Archive for the ‘Pedigree matching’ Category

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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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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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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