduring and successful second career at the very top echelon of open class racing. (He did return to New Zealand on a raid from Australia in 2011, when he came 2nd in the Auckland Cup and 4th in the Christchurch Interdominion Finals.)

Raids to another hemisphere always capture interest. The incredible journeys of Graham Pearson and Under Cover Lover, of Graham Brunton and Lyell Creek, of Mark Purdon and Pride Of  Petite, are some New Zealand examples from the past 20 years or so.

But as Auckland Reactor found, it is quite a different thing to move from one hemisphere to another and build a second career there at the very top level.

There is one great New Zealand horse that has achieved it, and that is Cardigan Bay in the 1960s. He won the very top races in 3 different countries (NZ Cup, Auckland Cup), and in Australia (Interdominions), and then moved to North America at the age of 8 and over the next 4 years he beat the likes of Bret Hanover and Overtrick, and was twice US Pacer of the Year – there’s plenty about “Cardy” on the internet, just google Cardigan Bay and refresh you memories of this truly great campaigner!

[In hindsight I would add Lyell Creek to the list of those horses that made top level careers in two hemispheres – he was in Nth America for two years and competed against the top trotters, winning or placing many times.]

Mr Feelgood has something Cardigan Bay and Lyell Creek (both geldings) could not achieve – the opportunity to become a successful sire.

Remarkably, Mr Feelgood has already had two shots at it, once when he was first retired in America and once with frozen semen while he was still racing in Australia – for some very interesting and promising results.

In the United States the entire served a book of mares 31 which produced 25 live foals. From the small crop he has left three $100,000 winners to date, two of which won the Colts and Gelding and Fillies 3YO divisions of the $250,000 Kentucky Sires Stakes Finals, namely I’m Feelin Good and Feels Good. Then when Mr Feelgood was racing in the southern hemisphere he produced 17 live foals through frozen semen, three have since died and the remaining 14 turned 2yos from 1 September this year.

Mr Feelgood is standing at Yirribee Stud in New South Wales but under Alabar’s management.

In racing “world champions”, “sensational”, and many other marketing hyperboles are all too common, Mr Feelgood has proved he much more than a Little Brown Jug 3yo winner. He is, in my view, an exceptional racehorse.

Will he be an exceptional sire? In my next blog I’ll look at that, and share some insights from Alabar’s John Coffey.

Comments always welcome – and examples of other horses you know of who have had top level careers in two hemispheres.

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Only a week to go to the Little Brown Jug!

Six years ago I was on track to see Mr Feelgood win the Jug. This post and the next one tomorrow are a ‘tip o’ the hat’ to that wonderful event and to a wonderful horse – who is now tackling his next challenge, to become a successful sire.

Bee Pears alongside the Little Brown Jug

Bee Pears alongside the Little Brown Jug

2006, a fine but cool late September day in Delaware, Ohio. The wind on track made me buy a souvenir polar fleece jacket to keep warm.

We found our online-purchased “seats” in the grandstand, indicated by numbers painted along the narrow benches at spacings which were optimistically close. Luckily our ‘neighbours’ were Don and his friend, great guys who,  like many at the Little Brown Jug,  booked the same seats each year, a tradition. Don was informative and friendly, and kept an eye on our gear and seats while we went exploring.

Kym Kearns with our friendly Little Brown Jug neighbour Don.

The Little Brown Jug is two days of experience I’ll never forget – and definitely recommend. It is a huge meeting – about 50,000 people descend on the small town of Delaware for the Grand Circuit Racing County Fair that features the Jugette (for 3yo fillies) on the first day and the Jug (for 3yo colts) on the second day, some other good stakes races and a lot of local fields.

The atmosphere is like a Motukarara Gold Nuggets day but 50 times bigger. It’s laid back, but electric. It’s country, not town. It’s casual, but incredibly well organised. Go to their website and you can tell that it retains an identity which avoids the sophisticated PR promotion you might expect for such a big occasion.

It is a great tradition – and a lot of fun.

You can walk all around the half mile oval – on the side opposite the grandstand, the back stretch, is an area where people have their own deck chairs – you get a great view of the horses coming out onto the track, and it is a popular social area. Hot dogs, burgers and goulash-type meals dominate the food hall area under the main grandstand and dotted around the course. Many of those attending stay in motorhomes parked in the county fair grounds – which would have been a better and cheaper option in hindsight than the Delaware hotel we booked in advance.

I wasn’t a close follower of North American racing, so many of the Jug elimination heat participants in 2006 were just names to me – but of course they are more familiar now – Jereme’s Jet, Armbro Deuce, Total Truth (all sires now),  and of course the eventual winner of the Jug, Mr Feelgood. Also racing on Jug and Jugette days – and winning – were Ponder, a very classy performance in 1.49, and the very good Bettor’s Delight 2yo filly Isabella Blue Chip (a US$40,000 yearling purchase who went on to earn just under US$800,000) and Bettor’s Delight Jugette winner Eternity’s Delight, who was owned by well known American breeders/owners Jules and Arlene Siegel – and it is worth quoting Jules Siegel on the Little Brown Jug as an event:

The Jug is a throwback to what racing was and should be today. The Delaware County Fair is the most exciting event in (harness) racing. My wife and I bring guests to Delaware each year who are not even involved in harness racing and they enjoy the racing as much as we do. Everything about Delaware is a credit to the sport.

Little Brown Jug 2006

Big crowds, big excitement at the Little Brown Jug
Photo: Bee Pears

The county fair is in Ohio, which is a backwater in terms of top level racing and breeding, apart from this event. It is, however, a state where many bread and butter horses are bred and raced, with its own yearling sales (which we went to, and noticed the quality of the Pegasus Spur yearlings), and a number of sires standing locally or nearby who are not in the top league but popular and affordable for the state breeders. So the large proportion of horses competing over the 2-day county fair meeting have breeding much less familiar to us than that of the horses in the Jug, Jugette and other $50,000 plus stakes race fields on the day. These local sires in 2006 included Nobleland Sam, Stand Forever and Precious Bunny for pacers, and Master Lavec and Ilooklikemymom for the trotters.

In New Zealand we place high value on the Little Brown Jug as a true test of qualities we like to see in a sire – toughness, speed and heart (they race twice within the same afternoon, with three elimination heats producing the nine horses for the final, all over a mile of course and the tight half mile Delaware track). Some winners we admire in Australia and New Zealand include Armbro Operative, Fake Left, Life Sign and Bettor’s Delight, while more recent Jug winners in our siring ranks include P-Forty Seven, Shadow Play, Well Said, Rock N Roll Heaven and now Mr Feelgood.

On Jug day in 2006 we watched Mr Feelgood take out his elimination and then the final in grand style. In the final he was sitting behind Armbro Deuce on a fast pace that stretched the rest of the field, then came off the back of the leader as he started to tire, and blasted to the front with only Cactus Creek looking vaguely dangerous.

I have to confess my money was on 14.2h Doonbeg from Toronto, a very small horse with incredible ability who came last in the final, but has gone on to a fascinating career in Britain (in 2010 breaking the world record for the fastest mile on a track LESS than half a mile).

Of interest, Jereme’s Jet never made it to the final, having been burned in a 25.4 first quarter speed duel with Armbro Deuce in his elimination heat (the third heat) , so that makes Armbro Deuce’s performance for second in his elim and third in the final even more remarkable given the short timespan between those two races.

Mr Feelgood in the winners circle 2006

Mr Feelgood in the winners circle, 2006 Little Brown Jug
Photo: Bee Pears

Mr Feelgood is a class act – he was on that day, and he has continued to be so in achieving outstanding results in two different hemispheres – with two different styles of racing over different distances.

The qualities that allowed him to win the Jug are the same qualities that enabled him to win the InterDominion Final and the Hunter Cup in Australia as a 6yo, and heats of the Interdominion at 8 and 9 years old. (See summary of his racing record)

The training feat by Jim Takter (USA), Anthony Butt (NZ) and then John McCarthy (Australia) played a large part in maintaining the will to win and soundness of Mr Feelgood over such a long and varied racing career.

In the next blog, I look at Mr Feelgood’s attributes as a sire – and share some frank observations and stories from John Coffey of Alabar Australia, where Mr Feelgood is standing.

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Frank Marrion’s great summary of the 2012  trotting Australasian Breeders Crown winners (in the 29 August Harness Racing Weekly)  throws up another cross-breeding success. See previous blog.

In the wake of the very good (and unusual) Googoo Gaagaa in USA, we have Blitzthemcalder in Australia!

Blitzthemcalder – from a trotting mare by a pacing sire (photo: Herald Sun)

The winner of the 2yo Australasian Breeders Crown Trot is “looking like some sort of freak,” writes Frank Marrion, “being a big and bold-going black colt by the pacing sire Metropolitan from the family of Maori’s Idol.”  Metropolitan is an fairly ordinary pacing sire by Panderosa-Tallulah Belle, by Artsplace.  Blitzthemcalder’s dam is the first foal from the unraced Like A Calder, a daughter of Balanced Image and a good trotting mare in Maori’s Dream.

You can read the full article on p13 of the New Zealand Harness Racing Weekly Vol 27, August 29, 2012 (unfortunately not available online as yet). Or if there is enough interest expressed I will see if I can arrange to reprint it here.

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