Posts Tagged ‘bee pears’

This will be the last b4breeding blog post I will write for….well, certainly for several months, and maybe for much longer. Except for one which will serve as an introduction for people who arrive at the blog home page and wonder what it is all about.

It’s time to do something different.

I’ve really enjoyed creating this blog and it has taken me on many adventures and I’ve met some very interesting, talented and friendly people through it too. Happy to keep in touch or to respond to any requests via my email bee.raglan@xtra.co.nz

The blog has covered a wide range of topics over several years, from the future of harness racing, to some of the amazing individual old time horses and families that have had such an influence on our breeding, to the potential of yearlings at the sales, to assessments of new sires on the block. I do apologise for being light on trotting analysis and knowledge and more focused on pacers, but pacing is where my own experience lies. The blog has also traced some of my own horses from newborn foals to the races, and even to another part of the world, and in other cases seen another generation start. Time flies when you’re having fun!

The volume of hits and visitors has grown steadily over the past 5 years, and I’ve had good feedback to my positive approach.  Readers come almost equally from Australia and New Zealand, with increasing number of hits from North America in recent years – and the odd one from Russia too (hello David!)

It is easy to get down about our industry and to find fault, but I have always tried to come up with solutions or fresh ideas – like being able to breed two foals a year from one mare, or using drones and GPS to find new angles that improve viewer and punter experience. I’ve tried to be encouraging and helpful, because I’ve always appreciated that in other people when I needed advice or help.


Bee Pears, proud breeder of Tintin In America from mare Zenterfold. This photo was taken in 2006 when he was between weanling and fully developed yearling. He sold to Geoffrey Small and later trained on to be highly successful racehorse and now sire.

It is really important that we are realistic, practical but also innovative and willing to take risks. Working together and with “nous” is the only way a small industry can survive. For so long we have failed to really understand if we are an agricultural industry, an entertainment industry or a sporting event. The answer is a mix, which has made for very confusing internal, political and public perception of who we are, why we need investment and where we are going. In New Zealand, I look with growing admiration at Alexandra Park as an example of grasping this nettle and making some therapeutic nettle tea (not only good for your liver but if you add honey it tastes nice lol). Nationally, we are doing this bit by bit – a tip o’ the hat to Southland for their strong Southern Bred Southern Reared initatives and to Addington for the breeders bonuses.

Although I am stopping the blog, my own involvement in harness racing and standardbred breeding continues.

Bee Pears and Tintin In America at Nevele R Stud

Tintin In America and Bee in 2014. Years on, and after a 2yo Sires Stakes Final win, 3yo & 4yo Jewels Crown, 3yo Australasian Breeders Crown, a NZ Messenger and 2nd in the Auckland Cup to Monkey King. This photo shows him standing as a sire at Nevele R Stud in Christchurch. I’m wearing my Mum’s blue parka – she was a huge supporter of my harness racing interests and of Tintin – “his legs just flew”.

It is a big commitment for someone on a cash flow shoe-string, but somehow I’ll make it happen because I have had such a fantastic time learning to breed and race horses on a small scale, small budget but with lots of passion. It really sharpens the mind!

My biggest success is Tintin In America, but I learned so much along the way from names that never appeared in lights – like Have No Secrets, who features in my blog here with a link to the background article. It is true – you learn as much if not more from “failures” as from successes. And I don’t see those mares and foals as failures, but as horses in their own right.

Thoughtful breeding doesn’t mean being bogged down in theories and pedigree charts. It means above all knowing your mare, and knowing what you are trying to achieve. Sometimes those two simple things don’t add up and you need to be open to that and be flexible. Sometimes you can make decisions that put the odds more in your favour. Having an open mind is a breeder’s best asset, even more so than having a perfectly bred broodmare!

Many thanks to followers and blog readers who have come on this journey with me, or joined me for a blog or topic or two along the way, or just stumbled on http://www.b4breeding during a browser search. Keep using the “Search” function on the blog itself or just do random year/month to explore some blog topics you may have missed. Hindsight can be quite amusing!

I wish you heaps of success and above all enjoyment in your horse breeding and racing adventures. If you start a blog about that, let me know and I’ll follow you!

Bee Pears
New Zealand

Read Full Post »

The following article is a summary of a report commissioned from Ray Chaplin of equineexcellence.biz in Australia. The full report is available free of charge by emailing equineexcellence direct at contact@equineexcellence.biz

Ray’s report takes a close look at Life Sign, and why that sire struggled to make the expected big impact on the Australasian breeding scene. Ray’s analysis uses the concept of an EEA™ “Genetic Excellence Affinity©” which reflects the correct positioning between a sire and dam and hopefully is expressed at breeding. For more information about this, visit the equineexcellence.biz website.

All thirty (100%) of Life Sign’s top performers across North America and Australasia meet this Genetic Excellence Affinity © criterion. Interestingly, Ray pinpoints Holmes Hanover as a broodmare sire that offers a “Genetic Excellence Affinity©” with Life Sign – but Frank Marrion in his comments holds up this same cross as something to afford on type. Ray’s statistics certainly show that only 33% of Life Sign/Holmes Hanover cross foals bred in New Zealand were winners (27 foals for 9 winners) but the average earning per starter with that cross was NZ$66,285 compared to Life Sign’s average earnings per starter for all broodmare sires of $NZ20,634. Food for thought!

“What if?” by Ray Chaplin, equineexcellence.biz

World champion pacer, Life Sign 1990 ($US 1,912,459; 1:50.3) has proved to be one of the most outstanding stallions of the modern era in the USA. With seven millionaires, average earnings per starter of $95,694 from a total of 1394 foals, he has accrued sire winnings of over $US104 million in North America.

But what if Life Sign’s stud career had commenced in Australasia and not in North America? Would he have ever have become the “champion sire” he is?

Probably not, in the opinion of www.equineexcellence.biz

It is doubtful under this imaginary scenario that he would have received anywhere near the numbers of quality, genetically matched mares to have enabled him to put his best hoof forward as a stallion.

Life Sign provides astute breeders with a valuable “Sign” post into the world of genetics and the influence of differing gene pools that prevail from country to country and even state to state.

The Life Sign whose frozen and fresh semen has been available to Australasian breeders is exactly the same Life Sign as the sire who has established himself as one of the greatest ever North American sires. We are talking about a stallion that has left numerous elite standardbreds and in excess of 2,000 foals of racing age internationally – ample numbers to smooth out the impacts of any “type” issues. The difference in siring performance “down under” can be attributed to the size and quality of the necessary gene pool that was available to this champion son of Abercrombie in Australia and New Zealand.

The following table illustrates why Life Sign, had he originally stood down under, would have probably be shunned by breeders in North America if shipped back home thus providing little hope of him ever becoming a “Champion” sire.

LIFE SIGN (Statistics as at March 2011 – subject to change)

New Zealand
Foals 223   Starters 77   Winners 66 (30% wtf.)
Foals 1047   Starters 296  Winners 157 (15% wtf.)
Foals  1394   Starters 1092   Winners 971 (70% wtf.)

Av earnings per starter (Country of birth only) $NZ 20,634 $AU16,116 $US95,694

Why? Because the gene pool he needed to do his best work as a sire was simply too small – especially in Australia. There was little chance that Life Sign would be afforded such a potent opportunity with the limited number of genetically correct high quality mares available to him “down under”.

The five leading broodmare sires in North America for Life Sign are Tyler B mares (56) average earning per starter $US94,816; Troublemaker mares (32) $US 88,396; Jate Lobell mares (143) $US 87,405; Cam Fella mares (58) $US 86,062; and No Nukes mares (251) $US77,302.

Twenty percent (4) of the leading Life Sign earners in both New Zealand and Australia are from mares whose broodmare sires appear in his top ten earners in the USA.

This suggests that if Life Sign had access to sufficient numbers of high quality mares in Australasia by these broodmare sires his siring record down under would have been significantly enhanced.

Holmes Hanover mares are responsible for another 20% (4) of the top twenty Life Sign performers in Australasia. Holmes Hanover creates the same EEA™ “Genetic Excellence Affinity©” between Life Sign and his mares as does Troublemaker and Cam Fella. Given the affordability of Life Sign now, this could be an opportunity for Australasian breeders with quality Holmes Hanover mares.

Whilst Life Sign never had a chance to repeat his USA siring deeds, he has and still does represent good value as an Australasian sire when matched to quality mares with whom he can establish an EEA “Genetic Excellence Affinity©” The sires of these suitable matrons go beyond the Troublemaker and Holmes Hanover mares highlighted in this report.

Life Sign as a Broodmare Sire

For those breeders who have bred Life Sign fillies from quality mares opportunity still abounds Life Sign is proving to be an excellent broodmare sire in North America. In the USA Life Sign’s top ten foals as a broodmare sire all lay claim to a common EEA™ “Genetic Excellence Affinity©” between sire and dam – exactly the same EEA™ “Genetic Excellence Affinity©” that was common to all ten of his leading progeny as a sire!

Frank Marrion on Life Sign

While Ray Chaplin sees genetic affinity as vitally important, Frank Marrion emphasises the compatibility of traits and type. The following comments were taken from recent personal correspondence and from an article on Life Sign in Harness Weekly in 2006:

Broodmares in North America are more advanced in evolutionary terms and it must always be remembered that some sires will perform differently with different gene pools, or different countries. Life Sign is also suited to a particular type of mare, a type which is more prevalent in America compared to New Zealand or Australia, where they tend to be coarser and later maturing.

There is a perception out there that Life Sign has been a failure because he hasn’t sired a ‘champion’, as if all one had to do was put any old mare to him to get one…It doesn’t work that way of course, particularly when little consideration is given to our type of mare and the type of stallion we are sending her to. While speed is a trait of the Direct Scooter sire line, quite the opposite is the Abercrombie/Life Sign line. They are generally very genuine horses, but lacking speed and/or early maturity. They tend to be big horses which need time to strengthen up. Life Sign has crossed very nicely with the right kind of In the Pocket mares (e.g. Classy Filly). But you wouldn’t want to breed a mare by Holmes Hanover to Life Sign because Holmes Hanover horses (although very genuine) are often big boned horses which lack speed, so breeding to Life Sign would just double up on the ‘lack of speed’ factor.

Bee Pears on Life Sign

It was about 2000 when Life Sign was introduced to New Zealand – our interest in breeding strong staying ‘cup’ horses had been replaced by the desire for speedy juveniles who could get a quicker and bigger return on investment. Top overseas sires were seen as the way to go for speed.

Life Sign came with great credentials, and he had left some super juveniles in America such as Real Desire, Island Fantasy and I Am a Fool. But overall his siring record is much more about leaving horses that get better as they strengthen and age. Add to that, his first few crops were by frozen semen and small numbers, which made it even harder to get the noticed, regardless of percentage foal to winner success.

His first small crops were pretty well received by Yearling Sales buyers but totally outnumbered by In the Pocket and Falcon Seelster offerings and of course Christian Cullen was coming right onto the scene in significant numbers.

Commercial reality is that most new sires are given a very short timeframe to show up before buyers (and then breeders in response) drop them like hot cakes. Our commercial breeding market is dominated by Yearling Sales and the pressure of high stakes for juvenile racing. By the time his larger crops were ready to sell or race, Life Sign’s reputation as a sire of horses that need time was well established, and his best performers only confirmed that. That inevitably meant his access to quality commercial mares reduced.

Poor performance by his siring sons didn’t help at all – until Real Desire came along more recently (with a Troublemaker dam).

The fact that Life Sign still shows up well in siring statistics for Australia and New Zealand is a credit to what he has achieved in spite of small suitable gene pool and the pressure to breed early speed.

Read Full Post »


It is with tremendous relief that I’ve learned the treatment of Tintin’s soreness problem has been successful, in that he is now much more comfortable and is possibly heading for a career at stud (now confirmed he will be standing at Nevele R stud).

I look over what he did as a racehorse –
p2, 1:55.9; p3, 1:53.2 $934,305 16 wins. At 2, wnr G1 Sires’ Stakes 2yo Final, 2nd Listed NZ Yrlg SS Open, 3rd G1 NZ Welcome Stakes, Listed 2YO Emerald. 2YO NZ record holder over 1950m. At 3, wnr G1 3YO Emerald, G1 Australasian Breeders Crown Final, NRM Sires’ Stks heat, 2nd G1 NZ Derby, 2nd G1 Sires’ Stks Final. At 4, wnr G1 4YO Emerald, G1 NZ Messenger Championship, G2 4YO Futurity Stks, G3 Kumeu Stks, 2nd G1 Akld Cup. NZ record holder over 2700m.


And also the excitment he brought to racing.

Tintin with Zenterfold and Kym Kearns

A young Tintin with Zenterfold and Kym Kearns

But what I remember most is the young Tintin full of character, cheeky, assertive, tough minded from an early age. He radiated determination and energy as potent as a coiled spring. Thanks to Kym’s ability to educate a young horse without supressing their spirit, he could bring all that energy with him to the trainer, and Geoffrey Small knew the family and recognised the talent, and could channel that energy and assertiveness into remarkable performances on the track.

What could he be as a sire? People will look to him for speed – we need another Bettors Delight, a sire that can add speed and is forgiven for not necessarily adding size. Of course speed on the track doesn’t necessarily convert into leaving speed as a sire. But in Tintin’s favour, he has a remarkable family behind him, and both a dam and sire who were speedy. As well as genotype, he has phenotype on his side – those quick flex muscles and the body type that can certainly express speed more easily than bigger, heavy types.

In a future blog, I’ll dig into this in more detail. But for now, I’m celebrating Tintin – a neat horse, a thrill to be part of – and wishing him, above all, comfort and freedom from pain.

Read Full Post »

The two Australian companies in my previous blog are specialised pedigree consultants. That’s their primary focus, although they acknowledge the breeding needs to take other things into account.

Breeding consultants, on the other hand, should advise on good matches in a wider sense – compatible types, family strengths and weaknesses, even qualities the market is looking for or what will build future value (broodmare prospects if the foal is a filly).

They should be upfront about any particular breeding or pedigree theory they prefer. Their strength is in their ability to research and understand your mare and her family in detail and to have done the same with a wide range of the sires available to New Zealand breeders.

There are not many independent pedigree or breeding consultants in New Zealand who specialise in standardbreds. In fact Frank Marrion, well known to us as a prolific writer on breeding, may be the only one currently.

The studs have Tesio-based advice and some good insights on their stallions which are useful but don’t fit what I’m referring to here as independent advice.

Frank advertised his consultancy services a few years ago and has since been kept very busy by the response and is now having to cut back this line of work. While this is a pity, it certainly shows that there is a market for someone who is respected for their knowledge and independence. His clients have included some big names in breeding as well as many newcomers wanting a good steer.

Frank doesn’t pull his punches. “I don’t support paper pedigree matching or the search for ‘magic bullets’, as I don’t believe they exist other than the possible benefits of doubling up to superior mares in the right places. Rather I recommend breeding for type, or being familiar with the traits of sire and dam for compatibility and breeding to their respective strengths or away from their weaknesses, and then shortlisting complimentary outcross blood in the sires. The breeder’s budget and plan for the foal also comes into making sire suggestions. But just paper matching, I think that can do a lot of harm and waste of a lot of other people’s money, if the consultant doesn’t care about the individuals in question,” he says.

“Most breeders like to do their own thing, for better or for worse, but there are also a lot who are genuinely in need of some help (particularly relative newcomers to the game) and are really appreciative of an overview of a situation. These are also the people that are most likely to fall prey to consultants!” he adds.

Frank Marrion says budgets and whether the plan is to race or to sell are other important considerations.

“I find Tesio useful for certain things, but I’ve learned that focusing on the mare type and sire type is far more critical. Once I’ve ascertained suitable sire types for the mare, I will use Tesio to come up with an order of preference based on compatible outcrosses – although that sort of thing is pretty much in my head – and supply the Tesio test matings to accompany the reports and recommendations to my clients. I don’t make any promises or guarantees other than I hope to assist people to avoid mistakes,” he says.

Looking at examples of client reports prepared by Frank Marrion, I can see his hallmark thoroughness and almost obsessive attention to detail. As a breeder, I like the insights they would give me into my mare and the clear rationale behind each recommended sire. I would miss the potential X factor, but I can always add that ingredient if I want, or use my own understanding about how to find it.

Frank Marrion’s charges for reports varied, about $300 depending on the time and work involved. If he had already done some work on the family previously it would be at the lower end, maybe $100. ‘Bulk lots’ would see a lower unit price or a negotiated flat fee.

Read Full Post »

Breeding horses successfully involves a whole raft of factors.

Fact one: Breeding successfully is not easy. Only a tiny proportion of horse bred for yearling sales get those top prices, and many struggle to cover their costs. And only a tiny proportion of horses bred each year reach the stage of racing and winning, let alone becoming consistently high performing horses.

You often hear the simple formula: “Breed the best to the best and hope for the best”.

For me, the formula to “beat the odds” of successful breeding looks more like this:

1 + 2 + = + $ + 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
$  The added value of how you raise the foal
U  Your goal – what you are aiming to succeed in, plus
?  An element of luck.

My blogs examine the different parts of this equation.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: