Posts Tagged ‘Holmes Hanover’

There’s relief for me as the breeder as well as for the owners and trainers when a horse I’ve bred qualifies. I really want to produce horses that race well, not just ones that get a good price at the sales.

Thephantomtollbooth qualified at Alexandra Park this morning, and although he was fourth of four, it was all he was required to do. Job done.

Qualifying race Alexandra Park

Nice qualifying win by Rock N Roll Heaven-Party Girl Becqui 2yo filly Killer Queen, while Thephantomtollbooth sticks on 4th in a 28.3 last quarter. They were all well inside the qualifying time.

He’s a big handsome boy with a lot of condition on him, but Lincoln Farms like him and are prepared to take time.

Sweaty and heading for his hose down.

Sweaty and heading for his hose down.

His effort today follows in the hoofprints of all his other siblings – remarkably all 7 foals of racing age from the mare Zenterfold have now qualified as 2yos (as Zenterfold did herself).

She’ll get an extra carrot or two when I visit her and her Rock N Roll Heaven filly foal at Breckon Farms tomorrow.

Holmes Hanover filly qualifies too

As you know I enjoy noting when a horse pops up from the last crops of our favourite sires.  In the previous qualifying heat for 3yos at Alexandra Park today I was surprised and delighted to see a filly by Holmes Hanover win very nicely. The filly’s name is Wirreanda Piper, trained by Penny Fensom. There are only 5 Holmes Hanover progeny registered in New Zealand who are 2 or 3, and 4 others unregistered. Those were the last crops of the great sire who died in 2006.

Holmes Hanover 3yo filly Wirreanda Piper winning her qualifying trial 20 December 2014.

Holmes Hanover 3yo filly Wirreanda Piper winning her qualifying trial 20 December 2014.

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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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I’ve finally got around to posting up the article I wrote prior to the 2012 New Zealand yearling sales in which I looked at damsire and grandamsire trends over the past 10 or more years. The article was originally published in Breeding Matters, the magazine of NZ Standardbred Breeders Assn. It is published as a page rather than a blog, so you can find it at the top of my home page or via this link

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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.

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