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Posts Tagged ‘golden cross’

The Blue Lotus

The Blue Lotus (Grinfromeartoear x Zenterfold) in foal to Shadow Play and getting a wash at Isa Lodge yesterday.

My last two blogs have deliberately reversed the usual sire x mare breeding notation in the title of the blog. That’s for a reason. For me, the mare plays such an important role in terms of her genetic structure (what she brings to the table), and how good she is as a broodmare (her ability to conceive, carry and deliver a healthy foal, and her ability as a mum, because the foal will have 1000% more to do with her than with the dad!) Her own history will also come into the equation – what she has left so far, what issues if any are there, what in her family is showing up now or could be showing up later…

So I know and respect the conventions for breeding notations which put the sire and his pedigree double-ups first.

But that’s not the same as making a decision about breeding.

For me, once you have a potentially good or good broodmare, she must have the strongest say in your choice of sire.

It is easy to latch on to a sire that you like.  There is such a line-up of well-performed, handsome horses coming to a siring career each year. There is also a handful who have conquered the challenges and become “the chosen ones”, our proven sires like Bettor’s Delight and Art Major. And then another market of the “repêcharges” – sires both new and established who are carving out a specific career for themselves – Badlands Hanover has been a master of this, Live Or Die also successful, Grinfromeartoear finding his niche nicely over the years, and the new guns like Sunshine Beach, A Rocknroll Dance, Sportswriter, Auckland Reactor, Sir Lincoln and Tintin In America trying to get a foothold in a very competitive race.

Sometimes, when your budget doesn’t extend to the top commercial sires, there are rich selections amongst these “been there, done that” sires and the “going places if you let me” sires. They offer incredible value for money if you have done some thinking about why you are breeding and what your mare needs.

The one to give you the best answer about that isn’t me.  It’s your mare.

Treat her right. Do the thinking. Make the choice. And then look after her interests each step of the way – through the 11 months and 11 days and beyond.

In a very real sense, breeding is not a partnership of Sire x Mare, but more about how well you as a breeder can find the best mate for the mare. That’s actually what many of us breeders are about, what keeps us going. Some might be pimping for sheer profit, but most of us are searching for something deeper than that – a sire that suits our mare, and then a foal that goes on to be a really good racehorse!

Bingo! (Has that name been taken??)

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Personally, I’m sceptical about the term “golden cross”. It is usually used for the cross of a damsire and sire. But it leaves out a huge chunk of a foal’s pedigree, which is actually where much of the “engine room” lies – in the maternal bottom line and often in damsires along that line as well.

In terms of Olympic glory, we may find our own breeding stars better by aiming for canny silvers and passionate bronzes rather than relying “crosses of gold”.

Over the years I’ve read/heard numerous references to “bred on the golden cross of..” and to be honest I am left under-whelmed.

Like the Olympics, you have to earn your golden medal. It is not there for the taking. And even when a horse performs well in one maiden race, the commentator’s observation that it is “bred on that golden cross of xx with xx mares” is hardly an insight to why the horse won. It has sometimes, especially in the North Island of New Zealand, started to sound like a marketing ploy.

The most dominant “golden crosses” are sire to damsire, or damsire to sire. Keep a wise mind when using the Golden Cross database such as the NZ Standardbred Breeders Assn one, or the USTA one. They are really interesting and sometimes useful, but mostly for horses that are well established and have enough of racing age to be statistically significant. As a direction for new sires (even those with oldest foals at 5 or 6 years) tread carefully as the gold nuggets are in the detail just as much as in the overall stats. You can only really see this if you drill down another level at least.

For example, what may be driving the success of a so-called “golden cross” could lie just as much in common factors on the maternal line or the quality of the mares overall (e.g “double copy” mares), not just her own sire.

And hugely influential historical “golden crosses” like Artsplace x Western Hanover may often be more to do with availability and numbers of quality mares to a very well performed sire.  Same with the so-called golden cross of In The Pocket mares with Bettor’s Delight in New Zealand – he has had over 200 of them. Because In The Pocket was one of our most expensive sires, ipso facto he got many of the well bred or well performed mares, more-so than the normal population. Having stepped up to that level, breeders then wanted their good mares to go to one of the best Northern Hemisphere sires available, in Bettor’s Delight. As an outcross, it was a great match. However whether there is anything more intrinsic or deep in that “golden cross” I am not sure.

In one way, I am agreeing with that old adage “bred the best to the best”. I’m not saying that is all you need to do (no way!), but it sure makes life easier for a new sire if he gets good or proven mares, and many of them. The volume of good mares ensures that a higher proportion of them will “click” if there is any “click” to be had. (Which is of course why big studs in North America have traditionally built up top broodmare bands to give their new boys a chance to survive “Round One” of their career as a sire.)

For a really nice and well-bred sire who is not so commercial, the road is hard and uneven. And the numbers are much lower so your chances of meeting the right girl with the right attributes to make a good match are much, much lower.

A “golden cross” should be viewed as much wider and deeper than just the sire/damsire cross. And even then, you are not likely to find any clear answers, because:

  • statistically often there are not enough progeny to make valid assertions (at least not until it is obvious if a sire is going to succeed regardless)
  • so many other factors intervene in terms of breeding AND racing success, such as conformation, temperament, how a horse is brought up and trained, injury and accidents, the situation of the owner financially, the standard of the racing environment the horse is in.

For me, “golden crosses” is more a pump up than real oxygen.

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