Archive for February, 2015

In my last blog I raised the issue of getting a fair return for breeders – the people who take high risks to produce their product (a racehorse) which goes on to be an integral part of the wider industry product (a race on which betting can take place).

What is a fair slice of the pie for breeders of successful racehorses?

What is a fair slice of the pie for breeders of successful racehorses?

Other major players in the production line charge for their time and expenses – a recognition of the resources that go into a performing horse regardless of whether it wins or comes last. For example, drivers have a set fee for each drive no matter where the horse gets in the field, currently at $75 +gst I think. And trainers have their daily rate for training charged to owners, plus other costs like gear and track fees, vitamins, worming, transporting etc which are also reimbursed. Then on top of that, both trainers and drivers receive a bonus each time the horse performs well in a race. This bonus is a part incentive and part reward. The trainer receives 10% of the stake money payable to the owner, and the driver 5%.  That’s all good and I have no argument with it.

All I ask is that a small percentage is also tagged for the person who started it all in the first place – the breeder. Currently, their need for a return on investment is recognised only once, when (and if) a sale takes place to the first owner. Or possibly over a long time as the mare builds a reputation – although having good siblings is no guarantee that a particular yearling will sell for a reasonable price. Often, the return to the breeder will hardly cover costs. If the horse goes on to be successful, there is no bonus for the breeder.

How can breeders get a fairer slice of the pie?

It is tempting to say, as some do, that increasing the overall stakes will give a bigger return to breeders because so many breeders are also owners.

I have two main objections to that:

  1. It makes the breeder role invisible once again, just when we are starting to get some traction into the specific needs and interests of breeders in their own right. It takes away a clear separation between different roles. Many trainers are also owners in a horse, so why not merge them into common “owners” group as well and take away the trainer bonus? And what about the drivers who are also trainers and part owners, like Mark and Natalie – maybe they want to give up their drivers and trainers percentage bonuses in exchange for bigger owner returns? I doubt it…
  2. It ignores the fact that many breeders may be owners of horses not by design but by necessity because an young untried young horse is damn hard to sell. For many smaller breeders, an early sale is unlikely to cover their most basic service fee and raising costs. Breeders often end up carrying their foals for another year or so until they get to a point where they are able to be trialled for racing – and then sold, if lucky. In the past, carrying that cost was easier as there was more access to cheaper land. That is no longer the case.

What is an alternative?

We all contribute to the end result.

We all contribute to the end result.

A breeders bonus, but

  • one that rewards the original breeders of racehorses rather than those who buy a mare.
  • one that is tagged to performance.
  • one that is partly self-funding and partly a fair payment by the industry to those who produce the raw material of our industry success stories.
  • one that can be tweaked as necessary to encourage desirable breeding trends.

Next blog, I look at how it could work.






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So where do breeders go to get a return on their investment?

How do breeders react to the current choices for the future?

How do breeders react to the current choices for the future?

If you are a glass half empty person, you might say: “Into the same corner where a lot of other breeders have gone.”

If you are a glass half full person, you might say: “Forward, to a better place.”

I’m a positive person, so I will opt for the latter. But to do that, I need to ignore some signals from the “market” which tell me that breeding is such a high risk industry with such a small conservative market (at any age or ability of your horse) that it is not a viable option to even cover your real costs. Unless you do exactly this, and exactly that. And then cross your fingers.

Are we really going to attract new breeders into this situation?

Personally, I have taken risks and been lucky, but many have not had the same rewards. And I feel for them. It could well be me next time. It has been in the past.

The issue is this: the commercial and hobby side of breeding need more positive and consistent signals from the industry to keep going.

If the signals are as short-term and limited as: “Breed your best mare to Bettor’s Delight or Art Major” – then I am out of here. Because that is a blinkers on and ear plugs in, and we are steering into a corner.

Industry signals need to be medium term and consistent. Breeders are in it for a long haul. Decisions we make take effect 2 or 3 years later, or more.

But the current signals (e.g. market prices) are impossible to meet without the whole production line narrowing to short-term output. These sires. These families. These types. Tick the box.

Innovation and commercial development has never originated from such a narrow perspective. Merely fulfilling the current market is not enough for a product like ours that develops over time and often from outside the square.

Most successful industries look to grow their product and diversify their markets and risks. Those that take high risks get high rewards.

So why are we moving in the opposite direction?

And why are we treating many “hobby” breeders as donors to our overall industry, letting them take the loss, year after year, of finding and developing the product that will take us into the future?

Would any other viable industry work this way? Are many breeders falling into a local Trade Aid category? Or is there a role for an R&D development fund that supports breeders who are willing to risk their personal investment in finding new and exciting directions?

Well, I’m asking the questions at least.

I will look into this in more detail before the Breeders Assn forum in Auckland in March. Hopefully this will help stimulate some good debate about core issues.

“Floating ideas – some people say it is just hot air in a balloon. But if you are drowning in a river, that balloon might be worth grasping.”

(quote from Bee Pears lol)



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First some information for those blog readers who are not from New Zealand or Australia: Changeover is a NZ bred horse (In The Pocket x Chaangerr) who was an outstanding racehorse winning from 2yo through to 6yo at the highest level and showing all the speed, courage and stamina you could wish for. He ended his racing career with the statistics of 66 starts for 29 wins and $2.4 million in the bank. And as an entire, he retired to stud.

Changeover, pacing sire

Changeover, pacing sire

He has been well received by New Zealand and by many Australian breeders. In New Zealand he served 226 mares in his first year (for a slightly disappointing 160 live foals born in 2011), 137  in his second year for 99 live foals in 2012, 113 in his third year for 89 live foals in 2013, and 142 for 100 live foals born in 2014  – and it seems he has had about the same number of mares served in the last season. He has had over 100 Australian bred foals as well.

How is he turning out?

In my view, he is already proving himself as one of those horses who will translate the qualities they had on the track into the breeding barn with a very, very solid performance as a sire to date, from only a few crops (oldest are 3yos).

His NZ bred progeny (raced here or in Australia) are looking good (see list of winners below).

Currently his 3yos (142 registered) have 80 qualifiers, 46 starters and 25 winners (interestingly 4 from Presidential Ball mares and 5 from Live Or Die mares). Of his 88 registered 2yos, 7 have qualified so far this season and 1 is a winner.

We know that Changeover was a super younger horse, but a scopey type who got better and better as he matured. So the signs for these youngsters is positive. It is a good start, and more will come from each crop as they develop.

Which is why I wonder how much it takes for our great home-bred sires to make a really important in-road into the commercial end of the market, especially at yearling sales time. We take a huge discount for “local” and then for “may need time” types.

Changeover (and others) cannot be pidgeon-holed in such a simplistic fashion – he was a versatile racehorse, and appears to be a versatile sire.

However once again this year there were some real Changeover bargains to be had at the yearling sales. And unfortunately “bargain” is another way of saying the vendor got below cost return. Which is not great for any industry that wants to create a viable product stream. But more on that in a blog soon…

The average price of Changeover yearlings sold at the two New Zealand yearling sales – (the Australasian (Karaka) and Premier (Christchurch) – this year was just over $12,000, with 3 not sold and 2 withdrawn.

But check out how his statistics look when you examine his winners to date. There is a sense of quality about their wins and their ratios of starts to placings. While obviously not all his progeny will turn out to be winners, the odds are looking good for Changeover as a solid punt for buyers rather than an outside bet. However his prices are yet to reflect that.

Here is a current (24 February 2015) snapshot of his NZ bred winners (raced here or in Australia):

Remember that these are just starting out on their racing careers…

  • Beaudienne Bill 19 starts, 6 wins, 2 places $34,485
  • Big Spending Telf 7 starts, 4 wins, 2 places $23,598
  • Cambio 1 start, 1 win $13,377
  • Carisma 9 starts, 2 wins, 1 place $11,686
  • Change The Rulz 12 starts, 2 wins, 4 places $13,282
  • Controversial 12 starts, 3 wins, 1 place $20,145
  • Cool Changes 2 starts, 1 win $6652
  • Envious 1 start, 1 win $3060
  • Hvar 5 starts, 1 win, 1 place $4475
  • Itsallovernow 10 starts, 1 win, 1 place $7762
  • Lennox 11 starts, 5 wins, 3 places $26,041
  • Lola Jackson 2 starts, 1 win, 1 place $5675
  • Midnight Rider 10 starts, 1 win $7097
  • Nuala 3 starts, 3 wins $41,735
  • Onedin Onyx 7 starts, 2 wins, 1 place $12,408
  • Oneover 16 starts, 3 wins, 7 places $39,423
  • Prince Of pops 16 starts, 4 wins, 5 places $40,317
  • Risk 4 starts, 1 win $3782
  • Spare Change 8 starts, 1 win, 4 places $6824
  • Sudden Change 10 starts, 2 wins, 4 places $10,621
  • Spendthelot 6 starts, 1 win $6793
  • The Charging Moa 5 starts, 1 win $3683
  • Webb Ellis 11 starts, 2 wins, 3 places $13,425
  • Whitershadeofpale 7 starts, 4 wins, 1 place $22,775


Check out my blog from last year about Changeover at the sales

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Last November I flagged up to blog followers the successful Shadow Play horse racing in Argentina – and indeed the fact that there was harness racing in Argentina at all!!

Well, the horse – Chucaro Acero BC –  is coming to Meadowlands to race tomorrow.

I’m not fussed about the results, just love the fact that we have an international industry and some countries coming in from left field.

A bit like the Cricket World Cup (currently  in New Zealand, gorgeous weather, great pitches, fantastic matches unless you are from England) with the standardbred “minnows” like Argentina still able to try to rattle the big guns, and learn from the experience.

And yes, I do like Shadow Play as a sire that can give depth to our pedigrees. I am a little tired of the focus on such a limited sire pool at the top end of the market.

You can find out more about Chucaro Acero BC on harnessracingupdate.com – their newsletter is always a breath of fresh air and easy to read.

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I’m flat tack at my day job, folks, and haven’t been to the Christchurch sales.

From what I see of the results, it seems to be a bit of a roller coaster. Demand yes, but so focused that breeders are getting a “50 Shades of Neigh” workout for anything that goes outside the parameters that owners and therefore trainers want. Some lovely bargains for those willing to shop around. Pleasure for some, pain for many.

And a lot of vendors opting not to give their horses away.

Give me the weekend and I will post a blog after I see all the results. Quite different from the Karaka sale, whatever the spin doctors say.

Of the lots I highlighted in the Premier sale for a range of reasons (outside the “market” considerations):

  • Patrick – good on you for selling Standing Bear (Lot 268) for $15,000. A lovely looking yearling by The Pres.
  • Lot 147 Fiscal Madness, from a Love You mare by Revenue, sold for just $7.500. Maybe he had a leg missing?
  • Lot 456 was Joe Louis that I featured because of his lovely outcrossing pedigree. Not that it means tickey boo to the buyers, although he did sell for $22,000.
  • And Lot 201 was a foal called That’s The Story by mare Bree from Monarchy. He didn’t meet the reserve of $25,000.

Do these results reflect the outcome for those yearlings? Their quality? No.

We will follow them and see what happens.

But again, the current market results in the breeder taking huge risks, often not recognised at the time.

If the odds turn out in the breeder’s favour – if the horse turns into a winner – I would love to see that breeder rewarded.

At the moment, breeders are carrying an unfair burden of developing our breed. Let’s hope the upcoming Breeders Forum in Auckland in early March starts really opening up the conversation around this issue.

While the Auckland sale left me with a bit of a buzz, the Christchurch sale appears at first sight to be a bit of a fizz overall, although some good results for some lots would cover the risk for some bigger breeders.

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Buyers gave a very clear signal they are willing to pay for quality racing colts. When the stars aligned – nice type, proven sire, good performing family – the prices were much better and more consistent across the middle range than we have seen for years. The middle range appears (haven’t done the maths yet) to have beefed up especially in the $30-40,000 range, which is what was missing previously.

Some very high prices will capture the limelight, but a strong middle market is what caught my eye.

The downside is that fillies again were heavily discounted (although there were some notable exceptions, and I think the fillies average price will also come up quite a bit). But you know how sceptical I am about “averages” and what they tell us, so I will do my own analysis.

Newer sires were hardly present, and those that were had an uphill battle.  A beautiful very big filly by Big Jim (Lot 128) went for just $7000 – all she needs is time.

A Gotta Go Cullect colt out of a Bettor’s Delight mare (Lot 22) from a decent family went for $15,000 – the Bettor’s Delight damsire factor not helping enough to overcome the view of Gotta Go Cullect as a “cheapy” sire.

The Tintin In America filly (Lot 80) was passed in at $7000, but had a highish reserve on her and Leanne Edwards was quite keen to take her home and try her out. (Just an aside: The Tintin filly in the Brisbane sale went for $19,000).

Changeover had a colt and a filly in the sale – the colt sold for $20,000 and the filly passed in a $6000.

The Sportswriter colt (Lot 7) from a 2 win mare was sold for $20,000 – very hard to get a line on how he is being received until after the Christchurch sale.

Rock N Roll Heaven’s colt (Lot 50) went for just $22,000, and his filly (Lot 110) could hardly get a bid, although buyers know the Highfields Bloodstock team will have a high reserve on all their fillies, so may not bother bidding.

As always, breeders will do the hard yards and take the knocks until newer sires are more proven, but even in the case of a sire who is showing up well (like Changeover) it is clear that buyers and the Austalasian Classic Sale in Auckland are not interested in paying higher unless the sire proven and regarded as among the elite ones or a filly is from one of the top families.

There will always be exceptions, as my Real Desire colt showed last year when he sold so well. But they will be few and far between.

The sale has again, I guess, found its niche.


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Lot 107 Mrs Zippy

Lot 107 Mrs Zippy – beautifully named and a lovely filly

The sales kicked off today on overcast but warm weather and with a great display of top bred horses. They look great,  a credit to the hours put in by the breeders, owners and preparers.

Tomorrow reality kicks in. Prices will probably result in an raised average, but also in some investors going home disappointed. There is a wealth of some breeds, some sires and some types, so buyers have the ability to pick. As always I will be more interested in the median rather than the average – as an indicator of breeder health for the future.

As you all know, I am not fixated on the top end of our industry but more concerned about quality and depth and width.

So I was out there today with my camera trying to capture some of the horses that are top lots, but far more some that may fly under the radar but deserve a second look.

Haven’t got the time tonight to sort out all the photos I took – but here is a selection that captures Parade Day.

Can I just suggest that Mrs Zippy looked lovely, the Tintin In America filly scrubbed up real good, the Big Jim filly was huge but will have an exceptional reach if you are willing to wait just a year, and I think I might have fallen in love with Lot 23. Yes its a filly, but if you know me that is no surprise.

Eyes were all on Lot 106, the bro to Adore Me and he was a stroppy handsome colt. Of the boys, lots to like.  Probably one outside the square is 125 with a big blaze and some nice breeding. Too many to talk about here. But let’s see how it plays out tomorrow.

The photos below are just a quick selection:

Smiley Sophie, half to Stunin Cullen and Coburg

Lot 5 Smiley Sophie, half to Stunin Cullen and Coburg

Lot 2 Bettors Delight colt from the good mare Whambam

Lot 2 Bettors Delight colt from the good mare Whambam

Lot 44 De Lovista filly from De Lovely

Lot 44 De Lovista filly from De Lovely

Lot 125 Vettel

Lot 125 Vettel, an American Ideal colt

Lot 26 Zenner

Lot 26 Zenner, half brother to Tintin In America

Lot 15 Kissme Quick

Lot 15 Kissme Quick, a trotting filly by Majestic Son from the Miss Whiplash family

Lot 23 Black and  Royal  has left a lovely filly by Christian Cullen

Lot 23 Black and Royal has left a lovely filly by Christian Cullen

Lot 7 Sportswriter colt

Lot 7 Sportswriter colt

They came in all sizes from the big…

Lot 128 Big Jim filly

Lot 128 Big Jim filly

…to the not so big.

Lot 127 Lis Mara filly

Lot 127 Lis Mara filly

And from the famous families and well established sires…

Lot 106 All About Me

Lot 106 All About Me by Bettor’s Delight

…to the newcomers….

Lot 80 filly byTintin In America

Lot 80 filly byTintin In America

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My Shadow Play colt foal (nickname Leo) playing with his dam The Blue Lotus this morning – and casting some lovely shadows on another sunny day at Isa Lodge.

Shadow Play colt an his dam The Blue otus

Shadow Play colt with his Grinfromeartoear dam.

There is just one Shadow Play yearling in the New Zealand yearling sales this year – Lot 357 at the Premier Sale in Christchurch on 18 February, bred, owned and prepared by Ken Fairburn. Photo below. That yearling is representing just 13 live foals that were by Shadow Play in 2013.  The colt is from a daughter of Filenna, a family that has proved successful although the mare’s pedigree is not a conventional one.

Filenna’s most successful foals have been by sires from the Cam Fella line – Camtastic (Magical Morgan and Magical Monie, who is the dam of Mysta Magical Mach), Cam’s Trickster (Magical Muffin who is the dam of Magical Mel and Magical Merlin) and Presidential Ball (Magical Mills, who is the dam of this yearling).

Shadow Play doesn’t have enough results yet to give a good steer on what damsires he may click well with. There are only 5 Shadow Play foals from Presidential Ball mares recorded by USTA website to date, and 2 of those raced at 2yo and were winners, and he is having reasonable results with Camluck, Cambest and particularly Cam’s Card Shark mares. But really, only his numbers from Artsplace mares are sufficiently large to give some degree of stability to the statistics at this stage.

Going on looks alone, this yearling is worth checking out.

Just a note: One of Shadow Play’s fastest foals to date in America is Shadios, a gelding from the NZ bred Caprock mare Smooth Latin.

Lot 357 Magical Marn

Lot 357 Magical Marn




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I blinked, and suddenly those cute wee foals are personalities on agile legs! On the right, having a run around the paddock this evening, is my Rock N Roll Heaven x Zenterfold filly, and on the left is my Shadow Play x The Blue Lotus colt. (The Blue Lotus is also a daughter from Zenterfold.) Both about about 4 months old.

On purpose, both Kym and I took a year out from breeding in 2012 and hence no yearlings going to the sale this time from any of our mares. However I wish all the best to those who are selling in the upcoming yearling sales.

Shadow Play colt and Rock N Roll Heaven filly bred by Bee Pears

Shadow Play colt and Rock N Roll Heaven filly born 2014, breeder Bee Pears.

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Dark, small, feisty and built like a brick shithouse – she’s bound to be a Bettor’s Delight.

But she’s not. Lot 80 in the PGG Wrightson Sale of the Stars Australasian yearling sale (Karaka) is by Tintin In America. She has those familiar attributes that make Bettor’s Delight fillies sell so well at the sales – attitude and a real “go early” conformation, but because she is by Tintin In America it is really hard to know what price Tinny Girl will fetch.

So far Tintin’s first winner in Australia (race) and New Zealand (trial) were fillies, and his colt at the Garrards Ready To Run sale brought in $70,000. There’s plenty of good word out for his foals from breeders and trainers in both countries. As the only yearling by the sire in the NZ sales, I think there could be a bit of interest. (Note: There is another Tintin In America filly for sale at the APG Brisbane sale on 15 February, Lot 234).

Right now she is on the smaller side, but by no means petite. I would see her maturing to 15h no trouble over time. Tintin himself was a 15.1h horse but his foals seem to come in a range of sizes. Of course the mare contributes to that – Tinny Girl is from a Courage Under Fire mare. Courage Under Fire was just 14.3h. So good things can definitely come in smaller packages!

What does seem to be a fairly common factor in Tintin In America foals is a competitive, assertive attitude (and that runs in his family) and good looks. This filly has both.

I had the pleasure of seeing Tinny Girl yesterday with preparer/breeder/owner Leanne Edwards at Morrinsville, not far from where I live. The filly wasn’t prettied up at all, and in her cover she did look on the small side. But when the cover comes off there is a really nice solid body there, with a powerful bum, already a good wither and sturdy legs. Very likeable.

Leanne says she has plenty of energy around the paddock and often free legs (paces). She’s been hard fed all the way through and her coat is naturally gleaming even without a brush.

I suggested that Tintin In America was a good choice to add a bit of speed into a solid but not exceptionally fast family. This was also the idea behind the breeding of  Tinny Girl’s dam, Khatcha Fire, who is by Courage Under Fire from the 8 win mare Mer Cruza. Leanne explains that Khatcha Fire showed early signs of speed and ability but broke her jaw in an accident and after that became hard to steer, so was switched to breeding without having raced. Her first foal is by Shadow Play, a 3yo filly Leanne intends to qualify this season.

The Tintin In America / Courage Under Fire cross in Lot 80 brings In The Pocket 3×3 sex reversed.  We know what a great influence on the speed of our breed In The Pocket was. As I’ve mentioned before, our locally bred sires like Courage Under Fire have In The Pocket in the sire line, and Tintin In America is the only one so far to include him in the maternal line. It’s an interesting opportunity!

Tinny Girl Lot 80 PGG Yearling Sales 2015

Tinny Girl Lot 80 PGG Yearling Sales 2015. (Photo: Bee Pears)



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