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Archive for February, 2016

Update 8 March 2016

Tragic news, Zee Dana died today – announced on his Twitter account. That is not what I wanted you to follow and read. So with vets in attendance, and possibly twisted bowel or snake bite, something intestinal, we farewell a horse with so much potential and so much a flagship for Tintin. I really feel for all the connections – that’s a great word for them because they really were connected with Zee Dana, loved him, proud of him, the individual character and talent that he was.

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I was so excited on Sunday night to watch Zee Dana (Tintin In America x Zwish; breeder Dave Kennedy) flying off the front from the widest draw and heading straight to the front.

Zee Dana

Zee Dana with Nathan Jack before the NSW Derby. From his Twitter account.

That he could do that, then still have gas in the tank – just – to run a close third in the NSW Derby….well, what a lovely horse he is turning into. With a bit more room in the passing lane it could have been 2nd place.

Rapt for Dave Kennedy, too, who was over there for the Derby and who reminded me that Menangle doesn’t have a passing lane (damn it!). Dave is a Kiwi breeder who has really supported Tintin In America.

Zee Dana is off for a spell now before aiming at the Breeders Crown. Well deserved break.

Tintin’s first crop is, like Zee Dana, just 3yos at the moment – he had 32 live NZ bred foals that season. Bettor’s Delight had 220, and Mach Three 94, Art Major only 49 in NZ and American Ideal a low of 96 before before those latter three picked up for bigger crops in the next couple of years.

So those statistics sort of paint a picture of the dominance of one pacing sire for what is now a 3yo season.

No complaints – you have to do the best with what you get. And Zee Dana is an example of a breeding that has clicked, a horse that wants to run, and trainers that have developed and channelled his ability.

I am encouraged by what I see from Tintin foals – not all will be successes, but let’s follow the story. Share yours with me – the good and the not so good. I’m interested to know.

You can follow Zee Dana’s story on his own Twitter account here which is very cool. And for a back story on this blog, just search on “Zee Dana” in my blog search field.

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Here’s a quick analysis of some of the New Zealand yearling sales results this year.

As usual, I am looking to get a more realistic pictures overall than an average price will give you, and at the results for breeders/vendors as a group rather than for individuals who may have had a great sale or have the numbers to even out their return.

These statistics look at the results of the auction on the day, so I have not considered those who got no bid, withdrawn or passed in. (Many or were passed in may have subsequently sold privately, but I will assume the range of prices will reflect those from the auctions so will not dramatically alter the analysis.)

At this stage I have not differentiated between pacing and trotting yearlings. My overall comment on the trotters is that both sales were flatter than I had anticipated for trotters given the rising number of races for trotters now part of our racing landscape.

Lot 114 Karaka 2016

Lot 114 Mach Three filly x Silence Is Golden (sold for $17,500)

Australasian Classic at Karaka

  •  128 yearlings in total were sold/bought at auction.
  • The median was $40,000. That means that roughly 50% of horses sold for $40k or more, and 50% sold for $40k or less.
  • 24 yearlings (19%) sold for $15,000 or less.
  • 47 yearlings (37%) sold for $50,000 or more.

Premier Day at Christchurch

  • 373 yearlings in total were sold/bought at auction.
  • The median was $20,000. That means that roughly 50% of horses sold for $20k or more, and 50% sold for $20k or less.
  • 109 yearlings (39%) sold for $15,000 or less.
  • 47 yearlings (17%) sold for $50,000 or more.

The statistics paint a picture of sales that are worlds apart. That has always been the case, but becoming even more so. Take into account that the costs or raising and preparing a yearling in the South Island are significantly cheaper than in the upper North Island, although of course that will differ quite a bit depending on whether a breeder/vendor has the ability to agist on their own land and even grow some of their own feed, hay or haylage, whether they are preparing themselves or paying someone else, and what sort of deal they have managed to get for the service fee. Larger scale breeders have an edge here for sure, in both islands.

Lot 371 Christchurch 2016

Lot 371 Betterthancheddar x Saccha Maguire (sold for $11,000)

So given the statistics, there are some real challenges for South Island breeders and some creative thinking about how to make yearling sales part of a wider picture that allows vendors some structured options. I like the idea of somehow combining an entry fee into the sales with a large discount on (or free) entry to a ready to run or mixed sale later in the year (or even timed for a late 2yo aged sale to give yearlings more time to develop), for those who don’t manage to sell. But this still puts the onus on breeders/vendors to carry more costs and perhaps for no greater return – or for a greater loss. For many breeders, the option of retaining yearlings to race or sell later is an added expense rather than a valid option, particularly for fillies. They may well have others in the paddock at home who are tagged for that.

What about some sort of bonus for buyers who pin-hook yearlings for over $15,000 and put them in a ready to run sale? That gives an immediate return to the vendor and an incentive for the buyer and may bring back the smaller trainer-buyer who seemed to be missing from this year’s sales.

Lot 432 Christchurch 2016

Lot 432 Lucky Chucky x Sunny Moment (sold for $8000)

The $20,000 to $35,000 bracket is where costs are at least covered and the buyer has a bit of scope to make something as well if the horse turns out okay. The affordability to buyers, who are also taking a risk, is very important factor to keep in mind. At the higher end of that $20-35,000 price range, there is something to plough back into improvements and even to breed an additional foal next season. In the South Island sale only 18% of yearlings fetch a price in that $20-35,000 bracket.

For the North Island, I think the trend to higher prices merely reflects how breeders up here have taken up the message to go to proven sires, particularly for pacers. Luckily Alabar in particular have stood some of the newer sires at realistic prices (in the $4-6000 service fee range), so breeders who are willing to take a risk on newer sires (like myself) can still cover costs and make a wee bit at around $20,000. But there is nothing left to put into expansion of breeding.

Fashion is also so hard to follow – hindsight makes us wise. Somebeachsomewhere has been out of fashion in New Zealand for several years – but now is the best thing since sliced bread. Rock N Roll Heaven was in favour at first, but now there is word around that some of his foals can be hard to gait. He was dropped in a big way at these NZ sales. Interestingly, that comment about gait was also the same comment I recall about Somebeachsomewhere foals originally. Ah, fashion is fickle and time will tell.

And if the proof of the pudding is in the eating, or on the racetrack, I still believe that some sort of performance bonus paid to the breeder as and if the horse performs makes the most sense. It rewards the product that performs and the person that bred it.

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Some snapshots of yearlings on parade and sales days 2016 – a reflection on the commitment of breeders, preparers and assistants to develop and present an outstanding and often much loved product – as well as an acknowledgement of the tension of that moment in the parade and sales ring. Tip o’ the hat.

Action

In the moment

Focus

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Concentration

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Connection 4

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Karaka Parade Ring 2016

Karaka Parade Ring 2016

Back today from three days of yearling sales as a vendor and observer, and I am still trying to fathom the puzzle that it gave us.

Reports have covered the basics of the highs and lows (with a focus on the highs of course), and the huge difference in middle market between the two venues. I won’t repeat all of that. I do offer congratulations to those who had a good sale, and empathy for those who had a very average one, and heartfelt commiserations to those who took a beating.

What I will do over the next few blogs is think about the short, medium and long term implications for the industry – not just for breeders although we will start there.

For me, the question is this: How can we progress as an industry if we are not willing to invest in new products? How can we expand our top product base without it being at the expense of breeders?

The glaring result of the sales is that almost all newer sires were simply not wanted – and some who have only had a crop or two racing so far are already struggling as commercial sires.

And then there is fashion – what is “in” at sales time, compared to what was “in” when we booked our mares. Unfortunately for breeders we are making decisions almost 3 years before we line them up as sale yearlings. It is hard to be nimble. Which is why going to top proven sires is where the top breeders are now consistently heading.

And the reception for sires is so different here from North America where buyers will eagerly seek out the top new boys and give them a go.

But is sticking with a handful of proven sires the longer term answer? The average for those sires is certainly well up on others, but the more product buyers have to pick over, the more there will be a number of Bettor’s Delights, Mach Threes, American Ideals and Art Majors who fail to meet the ever-rising bar and who will sell for little if any profit. And that scenario can be even more devastating for smaller breeders who have carried the risk in the hope of getting a good return.

I know the yearlings presented at sales are a small proportion of all yearlings bred. But in many ways the sales are the “canary in the mine” for our industry, giving us a heads-up about its overall health for the future.

Over the 3 days I listened to many breeders (small and also medium sized) who have struggled to make anything overall, and some who will be really assessing if it is worth carrying on.

While that may happen every year, I think it would be cavalier to think “they’ll be back”. Yes, many will be. But I think they will cut right back and be more selective, which may lead to a reduction in foal numbers rather than the increase we need.

Breeders have responded to clear messages about raising the bar of their broodmares and the presentation of their yearling – the standard of product was high across both venues in terms of the catalogue page and the product in the ring.

The new message for breeders is that our role is to test out new sires until they are proven enough for buyers to pay higher prices. Breeders will be expected to carry that risk and cost by being willing to take a loss – or by carrying the costs even further through ownership.

I’m not sure that’s a great model for any industry going into the future. And there may be lessons we can learn from other industries about how to invest in and support new product development and niche marketing that could be useful.

I’ll be looking at that in some future blogs.

Back to day job this afternoon, so will post up some more photos tonight. Personally, we sold our 3 yearlings, but were hit by the sire choice – we weren’t in fashion. I set my reserves very realistically and just scrapped in, for which I am grateful. My aim is always to breed the best I can from the mare rather than aim for the top sales price. We’ve had good sales in the past, so I am not complaining. But even so, the flat results have given me a wake-up call and a prod to reassess my breeding plans. Will I be alone in that?

As always, your views and insights welcome – as a comment or direct to me at bee.raglan@xtra.co.nz

Bid spotter Christchurch yearling sales

 

 

 

 

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There will be a short “holiday” from blogs while I immerse myself in the yearling sales at both Karaka in Auckland and in Christchurch – not just as an observer but also as a vendor.

I hope to catch up with some of the lots/vendors/preparers I’ve talked to, and other blog friends and standardbred breeders over that time as well. And will report back over the following weekend.

At Auckland it will be a nervous time until our three lots have all gone through the ring – any vendor will tell you, it can be so unpredictable. I wish all of them well. We are not in competition, but part of the same industry. And yet our drive to produce a really good yearling and then, secondly, to sell it well, makes us both comrades and competitors on the day.

Rock N Roll Heaven filly

Yeeehaaa!!! My Zentefold filly by Rock N Roll Heaven

The best result is that buyers expectations and vendors expectations align well, or at least in the same ballpark. There will always be some gutting negative surprises and some elating surprises. But my estimate is three quarters of sales results are pretty much aligned, if parties are realistic.

My own personal interest in going to Christchurch, same as two years ago, will be to see the variety of sires in the Christchurch sales. Yes, a more mixed lot, but this is where the future of harness racing is growing its future roots in the new sires and new combinations. I want to see a Stunin Cullen yearling or five for myself, and likewise Shadow Play (my colt is one of only two Shadow Plays in the Karaka sale, and the second one is a filly), and far more Auckland Reactors and Betterthancheddars than in the Karaka sale. I will enjoy looking at the 4 Big Jims in Christchurch (none at Karaka) including one by Under Cover Lover, and a couple of Mister Big, plus some Panspacificflights, more Sportswriters, and hey we have about 8 Well Saids to look at  instead on just one at Karaka. In the trotting lines some decent lots of The Pres, Skyvalley and some by Love You, Sam Bourbon, many others – even a decent related colt from Imperial Count.

It’s not just the numbers game. It is the way the breeders are reading the market and going into a corner that may be lucrative now, but may end up being a fight cage.

Variety, width, choice, spreading new sires, marketing new sires, seems to come to a dead end at Karaka at the moment. I predict it will be a good sale, and lots of figures to support that. My view is not the immediate result but the trend. And promotion of what has been successful in the past has resulted in what we have now – a successful sale (we hope) but one that is not taking our breeding industry forward at all, even though on the surface it appears to be pushing toward top end and established sires.

I think that will change in future. Now it is the probably wise and careful reaction of breeders at least 3 years ago when it became clear that selling a yearling for a decent return was a tough ask, whether you were a small or big player.

Kym Kearns

Kym Kearns with The Snow Leopard, my Shadow Play colt who is such a character!

Breeders in the North Island read those signals (not so different from years before but stronger, more potent) and made their breeding choices accordingly. Top end buyers may be happy – and may end up having so much similar top end choices (“this lovely well bred Bettors or those other 5 lovely well bred Bettors…) that it will level the playing field.

My wish, and one I have tried to act out in the real world with my mares, is that as breeders we go for quality but take some calculated and well considered “b4breeding” risks to bring our topline standardbred mares to sires that will most suit them as well as potentially attract buyers.

The two lots I have as a vendor at Karaka- as I said earlier, my colt (from a mare who is half to Tintin In America) is one of two Shadow Plays, the other being a filly. My filly (from Zenterfold herself) is a Rock N Roll Heaven filly – there are just 2 colts and 1 filly at Karaka from this potent new sire. Seems crazy to me. He is ticking all the boxes including that elusive one which says “Good Fillies”.

Makes you think. I understand the drivers behind breeding decisions and respect that. I just don’t want this “niche” to become a “Karaka Korner” that backs us up against the wall in the long term.

What we can learn from overseas experience is the scenario of first year sires supported by a stud farm – and that is why the Auckland Reactor marketing push from quite a few directions is interesting to follow. That’s an outcome of big players buying into long term results, which often our local sires have not had at that level. Canny, and good luck to them, a well planned and long term strategy to get Auckland Reactor off the ground and into orbit as a sire of the future. I will be keen to see his lots down south. Even the adverts mention his “type” as leggy and I wonder if they will present like many Changeovers have before – scopey types that may need a bit of time, but worth waiting for, rather than pushing them as the 2yos they may not be. Which can make it a longer wait for a sire.

Good wishes to all vendors in the sales. And all buyers. I hope we meet in a good place.

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Bringing fillies to the yearling sales can be tricky, and more so when their sires are not amongst the top four or five. But this hasn’t stopped Anna Laxton, preparer and one of the vendors of three fillies heading for the Premier Yearling Sale in Christchurch. And on type and family connections, they are well worth a look. Two of them are by “old hand” Live Or Die, and the third is by “new boy” Tintin In America. In this blog I look at Lots 213 and 157.

Lot 213 Our Promise – Live Or Die x Good Looking Woman (Holmes Hanover)

Our Promise

Our Promise, Lot 213 Premier Yearling Sale, Christchurch

One that “ticks all the boxes” is Lot 213, a Live Or Die filly from the Holmes Hanover mare Good Looking Woman. That makes this filly a full sister to Livin It Lovin It who is doing a great job over in Australia (26 wins and $175,811 to date). Live Or Die is now 23 years old, and he has earned his reputation as a great value sire of tough raceway horses over many, many seasons. Many of those have ended up racing in Australia where their tenacity and durability has stood them in good stead.  We tend to forget Live Or Die has had a couple of $1m-plus foals – Divisive and Just An Excuse – as well as top horses like Bondy, Power Of Tara, Bold Cruiser and among the mares Elect To Live and Life Of Luxury. When you look at those names, you think of mental and physical toughness. He’s doing a great job as a broodmare sire too – Terror To Love, Ohoka Texas, Major Mark, Lizzie Maguire, Libertybelle Midfrew, Franco Ledger, Elusive Chick and even the trotter Escapee! So investing in a Live Or Die filly can pay dividends in the breeding barn as well as on the track.

Good Looking woman has produced 5 to the races for 5 winners from her 8 foals, and Anna Laxton describes this filly, named Our Promise, as a “tanky, good looking girl, tough – she should have been a colt!” She says the filly free-leg paces around the paddock all the time.

Lot 157 American Dame – Tintin In America x Carnival Banner (Christian Cullen)

American Dame

American Dame, Lot 157 Premier Yearling Sale, Christchurch

If Live Or Die is the “old hand”, then Tintin In America is very much a new kid on the block, but one who is doing enough from very small numbers to open a few eyes – and potentially a few buyers’ cheque books.

Anna Laxton’s father-in-law Peter Fry came across Carnival Banner, a unraced sister to the great Mainland Banner and Christian Banner, and half sister to Stunin Banner, Rocker Band, Return To Sender etc. He bred the mare to Rock N Roll Heaven, lost one but now has a 2yo filly by that sire (Called My Blue Heaven) in the care of John Hay. After that, the plan is to let the mare prove herself before going back to another highly commercial sire. So the next two foals have been by well-regarded but cheaper new sires Tintin In America and most recently Auckland Reactor.

Carnival Banner was an unraced and very big mare, about 16.3hh. Anna says some of that tallness is starting to come through in the Tintin In America filly – “she’s almost thoroughbred looking, she’s very beautiful and I think the best looking filly we’ve had.”

She’s also the only Tintin In America yearling in the sales – both Christchurch and Karaka days. That’s more about the pricing of Tintin as a sire for breed-to-race, and to attract enough mares to develop a reputation. He’s not yet a yearling sales sire – but this is very much a yearling sales filly. Named American Dame, her photo shows a well built, attractive filly who, like her illustrious close relations, could develop into a really strong 3 and 4yo. I have a similarly built Tintin In America filly myself (co-owned with Brian West) from a big Safely Kept mare who has developed nicely and qualified, but we have given her time to mature into her frame and develop some strength, and hopefully will reap the rewards. And Tintin In America fillies are certainly flying the flag, with Just Wantano and Aussie Vista in Australia, and American Flybye here in New Zealand.

With the family credentials for stamina and quality, and a sire that is adding speed, American Dame deserves her place at the sales. On type alone should turn a few heads towards the ring come auction time.

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Ohoka breeder and vet Bruce Taylor (with co-breeder Bruce Kennedy) has an interesting Changeover filly on offer at the Premier yearling sale in Christchurch.

He describes the filly as a lovely, striking looking one, a typical Changeover being a bigger and scopey type, with a big bum and strong neck.

The filly’s dam is My Life, a 16yo Life Sign mare who was imported from North America for breeding purposes more than 10 years ago, by Bruce Taylor, Bruce Kennedy and Danny Boyle. My Life’s dam is where things get very familiar – she’s Mica Lobell (by Temujin from Ms Romeo Waverly), and is of course Live Or Die’s dam.

Live Or Die, half brother to My Life who has a Changeover filly Lot 315 in the 2016 Premier Yearling Sale.

Live Or Die, half brother to My Life who has a Changeover filly Lot 315 in the 2016 Premier Yearling Sale.

So given the enduring respect and popularity of Live Or Die (particularly in the years around 2000 to 2005 when he was serving large books of mares), importing his half sister to breed from must have ticked many boxes. But the hoped for success turned out to be very elusive; Boyle drifted away, and more recently Kennedy has ended his interest, and so now Taylor is the one left with the mare for any future breeding.

Her first foal (born 2005) was by Red River Hanover, and qualified here, was sold to Australia and scratched out 3 wins and 15 places from 64 starts.

After that, the mare proved impossible to produce a foal for another 5 years until a Badlands Hanover colt came along in 2010. He was just average. The following year the mare had a Royal Mattjesty colt that Taylor describes as a magnificent type and was headed for the yearling sales but got kicked and ended up having to have an operation, so was withdrawn from the sales. They tried him as a racehorse and he did look promising but as soon as the pressure came on the damaged hock started playing up again. Taylor says he developed into a lovely natured horse and is now enjoying life as a hack.

My Life’s third foal (born 2012) was a breeding arranged by Boyle. The chosen sire was Rob Roy Mattgregor and Brisbane Pastoral, the owners of that sire, took the resulting colt foal. Brisbane Pastoral Company Ltd (Steve Clements) leased many mares at that time to help build up the sire’s book, and I am presuming it was one of those deals. Interestingly, Rob Roy Mattregor comes from the maternal line of Leah Almahurst (K Nora), so possibly a bit of conscious doubling up going on in that match with a Life Sign mare (K Nora). The foal, named Walter Mattgregor, was exported to Australia in early 2014 and is now a 3yo but yet to show up in the Australian statistics.

The mare missed to Changeover in 2013, but foaled this Lot 315 filly by him in 2014 – nicely named Change Of Tempo.

As I mentioned, Bruce Taylor is pretty much left with the mare now and wondering what direction to take. He’s keen to step up in terms of the quality of a sire, and has been considering Art Major as an option. That has an intriguing double up with brother and sister Romeo Hanover (sire of Ms Romeo Waverley in My Life’s maternal line) and Romona Hanover (dam of Rodine Hanover in Art Major’s maternal line). They are, of course, from the great Romola Hanover/Romola Hal line.

Another option is to look at My Life as a Life Sign mare with all the potential modern connections to the stunning K Nora/Adora maternal family, which we’ve looked at in detail in previous blogs. And that would lead you in the direction of American Ideal for a 3×3 to the great mare Three Diamonds, and a 5x6x5 to K Nora herself.  (He’s Watching would be another option in this regard but that cross results in a 4×2 to Life Sign which I would be wary of.)

Or you could go back to the Mica Lobell well, and try something like Terror To Love who has Live Or Die as his damsire. But is doubling up the Mica Lobell connection the wise way to go?

The fact is, Mica Lobell produced several really nice racehorses – 10 winners from her 15 foals – with Live Or Die ($728,264) and Sea The USA ($765,521, by Seahawk Hanover), and Presidential Power ($218,993) the best of them. But as a maternal line, it is not kicking on at the level or with the consistency that you might expect.

At this stage, I think Bruce Taylor is heading in the right direction – forget the Live Or Die factor and play to the mare’s strongest enduring elements in her pedigree (those modern classic maternal lines I mentioned above) and match to the most proven and commercial sires who also have those elements or ones that click well with them.

 

 

 

 

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