Posts Tagged ‘Real Desire’

A little while ago I did a blog about He’s Watching and his pedigree which I described as like a perfectly oval uneaten chocolate easter egg.

I mentioned the appeal of outcrossing with Direct Scooter line mares, and also the possibility of close line breeding:

I have already heard from one breeder who is tempted to go further towards line breeding/in-breeding, because the maternal references in He’s Watching’s pedigree are just so classy. That opens it up to a lot of Australasian mares with the Golden Miss line in their pedigree, or those with Leah Almahurst sons Western Ideal and Make A Deal – or damsires like Grinfromeartoear, Safely Kept etc. Even for the brave a Real Desire mare which would be a 3×2 cross. So there is a lot of interesting things ahead, and inevitably a long wait before any patterns (if any) become clear. I hope the sire gets the numbers to make this “statistically significant”.

I had an interesting comment on that from pedigree matching expert Ken Mackay who pointed out that :

George Teague’s USA Horse Of The Year 2005 and 3YO Filly Of The Year Rainbow Blue was bred on the same 3×2 reverse female cross but to On The Road Again.
Holmes Hanover was also bred on a reverse female cross to Tar Heel. (4×2)
So there is hope for a Real Desire mare to He’s Watching. You just gotta be brave!!

Rainbow Blue’s very successful daughter Somwherovrarainbow ($1,342,848) is by Somebeachsomewhere, so a strong outcross to balance up the ledger.

And an update:

Breeder Paul Thomas writes to say

Just read your latest thoughts on a Real Desire mare to He’s Watching, someone has to be the brave (or stupid) one and that would be me, I Ching is booked.

View the He’s Watching x I Ching cross here

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I know thousands of you (lol) have been wondering why a Real Desire fan like me hasn’t blogged yet on the availability of He’s Watching (from a Real Desire mare), a top racehorse with a great predigree, now available at Alabar.

Of course he’s been well covered in terms of his arrival:

The commonly quoted summary of his pedigree is:

The secret to He’s Watching’s brilliance can possibly be found in his breeding. He has a freakish pedigree.
His sire American Ideal is by a son of the champion mare Leah Almahurst and is out of a daughter another champion mare in Three Diamonds. These two outstanding mares are closely related having their third and second dam respectively as the great K Nora.
Remarkably, the dam of He’s Watching carries the same cross. His own fourth dam is Leah Almahurst and the dam of his maternal grandsire is Three Diamonds.
So four strains of a dominant mare in K Nora via sex-balanced duplications of two champion mares – a pedigree enthusiasts paradise.
To round off a great pedigree he also has eight daughters of Tar Heel (six of them unique) in his sixth generation.

He ticks a lot of boxes as a very complete package – great performance on the track, tractable type, extremely well balanced and symmetrical pedigree.

Sometimes with such a lovely, complete package it is hard to immediately think how it combines with something else. It’s like a perfectly oval uneaten chocolate easter egg.

Alabar has no problems with this, and I sometimes have a wee giggle at their pedigree matching recommendations because I try to find one sire or siring line that they miss out from their suggested matches. This time they are noting the siring lines of Abercrombie, Cam Fella, Western Hanover and Direct Scooter as having merit, which covers probably 90% of pacing sires.

I’m not so interested in that siring line click aspect. I think his matching with NZ mares is a lot more challenging than that.

I would look more towards out-crossing. And I do agree that Direct Scooter could be a key here, especially as our In The Pocket (and other) lines from Direct Scooter are a different pathway from the Matts Scooter line in He’s Watching’s pedigree. And yes, there is the indication that some ITP mares are crossing well with American Ideal.

Having said that, I have already heard from one breeder who is tempted to go further towards line breeding/in-breeding, because the maternal references in He’s Watching’s pedigree are just so classy. That opens it up to a lot of Australasian mares with the Golden Miss line in their pedigree, or those with Leah Almahurst sons Western Ideal and Make A Deal – or damsires like Grinfromeartoear, Safely Kept etc. Even for the brave a Real Desire mare which would be a 3 x2 cross. So there is a lot of interesting things ahead, and inevitably a long wait before any patterns (if any) become clear. I hope the sire gets the numbers to make this “statistically significant”.

We have come across He’s Watching’s great-grandam before – Cheer Me Up is the dam of Rob Roy Mattgregor who stood here briefly and has since died but did offer much more in terms of pedigree than his number of mares indicated. And interestingly so far of his NZ bred foals that have qualified (all 3yos, his only crop here), 3 are from Falcon Seelster mares and one from a McArdle mare – the Warm Breeze sire line which I think was a bit of a “and just in case” footnote in the siring line list Alabar has put forward.

Cheer Me Up is also from the same maternal line as Mr Feelgood.

His grandam Babe Watching (by Jenna’s Beach Boy) was a good enough racemare (1.53 and $170,000). Her two Real Desire foals Baberhood and I’ll Be Seeing You were very average. Baberhood has gone on to produce a champion. About all you can say is the eventually really good lines do produce really good results – but which and when and how consistently is only seen over a longer time frame. And our individual breeding decisions will form part of that answer.

So, yes, He’s Watching is an outstanding acquisition, and it will be very interesting to see how breeders picture their mares fitting with what he has to offer.

Another fascinating aspect of He’s Watching is his size (and of course that is not often referred to). He’s only 15h. I think we have gone past the stage where size counts – except for the heart and the number of quality wins – but I do give a tip o’ the hat to sires like Courage Under Fire (14.3h) and Washington VC (15.1h) that have paved the way for that more recently – and of course giants on the track and in the barn like the wee Good Time in our harness racing history. Rock N Roll Heaven (15.2h on tip toe), Bettor’s Delight (15.1h), his son Highview Tommy (15h) and Tintin In America (15.1h) are all doing their part in more recent years to dispel the myths around size of sires and offer some respite from the 16h sires.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing him in the flesh if Alabar have their usual very interesting stallion parade this year.

Re sizes, I’ll do a quick round up of views/research on size of mares/sires and resulting foals next blog.


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Yesterday I went to the Alexandra Park workouts and witnessed a big bunch of Real Desire 2yos performing very well. These are from Real Desire’s biggest crop, born in 2012, before his numbers once again dropped off dramatically and he was retained in America by his owners.

Workout/trails results 4 July 2015:

  • Race 1 – Thephantomtollbooth (Real Desire x Zenterfold) – 2nd (See previous blog)
  • Race 2 – Father Frank (Real Desire x Gold Return) – 3rd (See previous blog)
  • Race 3 – Vega Star (Real Desire x Star Of Venus) – 1st, Real Lucky (Real Desire x Lucky Pocket) 2nd. (See photo at end of this blog)
  • Race 5 – Diamonds Forever (Real Desire x TA Sportsplex) 1st, Cerberus (Real Desire x Culley’s Asset) 2nd, Bull Hayes (Real Desire x Dromsally) 3rd. (See photo at end of this blog)

I have been a Real Desire fan for some time, and that is a mix of his quality pedigree, his own performance and his ability as a sire to produce that exceptional talent factor in some of his foals. He is not a sire of early speedy types – and yet he has been and can be. But that is almost his downfall in terms of his siring career in New Zealand, because some of the exceptional talented 2yos from his first couple of crops – flashy would be the word – led people to believe that he was an “early type” sire. High expectations were soon disappointed.

Some years ago I wrote an article about Real Desire (part of a longer, joint series with Australian breeding expert Ray Chaplin about Life Sign’s legacy downunder as a sire).

In that article I said: Real Desire’s ability to be a quality sire that can leave speed sets him apart from the other sons of Life Sign who have been offered here.

I still hold to that, but the path to tapping into what he offers as a sire has been a winding and bumpy one.

Why? Firstly his numbers have been very up and down. And why is that? Because his progeny have been very hard to read and siring career here has been fragmented. And at the start, we read him wrong, and that led to some of his more precocious types being pushed early and breaking down or switching off.

He started off with a hiss and roar with 202 mare (152 live foals) from his 2007 season at stud, and then did not return the following year. That wasn’t a show stopper as the second season and even third season can drop quite a bit usually as breeders wait and see. But when he came back, he was up against some sires who were really hitting their straps commercially – Bettor’s Delight and Mach Three at Alabar in particular were sucking a large number of best mares out of the pool. However Real Desire’s first crop produced such eye-catching talented 2yos like Let’s Elope and Cowgirls N Indians, so his 2011 stud season was a lot more popular, with his top number of 212 mares (for 159 foals born in 2012).

And then it was clear that those precocious 2yos were a minority, and the many with ability and talent actually took longer to mature. Some of those early ones broke down or went off the boil for a year or so while they developed more strength. Others were not given the opportunity to develop if they showed nothing early.

Later some of the more mature Read Desires started to strut their stuff  – Freespin, Who Dares Wins, Voluntad, Spirit And Desire, All Star Man, more recently Lilac Desire finally hitting a good patch – and Let’s Elope kept going at the top level in Australia. But by then, it was too late.

Many Real Desires have a physical type that needs time. I think this is coming from his scopey Life Sign influence in terms of conformation, and the need for time to add the physical and mental ability to support speed. They can be quite gawky and awkward in their gait initially, and some can be a bit nervy in temperament and not settle well in their races. But they can have real flair and real speed, especially when saved for one last run. At their best, they are very exciting horses.

Currently his 2yo registered-foals-to-qualifiers ratio for New Zealand-breds is around 17% and that will rise further before the season closes off at the end of this month. And his current number of 2yo winners (currently only Real Torque and Ultimate Desire) may well get a boost.

None of that means Real Desire is a sire of natural 2yos. But in my book it does indicate that he deserved more of a chance than he got at stud here. It wasn’t Alabar’s fault, it is just the crowded and fickle market and the pressure for sires to produce a complete package of a horse at an early age. It is highly unlikely he will come back to New Zealand now, but I will follow his “last hurrah” of NZ-breds closely to see how they develop over time.

And for breeders, there are some nicely bred mature Real Desire mares that may be a good option for crossing with some of the commercial sires we have who can perhaps add a bit of early robustness and strength to the foal. The USTA crosses of gold information indicates that Art Major, Well Said, Western Ideal, and Western Terror are some sires that appear to have crossed well with Read Desire mares. The Western Hanover and Western Ideal cross also seems to work well in the other direction (i.e. mares bred to Real Desire) – note that this reverse click is not always the case for many sires.

Workouts/trials 4 July at Alexandra Park:

Race 3 - Vega Star (Real Desire x Star Of Venus) - 1st, Real Lucky (Real Desire x Lucky Pocket) 2nd.

Race 3 – Vega Star (Real Desire x Star Of Venus) – 1st, Real Lucky (Real Desire x Lucky Pocket) 2nd.

Qualifier heat: Diamonds Forever (Real Desire x TA Sportsplex) 1st, Cerberus (Real Desire x Culley's Asset) 2nd, Bull Hayes (Real Desire x Dromsally) 3rd.

Qualifier heat: Race 5 – Diamonds Forever (Real Desire x TA Sportsplex) 1st, Cerberus (Real Desire x Culley’s Asset) 2nd, Bull Hayes down the outside (Real Desire x Dromsally) 3rd.

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It is hard enough to breed for yearling sales, and even harder when the time gap between decision making and bid is about 2.5 years apart – a timespan when trends change, reputations are made or lost, freak 2yos appear or not, and stakes can encourage or totally turn off buyers.

Add into that volatile mix the situation where the sire of the horse you breed suddenly vanishes from the scene.

Oh oh.

The sires that have been affected by change of situation recently include three from Alabar – Jereme’s Jet, Santanna Blue Chip  and Real Desire – and Shark Gesture, Stonebridge Regal, Rob Roy Mattgregor, Four Starzzz Shark.

The reasons for their absence is varied but the affect on the breeder of having a sire not currently available when the yearling is being sold – well, that’s a major hurdle.

Alabar in particular committed to advertising support this time around, and that was a very helpful gesture. The fact remains: absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes horses less desirable because at a very basic level there is a perception that “he didn’t work out as a sire here”.

The best result for the vendor then depends on individual outstanding types and really strong families. In my own case, I got a stunning price for my Real Desire colt, far and away beyond what other very nice Real Desires I saw at Karaka and Christchurch got. He was a beautiful type of yearling, but not so incredibly far ahead of some others by the same sire – I was really impressed by ones like Goforjack from the very good mare Laurent Perrier, for example, but he struggled to get a bid at $14,000.

The averages for Real Desire yearlings were skewed by the $84,000 for one sale, so better to look at each sale separately. At Karaka 4 sold and 3 were bought back, for an average sale price of $26,500, but if you take out the top lot, the average was just $7,333. At Christchurch he had 15 yearlings sold and 9 bought back, for an average of $14,033.  All the Karaka lots that were bought back or passed in without a bid were fillies, and the fillies at Christchurch also struggled to get decent bids.

Look at the length of  body in Real Desire’s progeny; it’s something Real Desire often stamps, along with legs that reach. His record is good, from a career that means there is a lack of young racing stock at the moment. He had 152 live foals in 2008, was absent the next year, 51 live foals in 2010, 37 in 2011, and these yearlings were from his biggest crop of 159 live foals in 2012, when the performance of his earlier foals encouraged breeders to go again. He was missing again last year and I doubt he will be back unless these yearlings jump out of their skins.

I asked around quite a few buyers, trainers and breeders what it was about Real Desires that put people off, what the problem was. And the answer was never specific – often along the lines of “I don’t see anything wrong with them myself but a lot of people don’t like them.”  Nothing tangible. In fact a lot of them spoke favourable about specific Real Desires they knew or had trained.

On type, I really liked what I saw of the Shark Gestures. They look bigger, bolder types that could need time, but wow they looked strong and handsome. What a horse he was, from a juvenile to older racehorse! And a strong pedigree. Now he is based in Ohio, but the one year he was available via Wai Eyre Farm was an opportunity missed by many, and I believe those breeders who took that opportunity were hard done by at the yearling sales. I will follow them with interest.

Jereme’s Jet is another matter, and I will delve into that over the next month. Like many (when I saw his big bum and strong but more compact body) I thought he might be leaving those early sprinty types. He’s not really, but his statistics are showing something really interesting. More on that later. Suffice to say, there were several Jereme’s Jets who really caught my eye and some astute buyers got them cheap.

I have also covered Santanna Blue Chip previously so won’t go over that ground except to say that his 5 yearlings for sale across both North Island and South Island yearling sales went for $3000-$11,000, including one passed in on vendor’s bid. And yet he is a sire that stamps an attractive athleticism on his foals, but perhaps not the strong bold look some buyers are wanting.

Below are some photos of the yearlings by Real Desire and by Shark Gesture, who was here one minute, gone the next.

In all cases, I did not inspect the yearlings so there may have been reasons why the prices were so low, other than the commercial appeal of the sire himself – but many of these sires struggled to attract competitive buying interest in the ring, in spite of looking the part.

I think that is a huge shame, the often the vendor is not getting a price the individual yearling deserves. And if that individual is a filly, of course that immediately reduces the value as the sire’s ability to produce good race fillies is one big question mark. Having said that, it is interesting to see the prices paid for bold types, like a couple of the Shark Gesture fillies, held up relatively well.

Photos below of some Real Desire, Shark Gesture and Santanna Blue Chip yearlings.

Some of the  Real Desire yearlings at the 2014 sales:

LOT 111 Real Desire  colt from the wonderful Twice As Hot/Twice As Good family - he was bought back as a vendor bid for just $11,000 after not meeting the reserve.

LOT 111 Christchurch, Real Desire colt from the wonderful Twice As Hot/Twice As Good family – he was bought back as a vendor bid for just $11,000 after not meeting the reserve.

Lot 123 a Real Desire colt  from All My Art, the dam of Ohoka Nevada, et al. He was bought for $6000.

Lot 123, Christchurch, a Real Desire colt from All My Art, the dam of Ohoka Nevada, et al. He was bought for $6000.

Lot 313 Goforjack Real Desire colt from the lovely broodmare Laurent Perrier, the dam of the great Lancome. He was bought for just $14,000.

Lot 313 Christchurch, Goforjack Real Desire colt from the lovely broodmare Laurent Perrier, the dam of the great Lancome. He was bought for just $14,000.

Some of the Shark Gestures:

Shark Gesture yearling colt

Lot 99 Christchurch, Shark Gesture colt bought for $8000

Shark Gesture yearling filly

Lot 191 Christchurch, Shark Gesture filly from Holmes Hanover mare Electrify, dam of Lochinvar, was sold for just $3000.

Lot 102 Christchurch, a lovely Shark Gesture filly from an In the Pocket mare,  sold for $11,500

Lot 102 Christchurch, a lovely Shark Gesture filly from an In the Pocket mare, sold for $11,500

One of the Santanna Blue Chip yearlings:

Santanna Blue Chip filly yearling

Lot 95 at Karaka,  Santanna Blue Chip filly from Erinyes bought back at $6000

Santanna Blue Chip yearling colt

Lot 109 Christchurch, Santanna Blue Chip colt from Dream Bel family




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As readers will know, over the past few years I’ve used the idea of a “virtual stable” of yearlings from the New Zealand yearling sales to track how hard it is to pick a good horse to buy at yearling sales and then to make something from it. The point being that those who do, regularly, deserved much credit. It has also been a way to encourage all breeders to take opportunities to look at a number of progeny from sires and families, and learn.

It has been a big part of my learning curve, and I try to attend sire parades, yearling, weanling and all aged sales when I can (work and budget allowing).

This year I journeyed south to Christchurch to view the two days of Premier yearling sales because the range of sires was greater than at Karaka’s Australasian Classic. (I’m still going to do a blog on the overall sale – mainly how sires fared. But I just need some time between day job, spraying paddocks, feeding out mares, cleaning out chook houses etc to do the numbers).

I ended up taking a less-than-virtual interest in one yearling, which I now have a quarter share in. His named is Father Frank, and he was lot 223, a Real Desire colt out of an Armbro Operative mare who is the grand-daughter of Our Stretto, the 35-win mare who performed very consistently in Australia in the late 1980s. Father Frank was bought by Frank and Ann Cooney for $12,500. He was one I had picked out for myself on type as much as breeding, and neither the Cooneys nor I have anything bad to say about the Real Desires. My own one (sold at Karaka) was a cracker of a yearling and I have much admiration for what the sire adds to the right mares. I approached the Cooneys after the sale to see if they would welcome my interest in him. Of course Frank co-trains and the Cooneys part-own the Real Desire racehorse Let’s Elope, whose run in the Auckland Cup was full of merit I thought, with a patient drive by Maurice McKendry allowing him to be (with Saveapatrol) the only horses really running on strongly behind Terror To Love and Adore Me in a 28.2 last quarter.

Two other yearlings in Christchurch interested me enough to make some serious enquiries – lot 142 Magnifico Denario, an Art Major filly from Averil’s Atom which makes her a half to Averil’s Quest. She went for $46,000 to

Lot 288 One Big Fella by Mister Big

Lot 288 One Big Fella by Mister Big

Australian buyers, which was outside the budget.  The other one was lot 288 (One Big Fella) an outstanding youngster by Mister Big from Falcon Seelster mare Killarney (dam of Bondy) also caught my eye enough in the parade to get him checked out. The only lot by Mister Big in the sales, he is a 20 December foal but very well put together and a lovely temperament. I wasn’t the only one taken by him – in the end he went to Nigel McGrath for $54,000.

So I’ve got 3 Christchurch yearlings for my virtual and not-so-virtual stable sorted.

Lot 36 Christchurch - Pacific Arden by Panspacificflight from Scherger Rein

Lot 36 Christchurch – Pacific Arden by Panspacificflight from Scherger Rein

Among many others from Christchurch that could easily have put their hooves in my stable were lot 31 (Freedom Fighter), a springy colt by Courage Under Fire from New York Motoring mare Rafiki, bought by Robert Dunn for $48,000; lot 36 (Pacific Arden), a lovely type of colt by Panspacificflight from 5-win Sir Vancelot mare Scherger Rein, bought by Brian Hughes for $17,000; lot 42 (Trusty Bromac), a Falcon Seelster colt from Badlands Hanover mare Taffeta Bromac, one of the Burgundy Lass family which sold for $11,000; and lot 128 (Al Coda), an athletic looking colt by Changeover from a Washington VC mare, bought by the McCutcheons for $21,000.

And for fillies, Lot 327 (Champagne Reign), an lovely alert strong filly by Christian Cullen from Camtastic mare Mainland Reign, which went for $60,000; lot 302 (Loren Franco), a good sized filly by Changeover from a Bettor’s Delight mare from a good branch of the Lancia family that was passed in to vendor’s bid at $6000 (reserve $12,000).  That was tempting! I liked lot 199 (Don’t Pass I’m Fast), an Art Official filly from Wingspread mare Fast Winger who has had 6 foals to race for 6 winners but the one that looked the most promising (Almost A Christian) died at 3. This was a bigger type of Art Officials, whose yearlings I thought generally were selling for less than they should because we struggle to like the finer but very correct type he is producing. Mind you, it was hard to get a line on buyer preferences for type, as some of the bolder types of Changeovers and Shark Gestures went for less than what I thought they were worth too. More on that later, when I look at the overall trends.

Another colt on breeding and type that I liked (and there were many) was lot 313 Goforjack out of the great mare Laurent Perrier. He looked big, boyish and a delightful racing prospect (photo bottom of this blog) but was sold to the Mitchells of Timaru for only $14,000.  A steal!

There were so many nice horses in Christchurch, a credit to preparers, and a bonus for the buyers who got many for less than cost. I had a feast of looking in Christchurch, and most of my picks are this time based on type alone. I took a lot of photos and I will share more and look at the new sires next week. “If dreams were horses, I’d have a stable…”

Please feel free to use the comment/response function to add your “tips” and “picks” of the yearling sales 2014. I will still keep tracking them as we go along.

Lot 191 Art Official filly don't Pass I'm Fast

Lot 191 Art Official filly Don’t Pass I’m Fast

Lot 313 Goforjack Real Desire colt

Lot 313 Goforjack Real Desire colt

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Zenterfold (In The Pocket-Zenola Star), the wonderful mare I have a half share in, has produced another well put together foal – a colt, nicknamed “Milo”.

That makes him a half brother to Tintin In America (winner 5 Group 1 races and now a sire), and to The Blue Lotus (3rd Group 1  Fillies Sires Stakes Final to those outstanding horses Bettor Cover Lover and Carabella), and to Destination Moon (promising 2yo about to start his career).

Real Desire x Zenterfold colt at 3 weeks – a half brother to the very speedy Tintin In America who is now standing at Nevele R Stud.

I’d like b4breeding blog readers to be the first, apart from myself and close friends, to see Milo.

He was born 17 October 2012 so is just a few weeks old now. Initially, all you could see was legs and a head that had plenty of character (I think Zenterfold wasn’t sure if I wanted a dish face, standard straight or roman nose so has given me a bit of everything, but time will tell).

He’s a very  light colour, and that means he will probably turn out dark brown – his dam is dark brown (looks black at a glance but not).

I’m excited about this foal. I went for Real Desire for quite clear reasons – my observations about what the sire adds in terms of precocious speed from a line (sons of Life Sign) that is not tending that way. He is forging a very good record as a sire overseas and now here (from limited crops). So it was important to examine how the mare would connect with him. I believe she does, and I am keeping up my “engine room” decisions as well (see my recent blog if you are not sure what I mean) – you need those hard working genes cranking up the revs for the sire to ignite the engine and give it the gun!

Hello Milo!

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As it turned out, my viewing of the yearlings was more erratic than previous years when I have made a point of viewing all of the parade. This time I saw most of the fillies but missed a large chunk of the colts in the middle section. So my picks are based on those I saw rather than the full catalogue.

I am still struggling to find time to ‘do the numbers’ but my impression was that there were some lovely types of fillies that went for a real bargain.  At the industry forum on the Sunday after the Karaka sales, the issue of keeping up our stock of racing and breeding fillies was well canvassed. John Mooney’s “Chairman’s Corner” in the March issue of Breeding Matters is well worth a read on this and other issues. For vendors of nicely bred fillies from very good sires but not outstandingly bred fillies from the hottest sires, the sale was mainly a pretty tough experience. Some of those breeders won’t be back. It raises alarm bells in terms of the future possibility of being able to pre-select sex of foals. Personally I am totally against this other than in exceptional circumstances (in the same way that I am not in favour of embryo transfer other than in exceptional circumstances).

I digress!

Here are my 4 selections of fillies and colts from the Karaka (Australasian Classic) Yearling Sale, using the pedigree pages and my own amateur observations on the day (no inspections).

Please give me yours! Add as “comment” to this blog.

Lot 122, Kamwood Courage, Courage Under Fire – Kamwood Lass (New York Motoring). Sold $11,000
If I’d had a spare $12,000 hanging around in my pocket I would have loved to take this one home. She stood out for me in the parade ring – not big, but good length of body and a lovely deep chest. She is a very nice speedy type and a full sister to a gelding and a filly who have both done well.

Lot 118,  Schleck, Muscle Mass – Merckx (Dream Vacation) (Sold $28,000)
A lovely athletic looking filly from a family that is full of natural talent. I really enjoy the Paynter approach to breeding, always looking ahead, tapping into European trends and contacts (will do more on this later).

Lot 74, Stolen Secret, Mach Three – Hot Secret (Beach Towel). (Buy back $25,000)
Good size, strong type. Is this a ‘golden cross’? Time and statistics will tell.

Lot 119

Lot 119 Delia with preparer Clare McGowan

Lot 119, Delia, American Ideal – Merrily Merrily (Life Sign). (Sold $7000)
I thought this was a very attractive , tall type, with a long barrel and good chest. She looked in the midst of a bit of growth spurt, but I like what I see of American Ideals on the racetrack and I like the double up of the excellent mare Three Diamonds (3×3) – it is good to see a breeder try something like this rather than the usual focus on double up of sires. I’ll have to check, but my recollection is the American Ideal has had some performers in America from Life Sign mares. Breeder Geoff Elton says he is a little disillusioned with the industry at the moment and has moved into other interests. He has quit this family now, and will probably not be selling at the sales next year. I hope this filly does really well and draws him back in! I won’t expect her to be a 2yo, she’s got growing to do.

The colts I’ve picked are:

Lot 25

Lot 25 Charlie Chuckles

Lot 25, Charlie Chuckles, Grinfromeartoear – Charioteer (Christian Cullen). (Sold $34,000) 
Nice strong type, looked great.  Nice pedigree match too.

Lot 19, Derringer, Bettor’s Delight – Bury My Heart (In The Pocket). (Sold $22,500)
The full brother to Texican but Cran Dalegety didn’t want him and the price is surprisingly light. Without having inspected him, the only downside I could spot was his size – he is a small, compact type, but not the “built like a brick shithouse” round, solid and strong type that Bettor’s Delight can stamp even if they are small. He looked to me more like a smaller In The Pocket type. However the family has plenty of class and I like the breeding – I’ll take my chances.

Lot 175, Crixus Brogden, Real Desire – Swift Mirage (What’s Next) (Sold $9,000)
Sold so cheap I must have missed something!! I’m just taking a punt on this guy because he paraded so well, looked so focused.

Lot 148

Lot 148 Destination Moon

Lot 148, Destination Moon, Grinfromeartoear – Zenterfold (In The Pocket) (Sold $67,000)
Call me biased, but… I’m very happy to have him in my “virtual stable”.

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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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