Archive for December, 2013

Necessity is the mother of invention

When times get tough, the tough get innovative.

That’s the heartening thing that has (at last) come out of the falling breeding and racing numbers and lack of financial returns over the past few years.

The result is a squeeze that left many disillusioned and out of pocket.

What has heartened me this past year is the more business-like and yet innovative way some players in our industry have responded.

If the overall result is a rethink in how we organise and market the standardbred industry, then it will be well worth the pain.

So here is a tip o’ the hat to the ones that I really like.

Not all will be successful, but top marks for trying something outside the square.

  1. Real breeding incentives – a range of payment options, discounts available for fillies, loyalty discounts and other “deals” which were more openly advertised than ever before. Until now it was more a matter of how big you were and who you knew, but now even smaller breeders are offered some significant carrots without having to ask. Yes, it reflects the difficult state many stud farms are in, with such a competitive sire market for a shrinking number of mares. But it is a great shift away from days when breeders were treated like a captive market.
  2. Overall restraint on service fees – partly because of the competitive market, and partly a recognition by studs and sire owners that breeders just cannot afford such a high risk decision at such high prices, particularly for untried sires. Those breeding for the sales market have had a range of choices, including new sires or consistent sires whose service fee will leave a bit more room for (hopefully) a return on the investment.
  3. Addington breeders bonuses – at last, thanks to NZSBA and Addington Raceway, breeders have the opportunity to get some additional return from horses that perform well on a track – but not just those that are racing at the elite level. One other track has followed suit to date, and hopefully more will follow with some variations on the theme. It’s an idea that requires some serious thought about making it more consistent and sustainable. A real coup for breeders.
  4. Alexandra Park development plans – big, bold, imaginative and businesslike. Even better, the objective is to keep pouring more money into stakes. Stakes attract owners and encourage breeding, we all know that.
  5. ATC’s efforts to bring together all the clubs racing at Alexandra Park into one more businesslike structure. It failed this time around, and probably needs some tweaking, but the thought is there.
  6. Generation Harness – searching for ways to get younger people involved. Another great innovation from NZSBA.
  7. Growth in fillies and mares races – the opportunities are there now, it’s up to owners and trainers to use them or lose them. Getting good times and wins/placings for potential broodmares is a great way to broaden our breeding base for the future.
  8.  Forbury Park Mitre 10 Dash for Cash – sure, the concept of two heats and a final over 1200m didn’t get the numbers required, but the idea was a good one. The one sprint race that did go ahead was exciting to watch and great for punters. In a way, it took tactics out of the equation. No dawdling. An option would have been to split the field into two, but the risk would be to lose out from the punting perspective which is where the money comes from. I give top marks to Forbury Park General Manager, Zelda Jordan for coming up with the concept and I hope she pursues it again. I’d love to see other clubs give it a go, but with perhaps more warning so trainers can build it into their training programme.

Those are my favourites from an industry perspective over 2013.

Right now, I’m off to watch a huge day of racing at Alexandra Park – stunning fields, good weather, and great stakes. And even a horse I bred racing in one of the big ones. Magic!

I’ll be putting my feet up at home in front of the TV, cold drink at hand, racebook on lap. Cheers!

Let’s do it all again, but better, in 2014.

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Thephantomtollbooth is a strapping yearling colt I’ve bred, by Real Desire out of Zenterfold. So he is a half brother to Tintin In America, Destination Moon and The Blue Lotus.

He’s headed for the yearling sales in February (Lot 39, Australasian Classic at Karaka).

I can look out my window now and see him in the paddock.

Time flies, it was just over a year ago when he was a wee foal born out at Breckon Farms – see my blog and photo from November 2012.


Thephantomtollbooth aka Milo at Isa Lodge in early November – a half brother to Tintin In America

I liked what I saw then, as I was wanting to add a bit more height and reach to my mare’s progeny this time, so his legginess was a good sign. I had noticed how Real Desire’s progeny often have that, which is something that gives the best of his stock that uncanny speed once they get going. It’s not quick sprinty speed, like Tintin had. It’s more reach and length of stride which takes a little while to get going, but creates high speed when it does.

We are full into preparation now, and hoping to take photos soon. He is being prepared by Kym Kearns and will be one of two in the Isa Lodge draft.

But in the meantime, here’s one taken in early November – he’s not “glammed up” at all for the photo, but it shows what a nice tall, strong type he’s turning into.

It seems only yesterday he was an innocent little foal.

What’s the name all about? The Phantom Tollbooth is a brilliant book by Norton Juster, written in the 1960s and sensationally illustrated by Jules Feiffer. It is a “children’s book” but has a devoted following around the world of adults and children. It was one of my favourites as a ten year old, and still is. It’s the story of Milo, a young boy who is bored with life. One day he receives a mysterious large parcel, which turns out to be a small toy car, a tollbooth, a map – and one coin. Which he duly uses…. and finds the tollbooth is the portal to a world of adventure, friendship and the formidable task of rescuing the princesses of Rhyme and Reason.

It’s my hope that “Milo”, as my colt is nicknamed, will become a doorway to adventure and success for whoever buys him.

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The latest foal from Betterthancheddar’s dam Lady Ashlee Ann (see my last blog) to hit the tracks and win is by Shadow Play, a brown colt named High Flier who was sold in the Harrisburg 2012 sale to Dr Ian Moore for $37,000. That seems quite a cheap price for a colt from such a good family?

Dr Ian Moore

Dr Ian Moore, enjoying the progeny of Shadow Play, a horse he owned and trained.

Dr Ian Moore was the owner/trainer of Shadow Play and a big fan of the horse, and ended up buying several at Harrisburg.

The most successful to date is the very good Arthur Blue Chip, which he bought for $135,000.

For those of you who have read my previous blogs about Shadow Play, I have to say neither High Flier nor Arthur Blue Chip’s dams carried any Shadow Wave in their pedigrees! Darn! lol

High Flier contested the 2013 OSS Grassroots series for an 8th, 6th and 5th result, but then went on to get his first win at Grand River Raceway, winning by over 13 lengths in 1:57.6.

Like most of the family, time will be his friend. I’ll keep an eye on his progress.

For those who, like me, missed them first time around, here are a couple of article that talk about Dr Ian Moore, Shadow Play and the progeny he bought.

Harnesslink article Shadow Plays for real! 

USTA News: Moore having fun with his Shadow Play freshmen Thursday, July 18, 2013 – by Sandra Snyder

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I’ve been promising a blog on Betterthancheddar for a while. Here it is, with a cheesy twist.

The title of this blog comes from a very well known old advertisement for New Zealand’s Mainland cheese!  It’s a blast from my childhood – sorry I can’t resist sharing this with readers from around the world.

Like a good cheese, Betterthancheddar (Bettor’s Delight – Lady Ashlee Ann – Camtastic) took time. He is a result of his own unique conformation and attitude, his trainer’s ability and the foundation of his pedigree.

He started racing as a 3yo, improved even more as a 4yo and was retired injured as a 5yo when looking as if he would improve yet again. With a 3×3 to Cam Fella, many would say that time might well be his friend.

Apart from Kenneth J, he is the first really commercial son of Bettor’s Delight we have seen at stud “downunder”, or in North American yet.

This blog isn’t about that, however. It takes the focus off the Bettor’s Delight connection and puts it back onto the maternal strengths and overall family inheritance that produed Betterthancheddar.

What I see in his pedigree is the meeting of lovely maternal lines. It’s no guarantee that a champion will be produced, but it increases the odds of getting good horses more consistently, generation after generation. And in turn that increases the chances that some of them will be extra good.

So this blog isn’t about which of our mares might ‘click’ with him. It’s about the female strengths that surround him, looking back and looking forward at them as producers and performers.

I have covered two of the strong female influences in his pedigree before, so I won’t repeat those:

Lady Ashlee Ann with her recent Bettor's Delight foal. (Photo from Winbak Farm website)

Lady Ashlee Ann with her recent Bettor’s Delight foal, a full brother to Betterthancheddar. (Photo from Winbak Farm website)

In this current blog I want to look more closely at

  • Lady Ashlee Ann, the dam of Betterthancheddar
  • Lushkara, the dam of Camtastic
  • Camtastic as a broodmare sire.

I don’t have new insights. This is a gathering of background information.

Of  interest to New Zealand and Australian breeders is that Lady Ashlee Ann is a daughter of Camtastic, who stood here for several years without much success. More about Camtastic and his dam Lushkara further on.

Earlier this year Lady Ashlee Ann was inducted as a Hall of Fame Broodmare – and this is her record in the official citation:

LADY ASHLEE ANN (Broodmare) p,3,1:51.3 ($95,481) Bay Mare, 1993 (Camtastic – Preacher Edith – Adios Vic)

Sired by 1987 Pacer of the Year and two-time Breeders Crown champion Camtastic, pacer Lady Ashlee Ann was bred by A. J. Gross of Manhasset, New York and was foaled on June 14, 1993. Lady Ashlee Ann raced from 1995-1997 and compiled a record of 28-8-5-1 with earnings of $95,481. Her major career victories came in a division of the 1995 Debutante Stakes and the 1996 Tarport Hap.

The progeny that qualified Lady Ashlee Ann for the Hall of Fame are Breeders Crown, Ben Franklin, Cane Pace and American-National winner, world champion Betterthancheddar p,4,1:48f ($1,577,219) (sired by fellow 2013 Hall of Fame inductee Bettor’s Delight), Art Rooney Pace, Classic Series final and Tattersalls Pace winner Ashlee’s Big Guy p,6,1:50.4f ($978,168) (sired by fellow 2013 Hall of Fame inductee Life Sign) and Artist’s View p,5,1:49.4 ($788,811), sired by Hall of Fame Immortal Artsplace.

To date, Lady Ashlee Ann has produced four fillies and nine colts, with eleven racing and earnings of $3,806,878. She is currently performing her broodmare duties for her owners at Winbak Farm in Chesapeake City, Maryland.

So one of the first things that I see is that Betterthancheddar is no fluke. This is a family that is rock steady with performers including Lady Ashlee Ann herself.

Lady Ashlee Ann’s dam is Preacher Edith (by Adios Vic, a very fast racehorse, only so-so sire, but good broodmare sire) who herself won 11 races as a 3yo and 4yo and left 6 of her 15 foals in 1.57. Her grandam is Keystone Sophie (by Tar Heel) who won $57,829 and produced some good fast performers including two by Cam Fella. From there the maternal family traces back to Knightland, a daughter of Lydia Knight and therefore a half sister to sire Knight Dream. The maternal family of Badlands Hanover also traces directly to Lydia Knight. As the dam of Knight Dream, Lydia Knight pops up in a number of classy pedigrees of sires like Abercrombie and Most Happy Fella and mares like Three Diamonds and in New Zealand in the maternal line of  New York Motoring, and of course Knight Dream was the sire of Lumber Dream.

Lady Ashlee Ann’s half sister Edith’s Girl is the dam of Parson’s Den, who stood as a sire for many years in Western Australia with considerable success. And her son Ashlee’s Big Guy (by Life Sign) has had a siring role in Maine, it seems, after being one of those durable and successful horses racing and winning from 2yo to 8yo for just a tad under a million dollars stakes.

Here’s a really nice article by Steve Wolf posted on the Winbak website (link here, extract below) at the time of Lady Ashlee Ann’s induction into the Hall Of Fame middle of this year:

She was a good racehorse, sired by Camtastic from the Adios Vic mare, Preacher Edith. Lady Ashlee Ann took a record of 1:51.3 at age 3 and retired to the broodmare barn after her four-year-old season with career earnings of $95,481. She is also a full and half sister to eight winners, including five sub 1:56 pacers.
But it was who Lady Ashlee Ann foaled that has earned her induction into the Hall of Fame. She has had 13 foals of racing age, one is a two-year-old getting ready for his first start, but of the other 12 foals, only has not raced and from the other 11, well her breeding record is one that may never get beaten.
Let’s start with her first foal, BJ’s Squall in 1998. She took a record of 1:53.1 and earned $261,750; then came Ashlee’s Big Guy 1:50.4 and $978,168 in earnings, then three pacers that were just OK, but then Artist’s View 1:49.4 with earnings of $788,811 then three more raceway horses and then she dropped a bomb by the name of Betterthancheddar. He is only one of the best pacers currently in harness racing, has a record of 1:48 and earnings of $1.6 million which in all likelihood will surpass $2 million by year’s end.
“I bought her dam, Preacher Edith,” Thomson explained, “and she was in foal to Camtastic and when she foaled on June 15, I named the filly after my daughter Ashlee Ann. She was a small filly so instead of selling her I gave her to Joe Holloway to train and she barely covered her training and stakes costs as two-year-old. But at age three she improved but one day Joe called me and said that Lady Ashlee Ann got a spider bite and might die from it. Well, two weeks later she not only recovered but took her mark of 1:51.3. So I knew she was something special, we tried to get $100,000 in earnings on her card and then bred her. She has done us great as a broodmare.”
And just by chance, who might the sire be of Lady Ashlee Ann’s best foal, Betterthancheddar? Well it’s none other than the first half of Winbak Farm’s Daily Double induction into the Hall of Fame, Bettor’s Delight!
But Lady Ashlee Ann’s story does not end so fast as she just had a foal on May 9, a colt and it’s sired by none other than Bettor’s Delight…anyone want to start the bidding for this foal in two years?

And finally something about CAMTASTIC and his dam LUSHKARA

Lushkara was a good filly taking a 1.54 record at 3yo. As well as Camtastic, she is the dam of Lush Limbaugh and several other daughters who have gone on to be good producers. This pedigree for one of her descendants shows the family in some detail. It is a family where speed and durability are features.

Camtastic was a brilliant 2yo himself, but never left any speedy youngsters as a sire. He stood in New Zealand in the late 1990s and again in the early 2000s, with a year’s break in between which I can’t recall the reason for.

The best of his progeny were stayers, definitely not speedsters.  In my view (and I have a fondness for Camtastic, having owned a couple of his mares) he’s a sire that didn’t upgrade mares. But he didn’t downgrade them either.

Sometimes it is a matter of timing, too. Camtastic would probably have relished In The Pocket mares, with their fierce will and speed. He just missed the main bunch of them, they came a wee bit later when he was already seen as a less commercial for highly rated mares, but the three he got turned out well.

Over the years there have been some remarkably good horses (also mainly males and tough stayers) coming from Camtastic mares. Smoken Up is one of course, and (Mysta) Magical Mach another, but there are several who have proved good earners – and some of the sires who feature in those are Courage Under Fire (especially) and Christian Cullen who are both top sons of In The Pocket, Tinted Cloud (for Smoken Up) who is another son of In The Pocket, and Live Or Die (son of Die Laughing), who really seems to add that determination required to win.

North American stats for Camtastic as a damsire indicate he had a 100% (12/12) hit with Artiscape mares, but that match was tried only once here for no result.

What about Camtastic mares with Bettor’s Delight, the same cross as Betterthancheddar? The four or so Camtastic mares who have been to Bettor’s Delight here in New Zealand have not really performed well enough to indicate any special nick.

So a Camtastic broodmare mare with good breeding or perhaps more importantly some real ability herself could/can be matched to sires that will leave speed and toughness, and now and then you get a beauty. Overall, I don’t think Camtastic adds or detracts from Bettorthancheddar’s pedigree, and it’s hard to know if Lady Ashlee Ann’s family’s previous success with Cam Fella indicates anything except it is a family with underlying maternal speed that can cross well with sires that add strength and durability.

Of course Bettor’s Delight is a sire known for speed, and that was certainly the way to go for a Camtastic mare, no matter how fast she was herself.

I think it is mainly the mares who are calling the shots in Betterthancheddar’s pedigree, with help from Bettor’s Delight, a sire than can really stamp his ability and his own traits in a way that Camtastic (and probably most sires who attempt a siring career) could not achieve.

Betterthancheddar is standing at Alabar New Zealand at $4,500.

Lot 322 Premier Yearling Sale 2014, New Zealand
Just a wee footnote: A grand-daughter of Lushkara is Lucky Yankee, by Western Hanover out of Lush Limbaugh. It looks like Lucky Yankee was imported to New Zealand by Cavalla Bloodstock for breeding. She is now owned by Davinia Harrison who has Lot 322 a colt by Christian Cullen out of Lucy Yankee in the yearling sale in February 2014. And you can see her other foals here at HRNZ Info Horse – nothing much happening yet, but it will be interesting to see what develops over time.

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Among the awards presented today by the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) is a 2013 Broodmare of the Year award to Worldly Treasure:

The pacing broodmare of the year, Worldly Treasure, is the dam of world champion Captaintreacherous p,3,1:47.1 ($2,973,286). Worldly Treasure herself was no slouch on the track, taking a 2-year-old mark of 1:53.1 en route to earning $97,923. She hails from a strong maternal family, as her full sister is the outstanding pacing mare Worldly Beauty, who was a two-time Dan Patch Award winner with nearly $2 million in career earnings.
They are both out of World Order p,3,1:53 ($267,205), whose dam was Rodine Hanover p,2,1:54 ($231,630)-the dam of Real Artist p,3,Q1:51 ($424,94) and the grand-dam of Art Major p,4,1:48.4 ($2,727,224), Perfect Art p,3,1:51 ($629,122) and Panspacificflight p,3,1:50.3 ($368,843). She is also owned by White Birch Farm of Allentown, NJ.

See here for full report on all the awards

This is a maternal line (Romola Hal) which, for me, is really ranking up there with the all-time greats like Golden Miss, Spinster/Old Maid and Roya McKinney and her sisters. I’m talking about “engine room” power that endures and adds value.

Check out also my blog about Somebeachsomewhere crosses of gold and Captain Treacherous (the section down the end titled “Credit should go to strong maternal lines”. Often sires/sirelines get most of the credit for a great horse (“the brilliant son of …..”) whereas the maternal line may not get much of a mention. And yet, think how many shots a good sire has at leaving great progeny compared to a maternal family through broodmares – foal by foal, year by year.

This is one maternal line that is popping up in so many top-level cross-references that it is getting the recognition it richly deserves. Yet another branch of it leads to Sands A Flyin, which makes for some interesting crosses with Sands A Flyin mares and some of the very good sires from the same family, although it hasn’t been tried much as yet – more breeders are trying for a connection via the Mach Three-Beach Towel cross (Sands A Flyin being the son of Beach Towel of course), and are patronising Mach Three and his full brother Extreme Three in significant numbers. It’s an interesting thing to ponder on – which my blog on the Somebeachsomewhere crosses of gold canvases. Comments from readers and breeders welcome!

Other links

Worldly Beauty – Odds On Racing’s Legend Horse of the Month for September 2013

Comments from breeder White Birch Farm on World Order, their “foundation mare”

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The Sale of the Stars catalogue is out for the New Zealand standardbred yearling sales – and online of the PGG website/upcoming sales pages It’s always good to have a look through and pick out some trends and some interesting breeding choices – and I will start my usual run of pre-Sales blogs in early January, featuring lots that catch my eye.

Time to check out how Ray, Sam and I are going with the 2012 yearling sale picks which are 3yos now. We are not making huge progress but we have a few with real potential and an interesting 6 months ahead.

I picked mainly on type (seen at the Karaka sale). Sam pedigree and type. Ray picked on top families matched with top sires.

Further update 9.20pm: I’ve just checked the Auckland Trotting Club fields for their premier day meeting on 31 December and I see that between us we have three picks at that meeting – Destination Moon in the PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales Open Final for 3yos ($250,000) , and Charleston Belle in the Alabar Sires Stakes Fillies Championship for 3yos ($160,000) (both drawn badly at number 8), and then Going To California on the supporting card race 11, a very nice field racing for $15,000.
Charlie Chuckles

Charlie Chuckles at the 2012 yearling parade

Bee’s stable (fillies first)

  • Kamwood Courage (Courage Under Fire-Kamwood Lass) – 1 start for a 2nd in May $1071, and exported to Australia mid year, yet to have a start there.
  • Schleck (Muscle Mass-Merckx) – 6 starts for 2 wins, 2 places – no further starts, also exported to Australia, and I misread the earnings last report, she has actually won $16,489
  • Stolen Secret (Mach Three-Hot Secret) – nothing yet
  • Delia (American Ideal-Merrily Merrily) – nothing yet
  • Charlie Chuckles (Grinfromeartoear-Charioteer) – He got 2nd in his qualifying trial and also 2nd in a workout. One to keep an eye on, I reckon.
  • Derringer (Bettor’s Delight-Bury My Heart) – Name changed to Strawberry Heart, and has had three starts for a formline of 3,4,3 and $1098.
  • Crixus Brogden (Real Desire-Swift Mirage) – Now named Real Impulse – nothing yet
  • Destination Moon (Grinfromeartoear-Zenterfold) – Had an injury spell after his first win and has come back to racing looking stronger. Now 6 starts for 1 win and 2 seconds, $9220, and the trainer likes him a lot.

I think my two Grins will give me some encouragement over summer, and I do like what I see of Strawberry Heart, who races locally with Sean McCaffrey.

Sam’s stable (fillies first)

  • Going To California (Art Major-Child In Time) – Nice one, Sam and Ray! You both picked this yearling. Now he’s got 2 wins and 2 thirds from just 6 starts, and $10,333.
  • Code Cracker (Art Major-Cracker Kate) – Nothing yet
  • Petite Royal (Monarchy-Petite Sunset) – 3 starts but 5,9,13 formline, yet went out favourite in the last start and looks like she is now stood down, so perhaps the manners will improve with time because it looks like the ability is there.
  • Digital Art (Art Major-Wave Runner – racing but the formline is 4,7,0,7 and just $472.
  • Romeo Denario (American Ideal-Presidential Sweet) – exp to Australia, and so far 1 start for 6th at Geelong.
  • (My) Mach Scooter – (Mach Three-Gail Devers) – exp to Australia, now 6 starts but no improvement to the 1 win, 1 place $4125 record yet.
  • On The Rantan (Bettor’s Delight-Funontherun) – renamed On The Town. Nothing yet.  Correction, this is is the previous foal renamed Ohoka Cooper and to date 8 starts,  1 wins,  2 seconds,  2 thirds.
  • Rattling Thunder (Santanna Blue Chip-Tammy Franco) – now qualified and showed up very nicely at workouts and trials in Sept/Oct. Worth watching.

Ray’s stable (fillies first)

  • Change Time (Christian Cullen-Changeer) – now 9 starts for 2 places (including YSS Graduette) $13,129
  • Going To California (see Sam’s picks)
  • Charleston Belle (Christian Cullen-Elite Belle) – qualified well in October. Has 5 starts for 1 win and 1 third so far. $8783 and looks like she could do well.
  • Gotta Go Artelect (Art Major-Elect To Live) – yet to qualify, hasn’t raced since her May trial where she went ok but none of them were fast enough to qualify.
  • Nureyev (Christian Cullen-Idancedallnight) – showing up nicely in trails and workouts Nov/Dec and worth keeping an eye out for.
  • The Pacman (Christian Cullen-Black Maire) – more trial starts including a win on 25 November so could be racing over summer?

It shows again how hard it is to get an early return on investment, and that patience is the winner in many cases.
Go to my blog of 25 March 2012 for my original picks and view the Responses/comments for Sam and Ray’s rationales for their picks. You can use the search function on my blog to find all references to the virtual yearling stables concept over the past few years.

Will start a 2014 virtual stable in mid January and welcome your picks at that stage. So start looking at the catalogue!

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One horse open neigh

A one horse open neigh.

Merry Christmas to all b4breeding blog readers!

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I thought I should add a few stats on how Santanna Blue Chip has performed in New Zealand as a sire – and perhaps someone can do the same as a blog comment for the Australian bred foals.

Right now he’s had 22 qualifiers for 10 starters and 4 winners (oldest are 3yos) – being Three Blind Mice (now in Australia), I Smart, Carlos Santana, and Hear The Call (exported to Australia). There would be another couple in Mullinalaghta Lad and Macey Blue Chip who are not far away, which would make his percentages quite respectable for a new sire. None of them have blown us away, but they are showing some toughness.

Surprisingly for me, only a few of his qualifiers are out of In The Pocket, none from In The Pocket sons. I would have thought we would see Matt’s Scooter on the maternal line as an opportunity? But it is a wide mix of mares, not uncommon scenario for a middle range new sire, as breeders search for what their mare needs. His best performer as a 3yo in North America was Windsong Jack, who has won almost $300,000 and is by a Million Dollar Cam mare. That mare has both Jate Lobell and Die Laughing in her pedigree close, which Australian mares echo perhaps, rathe than New Zealand?  But one swallow doesn’t make a spring I guess.

For New Zealand? Well, its all too late, but if I was looking now I would say good scenarios with this particular sire would have been McArdle, Mach Three and Grinfromeartoear. And I’m wondering why owners/breeders aren’t looking harder at the younger mares they have who have remarkably good genes as broodmares.

But that’s another blog, which is coming up on NZ yearling sales damsires.

Santanna Blue Chip live foals numbers were 52, 65, 46 in his first 3 years, and the results are not in from this season’s foals of course – where, incidentally, he served by far his biggest book (at 114). These are very typical stats for an imported horse that comes without heaps of hype but a very good record and suitable pedigree. They have to get enough mares to make their own niche as a sire. The same is true for our own locally bred sires. Getting 40 to 60 mares is a basic requirement, just to end up with enough foals on the ground from a range of mares to give the sire any sort of chance. A good sire will capitalise on that, but often that’s only clear after the 3yo season is done and dusted. A glamour 2yo is a huge bonus, but from a small number of foals it is potentially labelled “just a freak”.  The fact that his bookings went up again is interesting. Breeders seemed to be liking what they saw.

Santanna Blue Chip obviously still has the will and ability to race and win, and the future may lie in him becoming a really good all-aged racer, like Mister Big and others have done. A reputation won twice,  but perhaps indicating qualities of toughness, enduring competitiveness and soundness which will also stand his foals in good stead.

So his “retirement” back to the racetrack is both a blessing (if he really does well) and a pain-in-the-butt for breeders, especially those who are just getting foals on the ground. Marketing: “He’s a wonderful Dad, but he pissed off when I was just a baby and went back to a life of adventure and competition. I don’t think Mum misses him, but I might at Sales time.”

I know how you feel. I went to Real Desire, like many others, only to find he’s been withheld by North American owners (for the good of the horse, I give them credit). But shuttle sires like Real Desire, Santanna Blue Chip and Jereme’s Jet are always going to vulnerable to a change of mind/circumstances and suddenly disappear from the market. It’s frustrating, but that’s life.

We need to retain confidence in the sires and our foals until time (rather than this year’s sales prices) really tell the story.

Shuttle sires are “flotsam and jetsam” on the sea currents of a fickle standardbred market.

As breeders we need to be very canny “beachcombers”.

Who knows when we will find the sire that is ambergris – and particularly ambergris for our mare?

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In case  you misssed it, Santanna Blue Chip, a very well performed son of Art Major, has not performed well enough in the competitive North American market to warrant keeping him standing as a sire. So he has been working up again as race horse, and winning!

See article  and  video of his qualifying trial  and  another article  from Canada where he is now racing.

What effect does that have on breeders here who have gone to him as a sire? It leaves you a bit stranded. But don’t panic. The fact is he has not produced the 2yo excitment machines that a sire must have to make his commercial mark and this creates difficulties for you as a breeder/owner.

In New Zealand we often stand back from new sires, so he has taken time to even get a foothold. He was not available this year and will no longer be a “Sales” sire although a great individual type can still sell well.

But that doesn’t mean that your foal/yearling/2yo/3yo can’t run. The sire has some great genes, and is a very athletic horse. He was competitive with Somebeachsomewhere (who has young progeny that have some very good Downunder trainers scratching their heads, by the way).

Santanna Blue Chip Alabar Parade NZ

Santanna Blue Chip – handsome and athletic at the Alabar Parade a few years ago.

Personally, I think Santanna Blue Chip’s pedigree may be better suited to our Direct Scooter line here, which he has through his maternal side and of course we do too, and through the best local siring lines as well. Or maybe, like so many excellent top racehorses, he lacks the dominant siring gene that stamps progeny with the very things he did so well. That is such a tall order. Very very few stallions have it, or have the luck to find the mares they need to show it.

The standards for commercial sires is brutal and quick, but hindsight shows time and certain nicks can produce very good individuals – or that the sire fits a particular niche in breeding/training that is really important. I would class Elsu in that latter category. Not a sire of Group 1 horses but great bread and butter horses for owners and trainers who want horses that try hard and are consistant and willing, and increasingly showing up some classy types. Bread and butter makes a great pudding!!  (A tip o’ the hat to Richard’s wife Barbara who makes great B&B Puddings he says).

I was in the same position when Island Fantasy (great breeding, good race results, handsome sire) was a potential sire, only to find he was gone and I was left with a pretty but not commercial yearling. It’s part of the learning curve.

In the end, the individual horse will perform or not. If you have a nice type by Santanna Blue Chip, don’t be afraid to feel positive about that horse. Put into it what you would if the sire had been top of the siring pops in North America.  Because it’s different here, and each horse has it’s own ability, with 50% coming from your mare.

I saw Santanna Blue Chip at the Alabar parade a few years ago (see photo) and thought he was a very athletic and handsome individual. And the few yearlings I’ve seen at Karaka Sales were lovely types. It all just shows how damn hard it is to get even a foot hold into a market that makes unreasonable demands and rewards only those few who have the genetics and luck to become successful sires.

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Forbury Park tomorrow night (Thursday 19 December) is the second start for a 3yo filly who has a pedigree that makes you say “no, surely she’s a 10yo mare!”

Because she is by Soky’s Atom out of Gentility. Her name is Kilmorich. Her owner-breeder-trainer is Mike Stratford of well-known Classiebawn Stud in Prebbleton.

Soky’s Atom was advertised as “Last chance to breed..” in the 2003/4 season here in New Zealand. Yes, that’s 10 years ago. He was standing in Australia at that stage but there was “limited frozen semen available” for New Zealand via Nevele R.  Mike Stratford says Soky’s Atom frozen semen is still available from Nevele R on enquiry for a reasonable price, and he understands Bob McArcle may also have some.  But the next oldest Soky’s foals bred in New Zealand are four 9yos, so there has been little demand over the years.

The other side of Kilmorich’s equation is her dam Gentility (Lordship-Strathmea-El Patron) who was well into her 20s when she foaled Kilmorich. Kilmorich is her last foal; Gentility was later put down after her arthritic knees became too much of a burden for her.

Kilmorich has a 4yo full brother called Classiegent who was a recent race winner at his 9th start (with two placings as well) and looks good enough to add a few more.

So right now there is a 4yo brother and 3yo sister from a now dead mare who was served by frozen semen from a dead sire. Both results, however, are very much alive and showing up at the races this spring.

Kilmorich qualified recently and then was placed second in her debut race at Forbury Park last Friday 13 December, a standing start over 1700m. It was a good effort, running on strongly wide. Eye catching. She will learn a lot from that experience. Have a look at the race video at HRNZ website race results

A week later she will strip fitter and is drawn better, again 1700m from a standing start. (I have no idea why they are expecting a relatively inexperienced field to do a standing start over short distance on a tight track, but maybe I missed something! The video shows plenty of early trouble in Kilmorich’s first race, and it’s a brave punter who bets on these types of races).

 (UPDATE POST RACE: Watched her race tonight (19/12) and it was a very conservative drive, especially with an outsider (or two) in lead and trail, so it could well be that she felt flat even in the prelims and that is why driver Ben Williamson chose to not get flushed out into a parked position over 1700m.  Could well be also she doesn’t yet back up within a week, which is quite an ask for younger horses especially fillies. Still one to follow , I reckon.)

Mike Stratford says Kilmorich “goes well” and is on the market if someone is interested in buying.

It’s an interesting prospect for breeders to consider – because she looks like she could get a couple of wins under her belt this season without too much trouble.

If you breed from a mare that is such a “time warp”, would you be starting with a handicap, or would you have the benefit of hindsight (including all the stats from Soky’s career as a broodmare sire) and be able to jump straight into the newer sires that offer what this family and Soky’s Atom might really respond to?

Soky’s Atom himself came full of speed breeding – Albatross, Adios, Tar Heel. Some well-credited current sires for Soky’s Atom mares would be Christian Cullen, Courage Under Fire (who also crossed well with Lordship mares), Washington VC, Live Or Die, Bettor’s Delight and Mach Three. But I would look at the stats for Real Desire, too, and there’s potential to leap-frog over the last decade’s sires and do bold crosses with some of the new sires coming available.

As people who read my blog know, I respect what quality genes can bring to the mix, regardless of how “fashionable” they may be at the moment.

Tip o’ the hat to Soky’s Atom

At the time he was last advertised commercially available to New Zealand breeders (2003/4) Soky’s Atom was ending an illustrious career as a sire who gave strength and speed to many of his progeny, and of course went on to become one of New Zealand’s best broodmare sires, and is still rating high on that count.

He had died the previous year, in 2002, just before Christmas, so that’s another reason why this blog is timely.

New Zealand’s best pacer lost his dad, super sire Soky’s Atom, who was found dead at Alabar Stud in Victoria.
The US-bred stallion had become one of the greats of Australasian harness racing, siring millionaire Desperate Comment among a string of outstanding pacers.|
Young Rufus’ form in the past 12 months helped boost Soky’s Atom’s career at an age, 25, when most stallions are winding down.
He had already served 155 mares this season.
Although he looked healthy when Alabar staff fed him on Sunday night, he was dead yesterday morning.

Check out the full version of Mick Guerin’s article about Soky’s Atom’s death in the NZ Herald. In an aside, Young Rufus of course went on to almost die himself of a twisted bowel early the following year, but made it back to the winning circle later and then stood briefly as a sire before being put down in 2007 when it was discovered he had advanced cancer.

Soky’s Atom was one of three incredibly influential sons of Albatross who stood at stud in New Zealand – the others being Holmes Hanover and Vance Hanover. None of them left a commercial siring line here, but left a very enduring contribution through their racing progeny and then their broodmares. That’s very much the story of Albatross.

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