Saturday, March 7, 2020

If At First You Don't Succeed.

If At First You Don't Succeed - The breeding of Obrigado

Hoofbeats this month is featuring the racing career of Obrigado, a ten year old trotter who is staging a comeback after retiring in 2018 due to an injury. After a year of inaction he returned to race last September and has since bounced back with two wins at The Meadowlands including his latest, a front end win from the 10th post position. His perseverance is a testament to his own will and determination but also to that of his breeder Michael Andrew of Gorham, Maine.

I first met Mike Andrew at the 2004 Harrisburg yearling sale. I had a booth in the vendors area selling my Pedigree Matching program CD's and on the first day, while the sale was underway, Mike sat down at my table and asked me to look up a horse he had just bought. I put it up on the screen then said Uh-Oh and Mike, looking a bit startled, said  "What do you mean Uh-Oh, I just paid $210,000 for this colt". It was a trotter by Self Possessed and from a mare by Super Bowl. His name was Servage Hanover. I explained that it was not a cross that liked because at that point Self Possessed had shown no success with Super Bowl line mares and his profile showed, if anything, a preference for Noble Victory line dams. The colt had ten attempts to qualify in his three years in training and just one unsuccessful start. My first impressions on the cross actually turned out to be premature since Cash Hall and Prime Interest both made over $600,000 subsequently. The two best by Self Possessed, however, were from Noble Victory line dams.

Mike returned later with his friend Dr Doug Hutchins, a veterinarian and small breeder from Maine. We discussed the breeding situation in Maine and also looked at some of the stallions standing there. Among them was Boy Band, a stallion owned by Mike that he  had bought in Lexington in 2001 for $145,000 that had failed to race with no earnings in three starts. In 2004 he had bred Boy Band to two of his own mares, Malimony and A Virtue, plus four mares owned by the farm where he was standing, and a couple of other outside mares owned by friends. Boy Band was not exactly popular as you could imagine given his racing career but he was from a very good family being from Classic Cassette by Florida Pro. She had 16 foals including a couple that made over $500K including Giant Hit, and a couple of other stallions in A P Lindy and Rockaroundtheclock. Boy Band was her 12th foal. We looked at his own two mares and on paper, at least, they showed promise since both had the necessary maternal connections to the dam of Boy Band,  particularly through Arnie Almahurst, sire of Florida Pro.

Early in 2005 I got a call from Mike, then president of the Maine Breeders Association, to see if I could come down to their annual general meeting in Portland in March and give a presentation on pedigrees. There were several presentations on different topics and they were done in parallel with morning and afternoon sessions. There was a lot of interest in the topic of stallion selection and I used my knowledge of Boy Band to illustrate the concept of maternal connections as being a big factor in the success of a stallion or indeed predicting success for a new stallion such as Boy Band. Another topic that came up was the practice of breeders choosing a different sire each year rather than staying with one that was deemed to have  a good "match". I explained that, based on my own observations and what I had learned from knowledgeable breeders, that the vagaries of  genetics do not guarantee success every time you breed the same way but that there is a one in four chance that you will get at least one very good one, plus two decent performers and one dud.

Dr Doug Hutchins is trying his own version of staying the course. He  made his first appearance at Pedigree Camp on PEI in 2009 and we discussed the breeding of his mare Cocktail Hour and decided that he should try to get Muscle Hill. He did not get in the first time but the following year was accepted and she produced a colt called Martiniwithmuscle who was injured at three after making over $140K and ended up in Sweden. Cocktail Hour missed in 2012 but hit the big leagues in 2013 with Bar Hopping, a winner of $1,385,293, and now a stallion at Hanover Shoe Farms. He has continued with Muscle Hill getting two fillies that he has kept for his broodmare band and now has a fifth one by Muscle Hill, a colt called Cricket Hill, that will likely be in the 2020 Harrisburg sale. Will that colt be the start of another 1 in 4 run ? Don't bet against it.

Now it takes a lot of faith and perseverance to stick to such a plan but for Dr Doug and Mike Andrew it certainly worked out. A Virtue's 2005 foal turned out to be the one very good one in four such breedings with $326K made. She was bred to Boy Band eight times in total, and had two other foals that earned over $150K.  Malimony was a bit slower to get her big winner. She too had eight foals by Boy Band and that 2005 foal, the first of six fillies, was decent for a Maine bred earning $81K, and the fourth foal, also a filly, earned over $230K and had a virtually unbeaten 2 and 3 year old stakes campaign that was a preview of what was to come. The fifth breeding produced a colt and that was a dud and the sixth was Obrigado now with earnings approaching $1.9 million and a winner of 22 consecutive Maine stakes races at two and three. If at first you don't succeed !!

A look at the overall profile of success for Boy Band, who is still breeding with three foals in 2018 including another from A Virtue, shows that the presence of the Arnie Almahurst line in the dams was indeed an important factor in his success with 15 of his top 17 including the top four all exhibiting that maternal connection. But what was in the pedigree of Obrigado that made him so much better than the rest.

His maternal family is #18 on the list for all time sub-2:00 performers and is relatively short lived compared to many of the top families The family matriarch is Molly J, born around 1885, by a grandson of Hambletonian and from a dam listed simply as By Boston Horse. She has one daughter, Mary Bales, by Montjoy, a full brother to Waller, the sire of Molly J.  Montjoy's dam has a daughter of Pilot Jr called Kate maternally so it is the first connection to the X-factor mare Miss Russell, also a daughter of Pilot Jr.

Mary Bales has two daughters, a pacer by Zombro called Zombrewer and a trotter by Nutwood Wilkes called Wilkes Brewer, but it was her first born Zombrewer that was to make the history books with a filly called Elizabeth by Peter The Great. Her pedigree combined the maternal influence of two daughters of Pilot Jr in Kathleen and the aforementioned Kate and when bred to Guy Abbey produced the fastest trotter in the world at the time, the legendary Greyhound. He was born in 1932 and was the outstanding trotting horse of his day and arguably the most outstanding in the history of the sport. He was nicknamed "The Great Grey Ghost" and "Silver-skinned Flyer." In 1935, he won the Hambletonian in world record time for two heats combined and in 1938 he lowered the world record time for trotting the mile to 1:55¼, a record that stood until for over thirty years..

Elizabeth had 16 foals and it was her daughter,Yankee Maid by Volomite, that leads us to yet another world champion in this pedigree. With successive breedings to sires like Porterhouse, Noble Victory and Speedy Crown the line arrives at that important connection with Arnie Almahurst bred to Quiet Elegance by Speedy Crown. She had an amazing 20 foals with six being born in the United States before being exported to Sweden. Three of the American breds were by Ardnon, a son of Arnie Almahurst, who has the great X-factor mare Margaret Parrish maternally. These include Kindavahush who, when bred to Lindy Lane, produced Hellava Hush, the first ever 1.51 trotter and a world champion. A full sister produced Better By Design, a $342K winner also by Lindy Lane.  The third full sister is the second dam of Obrigado, Meadow Hush, producing Malimony by Malabar Man whose pedigree now has an  X-factor double to Speedy Crown to add to its maternal inheritance.

Considering the success of the recent maternal line with Lindy Lane perhaps we should not be surprised by the success of Malimony with Boy Band, himself a son of Lindy Lane. A proven pedigree match with a maternal line featuring world champions is a roadmap to success that anyone can follow.

When researching the pedigrees of horses it is often surprising to find a personal connection to the pedigree. Apart from my acquaintance with Mike Andrew there are several other such coincidences. Boy Band's trainer was Ivan Davies, who was born in Kington, Worcestershire just across the border with Wales where my maternal grandfather was born some twenty miles away. I don't have any Davies in my maternal line though as far as I know but I do have a closer connection to Obrigado's driver in Maine. Heath Campbell's family came from Charlottetown, PEI and his uncle John "Buddy" Campbell was a trainer/driver/horse shoer of note for many years at the Charlottetown Driving Park. When my son, Charles, was a teenager learning how to train and shoe horses it was Buddy Campbell that took him under his wing. Charles is now an equine practitioner in Ontario.

There is yet another connection, this time to the family of Obrigado. In 2002 my horse partner Bill MacNeil of Saulsbrook Farms and I bought a mare in Harrisburg in foal to Dream Vacation and she produced a colt we named Critic Vacation. We were back at the sale the following year looking for a weanling to raise and train with Critic and settled on a smallish Angus Hall colt called Fight To Win. I was attracted to the colt because of his pedigree that was a double/double of Speedy Crown, Stars Pride and Arnie Almahurst lines. The dam was R Sweet Hush, a three quarter sister to the dam of  world champion Hellava Hush and, as it turns out, to the second dam of Obrigado. Both Critic Vacation and Fight To Win had decent racing careers earning $111K and $121K respectively. Critic's big race was finishing a lapped on second to the PEI 3 year old stakes record holder Maple Leaf Noble in a then track record 2:01.1h. Fight To Win, not eligible to any stakes had to face Open Trot company at three in Charlottetown finishing second in 2.01.2h. They were sold later in their three year old years to Ontario but turned a nice little profit for Bill and I.

Waiting for your 1 in 4 chance to show up gives you a possibility of a 25% success rate - a lot better than the 4-5% success that is experienced by breeders in general as they rotate their mares through the available sires hoping to get lucky.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The Long Road To Success - Face Time Bourbon

The Long Road To Stardom

Two hundred and fifty years later and after travelling across the Atlantic four times and developed in five different countries the pedigree of Face Time Bourbon has achieved a status that puts him among the best trotters in Europe. His win in the Prix d`Amerique and his current 18 wins, 3 seconds in 22 starts stamps his international passport to possibly being one of the greatest ever in France if not worldwide. His only loss was actually a win but disqualified by a momentary break.

He is by current top French sire Ready Cash and from a mare by Love You, a sire that has more racing progeny in the world than any other active sire due to his own racing excellence and siring success. But that is now and there are 69 that have the same breeding and only three that have significant earnings. Those good ones include International star Bold Eagle with over $5 million Euros, and very similar maternal connections featuring Florestan and Speedy Crown, and Atlas De Joudes with just over $180,000. So what makes the difference?  It all boils down to the maternal lines from the second dam down and, especially in the case of Face Time Bourbon, a mare called Etta Extra, his third dam by Florestan.

The story of Etta Extra and her owner Rainer Engelke, who is responsible for all of the current horses with the Bourbon name, is worthy of a separate column but for now lets look back to see what the maternal line brought to make Etta Extra so special.

The maternal line goes all the way back to the 1750s and is shown as Family Number Forty Six in the English stud book. Early on the line gets a significant boost in the form of a mare imported to North America called Letitia who has an x-factor double trace to the exceptional mare by Bartlets Childers called Amorett. She in turn has a daughter by Dungannon who also has Amorett maternally. Her daughter is bred to Lance, an American sire whose dam has an X-factor double to another distinguished daughter of Bartlets Childers called Miss Colville. That breeding results in a mare bred to one of the early stars of American racing in Bertrand whose maternal line is the same going back to Miss Colville. This is an unprecedented build-up of direct traces to the origin of the X-factor, the ancestral Spanker Mare.

The next two generations, bred first to a pacing sire of the Copperbottom breed then to a Kentucky trotter/saddlebred sire called Edwin Forrest, contribute little in terms of pedigree but introduce the trotting instinct into the mix. The next step is a big one with spectacular results.

Sophie by Edwin Forrest is bred to Happy Medium by Hambletonian whose dam is by Dictator whose dam brings in the first connection to an important X-factor source of American origin in American Star. The result is World Champion Nancy Hanks born in 1886 who was undefeated and was the first 2:05 trotter in harness-racing history.

Nancy Hanks was then bred to Peter The Great whose maternal line also has a maternal trace to a Bartlets Childers mare plus a first encounter with Pilot Jr, sire of Miss Russell, the Queen Among Queens, the subject of my book of the same name that describes the maternal origins of the Standardbred breed. The next step is even more epochal as that mating produced a daughter, Markala, that was bred to Vice Commodore whose dam is also a daughter of Nancy Hanks making Markala a 3x3 X-factor inbred to her maternal legacy. Markala is then bred to Baronmore whose maternal contribution is yet another trace to Bartlets Childers and another key American X-factor source in Mambrino Patchen.

The result of that mating is Anna Maloney, born in 1912, who raced in the United States for several years before joining a wave of exports to Europe following the first world war as breeders there sought to restock their breeding farms depleted by the war effort. She actually went first to Belgium before producing her first French bred foal in 1923 by Passeport, a French sire tracing back on sire line to imported English thoroughbred origins in the early 1800s whose dam is inbred to the X-factor through a full sister to the dam of Belle Poule and another trace back to a daughter of Bartlets Childers. Her first foal by Passeport was Amazone B, a 54 time winner including twice in the Prix d’Amerique, and a French record holder in 1931. It was her third breeding to Passeport, however, that produced Heroine B in 1929 and her French breeding legacy was underway with the tenth dam of Face Time Bourbon.

At this stage her X-factor connections take a different route as her lineage comes into contact with the likes of Belle Poule, Perce Neige and Gladys, all mares that have extensive traces back to the X-factor source in England but none more so than Belle Poule. There are actually two mares called Belle Poule, the second one being a granddaughter of the first and also the dam of the great Intermede, called by some the French equivalent of Volomite for his impact on maternal breeding in France.

The next three dams are a source of some controversy since they were all bred on the same farm under suspicious circumstances. The first of these dams, Sonate, born in 1940, is the big question mark being officially registered as by a French son of Intermede called Gael. He was known to be virtually infertile and had just 2 foals in 1936 and none in 1937. Gael is known colloquially in France as the "ghost" stallion and here is why.

At the end of the 1930s, it was decided to close French breeding to establish a line to be  known as "French trotters" and to bar the breeding to American bloodlines. Calumet Delco was in France racing at the time having been bought by Henri Masson and imported to France in 1934 at the age of four. Born in 1930 at the famous Calumet Farm in Kentucky, he was a full brother to the dam of Stars Pride from a mare by the X-factor stallion San Francisco. He was sold to Wisconsin interests where he was a state champion at three before being sold and exported to France where he won 24 races and earned 350,000 francs in winnings (a nice sum for the era) and his career included a 5th place in the 1938 Prix d'Amérique.

But it is as a stallion that he made his greatest impact. As an American horse he was not allowed to have any foals registered under the new rules but in between his occasional races in 1937, and because of his gentle disposition, he was allowed to run with the mares at Haras de Ginai to act as a teaser to bring the mares into heat for breeding to the farm stallion Gael except that, in this case, Calumet Delco was more than a teaser and ended up covering them himself. The result was that three foals were allowed to be registered as "unexpected exceptions" but no more such foals were to be allowed in the new registry. 

Two stallions Quiroga II and Quiproquo II and a mare called Quinauderie are the three registered by Calumet Delco in 1938 and among the direct descendants of these one finds some great horses such as Galopin du Ravary, Ilster d'Espien, Flambeaux des Pins, and Hadol du Vivier but that's not all. The farm stallion Gael, who had fertility issues with just one foal in 1936 and none in 1937 suddenly had a revival with three foals in 1938, six in 1939, four more in 1940 and his last one in 1941 when coincidentally or not Calumet Delco reappears as a stallion in Germany after four years of obscurity. The consensus is that all of these later foals were by Calumet Delco and not Gael, a belief confirmed in a sworn statement by the son of the owner of Haras de Ginai in later years. The registration of Gael as the sire, however, still remains as the official record although the legacy of Calumet Delco and his maternal connection to the great Stars Pride has clearly left a big mark on French maternal lines including those of Face Time Bourbon. The great French Champion Ourasie's dam Fleurasie has Calumet Delco on both sides of her pedigree and one of those occasions is a Calumet Delco son bred to a mare called Stele registered as by Gael in 1940, the same year as Sonate.

Sonate was bred to Quiproquo and her foal Dragonne III was then bred to Quiroga II to produce Jonque so it is now proven, although not offically, that all three mares were bred to Calumet Delco or one of his sons. Calumet Delco as the sire of Sonate would be a significantly consequential addition to the maternal line but we must, unfortunately, accept what is registered as true and move on to Samos P, the start of another special cycle of maternal power. She was bred to Luth Grandchamp producing Dimitria who picked up the first connection to Belle Poule through a maternal daughter of Intermede. The dam of Luth Grandchamp is by another American refugee called Net Worth whose dam and second dam are both X-factor doubles to Mambrino Patchen, the same source doubled up in Anna Maloney. The world of trotting is indeed a small world

Dimitria was a sensation for her day in the sixties earning over 1.7 million kroner mostly in Sweden, winning the Elitlopp, and being one of the first French breds to take a sub 2:00 record. I have a remote personal connection to Dimitria through a friend in Finland, Marja Mahlamaki, who has a small farm in Vihti near where Dimitria was sent for a potential breeding to Keystone Patriot. The farm where she spent a year in Finland was co-owned by Marjut Stenberg and Marja's brother-in-law Matti. I visited with Marja in 2009 and Matti was then and still is in charge of the racetrack in Teivo.  

Marja, known by her friends as Mammu, is a long time supporter and volunteer in the Finnish breeding industry and remembers that Sweden was experiencing an outbreak of Equine Herpes and Dimitria was sent out of Sweden as a precaution. She already had four foals by French sires with little success at that time and missed that opportunity with Keystone Patriot and now had to wait six months in quarantine before being sent across the Atlantic for a mating to Speedy Crown thus returning the maternal line to its roots in North America and England. That produced the mare Une Crown born in Italy and then taken back to France.

Une Crown produced fourteen foals with the first eight in France and the last six in Sweden. Etta Extra was her first foal and the only time bred to Florestan and her breeder was a Swede named Valentin Gosta of Stockholm and a former Chairman of the Swedish Trotting Association, with a small farm in France, and who had also previously bought Dimitria after her racing career. He was also the owner of Glenna H, the great grandmother of Victory Tilly, the all-time money winner in Sweden. Etta Extra's racing career was short but at three she had three of her four wins at Vincennes and earned 51,665 Euro in her ten starts. She was bought at the 1996 Deauville mixed sale for $70,000 by Rainer Engelke who was intrigued by her breeding by Florestan to a daughter of Speedy Crown, and her maternal line to Nancy Hanks. The under-bidder was the renowned breeder Jean Pierre Dubois. 

There was more to that match that he was perhaps not aware of at the time although he recognized the influence of Florestan’s dam, the great mare and international champion Roquepine. She carried an X-factor double to Intermede and Belle Poule as did her dam Jalna IV to the older Belle Poule as well as to Perce Neige. A powerhouse maternal line indeed behind an incredible performer for her day who beat the best trotters in North America in the International Trot at Yonkers.

But Rainer Engelke’s work back in 2009 was just beginning. With Etta Extra as his foundation mare at his newly bought farm in France he sought out crosses that would bring back her Stars Pride and Speedy Crown bloodlines. Her second foal by Cezio Josselyn did the trick being by a son of Armbro Goal, a Speedy Crown son with a Stars Pride line dam. But that was not the key in producing Kamera Bourbon, the second dam of Face Time Bourbon. She went on to race and earn over 196,000 Euro and the secret ingredient to her success as a racemare was likely the dam of her sire named Quezira tracing back to Belle Poule as well as having a maternal line to the old Belle Poule making her also an x-factor double to the principal source of that legacy in France. Quezira is the second dam of the exceptional mare Belina Josselyn and the maternal line of several other stars such as Uza Josselyn, and Fleche Bourbon who is inbred maternally to Quezira and a recent winner of the prestigious Prix de President de la Republique  for monte trotters.

Etta Extra was subsequently bred to Love You and produced a 1.5 million Euro winner and Prix d`Amerique contestant in Qualita Bourbon. That success inspired Engelke to breed Kamera Bourbon to LoveYou and why not because he carries both Speedy Crown and Stars Pride across his pedigree. What perhaps he did not know again was that the dam of Love You is also an x-factor double to Belle Poule as well as carrying the maternal influences of both Gladys and Perce Neige. An added bonus is Love You’s North American maternal line that goes back to a daughter of San Francisco plus another source to American Star.

As Rainer Engelke said in his interview about Etta Extra prior to the 2009 Prix d'Amerique in which his mare Qualita Bourbon, a three quarter sister to the dam of  Face Time Bourbon, finished third. She too has Speedy Crown and Stars Pride across her pedigree in addition, of course to the maternal doubles to Belle Poule and other X-factor sources.

At every opportunity I try to create that in my breedings. Now that I have had several years of breeding experience I can tell you what to do. It is very simple. You have to double up on the best American blood with the best French blood. That is to say double up on Florestan, double up on Speedy Crown, as well as Fandango and Chambon P. Double up in the mare and also with the stallion. If you do that you have a chance to have, from time to time, a good horse.

Myself, I believe it is necessary to look at the sixth – seventh generation. Jean-Pierre Dubois says you have to stop at the third. But for me I don’t think that is enough. If the pedigree is well filled throughout, you increase your chances. If there is a hole you take the risk of falling through it.”

Inbred maternally to both Speedy Crown and Florestan, by a sire inbred to Florestan and from a mare inbred to Speedy Crown with a maternal line full of great champions on two continents. There are obviously no holes present in Face Time Bourbon.