Archive for November, 2012

Rich N Elegant died on 19 November at the age of 22 – a remarkable mare whose foals included 6 in 1.54 and 5 with earnings over half a million dollars. She was a good racehorse herself, earning over $97,000 and taking a 1.56.8 mark at 3yo.

You can find a 3-part blog about her siring sons in my blog archives 2011 – and I can see a number of North American readers have already followed a forum link to those blogs.

Her son Rocknroll Hanover has certainly cemented his siring success in North America but will need more foals on the ground downunder for us to see what happens here, and he is already under stiff competition from his own classy son Rock N Roll Heaven. After very small frozen semen crops the last few years, he served 56 mares in 2012 in New Zealand.

All that aside, Rich n Elegant had the ability to produce extremely good racehorses, particularly her colts.  All of us breeders know it is hard to produce one top race horse, let alone sever

al and from different sires – and that is a sign that your mare is something very, very special.

She is one of the few dams of top racehorses who had Direct Scooter so directly accessible (he was her damsire) and therefore, for those who follow the x factor/heart size theory, the ability to pass that on to her colt foals. They in turn, as sires,  have the ability to pass it on to their filly foals only. Other dams of successful and upcoming sires that have Direct Scooter in their maternal lines almost always do so through his role as the sire of Matts Scooter, rather than directly Direct.

Her bottom line was the very, very potent Shifting Sands/Golden Miss family, which has proven to be one of the most powerful maternal lines of the modern era. It underscores sires like Real Desire, Panorama, Safely Kept who have all been successful in Australia and New Zealand.

So a tip o’ the hat to one of pacing greatest mares ever.

Google Rich N Elegant horse to get many more articles and accolades, but here is a very nice one on the Canadian Hall of Fame website that gives the mare a lovely credit as a great mum:


Read Full Post »

There’s been a lot of discussion in recent years about the trend for sports to try to stay alive by making their “product” more attractive to the mobile, easily distracted, entertainment focused younger generation.

In New Zealand, our big national sports are rugby, cricket, rugby league and netball, and 3 of those 4 have made big efforts internationally to provide shorter versions of the game packaged in a way that suits the modern restless audience in an environment where there are many alternative forms of entertainment competing for their attention. I say “audience” (could say “consumer”) because we are not just talking about attendees at an event.

Rugby has the very popular Sevens version, with an international circuit and a party atmosphere. Cricket has 50-over matches and now Twenty20 cricket. Even netball has recently experimented with a 5-a-side team format.

You can see and hear those in charge of those sports and those following them debate the pros and cons fiercely. They are tampering with traditional formats and in a very real sense trying to reinvent the game.

But racing, our other big but shrinking national sport, has a huge advantage over these others. In fact two big advantages.

  • Firstly, we are not constrained by cumbersome, politically tangled international governing bodies.
  • Secondly, we already have one of the shortest, most exciting formats in any sport. It’s called a race.

Recently two different columns in the New Zealand Harness Racing Weekly – one the McCarthy Files of October 10, and the other JC’s I’ve Been thinking column of October 3 – have been stirring my little grey cells. JC was talking about the omnipresent mobile phone and how betting via cellphones and smartphones is already changing the way punters get information and place a bet. David McCarthy was discussing the lack of on-course crowds an how to make our races more attractive to younger people who seem to have much shorter attention spans. More mile races with shorter time between races were a couple of his suggestions to make race meeting attendance more exciting as events to attend.

Both make some very good points. Perhaps it is time to accept that, ever since the advent of radio, we have audiences who experience racing in different ways. At a very simple level, on course/off course. Or perhaps serious punter/those wanting entertainment.

OK – if you have got this far, you might be thinking…what has this got to do with breeding? Lots. Breeders, like all participants in this industry, need to be part of discussing future solutions to keep it alive and well.

Let me say again: We (racing) have a really tightly packaged product – a race – which is short, sharp excitement for (in harness racing) about 3 minutes. And yet we are in danger of losing sight of that advantage because of the way we organise and market our events. We just line up races one after another, and call it a programme.

Think of a race meeting (say, 9 to 10 races spread over an afternoon or evening) as a cricket match.  The race meeting would be like watching one over of cricket being bowled full on, then having to wait 30 minutes before the next over to be played.  Would the crowd stay engaged and excited? Probably pissed and bored before the 3rd over !  I am comparing harness racing to cricket, one of the strangest, slowest games on earth!, and yet coming away thinking the Twenty20 cricket match might be a more entertaining option to go to this weekend.

Yes, I know all the problems and costs involved in trainer and driver commitments, steward reports, warm ups and post race vetting etc etc.  (I do attend meetings).  But if something as intrinsically long-winded as cricket can invent an internationally acceptable short form of the game, then surely harness racing can come up with some fresh ideas, given it has the advantage of nice 3 minute ‘bites’ as the basis for promotion.

The TAB betting agency has jumped ahead of us. In the absence of more exciting race products, they have come up with ‘virtual’ races between individual drivers (the drivers challenge), head to head betting on two horses in the same race, and first 4 betting. This is telling us what appeals to an important section of the public – and may give us ideas for how to present our races more attractively and imaginatively.

Perhaps it is time for us to think outside the square in terms of what type of racing we offer and how we deliver it for our very different audiences.

Here’s some ideas, just throwing them into the wind – and some of these are borrowed from the traditional racing formats…

  1. Head to head challenges in reality, as they used to do, perhaps with 2 or 3 horses over a sprint distance and with bonuses for those racing within a certain time as an incentive not to dawdle and sprint. Imagine Gold Ace vs Terror To Love, with no excuses over 2000m? Two gladiators, one winner! Stakes get split 80/20, so there would be a good incentive to race (and win) even if stake money tightens further.
  2. Heat racing, where 4 or 5 horses race against each other 2 or 3 times in the course of a meeting, from separate draws over shorter (mile or thereabouts) distances. This takes the “bad luck” out of races that you can get with larger fields and poor draws (which can put punters off) and also addresses the issue of smaller fields when you try to match like against like. It also brings back the concept of soundness and heart into our horse racing. And it provides interesting betting options over the sequence of heats.
  3. Time incentive bonuses to help prevent races being a boring spectacle.
  4. Shorter race programmes that are properly designed to combine with additional forms of entertainment for those attending.
  5. Clearly identify race meetings and venues that are designed for best remote electronically-delivered action for punters versus  meetings and venues designed for on-course participation and entertainment. The two are quite different and too many of our venues end up in a compromise that pleases neither. Money needs to be invested in more sophisticated electronic systems for remote viewers/punters, with only small sophisticated areas for those who wish to attend on course or monitor particular horses ‘in the flesh’. Some of the “punter product” racing venues are more likely to be associated with a new era of on course training tracks, either public or private. The business venues compared to the entertainment venues.
  6. Improvements for remote viewing might involve GPS tracking devices on horses/drivers so individual punters can select and follow a horse’s position through a race (it is often not easy to see what is happening during a race, which can be a factor in viewers losing interest), but it could be even more personalised so a remote viewer (via smart phone or live streaming) can view the race in several different modes simultaneously to follow their horse/s’ progress. The race caller and cameraman are good, but could be combined with today’s technological advances.
  7. Much improved camera angles – the high wire camera at Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day blew me away – I got a much better understanding of the early part of the race, distance between runners, interference etc than I ever had from a side on or head on camera. Yes, putting overhead cameras on courses would be horrifically expensive, but what a selling point, what a product!
  8. Developing some very cool apps for smart phones might include packages where you can place a bet and order the product (race) to be delivered to your phone live or recorded. No need to interrupt what other entertaining you are doing, you will be reminded at the time and the race sent to your phone in the format you selected – “GPS overhead view plus voice commentary with results/time/dividends.” Or whatever suits your needs. Subscriber services could have a field day – perhaps this is already available somewhere?
  9. If a track is going to be an on-course entertainment venue – and I see fewer and fewer fitting this category – then it needs to offer a real night or afternoon out, so that the gaps between races are not just filled with an endless stream of alternative racing product on TV screens (this audience has not come to watch Wagga Wagga dogs or Singapore gallops) but with true hospitality and entertainment options. Alexander Park has headed in the right direction, with restaurant, betting, cafe and viewing facilities that meet a range of needs.
  10. Design boutique areas into racecourses – take a leaf out of the cinema book, and see how they have reinvented the movie goers experience in the face of competition from DVDs and TVs. I can go into a comfortable lounge, watch a movie and order a glass of wine and cake which is brought to me in my seat.

We can – have to – adapt and use new technology and smarten up our use of “the race” to maximise the excitement of involvement in harness racing and keep it as a competitive entertainment and betting option.

Read Full Post »

Here’s another blog about one of those hard working broodmare sires that add so much value to pedigrees, particulary when they have specific compatibilities to the mare/family.

As I mentioned in my blog about Overtrick, Big Towner is part of a Hambletonian “stub” – one of those Hambletonian lines that struggled to keep extending its siring line. But the Gene Abbe “stub”  has continued to thrive and to drive many of the best aspects of standardbred racing through its potent influence in damsires, much like Tar Heel has done for another “shortened” line of Hambletonian. Thank heavens for the maternal lines of our pedigrees – many of these damsires have enduring influence on the quality of our current and future stock.

Big Towner

So for me, Big Towner makes it to my list of all time greats in terms of contribution to the cause. Just for a start, look at his influence as the granddamsire of Art Major, Perfect Art, Real Artist and Panspacificflight.

Why? The primary reason is that he ADDS something. He doesn’t just lurk around as a ‘nice to have’. What he adds through the maternal lines appears to be heart size (x factor) but also speed. Yes, these are linked, but not always so. Not automatically so.

I’ve mentioned Big Towner’s contribution in some of my other blogs, for example in looking at Big Jim as a potential sire. And in a recent blog about Overtrick, Tony Dickinson examined his foundation mare Ballie Hanover and her Barbara Direct lineage – but Ballie Hanover also has Big Towner as her damsire, potentially adding quite a bit of value there.

Here is a lovely summary of Big Towner’s contribution, made by another blogger very recently – that’s serendipity!! – (and particularly signals Big Towner’s contribution as an outcross sire/damsire for mares with a lot of Meadow Skipper):


I’d also like to reference John Bradley’s Modern Pacing Sire Lines for some insight into this great damsire – and give him a tip o’ the hat as an amazing racehorse in his own right :

As a racehorse, Big Towner was a precocious colt right from the start, as was seen when he made his two-year-old debut at Maryland’s Rosecroft Raceway (then a half mile track) on May 7th 1976. Big Towner  drew post four and made a break right before the start. But in a preview of what was to come, the colt got back on stride, made up lost ground and raced second all the way until the stretch when he took command and pulled away to a twelve-length win in 2:09.3.

Bradley goes on to describe this horse as “a tough, game and fast colt”. After his 3yo season, trainer Lee Broglio said, “Big Towner is better than his record – he didn’t have too many opportunities over a big track last season – and definitely a fast horse.”  And he became a brilliant racehorse – winning his last 9 races over 6 different New York tracks, and  in 14 of 16 starts that year having the lead at the three-quarter pole and refusing to give in.

That is speed underscored by a big heart, toughness and a will to win.

Oh, and did I mention his own damsire is Shadow Wave? And his maternal line goes back to Nedda Guy and Nedda? With a good injection of Volomite in that lineage? Well, check back over my past blogs on Shadow Wave and my series of blogs on Nedda to see why I think Big Towner had a fantastic contribution to make to the engine room of many compatible pedigrees, ready to stoke the coals and keep those lines fired up.

He was a top race horse (48 starts, 31 wins) but is making much more of a contribution along the maternal lines of modern standardbreds.

Coming up:

In another blog soon (hopefully this weekend if my chooks behave and I don’t get too distracted by housework and walking on my favourite beach at Raglan), I want to look at out-crossing in the pacing breed, and what it means ‘down under’ i.e. Australia and New Zealand, compared to North America. Because In The Pocket (mentioned in the” Skipper, Skipper everywhere”  blog link above, now deceased and semen no longer available) became a huge influence on our breeding in New Zealand, and his son Christian Cullen is making a longterm impression here as a racehorse, sire, a damsire and potentially as a sire of sires. From a one-season venture as a sire in North America, his subsequent small number of northern hemisphere foals have just had highly successful 2yo season, and they are a hint of what outcrossing can offer different breeding “pools” when such a quality stallion is involved.

If you have ideas to share on that topic, contact me at email: b4breedingblog@xtra.co.nz (sorry this email addresss appears not to be working yet, so use my contact email at bee.raglan@xtra.co.nz

– or just add a comment to this blog.)

Other links on Big Towner, summaries of his career and contribution:


Read Full Post »

Zenterfold (In The Pocket-Zenola Star), the wonderful mare I have a half share in, has produced another well put together foal – a colt, nicknamed “Milo”.

That makes him a half brother to Tintin In America (winner 5 Group 1 races and now a sire), and to The Blue Lotus (3rd Group 1  Fillies Sires Stakes Final to those outstanding horses Bettor Cover Lover and Carabella), and to Destination Moon (promising 2yo about to start his career).

Real Desire x Zenterfold colt at 3 weeks – a half brother to the very speedy Tintin In America who is now standing at Nevele R Stud.

I’d like b4breeding blog readers to be the first, apart from myself and close friends, to see Milo.

He was born 17 October 2012 so is just a few weeks old now. Initially, all you could see was legs and a head that had plenty of character (I think Zenterfold wasn’t sure if I wanted a dish face, standard straight or roman nose so has given me a bit of everything, but time will tell).

He’s a very  light colour, and that means he will probably turn out dark brown – his dam is dark brown (looks black at a glance but not).

I’m excited about this foal. I went for Real Desire for quite clear reasons – my observations about what the sire adds in terms of precocious speed from a line (sons of Life Sign) that is not tending that way. He is forging a very good record as a sire overseas and now here (from limited crops). So it was important to examine how the mare would connect with him. I believe she does, and I am keeping up my “engine room” decisions as well (see my recent blog if you are not sure what I mean) – you need those hard working genes cranking up the revs for the sire to ignite the engine and give it the gun!

Hello Milo!

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: