Posts Tagged ‘Big Jim’

Just back from my hugely enjoyable trip to the South Island, where I took in Show Day at Addington, and caught up with some of my youngsters at Studholme Bloodstock (thanks to Brian West and family for a lovely time and taxi service) and Macca Lodge (thanks to Brent and Sheree McIntyre for great southern hospitality).

Highlights were seeing Tintin In America looking in fine fettle at Nevele R – thanks so much to Nikki Reed for showing me around, not just Tintin but the other sires there, all in their paddocks, covers on, a bit muddy. That’s what I love seeing – some of the best horses in the world (A Rocknroll Dance, Gold Ace, McArdle, his son Tintin In America, and the great Christian Cullen) just hanging out and being normal horses!

The day before I had caught up with the 3yo Tintin In America filly co-owned by Brian and myself, recently qualified and now having a good break at Brian’s property. Her name is Be A Legend, and she has grown into a striking filly who will get better with another 6 months of growing and strengthening up. Worth the wait.

Another highlight was when Brent McIntyre took me over the backroads of Southland to meet John and Judy Stiven of Arden Lodge fame. They are passionate about breeding and harness racing, and really thoughtful in the way they have gone about developing their band of mares. It was great seeing some of those quality offspring and learning from John about his breeding decisions. Their mare Winter Rose won the NZSBA/PGG Wrightson Broodmare of Excellence 2015 presented on the Monday night function in Cup Week. Much deserved, as she has a fine record as a broodmare – she’s the dam of Bettor’s Strike, Southwind Arden, and the newcomer Arden’s Choice (more on her in another blog) amongst others.

Of course the other highlight for me was catching up with the two mares and foals I have at Macca Lodge, that I’ve never seen before in person: Dreamy Romance and her Big Jim filly, and Nostaglic Franco and her Tintin In America colt. (Those links will take you to my blogs where I look at the match resulting in these foals). All looking great! And so good to see those mares up close and get a real impression of them, which will help me make future decisions.


Be A Legend 3yo filly Tintin In America x A Legend

Be A Legend 3yo filly Tintin In America x A Legend (Safely Kept)

Breeder Bee Pears with sire Tintin In America (NZ)

Bee reconnecting with Tintin In America at Nevele R – and no, he didn’t try to nip me!

Tintin In America

Eye-to-eye with Tintin In America

Nostalgic Franco and her Tintin In America colt foal at Macca Lodge

Nostalgic Franco and her Tintin In America colt foal at Macca Lodge

Dreamy Romance and her Big Jim filly foal at Macca Lodge

Dreamy Romance and her Big Jim filly foal at Macca Lodge


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Kays Shadow (Shadow Play x Pink Is Perfect) took one of the season’s fastest times for 2yo fillies in North America with her 1.54 debut at Mohawk recently, as Alabar reported in its email newsletter. (This appears to be quickly usurped by much quicker times on 6 July in a race where she came second). A check of her pedigree had me intrigued – it rang as few loud bells, and of course it is the same maternal family as Alabar’s other new-ish sire Big Jim.

Check out the wider family pedigree here

It is one of those pedigrees that epitomises “balance” and I don’t mean just the so-called delta affect.

What I mean is that almost every line is contributing a couple of important things, paying its way if you like. It’s full of maternal lines that have origins in speed and heart, and broodmare sires that are real “engine room” contributors. And there is a mix of double ups but also complementary matches, i.e. lines or individuals that seem to add value to each other.

Then add a bit of personal brilliance from the siring line, and voila!

Fingers crossed she will be given time to develop.

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Folklore has it that Gene Abbe was foaled in the infield at the Putnam fairgrounds in Ottawa, in Ohio.

The Abbe

The Abbe, grandsire of Gene Abbe.

He was a son of Bert Abbe who is a son of The Abbe. The main siring son of The Abbe was of course Abbedale, who left sons Dale Frost and Hal Dale and the rest is history.

Bert Abbe  was a fast racehorse himself (1.59 in the 1920s) and his second dam was a daughter of the famed Dan Patch. He must have done an okay job as a sire. But as a sire of sires, Bert Abbe left Gene Abbe, and that was it.

Gene Abbe’s dam Rose Marie took a record of 2:05 in 1927 and produced 9 racehorses from 11 foals, but Gene Abbe was clearly the standout.

So you can see there was speed from Bert and toughness from Rose, and that just about sums up Gene Abbe.

A foal of 1944, as a 2yo he won 14 of his 16 starts – for a total stakes of just $2,940, but remember that was wartime and 70 years ago.

He raced successfully through his career until he was a 6yo, then retired to stud. 151 starts, 49 wins 46 places, $51,239 lifetime earnings, and a huge reputation.

But that was just the start.

As a sire he did something no other has achieved – he was the horse that kick-started artificial insemination, thanks to the work of Hal S. Jones who managed Pickwick Farms in Ohio in the 1950s and 60s.

Jones, now in his 80s, played a major role in developing the use of artificial insemination in Standardbreds during his years at Pickwick Farm near Bucyrus. The demand for the services of the stallion Gene Abbe was so great that Jones had to find ways to inseminate multiple mares each time Gene Abbe was bred. That resulted in experiments that proved successful and soon led to the widespread use of artificial insemination in breeding trotters and pacers. A native of Kentucky, Jones served in World War II and then assisted his father in managing Mac-Dot Farms, a Standardbred breeding and training facility outside Columbus, in the late 1940s. He moved to Pickwick Farm in 1951 and stayed there for almost two decades, establishing an enviable reputation for his work ethic and horsemanship. That led him to a position at Blue Chip Farms in New York in 1969, then getting established as a breeding facility. Jones took the 25-year-old Gene Abbe to Blue Chip with him despite the fact that many people felt the old stallion would not adjust well. Gene Abbe sired his best performer, Big Towner, at age 29, a year in which he served 32 mares at Blue Chip. Gene Abbe continued to breed mares into his mid-30s. (Extract from US trotting article 2012)

Jones developed an artificial insemination technique in which Pickwick stallion Gene Abbe was bred to 181 mares.
This innovation made Gene Abbe the first stallion of any breed to register more than 100 foals in one breeding season.
Jones’ method changed Standardbred breeding forever. (http://www.recordonline.com/article/20100705/Sports/7050328#sthash.ULByePgA.dpuf)

In a Hoof Beats article in 1984,  Hal Jones himself threw a bit more light on what drove the innovation, and it wasn’t the need for standardbred breeding diversity:

(Pickwick Farm owner Walter Michael) was interested in the quantity of mares we bred, not necessarily the quality of mares we bred….He wanted to know how many mares a stallion was breeding, not how good they were.

Gene Abbe photo USTA

Gene Abbe, photo USTA

In spite of this attitude, or perhaps because the numbers, Gene Abbe was a successful sire of good racehorses, both male and female, and his longevity in that role meant he appears in the forefront (i.e. the first 4 generations) of so many good horses today.

Before following his legacy as a sire and broodmare sire, let’s give a big tip o’ the hat to Gene Abbe the racehorse.

In a conversation with Fred Parks this summer, the New York state reinsman who had Gene Abbe prior to his purchase by the Kniselys, he stated that Gene Abbe was the safest free-legged pacer he had ever handled or seen for that matter-had to be literally knocked off his feet to make a break. Fred drove him to his 11/2 mile victory over Grattan McKlyo and Indian Land when the Bert Abbe pacer came from dead-last after being run into and won going away. Gene Abbe raced better than 2:00 several times and whipped his share of the 2:00 brigade also, still ranking as the top money-winning stallion by Bert Abbe. We noticed in a visit last summer that Gene Abbe goes right into a pace when just walking from his stall. Possessed of terrific whiz from his two-year-old form, Gene Abbe is out of a free-legged mare, Rose Marie 2:05 (hmt) and her first five foals all took marks of 2:081/4 or better on the twice-arounds. She was by the 2:021/4 sire, Martinos 2:121/4 (half-brother to the 2:00 sire, Peter Henley 2:021/4) and carries real racing pacing inheritance back of that. We always used to root for this gallant pacer at the races, having a weakness for the free-legged variety, and feel sure that he will be another 2:00 siring son of Bert Abbe before the books are closed.
Extract from Barn To Wire.com 1952 Harness Horse: Eventime Farm, Ohio, where Gene Abbe first stood after retirement from racing. 

In his chapter on Gene Abbe in Modern Pacing Sirelines, John Bradley traces his career from that very good 2yo season to being a tough and successful racehorse – “a three-year odyssey which would take him from coast to coast and to Canada, racing against the nation’s best Free-for-allers and holding his own.”

It is a breeding and CV based on toughness and durability rather than sheer speed.

Gene Abbe has one of the longest stud careers on record, standing commerically from 1951 to 1977, with a total of 1073 foals for 871 starters (81% starter ratio). His biggest crops were in the early 1960s, when he was second only to Adios on the money-winning pacing sire listing (although with greater numbers on the track than Adios).

He was a sire of good tough racehorses like himself. One of his best was Rex Pick, an ultra tough pacer who did battle with our great Cardigan Bay in FFA events in North America.

Blaze Pick was a good son of Gene Abbe – he took a record of 1.59 and stood at stud but only had three progeny in 2.00 from a small number of foals. One of his non-record mares was J.R. Amy who turned out to be an amazing broodmare. She left 13 winners from 14 foals including four in 1.55, and one of them was the very influential sire and broodmare sire Jate Lobell (by No Nukes).  I won’t start to list his impact in this blog – it is a huge one. Another of J.R. Amy’s foals was Jiffy Lobell (by Oil Burner) who shows up  in New Zealand breeding (after being imported here) via her daughters Rebecca Sunrise and Georgina Lobell. Interestingly, a mare like blog follower Brian Cowley’s Black Raider (Safely Kept X Secret Passion) combines both these influences from Gene Abbe/Blaze Pick/J.R. Amy in her pedigree.

One of Gene Abbe’s best daughters was Poplar Wick who won over $100,000 – her full brother Wejover was brought out here (New Zealand) as a sire in 1973 by Roydon Lodge, who had high although understandable hopes for him:

“His oldest stock are three-year-olds, and while there haven’t been many winners by him yet, this is not unexpected as the Gene Abbe offspring are usually four before they develop into mature racehorses. We know from stock we have that he will produce some good winners in 1979….None other that Jim Harrison, famed United States blood line expert, said of Wejover, whom he knew very well: “He had extreme early speed lasting through his career. As a sire he is an outstanding outcross. He should not only be a good sire, but I believe should be an exceptional sire of fillies.” (extract from The Roydon Heritage by Sir Roy Mckenzie, p156)

Hindsight is a great thing. Wejover was not a success here at stud and later moved to Australia but had very poor results there a sire as far as I can see (please let me know if I have missed something here).

One of Gene Abbe’s other daughters, La Byrd Abbe, has had a longer influence in New Zealand pedigrees, being the dam of the great American racehorse Nero. Nero’s best performing full sister sister Marquess De Sade was imported to New Zealand halfway through her breeding career and was bred (by R D Stewart, Mrs G E Stewart, J A Bracegirdle) to Smooth Fella, Holmes Hanover and others for mixed results in the longer term. Nero’s other full sister Skipper’s Romance leads us (via her daughter Sheba Hanover) to very good performers here like Bit Of A Legend and Smooth Ice/Classy Filly, and (via her son Seahawk Hanover) to Blossom Lady.

It is the “fate” of some great racehorses and sires like Gene Abbe and Tar Heel to struggle to find a prolific siring son or sons to carry on their branch.

This quote from John Bradley’s Modern Pacing Sires sums it up well:

Gene Abbe was one of those stallions who appeared to be ahead of his time, given his modest pedigree and his lack of opportunity with the sport’s best mares until very late in his career. It’s amazing what he did accomplish against some strong competition and he certainly rates as a legendary sire as far as the pacing breed is concerned. Let’s hope one of Big Towner’s sons can keep this line going.

Big Towner Photo Monica Thors

Big Towner, Photo Monica Thors

Right at the very end of his siring career, he produced Big Towner – one of the most underestimated influences in our modern breed. A great racehorse and Gene Abbe’s best siring son by far, Big Towner pretty much followed in the same mould, and has done the same great job as his dad.

But it’s there that this siring line has faltered, swamped by the wave of Meadow Skipper line sires. However the Gene Abbe influence continues because of Big Towner’s huge success as a broodmare sire and in some quirky ways where Big Towner’s sons have also left a brief but enduring mark.

Perhaps the most successful son of Big Towner downunder was Walton Hanover, although he stood in Australia and  was not a big player at all in the New Zealand siring scene. Walton Hanover is the sire of Totally Ruthless (who also stood in New Zealand and Australia but with little top level success) and damsire of New Zealand breds Arden Rooney ($NZ225,093), the Kaikoura Cup winner just recently, and Georgetown who won over half a million dollars before being exported to America, as well as being the damsire of the mare Secret Potion $NZ285,312. Walton Hanover’s live foals-to-winners statistics in Australia seem to be just over 50% which is really good for this part of the world.

Several other descendants of Gene Abbe and Big Towner on either their sire or dam line have also played a big part in the Australian stallion scene including Towner’s Big Guy, Broadway Express, Jet Laag, Pacific Fella, JC’s Suprimo and his close relation Aces N Sevens, Stature, Sandman Hanover, Northern Luck, Brioso Hanover.  Their siring was almost all done in Australia rather than here, and I’d be interested to get some readers’ comments on how their various contributions are viewed in hindsight by Australian breeders.

Man Around Town, a grandson of Big Towner, stood in New Zealand through the 1990s and into the first decade of this century, and sired some very good individuals – mainly tough top mares like Robyn Blue, Imagine That, Kym’s Girl and Royal Rascal; the latter is the dam of Fiery Rascal and Twilight Rascal.

None of Big Towner’s sons or grandsons have really kept the Gene Abbe siring line alight vigorously at the top level. But that in no way diminishes the overall contribution of Gene Abbe and Big Towner to standardbred breeding overall – right down to the present day.

Gene Abbe and Big Towner are both what I call an engine room sire.
The “genes” passed on are tough, durable and deliver quality, just like Gene Abbe himself.


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I was browsing through one of Alabar’s newsletters from November 2013 and came across an article about Big Jim’s first foals in New Zealand (which were just arriving) and a related article “Doubling up Big Towner a good thing”.

Here’s some of it:

There’s now strong evidence to suggest the duplicating Big Towner in pedigrees can lead to positive results and that could be a pointer for Big Jim given he is out of a Big Towner mare. Big Tonwer was a great stallion who topped the North American Sires Premiership at one time, He was a leading broodmare sire and it is through his daughters that his legacy lives on. Many successful stallions possess a dose of Big Towner in their maternal line….Art Major mares look ideal for Big Jim as not only do you get the Big Towner connection but also Artsplace, which shoud suit Big Jim down to the ground. Other potential sources of Big Towner include Walton Hanover, Pacific Fella, Aces N Sevens, Jet Laag and Northern Luck.

The rest of the article was mainly noting the stallions who have Big Towner in their maternal line – Art Major, Always A Virgin, Allamerican Native, Pacific Fella – and how some of their best performers have duplicates of Big Towner.

These sires/broodmare sires are more relevant to Australia rather than New Zealand. So it has been harder for NZ breeders to take obvious advantage of duplicating Big Towner with a sire like Big Jim or more recently Sportswriter and Always A Virgin who again have Big Towner prominently in their maternal line. Our most obvious choice might be Man Around Town mares (like Kym’s Girl and Imagine That) but they are few and far between, and Big Towner sits as the grandsire of Man Around Town rather than on the immediate maternal line. After that we are looking in quite obscure places like daughters of the beautifully bred (but perhaps not suited here) Union Guy.

Big Jim

Big Jim a modern champion 2yo pacer with a damsire born in 1974. (Photo Lisa)

It is very interesting to see that up-close influence of Big Towner is still so THERE in the breeding of modern top racehorses and successful sires. These are very modern horses who have Big Towner (born in 1974) as a damsire or grandamsire. Even more remarkably, the sire of Big Towner, Gene Abbe, was born in 1944.


Of course my quirky old heart-throb Grinfromeartoear does a similar thing by bringing Storm Damage (born 1977)  as his damsire. But he can’t beat the Gene Abbe factor. That is a quite an exceptional “back to the future” element in modern pedigrees.

What really impresses me about Big Towner and his sire Gene Abbe is how current and recent they remain in a number of commercially successful sires – not just as a one-off, a freak.

I’ve blogged about Big Towner before, please check it out if you haven’t read it before.

In my next blog I will go into a bit more depth about Gene Abbe. What an interesting horse he is!

And then I’ll return to the present and see what breeders in New Zealand are doing, or might do, to get the best from the sires that carry these genes.

As always your perspectives from different countries, or from personal experience, are welcome. Send your thoughts to bee.raglan@xtra.co.nz or use the comments/rsponse option at the end of this blog.


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It is a big deal for me (as a small time breeder) to take on a new mare. However I couldn’t resist this opportunity that I stumbled across when checking out the Canterbury Standardbred Mixed Sale results after I got back from holiday.

One of the many mares passed in at the sale was Dreamy Romance, a 12yo big (16h) Dream Away mare who never raced and has progeny by Julius Caesar, Tuapeka Knight and Klondike Kid. Her damsire is No Nukes.

It’s only when I looked deeper into her pedigree and her progeny that I saw something that was very appealing and, as they say, worth a wee punt.

Fifth on her maternal line is the great mare Romola Hal – she sits in the same spot on Art Major’s maternal line and appears in the pedigree of many top horses. Read here a Harnesslink article from 2008 that provides an overview of the Romola Hal/Romola Hanover family. Romola Hanover also pops up in the maternal pedigree of Live Or Die and others via her son Romeo Hanover. It’s a classic family now, one that was famous in its day and is coming alive again thanks largely to the efforts of Romola Hanover’s grand-daughter Rodine Hanover. See a previous blog of mine here

Dreamy Romance’s fourth dam is Romantic Hanover, a full sister (by Tar Heel) to Romola Hanover.

I have got my work cut out to bring this branch of the great family alight, but there is more hope than it looks like at first glance.  Dreamy Romance’s dam is Romantic II so that makes her a half sister to the good racehorse Roymark and to Rachel Romance, the dam of the tough under-rated Beyond The Silence, winner of the The Air Vanuatu Holmes DG Handicap Pace on Friday night (beating Pembroke Benny and Easy On The Eye) and also winner of the Auckland Spring Cup in September.

Also the mare’s two Tuapeka Knight colt foals both qualified at 2yo, and trainer Kirsten Barlcay likes what she sees in the big Klondike Kid 3yo filly who is coming up to qualify. Owner/breeder Bill Keeler last sent Dreamy Romance to American Ideal for a 2yo filly that he is jogging up currently and really likes.

Bill got Dreamy Romance from Sir Roy McKenzie when he was tidying up his estate and cutting back on his stock. Although unraced, she had jogged up well and was a good pacer herself, but hopes of qualifying and racing were dashed by a re-occurring hoof abscess.

This season I hope to get her in foal to Big Jim (see pedigree match below). There are many compatibilities in the match that I really like, apart from the obvious double ups. Sonsam (4×5) is interesting and sent me to John Bradley’s wonderful book Modern Pacing Sires Lines to find out more about that horse.  The obvious danger is that both the mare and sire are tall horses, but from what I’ve seen Big Jim is leaving athletic types and not heavy boned types. In the years ahead I would like to try some quality smaller sires that match well with her pedigree, including Bettor’s Delight who seems to be crossing well with Dream Away mares (e.g. Tiger Tara) and Rock N Roll Heaven who is a very nice match with this mare.

Dreams are free – well, this one was not expensive at all and will be a new adventure for me as a breeder.

The mare will be at Macca Lodge, not far from her present home.

Big Jim x Dreamy Romance

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Sharing these photos I took, with a word or two that sums up what these sires expressed as they paraded at Alabar on Sunday.

And guess what? I was lucky enough to draw the free service to Gotta Go Cullen/Great Success/Elsu – more of that later.

(We missed Elsu who paraded first, but have included a photo I took of him in a parade 2012)

Art Official – lovely conformation, very correct

Art Offical Alabar 2013

Art Offical – Alabar 2013

Auckland Reactor – athletic and supple

Auckland Reactor Alabar 2013

Auckland Reactor –  Alabar 2013

Big Jim – height and reach

Big Jim Alabar 2013

Big Jim – Alabar 2013

Majestic Son – powerful and lithe

Majestic Son alabar 2013

Majestic Son -Alabar 2013

Great Success – strong and square

Great Success - Alabar 2013

Great Success – Alabar 2013

Gotta Go Cullect – on-his-toes show-off with great conformation

Gotta Go Cullect - Alabar 2013

Gotta Go Cullect – Alabar 2013

Mach Three – stunningly handsome professional

Mach Three - Alabar 2013

Mach Three – Alabar 2013

Elsu – classic character

Elsu - Alabar 2012

Elsu – Alabar 2012

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Here’s another blog about one of those hard working broodmare sires that add so much value to pedigrees, particulary when they have specific compatibilities to the mare/family.

As I mentioned in my blog about Overtrick, Big Towner is part of a Hambletonian “stub” – one of those Hambletonian lines that struggled to keep extending its siring line. But the Gene Abbe “stub”  has continued to thrive and to drive many of the best aspects of standardbred racing through its potent influence in damsires, much like Tar Heel has done for another “shortened” line of Hambletonian. Thank heavens for the maternal lines of our pedigrees – many of these damsires have enduring influence on the quality of our current and future stock.

Big Towner

So for me, Big Towner makes it to my list of all time greats in terms of contribution to the cause. Just for a start, look at his influence as the granddamsire of Art Major, Perfect Art, Real Artist and Panspacificflight.

Why? The primary reason is that he ADDS something. He doesn’t just lurk around as a ‘nice to have’. What he adds through the maternal lines appears to be heart size (x factor) but also speed. Yes, these are linked, but not always so. Not automatically so.

I’ve mentioned Big Towner’s contribution in some of my other blogs, for example in looking at Big Jim as a potential sire. And in a recent blog about Overtrick, Tony Dickinson examined his foundation mare Ballie Hanover and her Barbara Direct lineage – but Ballie Hanover also has Big Towner as her damsire, potentially adding quite a bit of value there.

Here is a lovely summary of Big Towner’s contribution, made by another blogger very recently – that’s serendipity!! – (and particularly signals Big Towner’s contribution as an outcross sire/damsire for mares with a lot of Meadow Skipper):


I’d also like to reference John Bradley’s Modern Pacing Sire Lines for some insight into this great damsire – and give him a tip o’ the hat as an amazing racehorse in his own right :

As a racehorse, Big Towner was a precocious colt right from the start, as was seen when he made his two-year-old debut at Maryland’s Rosecroft Raceway (then a half mile track) on May 7th 1976. Big Towner  drew post four and made a break right before the start. But in a preview of what was to come, the colt got back on stride, made up lost ground and raced second all the way until the stretch when he took command and pulled away to a twelve-length win in 2:09.3.

Bradley goes on to describe this horse as “a tough, game and fast colt”. After his 3yo season, trainer Lee Broglio said, “Big Towner is better than his record – he didn’t have too many opportunities over a big track last season – and definitely a fast horse.”  And he became a brilliant racehorse – winning his last 9 races over 6 different New York tracks, and  in 14 of 16 starts that year having the lead at the three-quarter pole and refusing to give in.

That is speed underscored by a big heart, toughness and a will to win.

Oh, and did I mention his own damsire is Shadow Wave? And his maternal line goes back to Nedda Guy and Nedda? With a good injection of Volomite in that lineage? Well, check back over my past blogs on Shadow Wave and my series of blogs on Nedda to see why I think Big Towner had a fantastic contribution to make to the engine room of many compatible pedigrees, ready to stoke the coals and keep those lines fired up.

He was a top race horse (48 starts, 31 wins) but is making much more of a contribution along the maternal lines of modern standardbreds.

Coming up:

In another blog soon (hopefully this weekend if my chooks behave and I don’t get too distracted by housework and walking on my favourite beach at Raglan), I want to look at out-crossing in the pacing breed, and what it means ‘down under’ i.e. Australia and New Zealand, compared to North America. Because In The Pocket (mentioned in the” Skipper, Skipper everywhere”  blog link above, now deceased and semen no longer available) became a huge influence on our breeding in New Zealand, and his son Christian Cullen is making a longterm impression here as a racehorse, sire, a damsire and potentially as a sire of sires. From a one-season venture as a sire in North America, his subsequent small number of northern hemisphere foals have just had highly successful 2yo season, and they are a hint of what outcrossing can offer different breeding “pools” when such a quality stallion is involved.

If you have ideas to share on that topic, contact me at email: b4breedingblog@xtra.co.nz (sorry this email addresss appears not to be working yet, so use my contact email at bee.raglan@xtra.co.nz

– or just add a comment to this blog.)

Other links on Big Towner, summaries of his career and contribution:


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This blog continues looking at the two new sire sons of Western Ideal that are being offered to New Zealand breeders this year.

Both Alabar and Nevele R have taken a punt on a son of Western Ideal for the coming breeding season – Big Jim for Alabar and Vintage Master for Nevele R.  How do these two new siring sons of Western Ideal compare? In the previous blog I looked at Vintage Master on pedigree and type and suggestedwhat mares might suit him. Now it’s Big Jim’s turn.

Big Jim is a big black stallion who will be sold as a sire on his speed, particularly his precocious 2yo speed. Whereas Vintage Master couldn’t win a race at 2 and take a record of only 1.57.4 as a 2yo, Big Jim not only won plenty of 2yo races but took a time of 1.49.2. But as we know, sires with great speed themselves may or may not leave it in their progeny.

What gives Big Jim hope in this regard is the strength of his maternal line. He has the medium sized, very fast Big Towner as his damsire, and on both his maternal lines goes back to the speedy trotting mares Nedda Guy and Nedda (see my blogs on them).  His dam Bold Pink reflected that breeding in her own ability, taking a mark of 1:51.6 herself and leaving four sub 1:55 foals, although Big Jim is by far the biggest earner in stakes. The strength of his maternal genetic structure is, in my view, similar to Vintage Master. It’s very good proven quality, solid rather than spectacular. His dam, grandam and great-grandam all won over $100,000 in stakes, in some decent times, and all produced good performers from a range of sires – a sign of quality heart genes being passed down the female line.

However he was not sound, and in the end niggles forced his retirement before the end of his good 3yo season. It appears the problem was in his ankles and was found to be bone bruising, and started to cause problems even before the end of his 2yo season. Whether the soundness factor is something breeders will take into consideration is uncertain – we do tend to rate speed so highly these days and be willing to take the consequences. People will say: genes don’t get sore. That’s true, and I don’t know enough about what might cause bone bruising in ankles to make any comment on whether it signals anything more than the pressures of racing on a young physical skeleton.

There’s been little doubt in Canada where his first book is full and closed.

Big Jim in full flight

He is a big powerful stallion. In terms of mares here who may suit Big Jim, I would look for pedigrees that would be compatible with his Big Towner factor. I think Big Jim could be very compatible for Falcon Seelster mares, for type and genes, as would Christian Cullen mares be. Also Elsu mares, but for a different reason than Falcon Seelster. Going outside the square,  Dream Away mares could be okay, especially smaller ones – there’s a double up to Sonsam which I don’t mind at all and he added value/speed into both sires’ maternal lines. Big Towner of course has my old mate Shadow Wave lurking close behind, and that opens up mares from the quality maternal lines of Shifting Sands such as Grin, Red River/Rustler Hanover –  although many of these were bigger mares and it will be a while before we see if Big Jim stamps his size.  Mares with plenty of Albatross and Meadow Skipper blood will find Big Jim an option, but Big Towner (an outcross sire with no Meadow Skipper) again provides a way of avoiding just too much of a good thing.

And yes, Art Major mares (eventually) would be a very interesting match.

At $4500 Alabar have, like Nevele R with Vintage Master, gone for a price that is affordable for breeders without attracting too many ‘back paddock mares’ desperate for a miracle.

As you can see from this and my previous post, I’m seeing these sires less in terms of the Western Ideal factor, and more in terms of what their overall pedigree might find compatible in our likely broodmare pool, particularly how breeders might build on the strengths in these sires’ maternal lines, which are well structured and have shown speed.

I’d be happy to have any comments from others on what they think of this approach and what matches they think might work.

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Both Alabar and Nevele R have taken a punt on a son of Western Ideal for the coming breeding season – Big Jim for Alabar and Vintage Master for Nevele R.

Although very good horses in their own right, and both with solid pedigrees, I think a major influence in bringing these sires to New Zealand is also the success of American Ideal (at Woodlands) and of Rocknroll Hanover (by frozen semen) over the past couple of years.

If the Western Ideal sire line is the next big thing, then a stud needs to have one of his top sons on their books, otherwise they can’t offer what breeders appear to be looking for.

Western Ideal

But are New Zealand breeders attracted to American Ideal because of the Western Ideal factor and what is a successful trend in North America? I’m not sure. Western Ideal himself was offered here by frozen semen (via Nevele R) for a couple of years but there wasn’t a lot of interest, perhaps because of the price but also because Western Ideal is not one of those racehorses who reached globally to capture our Kiwi imagination. I would say the attitude to him is more one of huge respect but not excitement – and the lack of familiarity with Western Ideal as a racehorse or a sire (as well as the frozen semen factor) could have made breeders wonder: “Will this be a wow factor for buyers at the sales? Is it worth the price and the risk?”

However American Ideal’s growing reputation through the type of progeny he is leaving and his strike rate (23 starters for 15 winners in 2012), means a market has potentially developed for sons of Western Ideal standing here at affordable prices (compared to Rocknroll Hanover’s top priced frozen semen which is on a different tack).

So how do these two new siring sons of Western Ideal compare? I haven’t seen them in the flesh so I’m relying on photos and reports for that side of things.

They have both taken after their sire in having size (Western Ideal was over 16 hands), which is also the case with Rocknroll Hanover, although American Ideal is medium sized and is tending to leave medium sized foals. Perhaps that is the influence of American Ideal’s damline, which might also be a steer for breeders.

Both Vintage Master and Big Jim have strong maternal lines that could be complemented by broodmares here.

But as racehorses they were very different – Vintage Master tough, tractable, performed best at 3yo, kept going through to the end of the 5yo season.

Big Jim, very speedy 2yo and consistently fast in top races, mentally mature, retired due to soundness problems.

I’ll take a closer look at Vintage Master’s pedigree and what might suit him now, and turn to Big Jim in my next blog. These are, of course, just my views and based on a number of factors, research and thought – not pushing any particular barrow, sire or stud.

Vintage Master

Vintage Master took time to develop – he wasn’t a naturally early type and his fastest time 2yo was his qualifying one of 1:57.4. He matured in his 3yo season to win the Cane, Adios, Bluegrass and Tattersalls (and the bulk of his earnings), and the next couple of years he performed well as a tough pacer with enough grit and versatility to keep winning well-staked, if not top, races. I understand he wasn’t quick off the gate but had strength to hold his speed and, I would guess, the temperament to be very tractable in his racing. He accumulated over $2 million total career earnings but in terms of really top races it was that burst as a 3yo that really set him up. He retired sound after his 5yo season.

Vintage Master – strong maternal line

What I like about Vintage Master’s pedigree is his very well performed maternal line that carries proven speed performers. I think the size of Vintage Master meant he would always take time to find his speed, but it’s good for breeders to see where the speed is and figure out how they might reinforce it through mares with potentially compatible genes and/or type. Specifically Vintage Master’s dam has produced 4 winners from 5 foals and all of those winners have taken <1.55 marks. The fastest earliest is a three quarter brother (interestingly by American Ideal) who paced 1.50.4 at 2yo.

Vintage Master’s grandam is Napa Valley, a sister to the excellent racemare Silk Stockings – who of course appears in Live Or Die’s maternal pedigree. Napa Valley (by Most Happy Fella) was a good racemare herself, and half of her foals turned into <1.55 winners. Two of her fastest were by Storm Damage, the son of Breath O Spring and damsire of Grinfromeartoear.

So when looking for a type of mare that might suit Vintage Master, I’d look for maternal lines in particular that include some of these top quality elements – and Live Or Die and Grinfromeartoear mares would stand out for me.

I’d also look for Most Happy Fella in the maternal lines of sires that could add a bit of speed as well – so Mach Three and McArdle mares would fit that bill. Or looking back a bit, if anyone has still got Road Machine, Pacific Rocket mares around, they might be worth a try if they showed some speed themselves or come from a family that did.

Mares by In The Pocket would also help keep that ‘smaller, quicker’ type that I think this sire (and the Western Ideal line in general) will need. On type alone, many Courage Under Fire mares could suit Vintage Master.

Nevele R have positioned him in the $4000 price range which is trying to attract reasonable quality and numbers of mares. It is a tough ask at the moment for a sire we don’t know much about. But it doesn’t compete with their top line latest edition Well Said (by Western Hanover) who is priced at $8000 and will be marketed as a speed sire.

The more I look into Vintage Master’s pedigree, the more I think he could offer something here in that medium price range that would particularly suit breeders with good but not “sales” mares who are wanting a sire that will add value and are not obsessed with producing very early speed.  He’s unlikely to upgrade slow mares from poor families, and very few sires can. But he could do well with smaller or medium sized mares with the right pedigrees and type for him.

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