Archive for July, 2016

Some youngsters to watch out for were taking early learning steps at Cambridge yesterday morning.

30 July Cambridge workouts home straight

30 July Cambridge workouts home straight in the learners pace.

Amongst them one of the small and only crop of Vintage Master, the son of Western Ideal who stood here briefly for 46 live foals. This one is a 2yo filly called Spritz, well named as she is from the nice OK Bye mare Nemesis Choice and therefore a half sister to the lovely Miss Bubbles. Arna Donnelly is training this young filly for Brent and Sue Donnelly, and Brent reports she is doing everything right so far. She came in 4th of the 5 runners in the learners pace, but it is all good experience. Vintage Master has had just one 2yo qualifier this season (Woodlea Shawn, a gelding from a Live Or Die mare, for trainer Tom Twidle) and I noticed another one called Dodge Phoenix in a couple of Canterbury workouts recently, but those are the only ones who appear to be representing Vintage Master on a public track so far.

Vintage Master 2yo filly

Vintage Master 2yo filly Spritz with trainer Arna Donnelly at the Cambridge workouts

The winner of the learners pace yesterday was a Real Desire 3yo filly called Bubbles O’Leary from the Live Or Die mare Abz. She’s from the family of Tuapeka Dream, but her immediate line hasn’t shown much at the races. The best recent relative has been very good, however – a Bettor’s Delight half sister to Abz called Caribbean Rose who raced in Australia for 17 wins from 62 starts and just over $180,000 and since then has taken a record in North America of 1.51.2. Both Bubbles O’Leary and her older Changeover sister Spare Change (2 wins, 7 places from 20 starts to date) are trained by Ross Villiger at Morrinsville.

Bubble O'Leary, a 3yo Real Desire filly

Bubble O’Leary, a 3yo Real Desire filly

Close up at the finish was Kevin Shaw’s 2yo Badlands Hanover filly from his Gay Holiday family. Kevin and Cathy Shaw will be hoping this strong looking filly, named You’reluckytohaveme, adds to the family’s success, as it seems a long time between drinks! She is out of an Armbro Operative mare Cavalier Countess, who is a half sister to the family’s top performers Cavalier Queen and Hoppy’s Jet.


Badlands Hanover 2yo filly named You’reluckytohaveme, trained and driven by Kevin Shaw

The 3rd placegetter in this local learners pace was a 3yo gelding by Grinfromeartoear, and he really caught my eye – as did his pedigree. His dam in the American-bred mare Amazing Luck who comes from the family of Princess Royal and then further down the track the branch of Dell Siskiyou (leading to the prolific family of Gidget Lobell, the dam of No Nukes, Peachbottom and TMI, all by Oil Burner). There are some excellent “clicks” with Grinfromeartoear along the many and varied pathways of this family, which is interesting, and also a fair few going back to the Oil Burner/No Nukes/Western Ideal well. Rock N Roll Heaven is a great example.

Breeder T J (Tony) Armstrong has had some success getting a few modern branches of the family underway here, and none of these things will have escaped him. This gelding’s name is Hezaluckygrinner, and he is a half to Sheza Gem (dam of Mr Franklin) and Shezaluckydreamer (who raced well in Australia and has just started a breeding career there). This gelding looks athletic and has a lovely reach. So Hezaluckygrinner will be yet another young “Grin” that I will be noting in my little black book!


3yo Grinfromeartoear gelding named Hezaluckygrinner

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Having followed off and on the latest Australian 2016 My Kitchen Rules series, I want to do a funny but not so ridiculous take for harness racing.

Times are changing, and to get noticed in your game you need to put yourself out there in a way that people might relate to – if you are lucky.

So I was looking tonight at the TV (technology already on the frozen planet list) I see so many reality programmes that make things like choosing partners, driving outback trucks, having a first date,  and painting ceilings seem “sexy”. Ha! Being an old bird I can tell you plenty, but everyone wants to learn for themselves. We are such an hilarious human race, so slow at growing wisdom, so fast at growing technology….

Let’s propose a programme called My Horse Rules. Or My Stable Rules.

Pete and Manu

  1. 6 entry spots – six trainers willing to promote harness racing wider that just our “closed circuit tv”.  Over one season, from bringing any nominated horse up from an untried or novice to a race horse.
  2. A mix of good professional and  well-regarded non-professional (obviously with agreement from horse owners).  Any trainer used must have a training licence.
  3. Each trainer nominates 3 unqualified horses (of any age).
  4. Bring them up to qualifying (that is the equivalent of Pete and Manu doing the “house visits” to our lovely contestants) – but it gives an opportunity for people to see what goes on with jogging a horse up and in a stable of horses.
  5. Second round is qualifying – a set deadline for the nominated horses have to get up and going at qualifying speed, or drop out. Important – explaining why a horse drops out.
  6. Third round – Race starts – what’s involved with placing a horse, the excitement of the win, what happens to get the horse ready and on the course etc. Obviously not all horses starting in the same race but an opportunity to look at the different tracks around NZ, meet the locals etc.
  7. And the My Horse/Stable Rules may end at the final stages of the 3yo season, to show that some horses need at least that time to even show their ability.

This builds up into quite an exciting “race night” finale – even if the race night is not at the same venue or exactly the same time – the first race.

But all this showcases the time and effort and skills put into racing over a season, and hopefully interviews with the breeders and owners and trainers to get a feel for why we are passionate about it.

Ok – who is “Pete” and “Manu”? It has to be Michael Guerin or Matt Cross for Pete, but Jess is also a great choice (absolute pro, comfortable with cameras, and great interviewer with heaps of knowledge). Are any of them Paleo? Who cares!

For Manu, maybe we go away from the obvious and pick…well, which male or female could do the job of selling our industry to the wider world? We need to go outside the square to get more traction from people who don’t have a clue about harness racing. Brendon McCullum has an interest in the industry but reaches into a different sports audience as well. Or what about a complete novice but a well-known character like Lorde (okay, haven’t asked yet)  —– that’s where you might have ideas, right?

Send them in as comments.

Come on, this could fly like Pegasus!


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Relaxing tonight after a busy week in the day job.

And just my usual 1/2 type bet on horses I respect or am interested in. So I’ve missed some (including the talented but erratic Vibhuti at Alexandra Park tonight even though I put him in a quinella). But pleased to see he is coming back to express the talent he has.

However I did land a big shark with taties.  That was Happy Lou in Race 7 at Addington for a ridiculously huge return (on my 1/2 bet) – this horse has breeding, form and everyone must have discounted him from the draw. Got to say a magic drive by “Snow” McLellan to weave him though when he was tucked up and full of running. Massive divvy and kept my little TAB account afloat for another month.

Like many Grins, underrated – but look at the classy pedigree he has, not just the 3×3 to Blue Horizon. Lots of good stuff there.





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I met Rory McIlroy today. My goodness, he’s a strapping handsome young guy!

When I met him he was putting around in the stalls, but he had been having some serious driving practice just moments before – when he qualified with a winning run in the pre-race meeting trials at Cambridge Raceway.

Yes, this Rory McIlroy is a super looking Grinfromeartoear 2yo colt, trained by Willie Fleming, who has brought his team up from Hawera for a while to find more opportunities to racing and train with other horses. The busy workouts and race day atmosphere is just what this young colt needs to experience and get used to. He’s a strong package with some talent, and Willie is tempted to at least give him a race as a 2yo.

Grinfromeartoear colt rory McIlroy with trainer Willie Fleming

Grinfromeartoear colt Rory McIlroy with trainer Willie Fleming

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy – one to watch on the leaderboard!

The colt comes from a really nice family, going back to Happy Hooker and therefore the “Wicklow” horses, and his grandam Isle of Inishfree produced some of those really nice “River” horses many will be familiar with – River Dance, River Waltz, River Polka and more recently the young Mrs Zippy who caught my eye at the 2015 yearling sales and is now in training with Adrienne Matthews.

Likewise the Fleming family has several branches involved in racing the various descendants of the Happy Hooker family. Phil Fleming and Jane Fleming are more closely associated with the River side of things, and are second cousins to Willie Fleming.

Another Grin to look out for is Missinmemate, a 3yo gelding who had his first race start at today’s races in Oamaru for trainer and part-owner Brendon Hill. Driver Ricky May had him slow out, tucked down at the back along the fence, and turing for home I confess my eyes were more on my other bet, the Real Desire Badentyre who had sat parked and was forging into the lead. As it turned out, Missinmemate was pulled out wide and stormed home from the back, along with eventual winner Pradas Ideal Dahling, to get a close second, with Badentyre holding on well for third.

Missinmemate comes from a family I have got to know through my own owning interest in Father Frank, a Real Desire out of Gold Return. Gold Return is a full sister (by Armbro Operative) to Missinmemate’s dam Return To Gold, and they are both grand-daughters of the group 1 winning mare Our Stretto.  As a side note, Father Frank didn’t really show enough for trainer Frank Cooney and Tait Hopkins, and is now leased to Kym Kearns as a late 3yo, so I get to see him regularly.

So keep your eyes out for those two very nice Grins over the next year or so – I imagine Missenmemate will be racing again before too long, but not sure when Rory McIlroy will tee off.

Note: I’m still following the Grinfromeartoear colt I sold called Destination Moon, now racing in USA – he continues to do a good job and now has a lifetime stakes earnings (in US dollars) of $113,092, and an additional 15 wins over there after his initial 5 here, and a 1.52 record.

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Whether you call him “Joe Lewis” (as the boxing champ did himself) or “Joe Loeee” the results are the same. And it was good to see the 2yo by Art Major from the mare Snap Wilson get his qualifying certificate yesterday at the North Canterbury trails, compared to his last appearance at the workouts just a week ago where he appeared to trip over himself when breaking and fell, giving driver Blair Orange a particularly weird toss from the cart and a whack from a passing horse. Link here to see the qualifying results and the video.

Tip o’ the hat to Blair for some resilience!!

I noticed this horse as a yearling at the sales, and he was a great example of outcrossing.

Often these things come in and out of fashion, but for me out crossing or inbreeding / line breeding is a choice for each breeder to make for a particular mare and a particular reason – and at the right time in a family.

At the moment inbreeding is “the new black”, to some extent.

But that should not shift our eyes from seeing the importance, for some mares and some families, of going outside and bringing in new and refreshing bloodlines, old or new. A refresh.

If you want to get a connection back to natural behaviour, outcrosses are the results of a young stallion who lurked on the outskirts of your herd, perhaps having lost a competition within his own closer family, but who has the instincts and potency to go looking wider to make his own.

In farming terminology it brings “hybrid vigour” which has been a huge factor in getting our sheep and beef stock up to scratch.

So the lack of close links in a pedigree, or the presence of them, is really interesting. But not necessarily an indication of ability for an individual horse.

However it can be an important factor in the overall development of families of merit.

My gut feeling is that at the moment we are trending to breeding back into really potent maternal families, into the herd.

But longer term, we need those talented outcross sires and mares to keep us from breeding back into one static square with few open doors.

Direct Scooter deserves a medal for what he did in this regard, keeping (who knows how) a line going when hardly anyone was interested.

But how life changes. Now his line through In The Pocket and Matts Scooter – and a heap of quality maternal lines – has intervened to basically prevent the implosion of the pacing standardbred. And he has been a driver of speed in both maternal and siring lines just when needed. An outcross. The line lurking on the outskirts of our herd has challenged and to some extent taken over.

Looking ahead, what sire or line can do this when we need it next? Interesting to hear you views on that.

Back to young Joe Louis – he has some classic references in his pedigree but there is also a freshness about it. I like what I see of this horse and will follow his progress.

Joe Louis (2yo gelding), Art Major x Snap Wilson (Falcon Seelster). Breeder: P F O’Brien, Owner: M A Calcott, Pete Smith, W E Higgs, Trainer: Mark Jones.

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So Captaintreacherous is going to be available down under, via Empire Stallions.

Surprise! Not. About a year ago most of us were thinking along those lines anyway, my blog here.

Captaintreacherous at Empire Stallions

It is great news. I love his pedigree and his quality. Whether that will convert into being a great sire and taking the Somebeachsomewhere sire line into the future, only time will tell. But he will get every opportunity I think.

His maternal family is of course Romola Hal, and I’ve recently completed a series of blogs on that (just use my blog search “Romola Hal” to pull those up). What an extraordinary maternal line for producing sires and potent broodmare sires and broodmares, as well as damn good racehorses.

In America, strongly backed by Hanover Farms, Captaintreacherous got 140 mares at US$15,000, so it will be very interesting to see how he is positioned here.

Will cost make any difference? He’s bound to be desirable – but if he heads into the $9,000+ market here which is highly likely, then that will cut out many of us who have to make hard decisions about a handful of mares, and these days a choice of one high priced sire may very well mean other mares go to $5000 or cheaper sires or are given a break for a year.

And as an unproven sire on the track, he is a risk for a several years, in terms of progeny performance (although not necessarily such a risk for selling progeny from good mares). We know in New Zealand how his own sire has taken time to get traction, and I am not sure if that has even happened yet to the extent that might have been expected. Personally, I see Captaintreacherous as a much sounder breeding prospect here than his sire, simply because there is more in his maternal line that can connect with what we have here. The timing of his arrival with the growing number of quality mares from the wider “herd” of U7 (Miss Duvall) and an increasing number of Western Hanover line mares being available, is another plus for Captaintreacherous. So while there is a risk going to him, I think his commercial appeal (e.g. for the more elite mares and for yearling sales) will be greater than his own sire and give his grandad Mach Three a run for his money as well.

There is the frozen semen factor too – that will be a big factor in how quickly his reputation gains a hold.

Frustrating, isn’t it, that at this time of the year several key studs including Empire have still got a “TBA” against their sires’ service fees. So while I am excited about seeing Captaintreacherous available (and hopefully in New Zealand as well as Australia) it is a real shame these announcements don’t come along with key information like how much the service fee is and who will be the agents in other places (particularly with frozen semen which requires skill and knowledge at the delivery end). He may be booked out or close to it before we know what price we might have to pay. It is not a good commercial model, certainly not one that is used by others industries or in retail unless you are in a straight out bargaining situation.  Breeders have to plan finances in advance just like anyone else. I can understand that our northern and southern hemispheres are “out of whack” in terms of breeding and racing seasons, and that negotiations are sensitive and take time. But Captaintreacherous has already served a season in North America, so it is not like he has just come off the track and his career is undecided. Surely if the announcement can be made, the price has been agreed?

(Update 7 July 2016: Buried down the bottom of the news item on their website (but not included in the enewsletter announcement I received) is the announcement that “His frozen semen is available in Australia for $10,000 including GST and in New Zealand $10,000 plus GST, payable by April 1, 2017.” However the need to get their website updated as all the service fees are showing TBA and Captaintreacherous is not yet on the list.) 

Alabar has got its service fees sorted . Nevele R is still “TBA” on its stallions although the recently announced Muscles Mass has been announced at $7,000.

I’m sure other service fees will be announced soon. But while many are likely to stay pretty much the same as last year, it is still important for breeders to know as early as possible if there are any likely adjustments up or down. In this environment, every thousand dollars makes a difference and cannot always be pulled like a nice white rabbit out of the hat.

Congratulations to Empire for sealing the deal and making such a great horse available down under!

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Here’s a weird but informative connection from the blogs I’m currently doing on a French trotting sire to a 3yo pacing filly by Bettor’s Delight. She’s currently racing and looks to be in again, in good form, at the next Forbury meeting.

Anna Ivy is a talented filly trained and currently racing – Ken Barron is the man behind this filly’s development, and the breeders are Gaby Maghzal and Julie Maghzal.

The weirdly interesting thing in her pedigree is that her grandam is the prolific breeder Abbey Rose and her sire was Sandman Hanover, a well performed and beautifully bred stallion whose maternal line traces back to Arpege and Goddess Hanover.  Sandman Hanover’s pedigree is a great example of how Tar Heel often acted as a sort of broker between the pacing and trotting worlds.

Small world!

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Following on from my last blog, I want to look more closely at Armbro Invasion mares (or more particularly mares with Armbro Invasion in their maternal line) as a potential good cross with Quaker Jet.

Like Quaker Jet, Armbro Invasion has a potent cross of Super Bowl over a Speedy Count mare which resulted in a real quality mare – in Quaker Jet’s case it was Armbro Glamour, and in Armbro Invasion’s case it was the super filly/mare Delmonica Hanover. You can use Classic Families descendants view to see how prolific and successful Demonica Hanover and her daughter Delmegan were as broodmares as well. Down under we know them through Armbro Invasion, but ironically he was one of Delmegan’s less performed offspring, earning only $13,226 compared to her most successful daughter Armbro Temple who won $406,901.

Now just a couple of things to note here:

  1. Both Speedy Count and Delmonica Hanover/Delmegan come from the same root family (U16, Nelly)
  2. Armbro Temple is the only one of Delmegan’s performing offspring to be sired by Garland Lobell. Garland Lobell introduces the Goddess Hanover line to this family through his grandam Genya, who is a daughter of Ayres (son of Arpege). Garland Lobell also brings in the great Dean Hanover again, and Dean Hanover was the sire of Goddess Hanover.

This is just one example I’ve come across where these three elements – Super Bowl, Speedy Count and the Goddess Hanover family seem to throw up some absolutely top line results.

Armbro InvasionAs a sire Armbro Invasion was more noted for producing tough older types rather than speed, which is why he has been such a good counter to Sundon. We know that French sires can also be more later developing, tough types. And this is why perhaps looking for mares with Armbro Invasion as their grandam sire and an injection of more American type speed since would be wiser.

So if you have a mare that has Armbro Invasion in her maternal line and has also got some speed genes added in more recently, Quaker Jet is definitely worth a look.

The same applies to Count Bay mares – Count Bay was by Speedy Count from a Star’s Pride mare (Star’s Pride the sire of Super Bowl of course) and Count Bay’s dam Baynie is a daughter of Ayres.

Looking through Harness Racing NZ’s great Info Horse database, there are many examples of Armbro Invasion crossed with sires that carry the Goddess Hanover family in their genes, and the results certainly don’t knock your socks off! But those sires were, again, not speed sires and not particularly well proven sires in general: Thanksgiving (via Ayres), Elma’s Lad (via Cassin Hanover), Straphanger (via Texas), and Monkey Bones (via Texas twice and Ayres). Of course Monkey Bones is a son of Andover Hall, and died when his siring career was probably starting to gain some traction.

What is more important with Quaker Jet, I believe, is that the Super Bowl and Speedy Count elements are there, and the quality of that combination in both his pedigree and in Armbro Invasion’s. Both of these were renown as fast horses themselves as youngsters. While Super Bowl is much more widely known as a super sire, Speedy Count has developed more a reputation for quality from smaller numbers.  Another of his siring sons, apart from Count Bay, was the very successful Canadian sire Dream Of Glory.

The successful nick of Super Bowl and Speedy Count is well noted, and what Quaker Jet offers is a double dose from a fantastic maternal trotting family, and Armbro Invasion another dose from another very good trotting family.

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I was doing some research recently for a blog reader who has an Angus Hall mare he wants to breed from. What sire might suit? As always, I probe into the mare’s own pedigree and type, and try to identify the things that you would want to reinforce or build on, and the things that might be weakness to counteract.

It all led me, quite excitedly, to one of the French sires offered by Haras Des Trotteurs (loosely translated as The Trotters Stud Farm) which is doing down under breeders a huge favour by negotiating good deals to give more consistent access to frozen semen from top French sires.

Quaker Jet

French sire Quaker Jet

The sire that came up as a great match for the mare was Quaker Jet, a son of Love You but perhaps more importantly a grandson of the great Coktail Jet.

The thing that struck me most when looking at Quaker Jet’s pedigree is how beautifully balanced it is, to the point, almost, of in-breeding. He reminds me of pacing sire He’s Watching in that regard. I described that sire’s pedigree as “a perfect Easter Egg” and like Quaker Jet he offers huge opportunities to add fuel to the fire or to out-cross for “hybrid vigour”. But you have to think a bit.

Quaker Jet is 2 x 2 to half siblings Coktail Jet and Delmonica Jet, so the mare Armbro Glamour appears 3 x 3 in his pedigree, in the maternal line of his sire (Love You) and in the maternal line of his dam (Jenny Jet). Both Coktail Jet and Delmonica Jet were very well performed horses – Coktail Jet legendary at almost $2m EU, and Delmonica Jet 6 wins and over $100k EU.

But wait, there’s more! as they say in the “infomercials”.

Go back further in Armbro Glamour’s pedigree and you find a lot of really lovely influences that could add a lot of value to certain mares in this part of the world. The timing of Quaker Jet is almost perfect. Armbro Glamour comes from the incredibly important trotting family of Goddess Hanover. In this case, Cassin Hanover (a Hoot Mon daughter of Goddess Hanover, and so a sister to Arpege). Yes, this is the family of Angus Hall, Andover Hall, and Conway Hall, as well as Texas. Ayres and many others. And it is a family equally well known and highly regarded in Europe and North America. It is a family that likes finding itself again, but also has some well discovered “clicks” with sires/families like Speedy Count and Super Bowl.

But what does this mean for New Zealand and Australian trotting breeders?

It is great news. As I said, the timing is really good. Although we look to American sires to add speed to our down under trotting families, there is growing recognition that European sires (especially those with a dose of historical American breeding) will really enhance the quality of our trotters in the long term. Already some sires – like Love You – have caught the imagination. They may not be so much sires of speedy 2yo trotters, but they are sires of class and have the ability to strengthen and improve our mares.

And for breeders, that is gold. Well, gold at the end of the rainbow. But we all know that you have to keep building a stronger and stronger foundation to maximise the likelihood of consistent successful breeding. Looking at what works well with these bloodlines, I see strongly the influence of Speedy Count and of Super Bowl adding value when it counts, and folding back into the family in the pedigrees of some of the best offspring in modern times.

What is exciting is that we have some lines already here that could do well to look at Quaker Jet as a cross – older lines (such as Count Bay mares, Straphanger mares), as well as newer ones from the “Hall” brothers, particularly Angus Hall but in future Andover Hall. Some of these mares are at or will be reaching breeding age. Look at the potential there! Goddess Hanover is a driving force in those brother’s pedigrees, through Texas on their maternal line linking with Genya Hanover (a daughter of Ayres) on their sires maternal line.

Then let’s go wider. As I mentioned, this Goddess Hanover family clicks well with itself but also with Speedy Count and Super Bowl – those are the intersections that seem to really step up to another level. Not every time, but enough to make us sit up and take notice.

So here is a popular broodmare sire that is putting his hoof in the air for a chance with Quaker Jet – Armbro Invasion. Look at his pedigree, particularly his maternal line – and you will see a heap of added values to this match.

I will go into the detail in the next blog. But keen to hear from people who have thought about this and already acted on it.


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