Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Americas Horse - The Fastest Way To A Million

A two year old Quarter Horse filly called Fly Baby Fly won almost $1.6 million last year and in so doing became the richest racing filly of all racing breeds. She also put an exclamation point on the rising interest and financial opportunities in quarter horse racing where million dollar purses are becoming the norm.

Reputed to be the largest horsebreed registry in the World in terms of members and horses, the American Quarter Horse Association may well be also the youngest being founded in Texas, USA, in the 1940's

The origins of the Quarter Horse combine two distinct horse breeds, the English and North American thoroughbred and the mustangs of the south-western States that evolved from the horses brought to South and Central America by the Spanish Conquistadors.

A smallish thoroughbred called Janus (1746) was imported from England to Virginia in the late 1700's. While small in size he was noted for his speed over short distances and his offspring were favourites among the farming community for impromptu racing with their neighbours. As the Wild West became developed  and the numbers of Thoroughbreds grew both in terms of imports and local breds the settlers took many of them to the frontiers where they proved themselves as agile and willing ranch horses and indeed war mounts as a defence against raids by indigenous tribes mounted on their "mustangs". Inevitably the two breeds came together and the result was a horse perfectly adapted for local conditions and the needs of the booming cattle ranching business.

While they started out as work horses adept for such chores as herding, roping and cutting it was also inevitable that their speed over short distances would result in a racing version especially with the continued importation to the West of more thoroughbreds with comparable speed.

The formation of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) predates organized racing and was created by a group of ranchers who enjoyed match racing and riding their horses for business and pleasure. The idea came from an article written in 1935 by Robert Denhardt entitled "The Quarter Horse, Then And Now" about the history and characteristics of the Quarter Horse.

In 1940, William Barre Warren was elected as the first President at an impromptu business meeting following a dinner party in Fort Worth, Texas, where the guests showed interest in forming a registry for the Steeldust and Billy horses of the Southwest. At that time Warren was a director for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. He had hundreds of friends in the rodeo, match-race and ranch industries and it was at his suggestion that the registry not be confined to just the local breds by western bred sires but that horses with up to 50% thoroughbred blood could also be registered as Quarter Horses.

Two of Warren's own stallions were Peter McCue and Traveler. The former was born in 1895 and was a great-grandson of a legendary Kentucky bred stallion called Steel Dust (1844), a descendent of the great Diomed, and who came to the Southwest as a yearling. Traveler was a grandson of Steel Dust.

The American Quarter Horse Racing Association was formed in 1945. This group mainly was concerned with the operation of racetracks and their registration efforts were limited to what was needed for identification for racing purposes. They set the standards for racing, and set up a Register of Merit system to help with handicapping racing. They registered horses that were in AQHA's stud books, as well as Thoroughbreds. Even "Paint" horses, which at this time had no registry and would not for another two decades, were registered. Painted Joe, a foundation stallion with the American Paint Horse Association (APHA), was registered with the AQRA and ran against many of the early Quarter Horse racers.

Because of the continued dilution of the original bloodlines as a result of the 50/50 registration rule there is now an offshoot organization dedicated to the preservation of the older strains dating back to the 1800's. There have also been registries of horses of color in addition to the Paint horses with the Palomino Horse Breeders of America and the American Buckskin Registry Association being cross registered with the racing and ranch Quarter Horses. Both the Paint and Palomino breeds have a racehorse component also.

The largest group of owners, however, are still those involved in rodeos, horse shows and pleasure riding.  Today, people show American Quarter Horses in a variety of competitive events, including, but not limited to, halter classes; western style events such as Western Pleasure, Reining, and Cutting; English riding events in the hunt seat style, such as Hunter Under Saddle, Working Hunter, and Hunter Hack. Driving classes are available at some shows, as are some timed games such as barrel racing. There are also equitation and halter showmanship classes for non-pro exhibitors.

The Racing Quarter Horse.

The earliest mares were primarily ranch mares, many without known pedigrees and with names like Peg, Betty etc. or simply named after the Ranch with a number attached such as Waggoner Mare 56. As the breed has evolved there have been thoroughbred mares bred to Quarter Horse stallions that now are responsible for many of the top racers of today. On the Sire side the bloodlines are dominated by stallions tracing to the thoroughbred stallions Three Bars (1940) and Top Deck (1945), both descendants of the Darley Arabian through the imported English sire Camel (1822). Three Bars had several sons that continue to impact the paternal lines of todays best especially through Rocket Bar and his descendant First Down Dash (1984) who is still at stud although long past his peak in producing top performers. Top Deck is the sire line of the current top Quarter Horse stallion in North America named One Famous Eagle.

As in the thoroughbred world the other top influences in sires descend from Nearco and Native Dancer, known more commonly as the Northern Dancer and the Mr Prospector lines in thoroughbred circles although it is through Beduino and Raise A Native respectively that these lines have come to prominence in Quarter Horse racing particularly through their broodmares.

One Famous Eagle combines all of the top sire lines in his pedigree and has produced One Dashing Eagle, a winner of over $2 million, from a mare that also combines all of the same sires and traces back maternally to a descendant of Peter McCue, one of the original Texas bred sires owned by William Warren, the first President of the AQHA. One Famous Eagle has also produced the top two year old in North America in 2017 by the name of Fly Baby Fly who has the distinction of being the richest two year old race horse of any breed in North America last year. Her maternal line goes back to a ranch mare called Mollie born in 1930 and a grand daughter of Peter McCue. As for Janus, the little speedster who started it all, there appears to be no trace of him in todays pedigrees that I can find.

Bet you did not know that Roy Rogers horse Trigger was actually a Palomino quarter horse called Golden Cloud. His wife Dale Evans rode a buckskin quarter horse called Buttermilk. Another famous quarter horse in the movies was Mister Ed, the talking horse, played by a quarter horse called Bamboo Harvester and had a stunt double, also a quarter horse, by name of Pumpkin who subsequently appeared in the TV series Green Acres.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Top Two Year Old Performance Horse Of The Year

There are several breeds of horses that earn money through racing including Standardbreds, Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses and Arabians. Which breed had the highest earning two year old in 2017 and what do the top two year olds of 2017 have in common in their pedigrees ? The answers may surprise you.

Fly Baby Fly is a Quarter Horse filly who made $1,585,000 last year. The next best was also a filly but a Thoroughbred one called Caledonia Road who made $1,229,000 with most of her money in one of her three starts as winner of a Breeders Cup race. Good Magic was the top Thoroughbred colt last year with $1,216,000 again due primarily to his Breeders Cup win. The Standardbred fillies, Youaremycandygirl ($943K) a pacer, and the trotter Manchego ($910K), were both Breeders Crown winners. Eagle Jazz, a Quarter Horse gelding comes next with $900K then the Standardbred colts Lost In Time (687K) on the pace and trotter Fiftydallarbill $458K.

The pedigrees of these big winners are remarkably consistent with respect to the pattern of success for most performance horses - Outcrossed on sire line and inbred maternally as we promote through Pedigree Matching and in fact six of the eight are double/double pedigrees with the other two very close. In addition there is another pattern that appears significant in that seven of the eight are by sires whose sire line is maternally inbred in the dams. Here are the important aspects of their pedigrees.

Fly Baby Fly - She is by the current top sire in the racing Quarter Horse world called One Famous Eagle and with a classic pedigree match. The sire has Beduino maternally (a Nearco TB line) and Dash For Cash ( Three Bars line most common in QH breeding and also a TB line). The dam Higher Fire is by Walk Thru Fire by a son of Dash For Cash with a dam by Beduino. The third dam is also by Dash For Cash. The second dam is another thoroughbred line through Raise A Native. If you read my previous blog on the Kentucky Derby you will remember the significance of having both Raise A Native and Nearco maternal lines in top pedigrees. Both the sire and the dam have both in this pedigree so that combination is not unique to thoroughbreds. This is also a double/double pedigree in that the sire of One Famous Eagle has a dam linebred to the Three Bars line making One Famous Eagle double inbred maternally to that line.

Caledonia Road - Her sire Quality Road is a great grandson of Mr Prospector (Raise A Native) and is inbred maternally to the Nearco line and specifically to Northern Dancer. Quality Road's second dam is by a son of Raise A Native, sire of Mr Prospector. Her dam, Come A Callin, is a Northern Dancer line by Dixie Union and the second and third dams are also Northern Dancer - Nearco line.. She is also inbred maternally to Native Dancer. As we saw in the Kentucky Derby winner Justify this maternal crossing of Northern Dancer and Mr Prospector is a powerful combination.

Good Magic - Like Caledonia Road his sire Curlin is through Mr Prospector and Curlin's dam is also a Northern Dancer line. The dam of Good Magic is by a grandson of Northern Dancer and the third dam is by a son of Northern Dancer and the dam is also inbred to Raise A Native. Same magical combination.

Eagle Jazz is by One Dashing Eagle, the top son of his famous sire, One Famous Eagle, and with a pedigree that brings back memories of my own close experience with Quarter Horse pedigrees. You can read about my son Charles' first purchase of a QH called One Famous Glass, with an almost identical pedigree to One Dashing Eagle, both selling in the same year in the Oklahoma sale. One Dashing Eagle earned over $2 millon racing in California and Charles had to be content with winning the Quarter Horse of The Year Award in Canada as a three year old and making just over $200K. As was the case in Fly Baby Fly the key ingredients are Beduino and Dash For Cash across the pedigree maternally and also we find a third dam through Raise A Native.

The standardbred trotter Manchego was written about in my previous blog article on her owner John Fielding. She has a double/double pedigree as does her colt counterpart Fiftydallarbill. That colt is by Swan For All, sire of World Champion Hannelore Hanover. He too is a double/double since the dam Cr Dixie Chick returns all four of her principal lines to the maternal lines of Swan For All and his sire Andover Hall.

The top Standardbred pacing filly Youaremycandygirl is yet another double/double. Her sire American Ideal is Matts Scooter - Albatross maternally and both of these lines are in the dam Sweet Lady Jane. American Ideal's sire is Western Ideal who is Abercombie (Adios line) - Meadow Skipper maternally and we find both lines also in Sweet Baby Jane.

Lost in Time is from the first crop of A Rocknroll Dance, a No Nukes line sire with a dam that is linebred to Meadow Skipper through his sons Most Happy Fella and Albatross. His dam, Summer Mystery is inbred maternally to Most Happy Fella and he has a third dam through a son of Albatross. There is also an Abercrombie return to the maternal lines of the sire of A Rocknroll Dance.

These are examples of three different racing breeds whose champions all have pedigrees that follow Pedigree Matching principles.

I dont want to leave out the Arabians, who do not race at two, but one of the top Arabs last year was aptly named Quick And Rich. He is by TH Richie, a sire whose dam combines the Morafic and Nazeer sire lines. The dam of Quick And Rich is a Morafic line sire as is the third dam, and the second dam is through Nazeer. Just another great pedigree match.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Kentucky Derby 2018

Twenty One of the best three year olds in North America will contest the 2018 Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 5th, at Churchill Downs. It is said to be the strongest Derby field in recent history and the early favorite is an unbeaten colt called Justify that, however, did not race at two which is a historical problem since it is well over 100 years since such a lightly raced horse has won the Derby.

The pedigrees are what are of most interest to me regardless of their performance to date. In recent years there has been a distinct trend among the participants of winners showing maternal crosses of Northern Dancer and/or Mr Prospector and Justify is one that continues that pattern.

Justify is by Scat Daddy whose dam is by Mr Prospector and second dam by Nijinsky, a son of Northern Dancer. Justify's dam, Stage Magic is by Ghostzapper , a Northern Dancer line sire and the third dam is by Baldski, a son of Nijinski. She is also inbred maternally Mr Prospector.

Here is the list in starting order with their pedigrees and a notation of the significant maternal crosses.

1. Firenze Fire - A double/double pedigree with multiple maternal lines through Nearco and with a dam that combines Northern Dancer and Mr Prospector lines.
2. Free Drop Billy - Double maternal inbred to both Northern Dancer and Mr Prospector and has a double/double pedigree since his grandsire Dixie Union has the same lines maternally.
3. Promises Fulfilled - Maternal double to Mr Prospector who is the sire line of Shackleford's dam as well as the sire line of the dam of Promises Fulfilled whose sire Marquetry is also a combination of Mr Prospector and Northern Dancer lines.
4. Flameaway - The lone Canadian foaled entry in the field is inbred maternally 3x3 to Mr Prospector and to Nijinsky 4x5. His sire Scat Daddy is also inbred maternally to Mr Prospector while his dam, Vulcan Rose, is inbred maternally to Northern Dancer.
5. Audible - The only New York bred is an outlier to the pattern with no significant crosses to either Mr P or ND. There is an inbreeding to the Nearco line as well as to Raise A Native, sire of Mr P.
6. Good Magic - The top two year old last year is double inbred maternally to Northern Dancer and from a dam that is maternally inbred to Raise A Native and linebred to the Northern Dancer line.
7. Justify - As noted above
8. Lone Sailor - Double inbred maternally to ND and Mr P and has a double/double pedigree with several Nearco lines. He is a longshot listed as 50/1 but his pedigree may make him a surprise.
9. Hofburg - Also double inbred maternally to ND and Mr P.
10. My Boy Jack - Out of a mare that is inbred 3x3 maternally to Mr P.
11. Bolt D'Oro - Fastest two year old on Beyer last year and has no significant Mr P or Northern Dancer connections
12. Enticed - Has a dam that is inbred to Mr Prospector and a second dam linebred to ND and inbred maternally to Mr P but no maternal crosses of these sires to his sire Medaglia Doro.
13. Bravazo - He is by Awesome Again who combines Nearco and Mr P lines maternally and there is a line through ND in the dam but nothing stands out.
14. Mendelssohn - Inbred to ND and the dam is also inbred maternally to Northern Dancer. No maternal sign of Mr P though.
15. Instilled Regard - Double inbred to Northern Dancer and to Raise A Native, sire of Mr Prospector.
16. Magnum Moon -  Inbred to Mr Prospector maternally and from a dam linbred to Mr P. Inbred maternally to Northern Dancer as well although well back in the pedigree.
17. Solomini - Inbred to ND maternally 5x4 and double inbred to the Nearco line. No Mr P.
18. Vino Rosso - Inbred maternally to Deputy Minister, grandson of ND and from a mare by Mr Prospector making him a linebred 3x4 to that sire. In fact the sire and the dam are both combinations of Mr Prospector and Northern Dancer lines - a bit unusual but it is working so far for this colt.
19. Noble Indy - His sire is a combination of ND and Mr P lines and the dam is linebred to ND and inbred maternally to Mr P. Could be some fireworks from this horse in more ways than one.
20. Combatant - The fourth entry by Scat Daddy and with a similar pedigree to the others being double inbred to both ND and Mr P. An added bonus is the maternal link to Damascus in the maternal line of  Johannesburg, sire of Scat Daddy , which makes this pedigree a double double.
21. Blended Citizen - The dam has both ND and Mr P but nothing across the pedigree of interest.

So there you have it. Since there appears to be no clear favorite, given that the two with the lowest morning line odds are both afflicted with the two year old curse this may be a longshot Derby, especially since the ones with double/double pedigree patterns are among the least favored to date. Looks like a win by a son of Scat Daddy to me. Perhaps I will bet on his Canadian son Flameaway.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Similar Sires - Similar Profiles

One of the most important things you can do when choosing a sire is to create the profile of what works with respect to the mares that produce their top performers. An article on Standardbred Canada caught my eye because it dealt with a three year old colt by Pet Rock who has won his first three starts. The profile for his sire is predictable based on the profile of Rock N Roll Heaven, a sire with an almost identical pedigree.

Both sires have maternal lines of Artsplace (Abercrombie) and Cam Fella (Most Happy Fella). Mares with these sire lines are prime candidates for these sires but for some reason Rock N Roll Heaven seems to also favor mares with Big Towner maternally. Seven of his top 10 show this connection. That would indicate to me that Pet Rock would show likewise and although his offspring are just three year olds to date it appears to be a key for his success. I was interested in finding out if  Larrys Petrock, the subject of the article, fit this profile - his third dam is in fact by Big Towner. The profile for Pet Rock shows 5 of his top 10 with this connection.

While not all of the offspring of these two similar sires have Big Towner maternally that feature is something that cannot be ignored if not entirely explainable. Most of the others show combinations of Abercrombie and Most Happy Fella as expected.

Picking a sire is not that difficult, just do your homework with respect to the profiles of the sires in which you are interested

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Good Ones Come From Anywhere

The Canadian Maritimes is not noted for horses that make a lot of money. There are just a handful that have made over $500K lifetime but I have been fortunate enough to be connected to two of them.  The first I have written about before, a colt I recommended the breeding on and then bought at our yearling sale for $1,500 when nobody else wanted him. That was Hussy Chaser who went on to make over $520K and become the third richest Maritime bred. The other one is a trotter called Waiting On A Woman.

Ten years ago there was a young fellow working for my trainer who had a mare he wanted to breed. A quick look at her breeding and I recommended a new sire in the Maritimes called Northern Bailey, at the time a ten year old making his debut as a sire. I was attracted to the double presence of Super Bowl in his dam which fitted the mare which was inbred maternally to Super Bowl. The pedigree in fact is a double/double.

Waiting On A Woman has just passed the $500K mark  and now has a record of  62 wins in 188 starts, a record of 1.52.2f, and earnings of $502,758.

Both of these horses are the best by their sires and serve to show that any sire, given the right mare, can produce a top performer.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Stallion Review - 2017

The breeding of Standardbreds in North America, based on the number of yearlings, continues to be in decline. A big part of the problem in recent years has been the big drop in Ontario and New Jersey breedings, both crippled by Government policies that hurt the industry. While both jurisdictions, along with Quebec, are recovering somewhat, the impact on the stallion population there and elsewhere continues to present problems for the future.

In 2017 alone we saw 139 stallions retired from breeding compared to the 96 that quit the ranks in 2016. This is offset somewhat by the meager 10 new stallions listed to date for 2018 breeding in addition to the 62 that may have first crop foals in 2018.

The number of stallions with yearlings registered to date in 2017 stood at 449 and many of them had just a handful of foals including 32 with just one foal registered. The number of yearlings in North America last year overall dropped to another 50 year low of 7234, with 4167 pacers and 3067 trotters, and all indications are that the drop will continue in the 2017 crop. The immediate effect is on the yearling sales where we are seeing reduced consignments and sale consolidations. This has a temporary good side in the form of increased sale averages but considering that the breeders have struggled with lower that cost sales in the past it is like a 100% increase going from 1 to 2 on a scale of 10.

The shortage of yearlings ultimately results in a shortage of racehorses, and a reduction in racing opportunities and purses as tracks struggle to maintain their market share. Track closures are inevitable as we have seen recently in Illinois. Even the biggest tracks are not immune since they are dependent on the "farm" system of smaller tracks for the development of race horses and the trainers and caregivers related to them.

Add to this an almost total absence of interest on the part of the two organizations responsible for the breed in doing anything positive to turn around the decline in their base. The USTA and Standardbred Canada continue to bury their heads in the sand claiming that they need to increase the bet and the purses as a first priority. Meanwhile the breeders that remain continue to struggle and pay ever increasing dues to these so-called breeders Associations getting little ground level support in return.

Here on Prince Edward Island we are blessed to have an active industry association to fill the gaps left by a delinquent national organization. Supported by local government at all levels of the industry, racing on PEI has a strong rural base with an active matinee track program that gives small breeders and younger people the opportunity to learn about, and grow their interest in, harness racing. While we have also seen the demise of several of our larger breeding farms in recent years the number of mares bred has stabilized and the number of small breeders has increased somewhat. Our yearling sale set an all time record average with a substantial 34% increase of the previous year record and the accolades should go out to the breeders accordingly and to the many volunteers that are key to our continued success.

Solutions are elusive to the problem. Increased promotion and assistance in the form of education and basic farm gate services are basic building blocks to encourage new breeders. A switch to broodmare residency requirements as the basis for regional stakes eligibility would open up a new market for struggling breeders to board mares. Breeders awards as a percentage of earnings are already in place in several jurisdictions but should be universally available. Broadening the ownership base and level of interest through initiatives like The Stable is also a positive development that should be encouraged at the regional level.

I am sure that readers have their own suggestions for ways to support the successful breeding of Standardbreds. After all the future of the breed in North America is at stake and leaving the problem to the next generation is not an option - there may not be another generation.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Tattersalls Mixed Sale 2018

The annual January mixed sale at The Meadowlands is your last chance to pick up an in-foal mare or a young mare just off the track for the upcoming breeding season. The prices are generally lower than at Harrisburg and there are always some great buys available.

Here is a list of the mares in the sale including broodmares and mares still racing but potentially broodmares. I have added in the performance ratings based on speed and earnings in the family. The rating of the mare gives you a general idea at what level her offspring could be competitive, either regionally or nationally. There are also quite a few that should probably not be bought for breeding purposes because of low ratings.

Here is the profile for all of the mares in the sale including the cross percentages. The profiles are colour coded by sire line and the colour codes are shown at the end of the report. If you bring up the report in PM Online you can click on the cross percentage and get a list of all horses racing with that cross and compare the profile of the mare with the successful ones.

For mares in foal it is important to assess whether the foal being carried has a correct pedigree - no point in wasting a year if it is not, although if you plan to sell as a yearling you may take the risk of a blemish on the mares career.