Archive for April, 2015

It’s been pouring with rain most of the day, and our four weanings have been stoically waiting it out. Then at last a break in the weather! And oh boy, the Rock N Roll Heaven filly just couldn’t hold herself back. How could the Shadow Play colt not be in awe?

Rock N roll Heaven filly from Zenterfold

Hey look at me!

Rock N Roll Heaven filly with Shadow Play colt

Oi, I said look at me!

Rock N Roll Heaven filly

You’re going to miss it…

Rock N Roll Heaven filly x Zenterfold

Can’t hold it much longer!

Rock N Roll Heaven filly

Last chance…

Rock N Roll Heaven filly


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At 29 years old, Sundon has finally succumbed to those familiar adversaries – age and ill health.  What a horse! I’m a person who doesn’t use the word champion much at all. But Sundon was and is a champion. Not only was he a superb racehorse, winning from 2 through to 7 years old – with stellar seasons as a 2yo, 3yo and 5yo – but his efforts as a sire have done more than just chalk up a long, long list of outstanding performers. He actually modernised our trotting breed by adding speed and athleticism, and stamping those American trotting qualities on such a large number of his progeny. His fertility usually hovered around the high 70s and often climbed into the mid 80s, and it is testament to his standing amongst breeders that even faced with availability of many top overseas sires in New Zealand over the past 10 years, he continued to be popular. This season he served 13 mares. Sundon was an American-bred colt by Arndon from the BF Coaltown mare Sungait Song who turned out to be a very good producer. One of Sundon’s best half-sisters was Yankee Reb mare Sungait Reb who is leaving her own family for Roydon Lodge. Another is the Roydon Boy mare Sunsong who did nothing on the track, but whose first and only foal was the filly Solar Fire (also by Yankee Reb), a terrific young trotter who is now the dam of the equally talented Sheemon. And yet another half-sister by Yankee Reb was Sunning who has also left some good performers like Burano and Sunny Vacation, as well as current racers No Potato, Santorini Sunset and a talented Angus Hall 3yo filly called Agnes Brown who will be worth following. Sundon’s wider family includes some branches that have not fired at all, as is the case with most families. But the overall class has come through. Sundon’s progeny are still showing those qualities we are so familiar with – just yesterday he quinelled a race at Ashburton with favourite 3yo filly Sunny Ruby and one of the outsiders All Lit Up. Look at the arrogant manner of the win – and yes, a gallop along the way just to make it even more impressive. Sundon’s have sometimes been regarded as a bit lacking in manners, a bit hot-headed. Sunny Ruby is trained by Fred Fletcher – good on you Fred – who of course was very close to Sundon through his career, training and driving him in many of his races.   Summary of Sundon and his career Harnesslink tribute Otago Daily Times tribute and quotes from Phil Williamson

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Most owners of horses who are getting old or who have chronic problems or who get very ill will identify with the ache that the Kennards have gone through nursing and finally releasing Monkey Bones, the grey trotting sire who stood at Wai Eyre.

As a sire, he has done a very solid job in a short time with a reasonable number of mares and good promotion. Let’s not forget his breeding – a son of Andover Hall and a lovely maternal family – with multiple links back into the stunning Goddess Hanover family. He got 66 mares in his last season, which shows how his reputation was growing, so good hear there will be frozen semen available in future.

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Wairarapa meeting tonight at Manawatu Raceway, Race 5 for 2yo and older C0 pacers, and it was good to see Hanover Alert, Driving The Dragon’s full sister, take out third placing and pay $20 a place. Complete outsider of the field, Josh Dickie gave her a sweet trip smothered up 4 back on the inside, but the gaps came and she ran on strongly. I saw her as a weanling at Alabar and noted how much like Sam she was. I really hope she turns out to have similar ability.

Hanover Alert 2010 4 B m Sutter HanoverShark Alert
Trainer: W P Fleming
Owner: W P Fleming, Mrs B K Fleming, K J More
Breeder: Alabar (NZ) Ltd

You can see the replay here

Their dam Shark Alert is currently on surrogate mare duties, I believe. I will follow Hanover Alert (4yo) with interest, and of course her older sister’s progress in Canada.

Ironic footnote: was planning to place a bet but missed completely, because I was yakking on the phone to Aussie blog mate Richard. Hey Ritch, you will enjoy the irony in that!


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The latest winner for Tintin In America as a sire came at Manawatu racetrack today – American Flybye, a 2yo chestnut filly from the Caprock mare Cathy’s Flybye,  who won for trainers Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick and for owners/breeders I D Bublitz and Mrs J I Bublitz, with the usual lovely drive, well rated,  from Scott Phelan.

Watch the replay here

Solid even quarters on the tightish Manawatu track, and she did it easily in the end, in spite of challenges in the last bit.

Her dam Cathy’s Flybye ( 2 wins) has already produced a good filly by American Ideal – Ideal Flybye (5 wins, $34,209 to date) – but overall the wider family has not been offered much opportunity in terms of sires or made much of the better opportunities they have had. But more recent decisions by the Bublitz’s seem to be kick-starting this branch with two sires that combine toughness and good speed – American Ideal and Tintin In America.

Tintin in America

Tintin wins the 3yo colts Breeders Crown

You know the back story – as the breeder of Tintin In America I have followed with close interest and support his efforts as a sire. To me, he offers great opportunities as a sire along the lines of Bettor’s Delight and American Ideal (speed, strength, tough attitude and durability). Tintin won at Group 1 level from 2yo to 4yo).

The oldest of his three crops to date are just 2yos in New Zealand and Australia, and already we have got the top seller ($70,000 plus) at a ‘ready to run’ sale in Australia (but NZ bred), the winner of the South Australian Kindergarten Stakes (a filly), and now his first NZ starter in a tote race winning in a fine way. So it is quality rather than numbers that will do his talking, it seems.

While it is early days for Tintin as a sire, it is also the hardest days. All sires struggle in their 3 and 4 seasons at stud while breeders hang back and buyers hang back…it is the usual cautious waiting for the standout performers to arrive. For sires at the lower end of the market, it is particularly tough. This past season he got just a handful of mares – but I think that could and should change next season. When from very small opportunities you make a mark with quality, a sire is worth a second and third look.

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Blog readers will be familiar with the story of “Sam”, or Driving The Dragon, our lovely 5yo mare who progressed from a weanling bought from Alabar, to a 2yo qualifier, to a mature racing mare with just a handful of starts. Then she went on a winning rampage and chalked up 5 wins, all in defining bold style, before being sold to Carmen Auciello in North America with just 15 races under her belt. Her last race here was in early January and then she went through a brief but acute illness before recovering very well and being exported.

She obviously coped with the trip really well, as she qualified in Ontario recently with an eye-catching 4th behind a couple of open class mares.

So she went out favourite in her first start today at Mohawk in a Fillies and Mares $20,000, and although trainer Auciello could have started her in an easier class, he opted to enter her in this one for decent money, as he prefers to do. He obviously felt confident in her ability. She didn’t let him down – as Drivingthedragon N she shot out from her 6 draw to a good lead, extended that to 4 or 5 lengths and eased up towards the finish line to win by 2 lengths and in 1.53-3.

Love you Sam!

Drivingthedragon N

Bee saying goodbye to Sam late January in Cambridge, New Zealand.


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So low key but always a great way to notice what’s coming through, especially from less-than-high-profile trainers and sires.

Today in glorious sunshine I watched the learner’s pace (where they first do a circuit of the course behind the mobile for practice before released) at the Cambridge workouts.

Racehorses are always a story in the making, so I like to sometimes cover these modest events and report on something of interest.

The small learners field included (in finishing order)

  • Ranfurly Brogden – a 2yo filly by Christian Cullen x Swift Mirage (What’s Next)
  • Fire Chaser a 3yo colt by Flashing Red x Iola May (Live Or Die)
  • Genociate – a 2yo filly by Rob Roy Mattgregor x Rocket Blaster (Pacific Rocket)
  • Lana Royal – a 3yo filly by Shadow Play x Katcha Fire (Courage Under Fire)
  • Norvic Thriller – a 3yo colt by Grinfromeartoear x Norvic Star (Courage Under Fire)
Close to the finish line Cambridge learners workouts 11 April 2015

Close to the finish line Cambridge learners workouts 11 April 2015

It was a non-eventful workout, dawdle and run home, good practice, and all of them finished pretty close up as you can see from the photo, except for Norvic Thriller who went rough a couple of times and tailed off.

There was just a nose between Fire Chaser, who had lead the last round, and Ranfurly Brogden, who finished on from back in the group down the home straight and pipped Fire Chaser on the line. The other two both finished it off well – the Shadow Play filly is not big but looks to have some get-up-and-go, and the Rob Roy Mattgregor 2yo is a striking type of filly who I could see developing into a really nice 3yo.

These are all horses from families that have shown potential but are not really kicking on as you might have expected for quite a while. So it is good to see something flying an early flame and worth watching how that grows with time and experience.

Check them out here:

Ranfurly Brogden Christian Cullen x Swift Mirage

Ranfurly Brogden  – Christian Cullen x Swift Mirage

Hats off to the Bowens for going back to the well and getting a nice Christian Cullen filly from Swift Mirage. Her best other foal by far was Swift Therapy, a gelding by Christian Cullen. Sugar Ray Brogden was a Grinfromeartoear yearling from the mare that I really liked at the sales, and he seemed to add some strength to Swift Mirage. Unfortunately a palate problem got in the way and he’s now sold to China. But this Christian Cullen filly today looked strong and ran home particularly well after settling back in the field.


Fire Chaser Flashing Red x Iola May

Fire Chaser – Flashing Red x Iola May

A nose back to Fire Chaser who must be a result of the free Flashing Red services that were on offer a few years ago – 67 live foals in the year Fire Chaser was born but a rapid decrease in services since. However let’s not forget Flashing Red as a remarkable racehorse at the highest level. The oldest of his progeny here are 4yos. 8 starters to date (1 winner, Red Hot Toddy), and with the ability shown this morning I think Fire Chaser could well joins those ranks.


Rob Roy Mattgregor x Rocket Blaster 2yo filly

Genociate – Rob Roy Mattgregor x Rocket Blaster

The main reason I was there this morning was to see Genociate – one of the few Rob Roy Mattgregors to get to the track in New Zealand so far. What a lovely strong looking filly she is. I have had a soft spot for the sire Rob Roy Mattgregor who stood here briefly before going to Australia, but has died since (and it appears there is no frozen semen.) He was a beautifully pedigreed horse with a good North American record, not a top liner but with real racing ability who had to retire from an injury. So it will be interesting to see if any others of his progeny here and in Australia show up. Breeder/owner/trainer Dave Iremonger liked the look of the sires pedigree, which has Leah Almahurst on the bottom line and Direct Scooter on the top line, and thought such a classy pedigree at an affordable price was a good prospect with his mare, Rocket Blaster (Pacific Rocket x Game Hostess). I think he got it right, because looking at the resulting filly today, particularly after the race when she was washed down and walking around, I thought she looked a very nice strong type of filly and will just get better with experience.


Shadow Play x Katcha Fire 3yo filly

Lana Royale – Shadow Play x Katcha Fire

The 3yo filly Lana Royale came fourth in a good learning experience, as these workouts should be, and finished the race off well. She is the Shadow Play half sister to the Tintin In America filly yearling I have blogged about before. (Leanne Edwards took the Tintin yearling home from the yearling sales after she didn’t make a tough reserve, and she’s been pleased with that decision. The Tintin filly has been broken in by Richard Brosnan and given him plenty of “workouts”, being quite headstrong but lovely gaited.) This Shadow Play older half-sister at the workouts today is not a big filly but she will learn to understand the racing game and did a good first up job today.

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They’ve made that first transition from baby to weanling and are hanging out together in our home paddock, getting some early education from Kym.

Very different types and personalities, and a joy to see them develop.

Absent: Trotting mare Toggle and her Majestic Son filly foal are yet to be weaned. Photos soon.

Rock N Roll Heaven x Zenterfold weaniling filly

Rock N Roll Heaven x Zenterfold weanling filly – a tough fiesty girl with great attitude

Pegasus Spur x Sun Isa weanling filly

Pegasus Spur x Sun Isa weanling filly – a gentle giant, lovely in looks and temperament

Shadow Play x The Blue Lotus weanling colt

Shadow Play x The Blue Lotus weanling colt – athletic mover, friendly and loves life

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Although Australian and New Zealand horses are exported to North America all the time, the ones who really hit the headlines over there are few and far between. A recent profiled purchase from ‘downunder’ has connections to both sides of the ditch, so I was interested to find out more…

Harness Racing Update is a well-regarded news-sheet coming out of North America, and well worth subscribing to – it’s free.

Reuben Brogden winning at Gloucester Park

Reuben Brogden winning at Gloucester Park. (Photo: W Crabb)

Among the articles in the 29 March issue was this one, below, about the purchase of Reuben Brogden by the same trainer/owners combination that are having very good early success with Australian import Polak A (by Pacific Fella out of a Million To One mare – Million To One is a son of Falcon Seelster).

As it says in the article, Reuben Brogden is New Zealand bred, by Graham and Judy Bowen of Brogden Lodge fame here in Cambridge NZ. He’s by Real Desire out of the Presidential Ball mare Ruby Choozday (love the name, but as a race horse she wasn’t startling). Reuben Brogen was sent to Australia in early 2012 after a few starts here that showed potential for Tim Butt, and he has since gone on to a good record of 55 starts for 17 wins in Australia, pulling in $161,000 in stake earnings.

Reuben Brogden was offered at the PGG Sale of the Stars Australasian yearling sale at Karaka in 2010 and was a buy-back by the Bowens after he didn’t even get a bid.

It’s a great example of a horse that needed time to develop and show his true potential – and hopefully that can lift yet another notch in North America.

For further information about the family of Reuben Brogden see Facebook page of Standardbred breeding for all

Harness Racing Update article:

Get Ready For Another Invader From Down Under
By Perry Lefko

YONKERS, NY – There’s another horse coming from Down Under to America and he might be as good, or evenbetter, than Polak A.
Joe Bellino told Harness Racing Update Saturday that he has purchased another seven-year-old pacer, Reuben Brodgen, who is a New Zealand-bred. The gelding would have been here already but there wasn’t a flight available, so the horse was left in Australia where he won last week at Gloucester Park.
Bellino bought both horses separately. Tony O’Sullivan, the New Zealand native who trains some of the Bellinos’ horses, told Joe Bellino that Reuben Brogden has talent comparable to Polak A, the seven-year-old horse by Pacific Fella who is undefeated in two races in the U.S. since arriving from Australia. He was impressive in a win in the second leg of the Levy Series Saturday night at Yonkers Raceway.
“Tony said that based on the races that he had seen, he thought Reuben Brogden was as good or better than Polak A,” Bellino said. “I told Tony (on Saturday during the day) this could be a double-edged sword. Polak A is getting a lot of press by doing well. If we win again, prices are going to go up. He said, ‘yeah, but it’s a good problem to have.’
“We went there because the prices in North America were getting out of control. I couldn’t find anything in North America that I liked.

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I like people to have opinions. But I don’t like irrational, dogmatic viewpoints that can hold back the development of our industry.

That’s why I was cheering to myself as I read the article in the Harness Racing Update newsletter of 28 March by Dean Hoffman “Embryo Transfer Foals Often Shunned”.

It confronted the belief that foals born via enbryo transfer are inferior to those born via their genetic dam.

Some years ago I was also against embryo transfer, thinking that going with nature is better in the long run. It was only when I forced myself to do some more research on the topic, to think it through logically, and to look at how “natural” and “unnatural” processes are applied unevenly across horse breeding, that I changed my mind.

What surprised me most in this journey is the absolute lack of reasonable arguments put up against embryo transfer by those who object to it. I struck this personally when I advocated that breeders should have the option of breeding two foals from one mare per season (with some clear parameters set). I found many breeders supported the idea strongly. Others said they were against it, but I could find not one person who could put up a logical reason why they were against it. The most I could get was “It isn’t natural.” Well, strictly, that’s correct. In the same way that artificial insemination and frozen semen being flown across hemispheres is not natural. And in the same way that many mares will have a twin foal artificially “popped” at a very early stage, for the good of the mare and remaining foal. And I guess the pacing gait itself is not truly natural. But “That’s not the same.” Isn’t it?

Mare and newborn foal

Nature and nuture – it’s not one or the other.

What is the influence of a surrogate mare?

Let’s have a look at the argument that the natural (genetic) dam gives more to her foal than just the genes. It is true that a foal receives very important nuturing through the embryo stage in terms of what the mare eats, and maybe through physical/chemical/hormonal responses of the mare to stress. Similarly when the foal is at foot, the behaviour of the mare can have a huge impact on a foal, from the risk of being kicked by a bad tempered or easily frightened mare, to a mare that doesn’t like being suckled or has milk quality issues, to following bad or good habits by imitating what mum does. (My mare Zenterfold has a habit of raising her front leg and “pawing” the air when she is anxious or fed up, and this is something that I have seen passed on to several of her foals including Destination Moon, The Blue Lotus and Thephantomtollbooth, and even the latest Rock N Roll Heaven weanling. But whether that is some hard-wired genetic trait or just copying an observed action during early formative months spent close to the mare, I have no idea.)

What seems to be important, then, is the quality of the mare that carries the foal. If there are good reasons why a well-performed, well-bred mare isn’t going to make a good “natural” mother in that breeding season – it might be temperament, age, the fact she is racing, illness or injury, a history of slipping foals or poor milk quality,  etc – then embryo transfer is a sensible (but not cheap and sometimes not easy) option. Surrogate mares are chosen because of the qualities they offer – good temperament, healthy, high quality milk and so on.

Combining good genes with a more reliable surrogate mare makes a lot of sense in those sorts of cases – which will always be a small percentage of breeding.

However those against embryo transfer often make wild generalisations about ET foals not performing well, or not selling well. The reason many have not sold well is to do with the prejudice, as well covered in the Harness Racing Update article. And there have been many very well performed ET foals. Ironically the expense of ET probably means that the foal comes from a good mare/family. How well ET foals have performed compared to “natural” foals is a piece of research waiting to be done, but the numbers in New Zealand would probably be too small to draw hard-and-fast conclusions. What we do know is that there have been many examples world wide of top pacers and trotters earning very good lifetime stakes – indeed millions – who were ET foals.

What is so scary about ET?

ET not so scary

ET – not so scary when used to improve our breeding industry and protect our mares.

It’s my guess that some people associate embryo transfer with creating “egg banks” where multiple embryos might be up for sale from top mares, or perhaps there is a confusion with cloning. Some mention the “weird” scenario of having same-aged half-siblings all from one mare racing against each other competitively in a race. Oh, sort of like we have with multiple half-siblings by Bettor’s Delight, Mach Three or Changeover etc right now…. Hmmm. Yet what’s good for the gander appears to be outrageous for the goose!

The downsides to multiple foals are easily catered for with common sense criteria and rules (see earlier link).

Interestingly, the Harness Racing Update article highlights that opposition of trainers to ET foals makes them harder to sell. I’m not sure if that has been the case at New Zealand yearling sales – it used to be, but I will try to check back in terms of prices over the years and see what the story is. We all know how trainers often prefer one or two sires, and how some top trainers will not even look at stunning yearlings that are outside those favourites. It’s their prerogative of course. But when it comes to ET foals I doubt if future owners give a damn, so long as the foal grows into a winner.

So my plea is for all of us – trainers, breeders, and owners – to keep an open mind and debate with real arguments rather than gut feelings, lack of knowledge or simple prejudice. None of us can afford to put blinkers on.

It’s a good topic to talk about now, when breeding numbers are falling and our industry is needing to plan for the future. The future use of ET is no more scary than AI used to be. It’s just a matter of being proactive and setting rules that are good for all, including the mares.

And applying principles across male and female horses fairly, as covered in a previous blog.





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