Posts Tagged ‘Falcon Seelster’

On the same day as the Interdominion Final and Chariots of Fire was run, I also checked out the harness racing at Addington for the Cheviot Club and spotted two well regarded Falcon Seelster youngsters going around. The first was Free Falling, a 3yo colt who blitzed his field by over 12 lengths and a 57 last half, and then there was a 2yo Falcon Seelster filly who went out favourite and got 3rd, but looks a nice sort indeed. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, there are still a few hitting the racetracks each year, even though the sire himself has passed away in 2011.

Falcon Seelster is available via frozen semen.

So if you have a mare or can lease a mare that is a good potential cross with this sire, this coming season will be one of the last opportunities.

Bob McArdle says he has about 50  straws here and 50 in Australia – the details/contacts are available here on the Bromac Lodge/Stallions web page. Or talk with Bob direct, his phone number is on that website.



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Here’s two more of our great New Zealand sires of recent times, now dead, but living on in some surprisingly young progeny.

Previously I noted a filly from In The Pocket‘s last crop – Sara Holley – who is currently racing, and there is another good horse Light Up Boss, a 3yo colt, also from that crop. See blog here from January 2013 on Sara Holley, who is now a 4yo mare with 13 starts for one win, two seconds and a third, while Light Up Boss has had 5 starts for one win and two seconds.

Then in December I got a jolt seeing a Soky’s Atom 3yo and 4yo breed by Mike Stratford that are currently racing, and blogged about them – see blog here.

Today I watched a 3yo filly Gracey Lacey by Holmes Hanover (out of Cameleon mare Janis Joplin) in her first race at Banks Peninsula. She’s shown up okay at trials, but didn’t really kick on on the grass. She’ll improve as she strengthens, as most of the Holmes Hanovers did.

There were 8 foals in Holmes Hanover’s 2010 crop, and one other has so far got to the races, Take After Me (out of Live Or Die mare Give Or Take who is from the Tabella Beth family). He’s a 3yo gelding and started at Invercargill races at Ascot Park yesterday for a good fourth. His previous start at Ascot Park on 15 January was a nice debut for 2nd.

Holmes Hanover has 22 registered 4yos, so are 10 of them qualified and 3 of those are winners.

More interestingly, he has a few still to come – 6 2yos (4 of them registered), and 3 yearlings (one of which is already registered).

Holmes Hanover was a fertile stallion and I remember comments about how robust his frozen semen was. It’s quite a remarkable feat from a sire that was humanely euthanised in 2006 at the age of 25 (see harnesslink article at the time). He remains one of New Zealand’s greatest sires and broodmare sires.

Falcon Seelster is another sire that continues to produce from frozen semen well after his death in 2011 at age of 30 (see harnesslink article at the time), and he was pretty much retired from breeding the previous year.

However his stock is so respected that the 2014 Sale Of The Stars yearling sales in New Zealand in February boast two colts by Falcon Seelster in the Premier sale at Christchurch and a filly by him in the Australasian sale at Karaka. So he appears in the catalogue as a sire, damsire and grandam sire.

He’s got three qualifiers recently as 2yos that will be worth keeping an eye on – Festive Flyer, Tintinara and The Jazz Man.

For information about the frozen semen still available from Holmes Hanover and Falcon Seelster, see the Bromac Lodge website. As they say in sport, form is temporary, but class is permanent.

In my next blog I’ll switch from looking at the very “old” current sires to the very new ones.

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Harvey tweeted this question: “Got a conundrum for you. Bettor’s Delight=great stallion. Falcon Seelster=great broodmare sire. In USA, Falcon Seelster mares have crossed exceptionally well with Bettor’s Delight. In Aust/NZ, the cross has been very average. Why do you think this is so?”

I don’t want to approach this like a train spotter. More a helicopter view of the railway network. I don’t have a nice clean answer.

Comparing stats from different hemispheres or even countries can be tricky. Just as tricky as comparing horses from different eras.

Bettor's Delight at Woodlands Stud NZ

Bettor’s Delight at Woodlands Stud in New Zealand

The latest USTA stats I’ve got indicate Bettor’s Delight x Falcon Seelster mares has delivered 22 foals of racing age, all have started, 21 have won, and half of them have won $100,000 plus. Those are amazing statistics.

Therefore it seems a big drop down to find, via the HRNZ current statistics on Info Horse, that Bettor’s Delight’s foals 2yo and older out of Falcon Seelster mares have numbered 51, for 20 winners to date. Which is a foals to winners percentage of 39%. Sorry haven’t had time to check the Australian equivalents.

Using the latest published Crosses of Gold stats on the NZSBA website (at end of 2011/12 season) the stats are 43 foals of racing age, 17 starters (39%), 13 winners (30%), and 1 (2%) winning $50,000 plus. Compare that to Falcon Seelster’s stats as a broodmare sire for all sires – 49% starters and 35% winners.  And Bettor’s Delights stats as a sire with all broodmare sires – 47% starters and 33% winners.

When figures from North America and Australasia get so far out of alignment, I would look to three possible reasons:

  1. The different types of racing which may skew results e.g. less emphasis here on 2yo racing, different types of tracks and distances, etc etc.
  2. Different genetic pool. Even though the sire and damsire are the same, it ignores the very different genetic maternal lines an grandamsire lines that we have in New Zealand, and different again in Australia. These may have as much influence on the success of a pedigree match as the more obvious sire/damsire cross.
  3. The statistics themselves – are we comparing apples with apples? How are the stats compiled and what are they saying?

I don’t know the answer to the conundrum, if there is one. I’m not so sure that the statistics for Australia and New Zealand are that bad, just average so far, remembering that Bettor’s Delight has some big crops still to move through the 2-5 yo age groups. It seems more to me that the US stats are remarkably good. And not just for Falcon Seelster as a damsire. Looking down the list of other damsires Bettor’s Delight has crossed with in America, starter percentages are mainly in the 80-100% and winner percentages in the 70-100% range. These would be extraordinarily rare in New Zealand.

Let’s look at some of our other top or enduring sires:

  • Live Or Die for example comes up with 51% starters to foals and 36% winners to foals. (56% and 43% with Falcon Seelster as a damsire)
  • Mach Three at 51% and 38% (46% and 32% with Falcon Seelster as a damsire)
  • Christian Cullen shone at 67% and 50% (70% and 56% with Falcon Seelster as a damsire)

So even where Falcon Seelster mares really seems to have clicked with a top sire, the percentages for starters/foals and winners/foals is much lower than commonly seen in the USTA statistics.

Let’s have a look at another 100% USTA statistic for Bettor’s Delight – Beach Towel as a damsire – 11 foals, 11 starters, 11 winners. But in New Zealand? The stats so far for that cross are 50% and 40% – 10 foals for 5 starters and 4 winners. Other 100% US winner crosses with Bettor’s Delight are Laag, Goalie Jeff, Presidential Ball, On The Road Again and Sonsam. In The Pocket has 100% starters as a damsire for Bettor’s Delight in the USTA stats, but only only 47% here in NZ – and yet is regarded as a potent cross here. It certainly rates well compared to our average ratios – but compared to what is “a cross of gold” in the US, we are far behind.

What makes the US stats so much higher? That’s the puzzle I have buzzing around in my Bee brain.

I don’t think the answer lies with Bettor’s Delight and Falcon Seelster. I don’t think the conundrum is unique to that cross.

There’s the a conundrum that crossing a great sire with a great damsire will not necessarily be the most compatible match. But that still doesn’t explain the difference in statistics between the hemispheres.

So the question for me is more: How come US achieves such high starters/winners to foals statistics?

I’d like to throw the original conundrum and also my own question out to readers for some wider responses and insights.

What answers do you have?

(Use the Respond/comments facility at the bottom of each blog to add your views, or you can email me direct at bee.raglan@xtra.co.nz and I’ll collate some replies and add to the blog.

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In my recent blog on Big Towner I added a link to the viewfromthegrandstand American blog on the influence of Meadow Skipper (Skipper, Skipper Everywhere) which noted the passing of one of Big Towner’s last siring sons – and the domination of Meadow Skipper blood in the “top” and “bottom” lines of many sires. He listed those few sires who are relatively Meadow Skipper-free, amongst them In The Pocket and his son Christian Cullen, both of which are powerful elements in the breeding industry in New Zealand.

The proposition is that when a siring line dies out, we lose an important ability to outcross. We risk getting too much of one bloodline, and our pacing breed is worse off for that.

I agree with that in general. But almost all our siring lines descend from Hambletonian, so what really is an outcross sire? Siring lines branch and develop, and those branches take on their own characteristics. They ebb and flow in what contribution they make to the overall breed. Some don’t survive, but overall I think the desirability of outcrossing ensures that remote branches often become sought after and revive their fortunes when a certain “saturation” level of one dominant siring line is reached.

Of course “market forces” in breeding may not quite line up with the timeframes required for this to happen i.e. a siring line may die out before there is enough interest in outcrossing to it. With Direct Scooter, it was quite a close call.

Meadow Skipper himself now sits usually 4 or more generations removed in most pedigrees, so his influence becomes mixed with a range of many other genes and types – often including outcross sires like Big Towner, Direct Scooter and Abercrombie appearing in the maternal lines – for the very reason that breeders have looked for for that difference to get some “hybrid vigour” or to avoid “too much of a good thing” or just as likely have looked for a certain type of sire to complement their type of mare (stamina sire over smaller speedy mare, etc). So to a large extent the tendency to overdose on one line or branch of a line will self correct over time as breeders turn to other options.

Having said that, there was a long period in North America where it seemed the Dale Frost (Meadow Skipper) line and the Adios (Abercrombie) line sires were in a dance of their own.  The Gene Abbe (Big Towner) siring line was thin on the ground, and Steady Star was the last of the Tar Heel siring line. Thank heavens for Direct Scooter!

In The Pocket to the rescue
In The Pocket is a son of Direct Scooter from a Tar Heel mare,  who actually has Meadow Skipper as her damsire (which is an unusual juxtaposition because Tar Heel was really a generation before Meadow Skipper but Tar Heel’s enduring 28 years at stud allowed him to overlap in this sort of way with the early siring careers of horses like Meadow Skipper).  In The Pocket was otherwise pretty much an outcross sire with his two closest double ups being to Billy Direct  and Scotland.

In The Pocket stood here in New Zealand from 1994 until his death in 2010 and two of his best sons bred sons – Christian Cullen and Courage Under Fire – are making longterm impressions as sires, starting to look very nice as damsires and potentially (particularly Christian Cullen) as sires of sires. Several other top performing sons of In The Pocket have also stood at stud but need more time to see what they will deliver as sires – the tough New Zealand Cup winner Changeover is one with a lot of potential and received good numbers of mares in his first couple of years at stud, and his first yearlings are fairly well represented at the 2013 yearling sales next February.

I would like to make a comment on the list in the Skipper, Skipper Everywhere blog I referred to earlier – Christian Cullen is listed as having Meadow Skipper on his bottom line only but in fact he has Meadow Skipper in both his sire’s family (In The Pocket’s grandamsire) and his dam’s family (his damsire Bo Scots Blue Chip is a son of Most Happy Fella, a son of Meadow Skipper of course).  I’m not sure if by ‘top line’ the writer is referring to the siring line only rather than the sire’s paternal and maternal lines. But it is certainly true that compared to many North American sires, Christian Cullen brings a very different genetic mix to the table.

Influence through maternal lines
It is important to remember that in terms of lines like Tar Heel and Big Towner “dying out”, we are only talking about siring lines. The lines that have become siring ‘stubs’ are some of the most potent influences on our pacing breed and have produced sires that have made a huge contribution through maternal lines. I’ve done some blogs on Overtrick and Big Towner and also Shadow Wave as examples of this. It’s just worth repeating the observation because their genetic contribution is just as (if not more) vital to the future of breeding as the more commercially promoted siring lines.

In a very real way, these bloodlines have found their optimum influence – a way to ensure their best assests are carried forward into future generations with less danger of being made “redundant” as a sire of sires. If you buy into the x factor/heart size theory (and there is a lot of evidence to support it), then we should be more concerned about identifying and nurturing potent damsires among those lines who may struggle to deliver a succession of sire sons, so that we make sure the ‘baby’ is not thrown out with the ‘bathwater’. Bret Hanover-Warm Breeze-Falcon Seelster is one sequence that I’d flag up in that regard. In each case, as sires they have produced top racehorses, but their enduring contribution is more in the bottom line of pedigrees through their daughters. The sons of Falcon Seelster (Elsu and McArdle) may well be continuing this.

Outcross sires in the New Zealand breed
The impact of In The Pocket and another outcross sire Falcon Seelster here in New Zealand has been phenomenal in the past 20 years – these were two sires with plenty of “outcross” blood, and hence our smallish breeding pool has developed in recent decades in a different way than the North American mare population. These sires crossed well with the Meadow Skipper line sires that had stood here – Albatross sons Vance Hanover, Holmes Hanover and Soky’s Atom, and Most Happy Fella sons Smooth Fella and New York Motoring – none of which were the Meadow Skipper line stars that North America accessed.  Readers from North America will recognise New York Motoring perhaps as the brother of Happy Motoring. But these sires did a great job with our mares and produced many excellent racehorses. Interestingly, none of them left a really successful siring son but they carried classy maternal lines that have become an important part of our breeding pedigrees.

We sort of skipped all the Artsplace/Western Hanover excitement that happened in North America, except for Dream Away and later Badlands Hanover,  and we tried only a few Abercrombie line sires (including a brief fling with Life Sign when he was past his peak in North America, but that didn’t really go anywhere either). We had a few sons of Cam Fella come out to New Zealand  (covered in another of my blogs) but nothing that really worked for us except Presidential Ball, and we missed access to Cam Fella’s best sons in Camluck, Cambest and Cam’s Card Shark.

We were extremely lucky that In The Pocket and then Falcon Seelster came along.

(In nearby Australia, it was quite a different story, with much more influence from Cam Fella line and Abercrombie line sires over that same period.)

Well, those are some musings on how New Zealand has ended up with such a good quality but different genetic pool.  The quality of our pedigrees started much further back than what I’ve mentioned here – there were some great ‘colonial’ breeds, and also the injection of absolute classy genes like those U Scott and Light Brigade brought with them (when imported from America by Roydon Lodge) was a turning point in the 1930s/40s, and Bachelor Hanover in the 1970s, among others.

It seems to be a story of solid building up of quality, with some spectacular injections of outcross sires with classy maternal lines at just the right moment.

Are Bettor’s Delight and Art Major going to be two of the same, in hindsight? I’m not sure about Art Major, but Bettor’s Delight (from the Cam Fella sire lines and no Direct Scooter anywhere at all) is going gangbusters to the point of saturation (more of that in my next blog), and Real Desire (from the Abercromie sire line and no Direct Scooter at all) could be another Mr Right – standout sires that leave a lasting impression on the development of our breed.

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Lot 140 Christchurch – Getting Closer, a filly from a McArdle mare bred to Courage Under Fire (Withdrawn)

Although withdrawn from the sales, this lot is worth discussing as it is only the second foal from a McArdle dam to show up in a yearling sales catalogue. (last year’s Lot 30 at Karaka was the first, and I’ll mention a bit about that at the end of the blog.)

In this instance, the McArdle dam is Roanne who was bred by Jack Smolenski from Laurent Perrier, and therefore a half sister to the top mare Lancome. Tony Barron bought Roanne at the 2007 yearling sales for $41,000 mainly as a potential broodmare investment. She’s part of Jack Smolenski’s Regal Guest family that regularly produces top performers from its branches, often the fillies showing up at group level.

At the time, the pedigree page shows Roanne’s half brothers The Phantom Guest and In Monaco as good performers but half sister Lancome was yet to start her wonderful career. Since then Laurent Perrier produced the talented Smo, also by Courage Under Fire. So in hindsight the purchase of a smallish McArdle filly in 2007 has turned out to be a very canny move.

Roanne was tried as a racehorse and showed some speed (taking a 1.59.2 winning mark, and 1.57.9 best placed time), but once the win was achieved Roanne was always going to be heading to a breeding career.

Tony Barron describes the choice of Courage Under Fire as Roanne’s first mating as “100% because of Lancome” – who is, of course, a Courage Under Fire mare. “At first I wondered about putting a smaller mare (Roanne) to a smaller sire (Courage Under Fire), but the result is a nice sized filly,” he says. “We bred the mare back to Courage Under Fire the next season and I was clear with PGG Wrightson that if the resulting foal was a colt, we would withdraw the filly from the sale.”

And that’s what has happened, and what Tony Barron describes as a very nice full brother (by Courage Under Fire from Roanne) born this season will be heading for the yearling sales next year.

McArdle has been a bit of a puzzle as a sire so far, and it seems a lot of his fillies need time (and that’s been the same with his colts too, in spite of a couple of precocious ones like Tintin In America).  

His own sire, Falcon Seelster, produced a handful of truly outstanding fillies in New Zealand – Coburg, Hot Shoe Shuffle, De Lovely spring to mind – but Falcon Seelster’s longer term reputation will be more for his colts, his overall quality and quantity of competitive foals and increasingly as a damsire.  (Already his damsire stats are equal to In The Pocket in terms of foals to winners). So it is quite possible McArdle will go the same way.

Having said that, there are some nice McArdle fillies like Elusive Chick showing up now, and that’s what McArdle really needs at this point in his siring career – a few more winners that go on to perform at the group level and excite us rather than just good overall percentages.  

There were only 7 McArdle fillies for sale in the 2007 yearling catalogue, 6 of them at Christchurch. Interestingly that $41,000 price that Tony Barron paid for Roanne that year was equalled by Lot 129 Zenardle (McArdle-Zenara), who was also from a longstanding good family founded on Zenover (grandam of Elsu and 4th dam of Tintin In America, so that filly had a strong Falcon Seelster/McArdle connection in terms of successful sires).

Zenardle had only one race start before embarking on her broodmare career, and she can claim the very first damsire credit for McArdle at the yearling sales. That was last year (2011) when a Bettor’s Delight filly from Zenardle was bought for $10,000 by Steve Clements of Brisbane Pastoral Company Ltd and is now an unraced 2yo in Australia.

So in both cases, these two McArdle mares (Roanne and Zenardle) were originally sold at the same yearling sales  in 2007 and for the same good price. They both come from strong old families that can produce top performers. They have both been put to quality proven sires, and both are smaller sires with reputations for speed and more chance of producing early types.

It will be interesting to follow them and their offspring  in the years to come.

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Falcon Seelster

Stamping "gait speed"

(Stamp of success Part 2 of 6)  As New Zealand breeding guru Bob McArdle puts it, while pedigree is extremely important, the breeder is also “looking to create an architecturally designed individual.”

Bob McArdle believes a key factor in Falcon Seelster’s success was his gait.  “You can see that in many of his foals – they are designed to get yardage in their gait.” It’s a case where the overall size of the progeny is less important than their ability to get maximum  speed and reach. The same could be said about Courage Under Fire, where his reputation for leaving a high percentage of foals with naturally good gait gives him an advantage – “gait speed” (excuse the pun) – that offsets the size of many of his foals.

Bob McArdle also sees Falcon Seelster ‘stamping’ his progeny with the distinctive “Falcon head”, and soundness. Soundness, whether from good genetic bone density or less wear and tear thanks to an excellent conformation and gait, is a hugely valuable asset to pass on to foals.

When he talks about two of Nevele R’s most durable sires, Holmes Hanover and Live or Die, you can hear the admiration in Bob McArdle’s voice. “Some sires throw more to their size, some not. With Holmes he left a more heavy boned, bigger type of horse. With Live or Die, he can leave them all over the park, some little, some big.”

Both these sires have built a reputation for consistent, tough and genuine progeny, whether colts or fillies. “Live or Die and Holmes both pass on their mental toughness,” he says. “Look at the way Live or Die sat in the death in the Woodrow Wilson. He didn’t win, he came second – but I admired him for that run as much as if he had won.”

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