Posts Tagged ‘Frank Marrion’

Frank Marrion’s great summary of the 2012  trotting Australasian Breeders Crown winners (in the 29 August Harness Racing Weekly)  throws up another cross-breeding success. See previous blog.

In the wake of the very good (and unusual) Googoo Gaagaa in USA, we have Blitzthemcalder in Australia!

Blitzthemcalder – from a trotting mare by a pacing sire (photo: Herald Sun)

The winner of the 2yo Australasian Breeders Crown Trot is “looking like some sort of freak,” writes Frank Marrion, “being a big and bold-going black colt by the pacing sire Metropolitan from the family of Maori’s Idol.”  Metropolitan is an fairly ordinary pacing sire by Panderosa-Tallulah Belle, by Artsplace.  Blitzthemcalder’s dam is the first foal from the unraced Like A Calder, a daughter of Balanced Image and a good trotting mare in Maori’s Dream.

You can read the full article on p13 of the New Zealand Harness Racing Weekly Vol 27, August 29, 2012 (unfortunately not available online as yet). Or if there is enough interest expressed I will see if I can arrange to reprint it here.

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(A rich and elegant puzzle Part 2 of 3) Why do the sons of successful sires and top broodmares sometimes not make it as a sire? That’s the question I posed to New Zealand breeding consultant/writer Frank Marrion.

The proof of the pudding – by Frank Marrion

I think it is important to remember that no two horses are the same genetically.

You might have brothers and sisters and three quarter brothers from the same mare, but they will still be individuals with strengths and weaknesses.

The foals from Rich N Elegant are a good example.

I don’t know a lot about Richess Hanover, other than that he went amiss as a 2yo and has just been fair at stud standing in Illinois.

Rustler Hanover had some conformation issues which showed up in his foals, while Red River was a big horse who had ‘wheels in his head’ i.e. a nervous temperament. On the whole it seems many of the Red River Hanovers don’t want to ‘be there’ and lack that real genuine racehorse quality where they will always try their best whatever the limits of their ability.

As an individual, Red River was a very good horse of course, winning a North America Cup beating Mach Three, but after that he proved a very difficult horse to get the best out of because he had such a nervous disposition.

I can recall talking to Brett Pelling about him and he was saying that the horse was so ‘wired’, he would never sleep. We can almost certainly attribute this to his dam being by Direct Scooter. While that sire line is a legitimate source of speed, it is also a source of ‘craziness’ and the reason Direct Scooter was not a good sire of fillies.

Red River Hanover progeny and the Direct Scooter line generally produces horses that can be ‘fiery’ or ‘hot headed’ types. They may come with degrees of ability, but getting them to consistently show this or getting them to fulfil their potential, can be entirely different matters.

We can double up to Direct Scooter in various ways, one example being Red River Hanover over In The Pocket mares, and this can produce very ‘speedy’ horses, but one also runs the risk of breeding a horse which is just a lunatic and no racing proposition at all.

Rocknroll Hanover has done very well with his first crop, but it remains to be seen whether he can maintain that momentum with his follow up crops. He would have got a great book of mares when he first went to stud, but that quality mare support would have shifted to other sires straight off the track such as Somebeachsomewhere, because the American breeding scene is very much geared towards first crop sires at the yearling sales.

If there is a problem with a sire, that quality mare support just disguises the inevitable.

I don’t mean to bag Rocknroll Hanover, but I’m not getting too carried away just yet. Very few sires at all make it commercially, so I don’t see a surprise that Rich N Elegant’s foals have not transferred racecourse success to breeding barn success, outside of Rocknroll to date. That is just the way of things.

Pedigrees and bloodlines actually have very little to do with it when a sire does succeed – most of those sires that did find success weren’t rated at all when they first went to stud.

Meadow Skipper could hardly get mares for a start because he had a bad hitch in his gait, and look what he did!

It is mostly about the individual as a type, and whether or not they possess the genetics to be prepotent.

Most sires don’t…and you never really know that until the ‘proof of the pudding’…

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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.

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