Posts Tagged ‘Tony Dickinson’

Alta Leonie

Lovely Lot 128 Alta Leonie looks me in the eye at the 2015 yearling sales.

Let me first take you back to the 2015 Karaka yearling sales – and one of the fillies that really caught my eye was the sole Big Jim representative, Lot 128 Alta Leonie (breeder Tony Dickinson) out of the Road Machine mare Thanks Anita. Big, black and beautiful, in my blog at the time I wrote “..the Big Jim filly was huge but will have an exceptional reach if you are willing to wait just a year”.

She sold for just $7000 to Dave Higgins who, with his good friend David Marshall (Cambridge trainer and father of Kyle) picked out two yearlings and got them both. The other was a colt Lot 94, an Art Official son of Okay Matao, and again the only representative of his sire in that sale. That colt, called G B Maverick (breeder Mr J I G and Mrs S G Taylor) was bought for just $8000.

What would the odds be that two “cheapie” yearlings would be showing up as talented 2yos with enough ability to go 8 seconds under qualifying time at the workouts today?

G B Maverick, Art Official colt

G B Maverick, 2yo Art Official colt at the Cambridge workouts 18 June 2016

Alta Leonie, Big Jim 2yo filly

Alta Leonie,  2yo Big Jim filly at the Cambridge workouts 18 June 2016

Yes, what a difference a year can make.

While neither won the workout, that’s not the point. They both ran very well, with the colt showing more race nous and the filly a bit green. Both finished off their race really nicely.

Afterwards I caught up with Dave Higgins, who has a close personal association with Cambridge Raceway and harness racing, even though his current role is as the president of Racing Te Aroha and in recent years most of his runners have been gallopers. He’s just got out of his last galloper, as the cost of racing them is just too high. Back in 2015 he had seen how David Marshall was making a good go of improving tried racehorses brought up from the South Island, and he reckoned Marshall deserved a chance with something younger and better. Hence the hand was raised at the yearling sale auction. Now, with a few of his mates brought in on ownership, the filly and colt look to have been very astute buys and will provide a heap of enjoyment.

Watching the Big Jim filly bowl around this morning, you could see she has grown even bigger, but Marshall points out the the growing has been really even. She would be closing in on 16hh as a late 2yo, and the length of her stride is impressive. With a bit more strength and experience, she’s definitely going to develop into a lovely 3yo and later a big, bold mare. She takes after her sire Big Jim in her dark good looks and, like him, although she is tall and long-legged there is nothing heavy boned about her.

Dave lost his wife to cancer, and is proudly sentimental in giving Alta Leonie her name as a stable name.

The Art Official colt is medium sized and had a very professional attitude in his race. Art Official is gone as a sire, at least in any truly commercial sense. His offspring here were all over the place in terms of size and type and ability. Probably the best of the NZ-bred Art Officials is Grump Possum, now racing in Australia as Ima Grumpy Possum and has 7 wins and 9 places from 29 starts and just over $40,000 in stakes. G B Maverick comes from a good family – Pat Hanover/Miss Burnside/Okay Matao (herself a really nice race filly, and the half sister of Missy Matao who is the dam of Carpenters Daughter).

Alta Leonie

Alta Leonie as a yearling – already tall and has grown since.

Tony and Val Dickinson of Alta Breeding are very astute breeders as I have often noted, so I dived into Alta Leonie’s pedigree to see what the fit with Big Jim looks like from a pedigree matching perspective – and it is interesting. Thanks Anita’s sire Road Machine brings in the line of Vacation Time which I’ve already mentioned in my blog on my match of Big Jim and my mare Dreamy Romance. Different descending lines from Vacation Time (who is from the U7 family) are in both Big Jim’s and Road Machine’s maternal line. There’s a different strain of U7 coming in from Thanks Anita’s great-grandam Big Softie who is by Nevele Bigshot, a son of Romola Hanover.

Thanks Anita’s grandam is Kind Hearted (dam of NZ Cup winner Gracious Knight), and her sire Rashad brings in my old mate Shadow Wave and also another influence of the U2 family (in particular the Spinster/Old Maid links). It is interesting to track back the influence of the great U2/U4 cross in Thanks Anita’s dam Kind Martar, as there are a stack of them in the background, and it comes in again with Road Machine via Warm Breeze.

On the face of it, it is quite an outcross, but digging deeper there are very nice elements in the match.

All the best to Dave Higgins, his co-owners and to David Marshall’s team with these nice youngsters.

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That was an eye-catching win by Princess Arts (Art Major x Natal Franco) today at Methven, in tricky conditions. She bided her time, then came home with impressive speed over the top of them. That makes it 6 wins and 5 places from just 21 starts. She was bought at the 2013 yearling sales for $37,000. Owner Alta Breeding Ltd is the company of astute North Island breeders Tony and Val Dickinson. What a lovely purchase as a future broodmare. You can read Alta Breeding updates here – including the comment about this mare that:

Our plans are to retire her to the broodmare paddock in October – however, if she steps up a notch over the coming weeks, those plans may be put on hold while she competes in the major mares races later in the season.

Her dam Natal Franco was good enough to come 4th in the Nevele R 3yo fillies final, 3rd in the Oaks, and 6th in a field of 12 in the 3yo Diamond Jewels at Cambridge, all in a cluster of really good performances as a 3yo in 2008, and ended up with 7 wins and $117,307 stakes before she was retired. A very good mare rather than an outstanding one, and a prime candidate for a broodmare. Her first foal was a Bettor’s Delight colt who was never a starter and is now a hack at 5yo. Princess Arts is her next foal and is looking like she could do even better than her mum. Her third foal is a Christian Cullen filly called Christian Who, offered at the Christchurch yearling sale earlier this year and bought – also for $37,000 – by the Whittakers, who had prepared her. Natal Franco didn’t have a foal last season, and is due to Art Major this season.

Looking at the yearling sale pedigree page you can spot why I am especially interested in this family – Natal Franco is a half sister to the mare I bought off Spreydon Lodge called Nostalgic Franco.  I bought her in foal to Tintin In America, and judging by the way the wider family and that sire are going at the moment, I might end up with a more commercial foal than I expected! Fingers and toes all crossed for a safe landing.

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Now and again, I like to blog on some of the horses who are creating a lasting legacy as a broodmare sire, even if they could not create or continue a siring line themselves. Tar Heel is the classic. If you look at the usual “family tree” of the sons of Hambletonian, the Dictator siring line is virtually a stub. And yet the influence of that line via Billy Direct and his son Tar Heel is still potent in the structure of many of our best performing horses and top breeding lines today. Another Hambletonian siring line “stub” is Bert Abbe/Gene Abbe – but again, Big Towner’s influence as a broodmare sire is reaching far down in some of the best breeding lines of the modern era.

Overtrick is another example. He sits in the Hambletonian family tree under the Happy Medium siring line, a very interesting line that includes Peter The Great and Volomite, and  has kick started again for pacers via Sampson Hanover (a son of Volomite), who was the grandsire of Direct Scooter. That siring line has caught alight in recent times thanks to Matts Scooter and In The Pocket. It is a line that historically stands out for its prowess in producing top broodmare sires – in reference to my previous blog, great workers in the engine room of pedigrees.

Overtrick is a great grandson of Volomite. He was a brilliant two year old and continued to be a top race horse through his 3 and 4yo seasons, setting 8 world records along the way.  By New Zealanders he is remembered for his battles with Cardigan Bay (one race was in front of a crowd of over 35,000 people at Yonkers!)  He was an adequate sire, producing tough, sound horses rather than passing on speed. After 10 seasons at stud in the States without leaving anything really outstanding, he was bought by Australian interests.

John Bradley (“Modern pacing sire lines”) notes that Overtrick was definitely a better sire of colts than fillies, but many of his daughters have become fine broodmares.  A few of them have ensured Overtrick’s enduring contribution to great pacing bloodlines in both hemispheres – as the damsire of No Nukes and Falcon Seelster, and grandamsire of Cam’s Card Shark and Christian Cullen, to name some of the most notable ones.

Christian Cullen, Overtrick grandam

Falcon Seelster, Overtrick dam

I would be keen to hear from those blog readers in Australia who can throw some light on how Overtrick was received there, and on his Australian record (as a sire 521 foals, 239 starters, 173 winners/as a damsire 1482 foals, 708 starters, 454 winners). It’s not bad, but it is not outstanding. Has his influence in Australian maternal lines turned up at any stage? Or was there a lack of compatible sires available when his daughters were needing them? My personal guess was that Overtrick mares may well have done better with some of the well bred imported sires we were standing at the time in New Zealand.

In New Zealand the incredible contribution of Falcon Seelster and Christian Cullen to our maternal lines will keep Overtrick’s influence alive for a good while to come, and give breeders some interesting choices with sires like Real Desire, Santanna Blue and others with No Nukes in their maternal pedigree now available.

What makes Overtrick tick? John Bradley points out that Overtrick’s first five dams are 2:00 producers, and this includes mares foaled from 1927 to 1954 – quite an accomplishment in that era. His grandam is Barbara Direct, a Billy Direct mare, and Billy Direct is another excellent broodmare sire who would have added value to that strong maternal line.

One of New Zealand’s top breeders, Tony Dickinson of Alta Dream Lodge, has kindly provided his observations on Overtrick and the family of Barbara Direct:

My interest in Overtrick’s place in modern day pedigrees stems from looking to double up the Barbara Direct blood carried by Ballie Hanover, a mare I imported quite some time ago from the USA. Barbara Direct has established an influential branch of the taproot mare Minnehaha, and I recall reading an article in either Hoofbeats (probably) or Horseman and Fair World (possibly) singing her praises as a remarkable progenitress – sorry but I can’t find the article but think it was penned a dozen years or more as comment on some annual statistics. However, her blood turns up frequently, particularly via a son, Bullet Hanover and a grandson, Overtrick. Bullet Hanover,by Adios won the 1960 Little Brown Jug and while a champion pacer of his day, did not sire any horses as good as himself. His legacy flows from his fillies in the broodmare barn.
Jennas Beach Boy descends from Barbara Direct maternally. Again, he was an out and out champion who left no siring sons of note. Nevertheless ,his progeny have performed well on the racetrack.
Overtrick also won the Jug, in 1963 and history has recorded numerous head to head races with Cardigan Bay. However, he has not created his own siring dynasty. His son Mark Lobell came to NZ as an unraced stud – he was moderately successful in that department but did feature more as a broodmare sire, I think.
Western Hanover has two strains of Barbara Direct-on the paternal side through No Nukes and,more importantly in my view via Bullet Hanover who,  as the maternal grandsire,was in a position to influence (and probably did) the transfer of the X chromosome to this great sire.
Champion stallion,Christian Cullen through an Overtrick granddam has Barbara Direct well placed to influence the passing on of the X chromosome the progeny of his fillies. In my view, Cullen’s legacy will eventually include an outstanding record as a broodmare sire.
For my own part, I retain two descendants of Ballie Hanover, a daughter by Christian Cullen in Millview Ava who has just foaled a Real Desire filly (three strains of Barbara Direct). And a two year old filly by Elsu called Alta Michaela, in work with Mike Berger, who has four strains of Barbara Direct via Overtrick (twice), Bullet Hanover and Beauty Hanover.

Some theories to reflect on………….

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One possible source of good breeding advice is experienced, successful New Zealand breeders.

Studholme Bloodstock’s Brian West and Alta Dream Lodge’s Tony and Val Dickinson kindly give their advice and thoughts about breeding, pedigree matching .  I regard both of them as successful breeders because (going right back to my very first blog) they have thought long and hard about the “U” part of the equation – what they are trying to achieve. For example, Tony is measuring his success less by the immediate financial returns at the yearling sales and more but the outcome on the racetrack when the horse matures. Brian has a strong sense of what sires are trending commercially but not at the cost of compatibility with the mare’s pedigree and type.

Bee: Have you ever used a breeding consultant or consultancy as one of the inputs when you are deciding a match or assessing a potential broodmare purchase? If so, was it helpful and was the result successful?

Tony: Yes, I do use a consultant but only to analyse the progeny pedigree (filly or colt) for stallions I have already shortlisted for other reasons, e.g. size, conformation, fee, stud performance etc.

Brian: No. But I have talked to Jim Dalgety many times over the years as a mentor and he has been very helpful. He is an incredibly knowledgeable man, who deserves far more recognition for what he’s contributed to our industry.

Bee: Do you think breeding/pedigree consultants are a rip off or a waste of money?

Tony: Of course they are not a rip off – any help from this quarter is useful and it is up to the breeder to decide how much weight to attach to the advice.

Brian: As long as the person’s credentials are okay, it’s not a bad idea at all. Breeders can always do their own research if they have the time. But if you are new to the business (and it is a high-risk industry) you need as much advice as you can get.

Bee: What advice would you give to someone who was considering using a breeding or pedigree consultant?

Tony: Beware of pedigree analysis which delves deeply into obscure family history simply to reinforce the consultant’s own preference for certain sires or sire lines. In years gone by, stallion owners were quick to debunk theories, such as cycle breeding, genetic sibling matches, ‘golden’ crosses and so on, when their stallions did not suit the theories. This doesn’t happen much now because fewer and bigger stud farms have an array of stallions to cover most eventualities. But it was certainly prevalent around the time that John Gaines famously referred to breeding consultants as ‘charlatans’ as he looked to protect his extensive interests in the horse industry.

Brian: Find out what they have bred of note, or what they have suggested to others and why they chose that sire. If they are putting themselves up as an expert you would expect to see some success in their own breeding decisions.

Bee: Do you use any standard breeding theories in making your sire selections (e.g. line breeding, outcrossing, x factor, returning to the sire the best blood of his dam, etc)?

Tony: I am very much influenced by the need to replicate famous matriarch blood, particularly if it sits in the pedigree where the x factor can be transferred to the progeny.

Brian: I tend to look for a total outcross or 4×4 to Meadow Skipper or a combination of that. But in terms of advice to others, I suggest a good place to start is to print out the pedigrees of the top 10 or preferably top 20 two and three year old horses in a season. Study the pedigrees closely and you will start to see what might work, and identify some of the ‘nicks’ that are successful.

Bee: What do you think of the saying: “Breed the best to the best and hope for the best?”

Tony: Alright, as far as it goes, but that’s not far enough in my view. Every breeding theory can be justified in some way. However, nothing substitutes for good hard research into a mare’s family history and the proposed consort/s race and stud performance and pedigree compatibility. An orderly, considered approach beats the random method of sire selection.

Brian: It’s a cop out. As you go on, you reach other conclusions.
Bee: When you select a sire for your commercial broodmares, what factors are most important to you: (Possibly all of them, but what 2 or 3 are most important?)

A. Likely commercial appeal of sire.
B. Pedigree compatibility on paper.
C. Physical type complements mare’s type.
D. Sire’s reputation regarding type he leaves (physical and/or temperament)
E. Service fee
F. Similar pedigree matches are successful (in that family, as ‘golden crosses’, or in a top race horse/s)
G. Sire is proven.
H. Other

Tony: Physical type complements the mare. Service fee.

Brian: Pedigree compatibility on paper. Sire is proven (sire line successful, he performed as a 2yo and 3yo, and he has had success as a sire). Physical type complements mare. Service fee.

Bee: Any other comments about approaches to breeding that you feel strongly about?

Tony: The commercial appeal of a sire is important, but we don’t let that consideration over-ride our desire to breed top performing racehorses – as distinct from breeding yearlings (remember, there are no races for yearlings!) If we bred solely with the yearling sales in mind, we enter the ‘fashion fickle stakes’ wherein a popular stallion today may be out of favour in two years just when the yearling goes on the market. We look to create a point of difference, patronizing a mix of sought-after sires and new, unproven sires for our mares where we are convinced that the resultant mating is in the best interests of the foal making it to the racetrack.

Brian: You do have sires that serve you well, and mares or families that serve you well. In terms of mares, I’ve got about 30 mares at the moment and at least 10 of them are from the Dream Bel family. And for sires, early on Soky Atom was a sire I really went for. I’ve had a go with some of the good Australian-based ones in the past, like Walton Hanover and Village Jasper, but they didn’t sell well here. You learn as you go. Usually I prefer proven sires, but I will take a punt on a third year sire which might be at a slightly reduced fee because that’s the year they can struggle to get mares. And I will take a punt on a new sire if he meets most of what I want. I can take those risks with some of my mares because I have the numbers.  I usually make a longish short-list at the beginning of the season, then reduce to about 5 or 6 sires.

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