Archive for August, 2016

I’m breeding just two mares this year, Nostalgic Franco and Zenterfold. The other two (Dreamy Romance and The Blue Lotus) are having a year off. That gets them an earlier start next time, but it also takes some financial  pressure off.

Last blog I shared once again the simple formula that helps me work out these things. And one of the biggest considerations is “what is this breeding for?” The answer may be varied, complex, simple or even “I don’t know but I just want to do it!” But at least you have thought about the possible purpose – which can influence what sire you may choose from a number of sires with a suitable pedigree match, or how much money you spend, and so on.

Bee with Zenterfold May 2014

Bee with Zenterfold May 2014

For me, the aim with both these mares is to breed a foal that may be commercial enough to sell at yearling sales. That’s given me enough scope of sires to choose from, and with Zenterfold a wider range because she is a proven breeder of commercial foals and has a good track record of performers. In the past I have had the same aim, but selected a suitable sire from the borderline commercial sires in terms of yearling sales – Grinfromeartoear (x2) and Real Desire. I bred Tintin In America when McArdle was very new and unproven (which worked out well for me, less so for McArdle who has struggled to define himself as a sire). And last time I tried to go more commercial and more expensive with Rocknroll Heaven, only to come away with a lower return (but selling a really nice filly).

That’s all water under the bridge and winners on the track now. This time I am playing safer, with Art Major.  It is my most conservative selection ever, but also my most expensive. So there is risk involved for sure.

However there is a lot more to the equation than just the potential commercial appeal of a foal. The match still needs to be right on a range of other grounds – as the equation says: what the sire offers, what the mare offers, how that works in combination, and the effort that goes into developing a foal.

Art Major has several elements in his pedigree that I believe match really well with Zenterfold, and what I have learned about her breeding.

  • Starting with the top line, he is a son of Artsplace, as is Grinfromeartoear, and I was particularly pleased with the two foals I bred by Grin. So that gives me some confidence.
  • What I like even more is Art Major’s maternal side. Firstly, Nihilator is there sitting in exactly the same spot (as damsire) as he does for McArdle. I’ve blogged before about how I see a lot of Nihilator’s influence in Tintin In America (by McArdle) – type, physical and mental. So again, this element gives me confidence on past results.
  • Then on Art Major’s bottom line he brings in both The Old Maid – another strong connection for Zenterfold, and a beacon for many of my breeding decisions for the mare – and the great family of Romola Hal through one of her most current branches. I’ve done a whole series of blogs on that family which you can find by searching on romola hal in the blog search box.
  • Art Major also carries Shadow Wave in his maternal line through Big Towner, the sire of Rodine Hanover. I love the way Shadow Wave and The Old Maid seem to work together in a pedigree matching. And of course Zenterfold has both these influences in her own maternal half, through New York Motoring and Bachelor Hanover.
  • And finally, Art Major brings in Tar Heel through the mating of Tar Heel and Romola Hal. In Zenterfold’s pedigree Tar Heel also lies in really important places – as the damsire of In The Pocket and the grandamsire of New York Motoring.

As a bold type of horse physically, Art Major will hopefully add a bit of  size and scope into the equation too, and that is very important when you are selling a yearling.

Now going back to the “golden cross” concept, if you merely talked of an Art Major x In The Pocket cross, you would be ignoring some of the most important influences that arise from Zenterfold’s maternal family in the cross with Art Major! That’s why as breeders we need to look deeper than just “golden cross” statistics or marketing ploys.

Art Major x Zenterfold pedigree match

Art Major x Zenterfold pedigree match

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We are just about to officially click over to our official breeding season, 1 September.

Usually I have my breeding decisions sorted well and truly by now. I’ve studied, thought, mulled (with the help of a little vino), and I’ve looked at the sire and the mare naked in the paddock (them, not me of course). I’ve talked with a few people and mulled again, and then I trust my instincts and go for it. Basically, I work through the equation I have always put out there for breeders, not as an equation for glory, but as an equation for good results from what you have and where you want to go.

Breeding this way can still be incredibly exciting and outside the square. All it does is make sure you think things through – and make whatever decision you want! Breeding horses is something that gives us a sense of control over nature, while still being totally at the mercy of nature. Actually, we are just trying to get “in synch” with nature AND the market place. But nature is the best poker player you have ever sat round a table with…lol  And I am not sure that too many of us walk away from that poker table with a profit!

This is the formula I have always put up for breeders to use to make informed but personal decisions  (note: there is no subscription fee or theory you have to follow):

1 + 2 + = + $ + V + U + ?

Which translated means:

1  What the mare brings to the table, plus
2  What the sire brings to the table, plus
=  How those complement each other, plus
$  Your budget and what’s good value
V  The added value of how you raise the foal
U  Your goal – what you are aiming to succeed in, plus
?  An element of luck.


This year I am only breeding two mares – Zenterfold (to Art Major) and Nostalgic Franco (to A Rocknroll Dance).

I’ll blog on both of those breedings next time, as the Zenterfold one in particular ties in with the conversation we are having about the limitations of simple “golden cross” matches compared to looking at what might be driving things in the maternal lines.

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Personally, I’m sceptical about the term “golden cross”. It is usually used for the cross of a damsire and sire. But it leaves out a huge chunk of a foal’s pedigree, which is actually where much of the “engine room” lies – in the maternal bottom line and often in damsires along that line as well.

In terms of Olympic glory, we may find our own breeding stars better by aiming for canny silvers and passionate bronzes rather than relying “crosses of gold”.

Over the years I’ve read/heard numerous references to “bred on the golden cross of..” and to be honest I am left under-whelmed.

Like the Olympics, you have to earn your golden medal. It is not there for the taking. And even when a horse performs well in one maiden race, the commentator’s observation that it is “bred on that golden cross of xx with xx mares” is hardly an insight to why the horse won. It has sometimes, especially in the North Island of New Zealand, started to sound like a marketing ploy.

The most dominant “golden crosses” are sire to damsire, or damsire to sire. Keep a wise mind when using the Golden Cross database such as the NZ Standardbred Breeders Assn one, or the USTA one. They are really interesting and sometimes useful, but mostly for horses that are well established and have enough of racing age to be statistically significant. As a direction for new sires (even those with oldest foals at 5 or 6 years) tread carefully as the gold nuggets are in the detail just as much as in the overall stats. You can only really see this if you drill down another level at least.

For example, what may be driving the success of a so-called “golden cross” could lie just as much in common factors on the maternal line or the quality of the mares overall (e.g “double copy” mares), not just her own sire.

And hugely influential historical “golden crosses” like Artsplace x Western Hanover may often be more to do with availability and numbers of quality mares to a very well performed sire.  Same with the so-called golden cross of In The Pocket mares with Bettor’s Delight in New Zealand – he has had over 200 of them. Because In The Pocket was one of our most expensive sires, ipso facto he got many of the well bred or well performed mares, more-so than the normal population. Having stepped up to that level, breeders then wanted their good mares to go to one of the best Northern Hemisphere sires available, in Bettor’s Delight. As an outcross, it was a great match. However whether there is anything more intrinsic or deep in that “golden cross” I am not sure.

In one way, I am agreeing with that old adage “bred the best to the best”. I’m not saying that is all you need to do (no way!), but it sure makes life easier for a new sire if he gets good or proven mares, and many of them. The volume of good mares ensures that a higher proportion of them will “click” if there is any “click” to be had. (Which is of course why big studs in North America have traditionally built up top broodmare bands to give their new boys a chance to survive “Round One” of their career as a sire.)

For a really nice and well-bred sire who is not so commercial, the road is hard and uneven. And the numbers are much lower so your chances of meeting the right girl with the right attributes to make a good match are much, much lower.

A “golden cross” should be viewed as much wider and deeper than just the sire/damsire cross. And even then, you are not likely to find any clear answers, because:

  • statistically often there are not enough progeny to make valid assertions (at least not until it is obvious if a sire is going to succeed regardless)
  • so many other factors intervene in terms of breeding AND racing success, such as conformation, temperament, how a horse is brought up and trained, injury and accidents, the situation of the owner financially, the standard of the racing environment the horse is in.

For me, “golden crosses” is more a pump up than real oxygen.

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In my blog post back in July 2013 I looked at the 17 Shadow Play winning performers in North America, about halfway through their 2yo season, and what their pedigree might tell us about possible golden crosses.

Those North American Shadow Play horses were: Book Babe, Shadowbriand, Alibi Seelster, Shark Festival, Reasonable Force, Brookdale Shadow, Lady Shadow, Play It Again Sam, Performing Art, Shadversary, Twin B Spy, Skippin By, Shadow Place, Courageous C,  Yoselin Seelster, Nefertiti Bluechip, and Arthur Blue Chip (the only one whose dam doesn’t carry any No Nukes/Oil Burner/Shadow Wave in her pedigree).

Out of interest, how have those horses tracked in the past few seasons? I’ll follow the same order as above, which I think was pretty random or may have been their rating on earnings at that stage – to be honest, I don’t recall.

Lifetime earnings as at 10 August 2016 (half way through their 5yo season or some have retired earlier)
  • Book Babe (mare) $33,250
  • Shadowbriand (gelding) $221,574
  • Alibi Seelster (mare) $269,878
  • Shark Festival (mare) $88,316
  • Reasonable Force (gelding) $135,837
  • Brookdale Shadow (mare) $244,203
  • Lady Shadow (mare) $1,161,012
  • Play It Again Sam (gelding) $318,979
  • Performing Art (mare) $224,853
  • Shadversary (gelding) $3,840
  • Twin B Spy (gelding) $147,686
  • Skippin By (mare) $607,879
  • Shadow Place (gelding) $139,945
  • Courageous C (gelding) $6,787
  •  Yoselin Seelster (mare) $105,508
  • Nefertiti Bluechip (mare) $299,840
  • Arthur Bluechip (colt) $524,707

I haven’t included their best times or race details, this is just an indicative account.

As a sire of horses that can show up but go on to improve, Shadow Play is interestingto follow. His pedigree shouts out to me, so I am not surprised by him proving longer term success rather than short-term 2yo brilliance. So many other factors come into it, of course, but as breeders we need to lay the potential, the springboard.

Shadow Play can add a lot of genetic value to the right mare. He may or may not be given a chance in New Zealand, but he is getting a reasonable chance in North America and Australia. And the list above shows how it can pay off.

Your own thoughts always welcome.

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Shadow Play has left a beauty in the North American mare Lady Shadow. She started her career as a 2yo and 3yo going through the lucrative Ontario Sires Stakes programme and achieving over US$154,000 in each of those years. She stepped up again in her 4yo season, winning 5 of her 14 races and earning $360,862, and then has stepped up yet again as a 5yo to win some of the classic mares races this season including the Roses R Red, the Golden Girls in world record time (a performance worth watching), and a week ago the Lady Liberty on Hambletonian Day. Lady Shadow was bred by Winbak Farm, Chesapeake, and owners are David Kryway, Carl Atley and Edwin Gold. Her total earnings are now $1,312,162. What a mare!

Lady Shadow

Lady Shadow wins the Lady Liberty on Hambletonian Day 2016

Lady Shadow was one of the early 2yo Shadow Play winners I looked at back in a blog in July 2013 “Shadow Play – what can winners tells is?”  In my next blog I’ll catch up on how all those youngsters turned out to date.

What intrigued me then was the reoccurring double up of No Nukes/Oil Burner/Most Happy Fella, and Shadow Wave (who is the damsire of No Nukes, but appeared in many of these young horses pedigrees from a wide range of other sources as well.)

Lady Shadow’s grandam sire is Dallas Almahurst, a full brother to No Nukes Oil Burner. And interestingly, her maternal family (U3, Mambrino Beauty/Nervolo Belle) is the same as Shadow Play’s. It is a maternal family that in the modern day includes heaps of top trotters such as Garland Lobell, Muscle Hill and Donato Hanover, and locally the very good filly High Gait. On the pacing side, as well as Shadow Play some top North American racehorses like JK Endofanera and his sister JK Shezalady, Bar Hopping (a finalist in the 2016 Hambletonian), and Jereme’s Jet – among many, many others. The family sprawls wide in both gaits but keeps pinging up horses of great quality over many generations.

That said, the U3 family doesn’t pop up in Shadow Play’s other top progeny to date.

Those sires I’ve mentioned as positive double ups in his successful progeny are all from different maternal families – Shadow Play is from U105. No Nukes is from U4 (Jessie Pepper) family, his sire Oil Burner from U12, and his sire Most Happy Fella is from U28.

Of course No Nukes, Oil Burner and Most Happy Fella all appear in direct succession in Shadow Play’s siring line.

It is interesting always to find some common elements. I have no idea really why these sires/damsires in a pedigree seem to really suit Shadow Play.  It could be coincidence, or not. It could be the balancing of elements in a sire’s siring line and in mare’s maternal line – a “delta” effect of strong influences coming together from top and bottom.

Of equal importance is the quality of the recent family, and Shadow Play has had some solid mares to play with. Lady Shadow’s dam is a Camluck mare called Lady Camella who earned $203,022 and went 1.51.4. Lady Shadow is the 9th foal from her dam, who has also produced some nice racehorses, appearing to be types that get better as they go on. Her 2002 foal by Western Hanover was Lady Meghan O who won $424,000 and went 1.50.4. Another daughter born 2004 was Pure Movement by Artiscape who won $113,578. Both of these are now breeding on. Overall she has had 12 foals to date, 8 to race, and the best performers are her mares. Lady Shadow has a 2014 full sister called Lady Lynnly.

My personal investment

I’ve bred my Grinfromeartoear mare The Blue Lotus to Shadow Play twice. That cross brings two doses of Shadow Wave into the equation, plus Breath O Spring through a different offspring, and with New York Motoring a similar cross to Oil Burner – Most Happy Fella over a Shadow Wave mare. All in accessible places of the pedigrees.

My first result from that cross is the now 2yo colt sold at the yearling sales in February as The Snow Leopard, and renamed Blackened (after a Metallica song) by his new owner in Australia Domenic Martello.

The 2yo sold for $20,000 and  was broken in and worked for 7 weeks here by Logan Hollis who found him to be a natural. Domenic Martello has kindly kept me posted of his progress since he was moved to Australia, where he is being trained by Geoff Webster at Bannockburn. Reports are all good at this stage – a good attitude and a nice gait, and he’s paid up for Bathurst in case he turns out to have enough as a 2yo.

The mare is now back in foal to Shadow Play, after having a filly by A Rocknroll Dance. ‘

I wouldn’t mind a Shadow Play filly at all!

Delighted to receive this video of Blackened in training in Australia.



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