The Riverina region of interior New South Wales is steeped in legends of horses and horsemen both Thoroughbred and Standardbred,
Today,we will look at one of the iconic Standardbred breeding families ( human ) from a little area known as The Rock, located approximately 35kms south of Wagga Wagga, the base of the Johnson family, and endeavour to tell their story.
But first of all, a little background.
The Johnsons have never been a client of Premier Pedigrees, preferring to do their "own thing" when it comes to standardbred matings and what a good fist they have made of it too, something we deeply respect.
Time and time againwhen perusing through the weekly results of harness races across the breadth of Australia we have seen their name crop up as the breeders of regular winners, sometimes on multiple occasions.
It was therefore pure coincidence that at the New Zealand National Standardbred Weanling Sale held in late May 2023 that I was to get the opportunity to meet the members of this highly successful and rightfully proud and always humble breeding dynasty.
Primarily, I had attended this Sale to meet an existing client's parents, the highly successful and well known Western Australian standardbred participants Kevin and Annette Charles, parents of Kody Charles aka KTC Bloodstock.
It was whilst sitting beside the Charles' on pre-Sale inspection day that I heard a lot of jovial noise coming from three blokes of similar age on the seats adjacent to us carrying an unmistaken Australian banter. They were truly enjoying themselves with obvious fun and frivolity.
I asked Kevin and Annette if they knew them, something which soon became patently obvious.
They were the three Johnson brothers from "The Rock", Ian, Gary and Stephen.
Not wanting to interrupt them in the middle of weanling inspections I was to find the appropriate opportunity later in the day to introduce myself on a quiet corner between stable blocks.
It was like talking with both a current client but also a long lost client all wrapped in one. But they were neither.Probably the easiest most welcoming "cold call" I have ever made.
I got to meet three "brothers in arms", in age order Ian, Gary and Stephen, all sons of the highly respected family patriarch, Les ( Leslie ). Nicer blokes you could not meet and with a noticeably strong bond.
Funnily enough, going back to 2005 when I became a new fresh-faced Nominations Manager ( then referred to as a Booking Agent ) for the Supreme Stallions one of my first tasks was to sit in front of John Curtin ( Joe Muscara's New Zealand Agent ) and work through the dossier of Australasian breeding clients that I could contact for potential bookings.
I vividly recall there were two client's on that list that John said for me not to contact as he would handle them. One was New Zealand based and one Australian based.
The Australian based client was none other than Les Johnson whilst the New Zealand based client was John McKenzie who had recent success at the NZ Cup carnival as the owner/breeder of Group 1 2YO Dunstan Horsefeeds Sires' Series Final winner Our Shangri Lana. John was also the breeder of one of last year's NZ Cup pre-post favourites in Rock N Roll Doo.
To this day I remain intrigued if the prime reason for this was the introduction of notable first season sire Mach Three and the potential for multiple bookings to himor merely the fact that John acted as their Sales Agent in another capacity especially with selling "up and going" horses into the robust North American market.
This was the Johnson's first trip to New Zealand and one could not help getting the feeling it was like a first adventure.
Staying at the Double Tree by Hilton Karaka located in the grounds of the NZB Sales complex one could only smile at their yarns of experiencing $14 glasses of beer and at "going across the road" to the local Z Service Station to buy a pie each for dinner on their first night in such salubrious surroundings. One could easily have found them sleeping outside on the grass ( snake free ) on their first night such was their introduction to the "cost of living crisis" occuring in New Zealand.
But like all good champions, they soon adjusted.
We chatted for what seemed like an eternity going through the good horses the family had bred and their current band of broodmares all of which I did not have time to keep up in jotting down there and then but the upshot was we exchanged email addresses and there and then I stated that I would write an article about them for my website.
So her we are more than 6 months later and it has actually come to fruition.
The fact this has not happened earlier is purely because our meeting coincided with the beginning of my busy time of the year through to Labour Weekend and "paying work" simply has to take priority.
In the interim months two wonderful things did occur and I am grateful to the Johnson family for sharing these. Stephen sent me a full briefing via email of their family life and developments from early days to current times including their vast breeding enterprises as well as something very special and of great trust, a full copy of the recent Eulogy to their recently passed father Les.
Of the latter I am greatly indebted knowing how this can be a very private and also individually personal matter. Such is their great trust and integrity and I deeply respect this.
A rather long-winded background introduction nevertheless an entree that needed to be told before we get into their great family journey and involvement with breeding standardbred horses.
So here we go and I do trust it does not turn into a three part epic monster as with our thoroughbred story on leviathan West Australian breeder/owner Bob Peters.
The Johnson story commences with their father and family patriarch Leslie or Les as he was mostly called.
Les was born and raised in Leeton on his parents rice farm at Murrami. Times were tough back then and as a side hustle he would pluck the wool from dead sheep and take it to the local Leeton wool buyer. Demonstrating true Australian swagger, he once placed some rocks in the woolsack to promote the weight albeit somewhat unsuccessfully.
One of life's lessons learnt at a very early stage.
Les was to marry Rhonda ( nee Tuckett ) in March 1969 in Leeton and very early on the newly weds had the good fortune and associated luck entering and winning a ballot draw in 1970 for a parcel of land at Coleambally which had just been established with irrigation canals from the Murrumbidgee River.
But it did not come without great sacrifice.
Missing were the ready comforts previously enjoyed such as electricity, hot water, and most of all a house, the couple moving into an old shed without power. For Rhonda to cook or boil water it was a case of lighting the wood fuel stove each time. Sometimes it was a struggle to get the stove lit and Rhonda was often heard vowing to move back to Leeton.
The shed floor resembled a mouse carpet at times, especially during mouse plagues, Rhonda's hair being chewed by mice as she slept at night and baby Ian's cot having to stand in buckets of water to prevent mice from joining him while he slept at nights.
The blank canvas of their initial Coleambally farm was transformed by Les into an operating farm growing rice and producing sheep and cattle and laying the base for his own family.
It also paved the way for progression as they were able to move closer to Coleambally township to Farm 78 where they continued growing rice, running sheep and cattle and dabbling in the formative stage of breeding a few horses.
Just digressing for a moment here, early in 2023 I was watching a television programme entitled "Who Do You Think You Are?", a DNA series featuring Australian actor Simon Baker best known for his roles in The Mentalist and The Guardian. It traced his maternal descendancy through the Jenkins family and the legacy of his three times great grandfather and the courage and fortitude of his maternal ancestors from their prominent endeavours in Tasmania through to quieter times back on the mainland where I am pretty sure the Jenkins also landed upon an allotted farm at Coleambally where he died but not before siring 6 children, his wife remaining on the farm widowed and raising all children by herself.
After living in Coleambally for nearly 20 years during which time Gary and Stephen were also born, at the end of 1989 Les and Rhonda packed up the family and moved to Queensland to a 75 acre property about 10kms south of Ipswich where they were to reside for a handful of years before returning to New South Wales and "The Rock" in 1995.
It was during their time near Ipswich that Les was to make his first real mark in the Standardbred industry and one which would leave an indelible imprint on his three sons in particular.
With just a couple of mares, from his mare Karina Poplar he bred Golden Reign.
Sold as a yearling for just $8000, Golden Reign would go on to change the lives of Noel Alexander, Jayne Davies and Chris Alford, winning the 1995 Inter-Dominion Final in Christchurch in epic fashion. Also a winner of the 1993 Victoria Derby, Golden Reign would go on to win 28 of his 62 starts and amass $1,186,022 in lifetime earnings.
Les had bred a million dollar pacer and his three sons were hooked and left challenged to one day emulate his great achievement.
Moving from Ipswich back to New South Wales in 1995 saw Les and Rhonda purchase a more substantial landholding at The Rock, south of the Riverina "town" of Wagga Wagga.
"Atworthy" as the property was already known eventually morphed into Atworthy Park as Les Johnson was to become a prolific standardbred horse breeder no doubt spurred on by the great feats of one horse, Golden Reign ( by What's Next ).
His passion for horse breeding became thirst quenching driving Rhonda to the point of near insanity.
Les religiously read the Black Stud Book at the end of the kitchen table and had the ability to remember what mare bred what. This he instilled into eldest son Ian and they would have many battles about what bred what and what was that out of.
With Atworthy being a substantial landholding of some 650 acres and the evolving interest of two younger sons in Gary and Stephen ( the latter not to be confused with leviathan Perth based standardbred breeder Steve Johnson who bred the 39 race winner David Hercules ) Les began creating a legacy that all three of his sons would view as a future challenge.
In the years since the family acquisition of Atworthy the standardbred broodmare band wavered in number from around 5 mares up to about 14 mares with multiple winners produced and although nothing of the calibre of Golden Reign, one particular filly bred was to provide huge thrills in more recent times.
Her name is Maajida ( by Somebeachsomewhere ) and she carries her own intriguing story.
Bred in 2016 from "the boys" favourite broodmare Arterial Way ( Art Major ) she was passed-in at the 2018 Melbourne Yearling Sales failing to reach her $25,000 reserve tag.
Returning home, Les wanted nothing to do with her and opted out, "the boys" stating that he was welcome to come back in if he was to change his mind.
"The boys" got her broken in and put into training.
At a subsequent Sydney Yearling Sale which Les attended he asked Clayton Tonkin "how that Somebeachsomewhere filly was shaping up?". "I love her" came Tonkin's reply.
Back on the farm a couple of days later "I'm back in on that filly" came Les's remark to his sons, the boys wondering what had caused him to change his mind. But most welcome he was.
The rest is history as they say.
Maajida was to win no fewer than 5 Group 1 races including the 2YO Breeders Crown Final and later to create her own little piece of Australian standardbred history by becoming the first filly/mare to win the Vicbred Super Series titles at two, three and four years of age, winning 24 of her 44 starts before being retired ahead of the 2022 breeding season.
Maajida retired as the richest daughter of her sire Somebeachsomewhere with earnings of $684,518 and a 1:50.3 mile credit to her name.
Her racetrack feats crowned 50 years of breeding for Les Johnson and her life-changing accomplishments came at a time when the family's patriarch had a sudden downturn in health ultimately succumbing in May 2021.
"The boys" were so proud their father changed his mind and opted to come back into Maajida so the whole family could share in her success as she was always a "family" horse.
As a close knit family despite each of the three boys living and working in Wagga Wagga at their individual vocations or "day jobs" as they call it and with their own families, focus turned to the matriarch of the family, Rhonda.
This saw a substantial slice of Atworthy, some 500 acres, leased to a neighbouring farmer through to 2027 as a future income for their precious mother whilst 150 acres has been retained for Ian, Gary and Stephen to continue their standardbred breeding pursuits, Maajida now the mothership of their proud broodmare band no doubt usurping her own mother Arterial Way for pride of place on the mantlepiece.
The broodmare band normally around 8-10 mares has suddenly expanded in recent times, "the boys" estimating that about a dozen Group 1 wins have so far been produced by the family.
One quickly gains the impression that number will soon escalate given a quick peek at the list of current broodmares, who they are in foal to in 2022 and their planned matings in 2023.
Out of interest, here is a summarised list.
Mare ( and her sire ) In Foal To 2022 Planned Mating 2023
Arterial Way ( Art Major ) Huntsville Downbytheseaside
Bella Shine ( Bettor's Delight ) Sweet Lou Captain Crunch
Deldecree ( Mach Three ) Always B Miki Art Major
Habanero ( Rocknroll Hanover ) McWicked Stay Hungry
Jacquelyn Anne ( Bettor's Delight ) Captaintreacherous Sweet Lou
Maajida ( Somebeachsomewhere ) Bettor's Delight Bettor's Delight
Pippa Maguire ( Bettor's Delight ) Sweet Lou Always B Miki
Rinaaz ( Betting Line ) Sweet Lou Always B Miki
Sweet Maddison ( Sweet Lou ) Captaintreacherous Downbytheseaside
Two Times Bettor ( Bettor's Delight ) Downbytheseaside Sweet Lou
Weewah ( Bettor's Delight ) King Of Swing Downbytheseaside
Classic Rock ( Rocknroll Hanover ) ( Missed ) Poster Boy
Banglez ( Majestic Son ) Timoko King Of The North
Alanza ( Well Said ) - Stay Hungry
Larvotto Beach ( Somebeachsomewhere ) - Sweet Lou
Midnight Whisper ( Art Major ) - Captain Crunch
Current racing stock include the likes of Fiamma 2018 ( Bettor's Delight - Twice As Hot ), Zahra Lou 2020 ( Sweet Lou - Bella Shine ), an un-named 2021 Captaintreacherous - Arterial Way and an un-named 2021 Poster Boy - Deldecree.
Being all fillies there is no doubt that they will join the broodmare band at Atworthy Park in the years ahead.
There are no secrets in the fact that Atworthy Park Group has evolved as their new banner set to become an even greater force in Australian standardbred breeding.
And there are also no secrets either in each of the brothers' desire to set upon a path of breeding standardbreds commercially as a full-time occupation and as an escape from their current day jobs " working for somebody else"
Each of the three brothers currently work in Wagga Wagga.
Ian is a Parks & Gardens Supervisor at Charles Sturt University whilst Gary works as a Fitter & Turner at Dayco,
Steve, so often a spokesperson for the three brothers, is the youngest and works for the Wagga Wagga City Council ( a former employer also of Ian ) these days having formerly served for 16 years in the NSW Police Force.
Given the brothers focus of breeding from young mares who are commercial and being bred to commercial stallions one quickly gains the impression that the Johnson brothers have the right template to achieve their short term goals as well as a lifetime ambition continuing the legacy of the Johnson family as begun by patriarch Les some 50 years earlier.
A quote from Steve to me best sums up the reasons why they will go from strength to strength in their future standardbred breeding endeavours.
"Us boys don't look for recognition, but we strive to achieve success, no matter how big or little. Learning from Mum and Dad through hard physical work and challenging times has stood us in life to make the most out of everything whilst retaining our strong ( family ) bond."
Such a strong philosophy and sound basic ethics is also reflected in the adage " as you take out, so must you put back in" where the boys are immensely proud of becoming keys sponsors of their local Riverina Paceway.
All of the above qualities could quickly be gleaned in one brief half-hour meeting with them on foreign soil in May 2023. Even there and then you could see that Les and Rhonda had raised their three sons in the best possible manner and it is obvious they will be Industry role models as well as humble ambassadors for the Johnson family as raised by Rhonda and her late husband Les.
Footnote: More recently Steve got in touch to say his son Lachlan is coming into the Atworthy Park Group business to work with the horses so it is obvious that plans are beginning to be set in place for the next generation of the Johnson's as a Standardbred breeding dynasty.
Southern Hemisphere standardbred breeders have experienced past waves of breed changing stallions but none with such dominance as that offered by Bettor's Delight.
He has truly been a megastar.
From colonial traditions we have witnessed the great speed Adios's sons injected into the local genepool especially in Australia whilst in New Zealand it was Meadow Skipper through his sons enacting a similar role through the likes of Albatross and Most Happy Fella and their sons led by Vance Hanover and Smooth Fella.
The introduction of new blood via the sons of Direct Scooter notably Stoneridge Scooter in Australia and In The Pocket in New Zealand brought additional qualities such as enhanced gait and associated new levels of sustained speed.
But none of those above have enjoyed an enduring dominance such as that offered by current siring revelation Bettor's Delight.
As you will see shortly there can be numerous reasons for this but firstly we must acknowledge that Bettor's Delight has utterly defied the theory professed by a man who is still referred to as the "Master Of Pedigree Design" ( albeit in the world of thoroughbred breeding ) in Italy's own Federico Tesio.
Tesio acknowledged that often a highly successful racehorse ( be it a stallion or mare ) does not automatically become a successful breeding horse simply because large reserves of "nervous energy" are required in competing at the highest level, a "nervous energy" that also plays an equally important role in the breeding barn to produce top class future offspring.
As a racehorse Bettor's Delight was top shelf, many will remember his great racetrack rivalry with arch enemy Real Desire.
The loss of "nervous energy" from these encounters was certainly not to diminish Bettor's Delight's breeding barn potency.
Although sometimes cursed for it, mostly Bettor's Delight enjoyed great fertility over a sustained period of time and being a shuttle stallion without a break, serving unprecedented numbers in both Hemispheres.
This is also a tribute to his temperament and longevity as much as it is to his sustained fertility given he will be 26 years of age in 2024.
Initially available to Southern Hemisphere breeders from 2002 to 2005, serving 21,9,36 and 9 in New Zealand alone in those years with matching numbers in Australia at a Fee of $6000+gst he was quick to put "points on the board" prompting 2006 to become his first year of shuttling to New Zealand. And breeders were instant in their response.
His New Zealand broodmare numbers alone jumped to 343 mares in his first season of fresh chilled semen availability and Australian demand was also very strong, a pattern which has continued ever since only to be moderated by pricing to influence supply and demand variables.
What may be some of the factors driving his unparalleled prepotency never seen previously in a single stallion downunder?
These are numerous and we will not cover all but we will attempt to outline the key driving forces as we see them.
It has often been said that a good stallion must have a strong maternal line of descendancy and Bettor's Delight certainly has tracing directly to the highly influential matriarch Aidawho also happens to be the direct maternal descendant of Direct Scooter's best racetrack product in $3 million earner the super talented Matt's Scooter.
It has also been noted that Bettor's Delight carries solid levels of Volomite baseblood which is well-endowed in the downunder broodmare genepool hence providing an instant platform for superior genetic affinity.
Volomite was a hugely successful sire in his own right with the ability to leave both good trotters and pacers.
It has not gone undetected that Bettor's Delight has left a successful trotter or two during his downunder siring career with perhaps the most notable being Group 1 2016 Harness Jewels 3YO victor Donegal Bettorgretch in the hands of Dexter Dunn beating out the likes of Wilma's Mate, Conon Bridge and Temporale.
Timing can be everything and we have little doubt that Bettor's Delight offered a pedigree fabric to fully capitalise on the Adios-led broodmare genepool in Australia as well as the Meadow Skipper-led genepool that was already well-established in New Zealand.
Why is this?
For Australia, Bettor's Delight was himself bred on a 6x6 reverse-sex cross to Adios meaning this was at the very heart of his breeding core not to mention his own "engine room".
For the New Zealand broodmare genepool he carried an equally strong force.
This came via sex-balanced lines to Meadow Skipper's two best sons, the complementary influences Albatross ( speed and gait ) and Most Happy Fella ( stamina and toughness ).
These acted as an upgrading influence for most mares' carrying Meadow Skipper presences through their sex-balancing capabilities.
In terms of Bettor's Delight's own individual pedigree if we break it down by each quartile we find a well-rounded full complement of attributes.
His paternal sireline featuring Cam Fella ( who remains to this day North America's greatest ever racetrack stamina product ) is all about stamina and toughness whilst his own sire Cam's Card Shark is Cam Fella's best racehorse and sports a damline through Jef's Magic Trick that is well-recognised for it's early running prowess.
Damsire Armbro Emerson was also talented and very quick in his day whilst Bettor's Delight's own dam Classic Wish was noticeable for her high speed during her race career perhaps facilitated by her maternal roots tracing to Aida.
The introduction of the Direct Scooter line stallions into New Zealand and Australia in the late 90's and early 2000's was a move to introduce new blood so as not to narrow the Southern Hemisphere genepool.
And it worked, especially so for Bettor's Delight who became prime benefactor.
This was a huge gamble but it worked a treat as not only did it bring very welcome new blood but also different traits and attributes especially in terms of refined and enhanced gait paving the way for new levels of high speed which could be sustained over longer distance.
This was a great catalyst for the evolution of the downunder breedin terms of improving race times.
Direct Scooter-line stallions added a certain sharpness making for well-rounded horses, mostly well-gaited and with inherent stamina capability, a recipe not only for racetrack longevity but also one which saw the breed getting better with age.
Bettor's Delight therefore arrived out in 2006 as a shuttle stallion very much at a time when the first of the Direct Scooter-line mares were going to Stud and he was a natural outcross with complementary attributes.
He instantly found affinities with In The Pocket mares followed by Christian Cullen and Courage Under Fire mares to such an extent ( numbers permitting this ) that he soon established "golden crosses" with the first two aforementioned both in New Zealand and Australia.
There is little doubt that Bettor's Delight landed in New Zealand at a salient time in the downunder standardbred breeding evolution and he was "good enough" to transition from initial "run of the mill" mares to "creme de la creme" mares in a very truncated passage of time.
And his roll has been unrelenting as he now enters his twilight breeding years.
As a final observation, whilst his progeny have not generally been noted as natural juvenile types those that have run as juveniles have done well.
They have also typically displayed an underlying intelligence or maturity in that they understand the difference between the training track and raceday.
They also tend to evolve, getting better with maturity whereas a lot of the breed today can go "missing" after their "Age Group" racing has come to an end.
It is going to be one heck of a challenge to find another Bettor's Delight in the years to come, or even for another stallion to come close to his accomplishments given the escalating costs of shuttling stallion's becoming more prohibitive and the breeding world transitions to "homebred" stallions, fully purchased non-shuttling North American stallions or towards a "frozen semen only" offer from non-shuttling North American domiciled stallion's.
The breeding landscape is certainly changing at an ever increasing pace for today's breeders and it is highly conceivable that we will never see the likes of another Bettor's Delight ever again.
One can only hope that that the changing landscape is a positive thing for the evolution of the standardbred as a breed for both Australia and New Zealand as we prepare to say goodbye to Bettor's Delight.
He will never be forgotten for the role he has played in this part of the World.
Precocity or natural early athleticism is a blessed attribute and one to which nearly all breeders and owners aspire especially in this day and age where Stakemoney ( purses ) are at their optimum for 2 and 3 year old Age Group racing.
It is a focal point for the Commercial breeder where prospective Sales buyers are seeking an early payback on their capital outlay.
In this article we take albeit relatively brief look at traditional ( or established ) sources of precocity, current sources of precocity and likely near future sources of precocity.
It is true that a precocious type can spring from anywhere including left field as there will always be a freak that appears from outside expected sources and defying logic.
Natural athleticism, great gait and high speed are all inherent key requirements.
Our observations over the last 6 or so decades has taught us that the most likely source of precocity is derived from both specific sirelines and/or specific maternal families.
Without any shadow of doubt Adios pioneered a leading influence in advancing the breed with his great speed attribute, not only advancing the North American standardbred as a breed but also having a profound affect on the traditional and colonial bloodlines that prevailed in both Australia and New Zealand at the time.
Sons of Adios not only performed early in North America but also in Australia perhaps far more so than in New Zealand. And no son flagged this better than Bret Hanover.
The Abercrombie sireline led by his best son Artsplace survives as Adios's greatest legacy of our current era.
But it was not just Adios, Meadow Skipper was emerging not only in North America but also in New Zealand in particular through his sons and grandsons.
Here his two leading racetrack sons in Albatross ( speed and gait ) and Most Happy Fella ( stamina and toughness ) led the charge through sond such as Vance Hanover and Smooth Fella.
Interestingly, it has been the Most Happy Fella stirp through Oil Burner, No Nukes and Western Hanover that has developed as a colossus for the production of naturally athletic, generally well-gaited pacers to such an extent that the North American breeding market steered towards a highly reliable Western Hanover over Artsplace sireline cross for more that the last two decades as the trustworthy recipe for the production of early going Age Group pacers ( 2 and 3 year olds ) that could perform successfully at the highest level.
Only now are the winds of change blowing as a new flag begins to flutter. More on that shortly.
Precocity has not only been about certain sires and sirelines.
Superior females have also had their part to play in establishing precocious families and/or dynasties.
Legendary matriarch Spinster introduced to New Zealand a sire of precocity the calibre of Bachelor Hanover whilst other sources of precocity were emanating from mares the likes of Golden Miss, Ann Vonian, Gidget Lobell, Debby Hanover, Bonnie Butler and of course K Nora to name just a handful.
All were of great influence in North America and in due course also in Australia and New Zealand and their influences remain highly effective in pedigrees today.
In Australia, Parisienne ( Family 10, Bessie B ) became a "go to" source of recognised precocity whilst in New Zealand the same could be said of Rosehaven ( Family 17, Regina ) ably supported by Witcha ( Family 40, Maud ) and Tabella Beth ( Family 50, Mona R ).
The introduction of sons of Direct Scooter in the 1990's as an outcross for Australia's dominant Adios influence as well as New Zealand's strong Meadow Skipper proliferation was to change the landscape on breeding in Australasia.
This occurred especially through Stoneridge Scooter in Australia and In The Pocket in New Zealand whilst North America were still coming to terms with an appreciation of Matt's Scooter.
So what did this mean especially for the Australian and New Zealand pacing breed?
The great legacy of Direct Scooter and his leading sons lay in their superior gait.
It was to quickly become revolutionary for the standardbred as a breed in our part of the world.
Refined gait led to greater conservation of energy leading in turn to greater pacing efficiency.
Higher levels of speed production resulted and importantly allowed the ability to sustain new found levels of speed over far greater distance,
All of this suited precocity to the hilt.
No surprises then that we have now reached a "changing of the guard" in how our horses are now bred.
In North America, the emergence of a dominant son of Matt's Scooter in Mach Three produced a truly great racehorse and subsequent siring sensation in Somebeachsomewhere to advance the Direct Scooter revolution. He too, introduced his own new level of speed not only individually but also through his siring sons and grandsons ( i.e.Captaintreacherous and his sons ).
With his plethora of daughters hitting the breeding barns of North America as well as Australasia and his advancing age it is only understandable that the wonderfully prepotent Bettor's Delight was to finally begin to slide from a mantle that he has dominated for an absurd period of time.
The USA 2YO Total Earnings Sires Premiership for 2022 is our best guide to this transition and also where things will continue to head in the forseeable future.
This paints a fairly conclusive crystal ball.
1. Captaintreacherous ( Somebeachsomewhere / Direct Scooter ) $3,862,711
2. Sweet Lou ( Artsplace / Adios ) $3,108,777
3. Downbytheseaside ( Somebeachsomewhere / Direct Scooter ) $2,588,459
4. Stay Hungry ( Somebeachsomewhere / Direct Scooter ) $2,528,568
5. Huntsville ( Somebeachsomewhere / Direct Scooter ) $1,994,362
6. American Ideal ( Western Ideal / Western Hanover ) $1,904,277
7. Always B Miki ( Western Ideal / Western Hanover ) $1,886,172
8. Lazarus ( Bettor's Delight / Cam Fella ) $1,609,478
Others of interest ( highlighted in finishing order );
11. Fear The Dragon ( Dragon Again / Meadow Skipper ) $1,152,366
12. Bettor's Delight ( Cam Fella / Meadow Skipper ) $1,111,849.
The new emerging picture is now becoming more graphically illustrated however direct comparisons with the North American scenario remain somewhat in transition until seasonal changes in Australasia become firmly aligned.
What we do know is that progeny by three stallions in particular are absolutely beginning to dominate the juvenile results in both Australia and New Zealand currently and look set to continue this trend for the foreseeable future.
They are the same three stallions that headed to USA table for the 2022 season in Captaintreacherous, Downbytheseaside and Sweet Lou with only Always B Miki a current threat to challenging these three ( based on foal numbers alone ).
This then begs the question, are there any other likely emerging "players" that can join this list?
It is our view there could be and we will single out four ( or five ) for the future to look out for which we believe all represent "good shopping" for the Australasian breeder.
Whilst they may not topple the quartet as above-mentioned, we can see them each capable of leaving a very competitive son or daughter at both juvenile and classic level.
In no set order our five to keep an eye on are Lazarus, Captain Crunch, Fear The Dragon, Stay Hungry and Huntsville.
As the final part of our article we will briefly comment on each as a potential source of precocity.
We believe Lazarus is Bettor's Delight's best chance to leave a quality siring son, if not in North America then certainly in Australia and New Zealand.
It is the quality and speed of his maternal family ( featuring the high speed mare Tabella Beth ) that will stand to him in producing likely precocious types that should make highly successful Age Group horses.
Unlike Lazarus, this son of Captaintreacherous has served massive books every season he has stood downunder. And the types he is leaving are certainly catching the eye of many.
We believe he is highly capable of leaving juvenile types as he descends from the same direct maternal family as Sweet Lou so he already carries a proven connection with juvenile precocity.
Fear The Dragon:
Like Lazarus, this stallion also sits in the top 12 on the USA 2YO Sires Premiership ( Total Earnings ) for 2022 and this does not surprise despite being represented by lower numbers.
The fact be is available downunder by frozen semen only is an impediment to him reaching full capability nevertheless there is no reason why his juvenile progeny cannot be highly competitive on the racetracks of Australasia.
Also supporting Fear The Dragon's chances is that he is a son of Dragon Again, a noted sire of juvenile performers in North America and a particularly revered sire of hard-hitting juvenile
Like Captain Crunch, another stallion from the Somebeachsomewhere / Direct Scooter sireline and already featuring in the top 4 juvenile sires in the USA in 2022 off the back of lower numbers.
There is a growing feeling about the prospects of this stallion with frozen semen availability only being the potential limiting factor for him in Australasia.
We like the fact he is out of a mare by Dragon Again and from the same maternal family that brought us Artiscape.
Inherent precocity both sides of his pedigree and an element of tough stamina through his direct maternal lineage.
This stallion is yet another from the Somebeachsomewhere sireline and finished just one place below Stay Hungry in the 2022 USA 2YO Sires Rankings that we tabled above.
Another to be available ex frozen semen stocks only downunder he has had a "change of stable" from Empire Stallions to Cobbitty Farm in 2022 and it will be interesting to see if the latter can "bring him out in the flesh" in the near future as there would be little doubt that this action would greatly assist his future popularity.
We have no doubt that if this became the case then he would certainly become a serious threat to all those other stallions of precocity that we have mentioned in this article.
It is with considerable regret that we learn of the recent passing ( early March ) of Tony Parker and our condolences certainly go out to his wife Anne and the wider Parker family.
He will be sorely missed in particular by the North Island harness racing family.
Tony spent nearly 60 years working as a Veterinarian, the vast bulk of those years as a specialist Equine Vet and a very good one at that.
He was good at all aspects of veterinary work but a real specialist in the area of soft tissue trauma.
His rapport with horses was special just as it was with fellow humans.
Tony was easy-going and a gentleman and both horses and humans responded to this.
I first met Tony when working on the forecourt at BP Bombay back in 1999.
At the time Tony and Anne were living in the Bombay Hills and so we were his local service station for filling either his wagon or fuel containers for another weekend's work at home or their lease block.
That lease block was from memory a 120 acres in Bluff Road at nearby Pokeno and housed Tony and Anne's great passion away from veterinary work.
This passion was breeding and raising Standardbred horses.
The Bluff Road location was rugged rolling to steep hill country and is best known today as the location for all the cellphone towers immediately South of the Pokeno township and can be viewed easily from the State Highway 1 motorway.
It was this Bluff Road property that illustrated a lot of the basic fundamentals of maintaining a boutique broodmare band and adhering to Tony's philosophies of how young horses should be bred and raised to succeed in the future as racehorses.
Feed them well on good ex dairy pasture which was contoured and ideal for bone and muscle development and raise them in small groups akin to their natural herding instincts and behaviours.
Horses of the calibre of Sharp And Telford, Hunka Hickling and Taihape Tickler were raised on such pastures.
Sharp And Telford ( Butler BG ) was one of the Parker's first big success stories bred from one of their foundation mares in Tardina ( Berry Hanover ) after whom Tony and Anne were to name their properties, Tardina Farm and Tardina Stud.
One of the things I personally really admired about Tony was that he started out with a very modest broodmare band and remained loyal to it despite the fact that it was a long way away from what today would be deemed a Commercial broodmare band with associated black type race performance.
Tony enjoyed the challenge of developing his own "black type".
It is here that Tony was also a realist but remained fiercely loyal to his band of what was then predominantly pacing broodmares.
Tony did his "due diligence" when seeking an appropriate stallion for each mare and was always looking for a "value" stallion so he was certainly highly aware not to "overbreed" any of his mares.
They would have to "put their hand up" of their own accord to earn the right to a better regarded stallion.
It was all about trusting his processes and due reward would come.
As an example here, I have a good friend who I first met in the very early 90's in our days living in Ramarama but now a Pukekohe based owner/trainer in David Shorter.
Dave has just finished racing his well-performed mare Rowan Countess and was on the lookout for a replacement young horse. He had a previous association with Tony and may have leased the odd one from Tony and Anne previously.
Dave rang me one Saturday asking me "Do you want to come for a ride?". I agreed not knowing where we were headed or what it was all about.
We ended up at Tony's leasehold property in Bluff Road where Dave was headed to look at Tony's young horses to either buy or lease one.
I must say that I was very impressed with the condition of each of them, of which there were a number, but one in particular really stood out. Dave and I were in total agreement.
She was a filly out of La Reine.
When it came time to "talk turkey" and Dave said that he liked the Miles McCool filly and could he lease her as quick as a flash Tony's wife Anne replied in a nice manner "Oh no, we have promised that one to Barry ( Purdon )".
Dave never did go home with a "done deal" that day but did do some business with the Parker's at a subsequent time.
That filly went on to become Reine Elizabeth winning several races for Barry before being exported to the United States to continue her racing career.
In 2005 I became Nomination Salesperson for the Supreme Stallions operation owned by New York based Joe Muscara and administered here by his NZ Agent in John Curtin ( now of Harnesslink fame ).
The stallions were shuttled from North America to Double E Stables near Christchurch under the umbrella of Michael House as Studmaster.
Spearheading the stallion lineup was the Meadowlands Pace winner Mach Three, a son of Matt's Scooter,
Mach Three was also later to be voted as one of the Top 10 best-gaited pacers of all time in North America.
Tony had enjoyed increasing success in his breeding operation through previously "stepping up" a few of his mares ( only if they had earned it ) to National Bloodstock's top sire Soky's Atom and now it was time for Tony and Anne to take another leap of faith.
Mach Three was introduced to breeders' at NZ$7500+gst so this was going to test " another leap of faith".
But Tony loved Mach Three from the "get go" and was one of the very first breeders to sign up on an introductory offer of two services to Mach Three for $12,000+gst. He signed the Contract at the Alexandra Park races one Friday evening where the Special Offer was debuted.
This was to be a life-changing decision for both Tony and Anne not that they were to know it at the time.
Had this decision not been made at the time then there may never have been an Auckland Reactor bred, a horse the Parker's were to subsequently sell for $4 million, the price only dreams were made of.
And he was from Mach Three's very first Southern Hemisphere crop!
It is also in this area that I found Tony unparalleled as a breeder, perhaps only the Grice brothers coming close.
Tony was a mastermind at successfully blending old traditional/colonial bloodlines found in many of his mares with the modern/contemporary bloodlines of the stallions coming out of North America. This is one area where he excelled and met with great results and great success.
Commencing their breeding exploits in the 1970's, today the Parker's have been responsible for breeding the winners of 400 races from some 130 horses.
Another of their foundation mares, the 7-win mare Tudoress ( Tudor Hanover ) left Atomic Lass as her last foal.
It was Atomic Lass ( Soky's Atom ) that was to become the dam of Auckland Reactor, he incredibly being her 11th foal.
Tony was also to dabble briefly in stallions, standing the homebred Tay Bridge ( from the famed Rosehaven family of the Yarndley's ).
Whilst still in my role as Nominations Salesperson for Supreme Stallions I was to receive a phone call one day from Tony.
He asked if I could "call in to see him at the farm on Saturday" as he had something he wanted to discuss with me.
This really "put the wind up my sails" as it left me questioning myself for a couple of days as to "What possibly could I have done wrong?".
By now Tony and Anne had moved on from their Bluff Road leasehold property to a new property a fraction further South in Mercer Ferry Road, Mercer.
True to formula, it also was an ex-dairy farm.
Rather sheepishly I turned up on the Saturday at the stipulated early afternoon time to find Tony in his Vet overalls attending to about 4 mares he had tethered in the cross-ties and crush.
It was late in the breeding season ( early December from memory ) and Tony was preparing a mare for insemination which he was doing himself.
His first words to a jittery me were "How many mares has Mach Three served so far this season Australia and New Zealand combined?"
I replied "187".
As quick as a flash Tony replied "Make that 188!", said one of the pioneers of AI ( Artificial Insemination in New Zealand.
I deeply admired the wit in his reply, another one of his great attributes, that really summed up who Tony Parker really was.
I am still unsure to this day if the mare he was inseminating that day was Atomic Lass but if it was then that insemination could well have been the one that was to result in the creation of the great Auckland Reactor and a life changing moment for the Parker's.
We never did really get down to "talking turkey" that day about the real reason Tony requested my presence that day and I can only surmise that it was a little more that just to talk about stallion services to Mach Three but I did have my suspicions.
The Parker's had acquired a larger property ( yes, another ex dairy farm or at least part of one ) in Koheroa Road, Mangatawhiri that they were living at and in the throws of developing into an Equine showpiece and needed a "Farm Manager" at the Mercer Ferry Road property ( which came with a house ). I am of the firm belief to this day that Tony requested I see him to "sound me out".
To cut a long story short I did not take the position on offer ( perhaps to Tony's disappointment ) but current North Island freeze-brander/micro-chipper Gary Hooper did although he did not want to live in the onsite house on offer preferring his own accommodation in nearby Harrisville.
I also believe that only a couple of years later the Parker's were to sell the Mercer Ferry Road property to fully concentrate on their Mangatawhiri property now known as the home of Tardina Farm otherwise also known as Tardina Stud.
In more recent years at the Mangatawhiri property Tony and Anne established growing success in breeding mares from the trotting gait many of which were from their foundation trotting mare Working Girl ( Nevele Pride ) and her daughter Miss Whiplash ( Gee Whiz II ) ably complementing their great achievements with pacing broodmares.
It is gratifying to know that Tony and Anne's daughter Faine Mende has joined the Parker's Mangatawhiri breeding operation in recent years and has vowed to continue on the legacy of Tardina Farm that Tony and Anne have jointly created with their huge dedication and commitment over six decades.
We know Tony will have imparted his great knowledge to daughter Faine and that he will be looking down and still offering advice!
So long Tony, rest peacefully, it was a pleasure and great honour to have crossed paths with you in life.
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Falcon Seelster could arguably be the most important stallion to have stood at Stud in New Zealand, certainly up until the current enduring tenure of Bettor's Delight with his absolute prepotency.
Whilst Bettor's Delight has unquestionably advanced the breed to yet another whole new level, the role of Falcon Seelster was different to that of Bettor's Delight and perhaps not looked at in terms of "advancing the breed" but more about "what was needed at the time", something he achieved with aplomb and beyond. This made him a "special" stallion.
To place him in context we firstly need a wider history lesson on the evolution of the breed especially as it relates to our "downunder" situation.
The Standardbred as a stand alone breed has today evolved over 170 years.
Acclaimed founding father Hambletonian 10 ( 1849 ) had five producing sons of significance to the breed; these being George Wilkes ( 1856 ), Dictator ( 1863 ), Happy Medium ( 1863 ), Strathmore ( 1866 ) and Electioneer ( 1868 ).
George Wilkes founded an exclusively trotting stirp today better recognised as the "Axworthy" clanspearheaded by Guy Axworthy's sons Guy McKinney and Truax.
Happy Medium's stirps are split 50/50 between trotting and pacing after initially he commenced as a trotting scion.
His grandson Peter The Great had two important sons; Peter Scott ( 1909 ) and Peter Volo ( 1911 ).
Whilst Peter Scott founded the stirp tracing through Scotland ( probably the most dominant trotting stirp today ), Peter Volo's famous son Volomite ( 1926 ) founded two of his own trotting stirps via Worthy Boy ( 1940 ) and Victory Song ( 1943 ).
But Volomite had an extra trick up his sleeve in that he could leave dual gaited horses, some that trotted only and some that paced only and some that could do both.
Worthy Boy sired predominantly trotters but was the sire of Harold Jay ( 1959 ), King's Counsel sired trotters and pacers being the grandsire of Overtrick ( 1960 ) whilst two other sons of Volomite significant to our genepool were Poplar Byrd ( 1944 ), sire of Bye Bye Byrd, and Sampson Hanover ( 1947 ) the last-mentioned giving rise to Direct Scooter ( 1976 )and ultimately the In The Pocket / Christian Cullen dominance to be followed by the rise of the Matt's Scooter / Mach Three / Somebeachsomewhere / Captaintreacherous infiltration we see today.
Strathmore could also mix trotting and pacing gaits but the blood which brought us through Globe Derby ( 1910 ) the likes of Harold Logan, Logan Derby, Johnny Globe and Lordship is sadly today as a sireline defunct to the best of our knowledge as is the Dictator line which brought us the likes of Billy Direct ( the first pacer to break 1:55 for a mile ) and his famed son Tar Heel ( 1948 ).
Electioneer through his son The Abbe ( 1903 ) produced two significant stirps; those of Abbedale ( 1917 ) and Bert Abbe ( 1922 ).
Rather sadly, the latter who founded the speed horse Gene Abbe ( 1944 ) and his important son Big Towner ( 1974 ) along with the latter's sons led by Walton Hanover ( sire of Totally Ruthless ) and Towner's Big Guy ( sire of Man Around Town ) are now also a seemingly distant memory as a sireline which brings us back to Abbedale and his famed son Hal Dale ( 1926 ).
Hal Dale was to sire two significant sons which were to change the landscape for the pacing breed in both Australia and New Zealand within a short period of time.
Up until the mid to late 1950's, the Standardbred as a breed was largely "homebreds" or otherwise described as being "colonial bred".
But Hal Dale was to change all this through his sons Adios ( 1940 ) and Dale Frost ( 1951 ), the latter predominantly through the achievements of his son Meadow Skipper ( 1960 ).
Adios became a breed changer injecting new levels of speed into the Southern Hemisphere breed and his sons and grandsons were proving a smash hit particularly in Australia led by the likes of Deep Adios ( who was to leave a new racetrack marvel in Paleface Adios ). Thor Hanover ( sire of Gammalite ), Toledo Hanover ( sire of Pure Steel ) and Golden Adios ( who sired Sovereign Adios, sire of Popular Alm ).
The Adios speed injection into Australia was not only revolutionising the breed but it was soring to new heights and creating crowd-pleasing new champions and idols.
New Zealand also got a taste for the influence of Adios in the late 1950's when Captain Adios showed us he could leave an open class horse of the talent of Great Adios who could compete with the best of the local heroes quickly followed by Roydon Lodge importing a son of Adios in Thurber Frost.
Not only did Thurber Frost inject speed but also added considerable precocity producing high class juveniles the likes of Bonnie Frost and Garcon Roux.
Another son of Adios in Ike Frost was also lending to the cause having left the super talented Governor Frost.
Jerry Adios was less ensconced but left the top class filly Ripper's Delight.
Rather ironically, all of these sons of Adios were not even his best racetrack performed sons.
Numero uno belonged to the great Bret Hanover but these were well and truly pre-shuttle times and he was never going to make Southern Hemisphere shores such was his austere.
At best, Australia finally managed to land one or two of his sons, the likes of Bretland and Bret's Knight and a few others but certainly no horse to set the world on fire.
Indeed, it was New Zealand and the work of two wily wizzards from Nevele R Stud in Wayne Francis and Bob McArdle who were to steal a march here but not with a son of Bret Hanover but rather a grandson of Bret Hanover.
Whilst Australia dabbled with sons of Storm Damage and Strike Out, Nevele R Stud were to strike gold with a son of Warm Breeze named Falcon Seelster.
And what a jackpot he was to become!
With a sire ( Warm Breeze ) and a damsire ( Overtrick ) tracing to each stirp of the famed Thomrson Sisters ( Tillie Thompson and Eva Thompson ), the former ancestress of the highly influential mare Spinster, and a dam ( Fashion Trick ) that traced tail female to another highly influential mare in Jessie Pepper ( Family U4 aka 187 in Australia and 558 in New Zealand ) and also a mare by the large heart thoroughbred progenitor Diomed, Falcon Seelster was always well-equipped genetically to prove a roaring success over the New Zealand broodmare genepool in particular.
An interesting aside or observation here is that Falcon Seelster's grandsire Adios also formed a famed "golden cross" over Tar Heel mares.
It just so happens that Tar Heel is also tail female to the Jessie Pepper family just like Falcon Seelster.
Tar Heel has always been considered as a large heart progenitor passing the "X-Factor" large heart gene through his daughters. Could Diomed have had something to do with the initiation of this?
We are not saying this is the case but it is an observation worth pondering.
Current stallions that are tail female to Jessie Pepper include Rock N Roll Heaven and Mel Mara in the pacing ranks and Father Patrick, Pastor Stephen and Lucky Chucky in the trotting ranks.
Falcon Seelster was foaled in 1982 at Seelster Farms in Lucan, Ontario.
Not a natural precocious two year old , he had just the two juvenile starts for a win and a runner-up placing in of all places, Nova Scotia, a province not notable in Canada for it's standardbred racing.
As a three year old, things were to change dramatically, winning 24 of his 31 starts and being named Canadian 3YO Pacer of the Year in the same year ( 1985 ) that Nihilator took the corresponding USA 3YO Pacer of the Year title.
During Falcon Seelster's three year old season, he set the first of his two World Record's at the Delaware County Fairgrounds winning an Invitational Pace in 1:51.0 on a half-mile track. It would take another 17 years for this record to be eclipsed.
By comparison, Nihilator won the Little Brown Jug Final at the same venue on the same day in 1:52.2 ( Falcon Seelster not being staked for this race as a young horse by his inaugural owners ).
As a four year old and in his final season on the racetrack Falcon Seelster would face the starter 18 times for 11 wins and 6 runner-up spots during which he was to establish the second of his World Records in clocking 1:51.3 on a 5/8ths of a mile track.
By the end of his race career in 1986 Falcon Seelster had amassed US$1,121,045 in lifetime earnings, registering 36 wins from his 51 starts.
From the late 1950's a groundswell of the speed blood of Adioshad begun to infiltrate the Australian breeding scene and was to continue seemingly unabated with little serious threat from other sirelines but the early Adios flourish in New Zealand was about to come to an abrupt halt.
The "Meadow Skipper invasion" was about to occur lead by his two best sons the complementary influences Albatross ( speed and gait ) and Most Happy Fella ( stamina and toughness ).
Undoubtedly, Albatross was to leave the biggest imprint as a plethora of his sons invaded the land, amongst them three shining stars.
Vance Hanover ( 1975 ) became the next breed changer in New Zealand with his ability to upgrade even the lowest of mares, something he scored plenty of off the back of a meagre Stud Fee of just $500+gst ( and sometimes less than this in a crusade to get numbers on the ground ), his first foal cop arriving in 1980.
Vance Hanover's resounding success laid the platform for Soky's Atom ( 1979 ) and Holmes Hanover ( 1981 ) to follow with their own wonderful contributions to the advance of the New Zealand breed, their first foal crops landing "on the ground" in 1985 and 1987 respectively.
Their influence even spread into Australia with champions such as Our Sir Vancelot ( Vance Hanover ) and Sokyola ( Soky's Atom ).
Unlike sons of Albatross, sons of Most Happy Fella had a more difficult path to gain a foothold in New Zealand, perhaps a legacy of the fact that Most Happy Fella, like his father Meadow Skipper, was a little indifferent in his gait, an attribute not missed by New Zealand breeders, something which could be passed down through his sons e.g.New York Motoring whose best son Master Musician also carried a "hitch" in his gait although it was generally agreed at the time that it was more his fillies that carried this trait known as the "New York Motoring hitch".
But how things can change with the effluxion of time where we now see the Albatross influence as a sireline almost fading into a distant memory whilst the Most Happy Fella stirp is the founder of two of the four contemporary sirelines of the modern era, namely that of Cam Fella and that of Western Hanover.
But for now, let us not get too far ahead of ourselves.
Falcon Seelster was displaying siring potential in North America with outstanding daughter Shady Daisy ( 1988 ) leading the charge on her way to lifetime earnings of US$1,807,755.
As a pioneer shuttle stallion into New Zealand, Falcon Seelster was well-placed genetically as an Adios-line horse to thrive over the proliferation of Meadow Skipper blood that had accumulated in the broodmare genepool ( almost to the point of saturation ).
Not surprisingly, New Zealand breeders flocked to him with their mares.
Beginning service in New Zealand in 1996 with 272 mares served that season quickly rising to a peak of 371 mares in 1998, Falcon Seelster was never going to suffer from a lack of numbers on the racetrack curtailing his support but a worldwide EIV ( Equine Influenza Virus ) scare 2000-2003 saw him remain at Peretti Farms without shuttling to New Zealand for four seasons.
Returning to New Zealand for the 2004 breeding season, Falcon Seelster was to resume popularity with breeders serving 200 mares with his son Elsu ( 1999 ) in full cry in New Zealand as was The Falcon Strike ( 1997 ) in Australia.
And growing stars in North America such as Shady Character and his best performed racetrack son McArdle ( US$2,455,609 ) kept his flag flying on the world stage.
But it was obvious that competition had to arrive. The biggest question from a breeding perspective was in what shape or form?
Matt's Scooter ( 1985 ) had been doing wonderful things on the racetracks of North America and was easily Direct Scooter's best performed racetrack son. And by the early 2000's his son Mach Three ( 1999 ) was terrorising the opposition on the racetracks just like his father.
There had been growing interest in the Direct Scooter sireline in the 1990's as a likely outcross for both the Adios line and the Meadow Skipper line with the odd stallion trickling into both Australia and New Zealand.
Whilst Stoneridge Scooter ( 1988 ) went into Australia, other sons of Direct Scooter came into New Zealand, the likes of OK Bye ( 1986 ) and his full-brother WRH ( 1987 ), In The Pocket ( 1987 ), Deal Direct ( 1988 )and Direct Flight ( 1989 ) to name a few from memory.
And fair to say it was In The Pocket who was to prove a smash hit over Meadow Skipper-line mares tidying up gait issues in revolutionary fashion and introducing new levels of speed to the downunder breed. Another breed changer had evolved.
Not since Vance Hanover had any single stallion had such an impact on the broodmare genepool, at least in New Zealand.
But against all odds Falcon Seelster was a fighter even beyond his death on 16 September 2011.
The wonders of frozen semen allowed him to continue serving mares well after his demise where he was to serve his last four mares in the 2019 breeding season, wonderful testimony to a stallion that finally succumbed at the ripe old age of 29 years and producing progeny with over $80 million earned in North America and another $30 million jointly earned in Australia and New Zealand.
Siring sons have aspired to continue his legacy through the likes of Million To One and Trump Casino plus others in Australia and Elsu, Attorney General ( now Australia ), Franco Ledger ( now deceased ) and McArdle in New Zealand with the latter his brightest hope of continuing the legacy through sons Tintin In America ( sire of World Champion mare Shartin ) and McWicked.
But the Adios branch of the Hal Dale sireline is far from done and dusted.
Whilst the Bret Hanover stirp may be battling for mere survival, another sirp through Henry T Adios is currently flourishing via son Silent Majority and grandson Abercrombie.
Abercrombie's son Life Sign ( 1980 ) was looking promising but has now aligned with a similar fate to that of Bret Hanover but such is not the case for another of Abercrombie's sons in Artsplace ( 1988 ) who now lays claim as the foundation of one of today's four great contemporary sirelines.
And why not with a son like Art Major currently at the helm and a plethora of his sons also now at Stud. Things appear to be looking healthy here for the time being at least!
There can be no denying that Falcon Seelster "flew the flag" for the Adios sireline in New Zealand at a time when he was needed and also at a time when other threats were lurking.
Whilst he may have McArdle and his sons to sustain his legacy for a few more seasons to come, one can be excused for thinking that finally perhaps the reins have been passed over to Artsplace and his sons and grandsons to keep the Adios flag flying for a few more decades to come.
Footnote: The years shown in brackets beside horses referred to above denote their birth year only.
,he recent 2021 Australasian Breeders Crown series proved a clean sweep in the pacing division and a "coming of age" for the Direct Scooter sireline in the Southern Hemisphere.
There can be little doubt that it also signals a "changing of the guard" from the previous dominance held by the all conquering Bettor's Delight ( Cam Fella sireline ).
Whilst this may come as a sudden surprise to many breeders, it is a phenomena that has arrived with a building groundswell that has now translated into a sudden tsunami with no likely stopping in the foreseeable future.
The introduction of In The Pocket into New Zealand in the 90's followed by his mighty sons such as Christian Cullen and Courage Under Fire transitioned a dominance away from the Meadow Skipper and Adios stirps of the Hal Dale sireline but it was always going to be a case that Direct Scooter's greatest racetrack creation Matt's Scooter was going to be the one to take things on to an even greater plane.
With a plethora of young mares hitting the breeding barns in the last decade by a select cluster of Commercial stallions the likes of Bettor's Delight ( Cam Fella sireline ), American Ideal ( Western Hanover sireline ) and Art Major ( Artsplace sireline ) it should come as no surprise that stallions from the Direct Scooter sireline were always going to be favourably placed to capitalise on this unfolding situation.
No crystal balls were required here which is a welcome change in the world of standardbred horse breeding.
The introduction of Matt's Scooter's best son Mach Three ( he remains included in North America's Top 10 Best Gaited Pacers of all time ) to New Zealand in 2005 and later to stand in Australia, spearheaded the momentum for Direct Scooter after In The Pocket had done the initial "hard yards" of breaking the ice of Meadow Skipper and Adios dominance.
Whilst some sons of Mach Three are already at Stud the likes of Auckland Reactor and Fly Like An Eagle and others have just gone to Stud such as Be Happy Mach, it is Mach Three's best North American racetrack son Somebeachsomewhere that is now reigning supreme, a remarkable achievement considering he never shuttled to either Australia or New Zealand, only ever being available here by frozen semen stocks.
But this has not deterred what now looks to be a penetrating dominance.
Home grown sons are now popping up the likes of Goodtime Sammy and Poster Boy with other sons of Somebeachsomewhere shuttling such as current promising boom stallion Downbytheseaside and yet others such as Stay Hungry being available via frozen semen.
Clearly though, Somebeachsomewhere's best racetrack son has been Captaintreacherous, a stallion David James ( Empire Stallions principal ) forecast some time ago as being the logical successor to Bettor's Delight.
And like his illustrious but ill-fated father, Captaintreacherous has also been considered too valuable to risk shuttling hence only being accessible to Southern Hemisphere breeders via frozen semen.
With controlled numbers ( on both sides of the Tasman Sea ) it is unlikely that Captaintreacherous will aspire to the same lofty heights as Bettor's Delight in the Southern Hemisphere.
Unlike Bettor's Delight, what we are now witnessing is the implosion of the sons of Captaintreacherous who are being shuttled to New Zealand and Australia the likes of Captain Crunch, Capt Midnight and Captain Ahab with more no doubt waiting in the wings in North America to be shuttled out in future seasons the likes of Captain Trevor, Captain Victorious and Catch The Fire as the thirst for the blood of Captaintreacherous grows at an insatiable frenzy.
Whilst Captaintreacherous is top end Commercial and available via frozen semen only, it is his sons inevitable competition with their illustrious father in the quest for his bloodlines that may rather ironically impinge on his chances of reaching the levels of success previously enjoyed by Bettor's Delight.
It is our firm belief that the results of the 2021 Australasian Breeders Crown finals for pacers may have unlocked another would-be superstar to join this illustrious group as identified above.
As a breeder, if you are "big" on a stallion possessing the three P's ( Pedigree, Performance and Potency ) then the winner of the 3YO Colts and Geldings Pacing Final, Act Now, now a dual Group 1 winner following on from his Victorian Derby victory, certainly meets the first two criteria and most likely the third but for the time being we will substitute the word "Promise" for "Potency".
Act Now is not a son of Captaintreacherous but rather a son of Somebeachsomewhere thus a home grown colt bred in Victoria by Bruce and Vicki Edward.
It is always favourable if a potential stallion prospect traces to a recognised source of stallion production and Act Now fulfils this criteria through being from the family of Minehaha ( as is current Somebeachsomewhere stallion Poster Boy ). And better than this, Act Now actually descends through Tillie Thompson ( one half of the famed Thompson sisters, the other half being Eva Thompson through whom Poster Boy descends )with the highly influential mare Spinster featuring as his 10th dam via her daughter Lady Scotland ( Act Now's 9th dam ).
Act Now also possesses a very well balanced pedigree.
His is a pedigree that features all four of the contemporary modern sirelines that prevail today bringing with them their complementary traits and attributes.
He carries the speed and gait qualities of Direct Scooter ( Quartiles 1 and 3 ), the unrelenting stamina and winning desire of Artsplace/Abercrombie ( Quartiles 1, 3 and 4 ), the precocity and natural athleticism of Western Hanover ( Quartile 3 ) and the stamina and outright toughness of Cam Fella ( Quartiles 2 and 4 ).
Breeding buffs should also appreciate that Act Now holds sex-balanced linebreeding to Matt's Scooter at 3x4, Cam Fella at 4x5, Abercrombie at 4x5x6x5 with under-pinning to the complementary Meadow Skipper influences Most Happy Fella ( stamina and toughness ) at 5x5x7x6x7 and Albatross ( speed and gait ) at 6x5x7x6x6 all of which are desirably cross-duplicated ( contributed by both parents ) with only the exception of Albatross.
Going forward, it may be hard to find another stallion with the potency promise of the damsire line that is carried by Act Now and especially with relevance to the sireline genepool that will be carried by the large bulk of the breeding mare population both now and into the future.
This will be one of the great genetic strengths that Act Now offers giving him a distinct edge over many of his competitors including many from his own sireline.
And it will allow breeders the ability to breed many successful horses via reverse-sexing techniques just as we witnessed back in the 90's when a vast array of Meadow Skipper line mares were bred to In The Pocket resulting in horses like Christian Cullen, Courage Under Fire, Tupelo Rose and Under Cover Lover all being bred on reverse-sex crosses to Meadow Skipper thus allowing them to not only carry a breeding core ( which fused the pedigree match ) but also presented them with a likely "engine room". And what an engine room they possessed!
Act Now's illustrious damsire line up commences with American Ideal and then passes through Bettor's Delight, Artsplace, Big Towner, Meadow Skipper, Airliner and Tar Heel.
It would be difficult to name another stallion currently in the Southern Hemisphere breeding scene that can offer a damsire line as impressive as that of Act Now.
Firstly, Act Now is out of a mare by American Ideal. This presents breeders of American Ideal mares the opportunity to reverse female cross to American Ideal at 3x2. Admittedly, this is the outside edge of inbreeding ( Factor 5 ) but it can work. One only has to look back to 2004 North American Horse Of The Year Rainbow Blue ( then a 3YO filly ) bred on a 3x2 reverse female cross to On The Road Again as a successful example of this type of breeding and at the back of our mind we must always remember that inbreeding can be a very effective practice in enhancing speed in the resultant offspring. The key here being that you breed to a targeted ancestor ( male or female ) in this case American Ideal factoring in that he possesses no major negative traits or attributes.
To provide those breeders possessing American Ideal mares with further confidence, it is interesting to note that fellow Somebeachsomewhere stallion Captaintreacherous currently carries mares by Western Ideal ( sire of American Ideal ) as his leading "Crosses of Gold" in North America spearheaded by $2 million dollar earner Lyons Sentinel.
A little further down the track mares by sons of American Ideal, the likes of He's Watching, Heston Blue Chip, Bling It On, My Hard Copy and Soho Tribeca, will provide reverse-sexed linebreeding opportunities to American Ideal at 3x3.
Act Now's granddam sire is Bettor's Delight.
What an opportunity is presented here for breeders with Bettor's Delight mares to breed foals that are by a son of Somebeachsomewhere and carry 4x2 ( Factor 6, the first stage of linebreeding ) reverse female cross to Bettor's Delight hence breeding a foal with Bettor's Delight at the heart of it's very breeding core.
The Somebeachsomewhere / Bettor's Delight connection also provides a strong element of genetic connection as Somebeachsomewhere's grandsire Matt's Scooter and Bettor's Delight share the same tail female line of maternal descent tracing directly to the highly influential matriarch Aida.
Former top shelf New Zealand stallion Holmes Hanover was bred on a 4x2 reverse female cross, in his case to the large heart progenitor Tar Heel.
It is interesting to note that there are now a number of sons of Bettor's Delight hitting the breeding barns in Australia and New Zealand, the likes of Highview Tommy, Gold Ace, Betterthancheddar, Tiger Tara, Caesar Augustus, Caribbean Blaster, Ohoka Punter, Lazarus, Betting Line, Ultimate Machete, Ultimate Sniper, Bettor's Wish and Tall Dark Stranger to name just a few of what is likely to be a growing list.
Daughters of any of these where bred to Act Now will provide a 4x3 reverse-sexing opportunity for their foals to the prepotent Bettor's Delight whilst daughters of a grandson of Bettor's Delight the likes of Lather Up will feature the great stallion in the highly potent 4x4 reverse-sexed position in the foal's pedigree.
Act Now's third damsire is Artsplace.
There are still a number of Artsplace mares actively breeding thanks to this stallion's frozen semen stocks lasting so long.
Artsplace mares bred to Act Now will see the resultant foal carrying a 5x2 reverse female cross to Artsplace but there are a number of Artsplace sons that have been at Stud for a considerable period of time the likes of Dream Away, Artiscape, Partywiththebigdog, Grinfromeartoear, Modern Art, Stonebridge Regal, Sportswriter and of course not forgetting perhaps his most influential son of all in the Southern Hemisphere in Art Major.
Mares by any of these stallions will realise a foal bred on a 5x3 reverse-sex cross to Artsplace making mares by Art Major in particular a highly desirable breeding cross for Act Now.
Also entering calculations are mares by grandsons of Artsplace who will see Act Now foals bred on a 5x4 reverse-sex cross to Artsplace.
Examples here are mares by Artiscape's son Artesian, Yankee Cruiser's son Sweet Lou, Grinfromeartoear's sons Mister Big, Smiling Shard and Mr Feelgood, Real Artist's son Dali, and the growing list of sons by Art Major including the likes of Santanna Blue Chip, Major In Art, Art Official, Sky Major, Vincent, Follow The Stars, For A Reason, Renaissance Man and Ride High.
There are bound to be some others too that we have not listed above.
Act Now's fourth damsire is Big Towner, a quality influence in any pedigree and renowned for his own bold front running tactics. He could also pace naturally free-legged.
Whilst there may still be a rather long-toothed daughter of his sons Stature or Towner's Big Guy running around in the back paddocks of Australia that could produce foals bred on a reverse-sex cross to Big Towner these opportunities would now be rather remote and certainly so for for daughters of other sons of Big Towner, the likes of Ludell Hanover, Sandman Hanover, Explorador, Apache Circle and Walton Hanover so at best any mares carrying these male presences of Big Towner are more likely to provide sex-balanced linebreeding opportunities with Act Now.
And much the same would apply for Act Now's fifth, sixth and seventh damsires namely Meadow Skipper, Airliner and Tar Heel where mares carrying male lines of these ancestors would provide at the very least sex-balancing opportunities to them where bred to Act Now.
Act Now may just be the home grown stallion that can mix it with the North American stallion invasion amid growing calls to promote our own "downunder" production on a Commercial basis.In Act Now a real opportunity has been presented to do this.
It will be an interesting watch to see which Stud exploits this opportunity and we are predicting breeders will not have to wait long to find out which roster he will join in due course.
When piecing together a pedigree match for your mare's next mating have you ever stopped to think, where do I start?
A good place to start is by looking at the four pedigree quartiles found at the 2nd generational level that will comprise her offspring's overall pedigree.
We are talking here about the paternal pedigree of the proposed stallion ( Quartile 1 ) as well as the maternal pedigree of the stallion ( Quartile 2 ) and how this looks when placed on top of your mare's pedigree i.e. her paternal pedigree ( Quartile 3 ) as well as her maternal pedigree ( Quartile 4 ).
Where you land with this "quartilian mix" can often be governed by opportunity and where the opportunity arises then full advantage can be taken in the endeavour to breed a superior racehorse.
Whatever the outcome, there is immense satisfaction to be gained from this approach simply because there is some semblance of scientific method applied which provides an answer or reason as to why you may have bred a superior or elite performer.
This is in stark contrast to the breeding methodology of "Breeding the best to the best and hoping for the best". Where is the skill in that, one may ask?
Whilst you may get away with this approach if you are fortunate enough to have a superior broodmare that will produce top offspring literally regardless of the stallion they are put to, there is hardly any scientific application applied to this approach and often a good deal less satisfaction as a breeder.
Often you will see this approach with highly Commercial mares ( mostly from top producing families ) or with elite racemares and especially if the resultant progeny are destined for the Yearling Sales.
Here it is often about instant financial gain in the hope that the yearling will make the grade as a racehorse and "establish the mare" but in other circumstances this approach is also open to genetic failure and potentially damaging the young mare as a future soughtafter breeding proposition.
It is very much a "risk and reward" exercise with this approach to breeding.
As a pedigree consultant dealing especially with new Australian or New Zealand clients, when they answer the question as to what breeding methods they have previously followed invariably we receive the reply that they keep a close eye on the North American breeding scene and in particular "Crosses of Gold" in the Stallion Showcase. So much so that to us many become over-reliant on it.
Crosses of Gold pit individual stallion's over other broodmare sires hence only telling "half the story" as it ignores both the stallion's maternal pedigree ( Quartile 2 ) and the mare's maternal pedigree ( Quartile 4 ).
It therefore exclusively deals with just Quartile 1 and Quartile 3. There is often no genetic reason for this, often it may be a geographical factor at work e.g. the daughters of one stallion at a Stud being put to an associate stallion standing at the same Stud and where strength in numbers on that particular breeding cross outweigh any genetic factors at work.
In our breeding endeavours, yes, occasionally we may apply the use of Quartile 3 in association with Quartile 1 but only if there is good genetic reason to do so. As an example here, if we take a Bettor's Delight mare, we do like these with sons or grandsons of Somebeachsomewhere. Why? Because here we can link the blood of Bettor's Delight with that of Matt's Scooter, grandsire of Somebeachsomewhere. And for what genetic reason? Both Bettor's Delight and Matt's Scooter were superior racehorses but much more than this, genetically they both share the same maternal bloodline tracing directly to the highly influential matriarch Aida.
This provides a far more genetic validation of why to cross these two bloodlines than that featured in the North American crosses of gold.
But standardbred breeders are not alone in this approach with Quartile 1 and Quartile 3 as the "Match Your Mare" programmes such as G1 Goldmine and Werks E-Nicks that feature on most Thoroughbred Stud's websites also place a heavy emphasis primarily on sireline crosses.
This approach is defended, rightly or wrongly, by it's creators and breeder supporters as claiming that the statistical data is based on actual race performance and results.
While we cannot deny this, it is hardly a scientific genetic approach to breeding but rather one based on statistical data outcome.
So what approach may involve a more scientific or genetic approach to breeding Standardbred horses?
One very reliable method is to "Return the best blood of your mare to the best blood of the stallion".
To apply this method we first of all have to define what this encompasses.
In general terms when analysing a pedigree match, the best blood of a mare is seen as being in her paternal bloodlines ( Quartile 3 ) and the best blood of a stallion as being in his maternal bloodlines ( Quartile 2 ). Hence you are applying Quartile 3 to Quartile 2.
One of the distinct advantages of doing this is that it provides the basis for breeding a horse on a reverse-sex formula to either a key male or female ancestor where you may be chasing their particular traits or attributes especially if deficient in your own mare or breed.
And just occasionally you may end up with a foal bred on what is known as a double reverse-sex cross, not just to one common ancestor but to two.
By achieving a resultant reverse-sex cross in a foal you are not only developing a purposeful breeding core but also creating a potential or likely "engine room" based on the ancestor/s being duplicated.
Reverse-sex crossing is a favoured breeding technique as sex-balancing allows the genes of the duplicated ancestor/s to be potentially maximised in your resultant foal.
As an example here, the stallion Art Major is bred on a 3x4 reverse-sex cross to Albatross, the latter's history proven best cross. The new stallion Captain Crunch is another example being bred on a 3x3 reverse-sex cross to Artsplace.
Another popular breeding practice especially in more recent times and a more common now in North America is breeding horses utilising what is known as the delta pattern.
Certainly Southern Hemisphere breeders are seeing more North American stallions accessible to them being bred carrying a delta pattern to a specific male ancestor.
Fear The Dragon is bred on a 4x4 delta pattern to Most Happy Fella whilst Follow The Stars is bred on a 3x3 delta pattern to Abercrombie.
Delta pattern breeding focuses on applying Quartile 4 to Quartile 1.
This means duplicating a male ancestor that is present in your mare's damsireline in Quartile 4 with the same ancestor that presides in the stallion's paternal sireline as found in Quartile 1.
Delta patterns in a stallion can also be very useful as a launch board from which to capitalise on reverse-sexing opportunities for your mare's foal if that specific ancestor is in her sireline e.g. an Abercrombie line mare if bred to Follow The Stars would produce a foal carrying a reverse-sex cross to Abercrombie.
Yet another breeding technique that can be highly rewarding although a little harder to find is that known as "Breeding Back Into The Herd" ( aka BBITH ).
This involves applying Quartile 4 to Quartile 2 so the polar opposite of "Crosses of Gold" where focus is primarily on Quartile 1 and Quartile 3.
Breeding Back Into The Herd focuses on the bottom line ( duplicating a common female ancestor ) of both Quartile 4 ( of your mare ) and Quartile 2 ( the proposed stallion ) and was hugely favoured by legendary former Australian standardbred pedigree guru Mr Gordon Campbell as that which most closely resembled that which prevailed naturally in the wild and not unlike that which also occurred out on the racetrack especially in terms of the traits and attributes that were required to either survive or triumph. Campbell quantified his stauch advocacy for this form of breeding with statistical evidence from his own huge privately owned database.
Whilst there have been numerous examples of successful standardbreds bred on a "Breeding Back Into The Herd" formula we are going to use now 10 times Group 1 winner, including the 2021 Melbourne Cup, Verry Elleegant as a top class ( albeit thoroughbred mare ) to illustrate our point here.
Verry Elleegant is 4x4 "Bred Back Into The Herd" to the mare Cotehele House through her daughters the half-sisters Theme Song ( granddam of sire Zed ) and Chalet Girl ( granddam of dam Opulence ).
If this form of breeding can succeed big time for thoroughbreds then so too can it work big time with standardbreds.
Whilst the aforementioned form some of the leading methods of breeding quality standardbreds by applying the quartiles they are far from an exhaustive list. There are many other techniques that can be applied. In brief, a few of the leading ones are;
Returning The Blood - this involves returning the same blood from your mare ( through a common female ancestor ) to the same ancestor presiding in the stallion's direct maternal line ( or bottom line ). This sees either Quartile 3 or 4 ( sometimes both ) feeding back to Quartile 2.
Rasmussen Factors ( breeding back to superior females through different individuals within the first 5 generations ), duplicating elite females beyond 5 generations and the deployment of Colt Factors or Filly Factors ( more popular in thoroughbred breeding practice ) are otherhigly effective techniques that can be applied throughout a pedigree match and not necessarily dependent on any specific quartile application other than to say that cross-duplication ( contributed by both the stallion and the mare ) is most likely to yield best results.
More traditional breeding methods ( as opposed to pedigree matching utilising specific breeding techniques ) include "Outcrossing" for hybrid vigour or "Linebreeding" to hopefully concentrate the genes of a specific ancestor/s are other more traditional breeding methods as is "Inbreeding" where seeking speed enhancement or rejuvenation.
The world's five longest rivers ( Nile, Amazon, Yangtze, Yellow and Parana ) may have endured little in the way of change over the last 170 years but this such is not the case for the deltas of the five male scions of the great founding father of the Standardbred breed Hambletonian 10 ( 1849 ).
Hambletonian 10 sired five sons acting as the source of the significant waterways to shape and establish the Standardbred as a recognised breed.
George Wilkes ( 1856 ) led the way founding a mainly trotting stirp and his river remains in existence today albeit the flow not as strong as it once was.
Happy Medium ( 1863 ) continues to flow strongly today enjoying somewhat of a resurgence, like the Amazon, and has two powerful arms, one a trotting arm and the other a pacing arm.
Sadly, both the Dictator ( 1863 ) and Strathmore ( 1866 ) stirps, primarily best known for their pacing influence with some trotting influences also embroiled, whilst off to a flourishing start, have all but dried up and are no longer a significant force today.
The Dictator flow was was primarily led by Billy Direct ( 1934 ), the first pacer to reach 1:55 for the mile, and Tar Heel ( 1948 ), the latter a formidable broodmare sire ( especially in association with Adios ) whose daughters are considered to carry the large heart gene ( x-factor theory ).
The Strathmore line featured mighty carriers such as Globe Derby ( 1910 ), Logan Derby ( 1930 ), Johnny Globe ( 1947 ) and the little black dynamo Lordship ( 1958 ) but has since diminished in traction.
For Electioneer ( 1868 ), it is a totally different fate, one of swift flow just like the Nile. Such flow is seemingly all one way, at a rapid pace with emphasis totally focussed on the development and evolution of the pacer.
For the breeders of the pure trotter emanating from the George Wilkes or Happy Medium stirps, there is saviour as modern day globalisation with accompanying frills such as longhaul flights and permitted use of frozen semen has facilitated a European bloodline infusion which in turn has introduced outcrossing and with it hybrid vigour.
But Europe cannot be the same saviour for the breeder of the pacer primarily because the great majority of European countries only foster the trotting breed.
Breeders of the straight out pacer have for a number of decades now focussed on trends in North America ( both the United States and Canada ) keeping specific tabs on trends, and especially "Crosses of Gold" for those stallions that are relevant to the Southern Hemisphere ( either as shuttle stallions or available via frozen semen ).
But, are the current winds of change beginning to affect our great rivers by introducing a cascade effect?
Whereas once we lingered some 10-15 years behind North America, today this is not the case as the Southern Hemisphere product is equally as competitive on the racetrack, no better example that the recent Lazarus / McWicked rivalries in North America.
Admittedly, improved track design in the Southern Hemisphere had also allowed the gap to be bridged dramatically especially with race times. Not any longer are we the the poor cousin.
The pacing breed nowadays has sorted itself into four predominant sirelines which tend to complement each other in their respective traits and attributes.
The Western Hanover sireline has introduced natural athleticism, generally fluent gait and often precocity whilst the Cam Fella sireline is generally regarded as imparting stamina and toughness although the Cam's Card Shark scion can also bring with it a speed component.
The Artsplace sireline also presents unrelenting stamina with an accompanying winning desire whilst the Direct Scooter sireline has been breed shaping introducing a refined fluent gait which in turn has facilitated greater levels of energy conservation through enhanced pacing efficiency. The flow on effect has seen higher levels of speed and the ability to sustain such speed over greater distance.
As we highlighted a little earlier, we are now down to largely two rivers in the pacing breeding world, these coming through Electioneer and Happy Medium.
And whilst Electioneer acts as the mighty Nile embracing the Cam Fella, Western Hanover and Artsplace sirelines, it is Happy Medium who has acted as the all important Amazon in introducing the breed shaping Direct Scooter stirp to the Standardbred as a breed.
Let us now take a paddle back up river to the headwaters.
Electioneer's son Chimes ( 1880 ) sired The Abbe ( 1903 ) who in turn sired two influential sons in Abbedale ( 1917 ) and Bert Abbe ( 1922 ).
Bert Abbe, via son Gene Abbe ( 1944 ) has brought us the revered male influence Big Towner and his valued sons Walton Hanover and Towner's Big Guy but this tributary is down to a mere trickle these days as the Abbedale arm via son Hal Dale ( 1926 ) has assumed full flow through the latter's two mighty sons Dale Frost ( 1951 ) and Adios ( 1940 ).
Adios became a breed changer in the Southern Hemisphere with his flotilla of sons injecting enhanced speed into the colonial homegrown bloodlines that prevailed especially in Australia and to a lesser degree in New Zealand.
Two of Adios's sons in particular have made a big splash and kept the waterways flowing today, namely Bret Hanover ( 1962 ) especially through his Falcon Seelster ( 1981 ) stirp and Henry T Adios ( 1958 ), the latter the forerunner to the Abercrombie ( 1975 ) cascade through Life Sign but even more poignantly Artsplace ( 1988 ), founder of one of today's four great dominant sirelines.
But anything Adios could contribute, Dale Frost could do better, or at least his great son Meadow Skipper ( 1960 ) and especially through his two most notable sons the complementary influences Most Happy Fella ( 1967 ) and Albatross ( 1968 ).
Each acted like a waterfall. Most Happy Fella bringing stamina and toughness and Albatross speed and gait.
Mix the two together and you got a whirlpool.
Sadly, in more recent times the Albatross stirp is displaying signs of drying up after enjoying good times in the 80's and 90's in particular through sons of the calibre of Vance Hanover, Soky's Atom and Holmes Hanover with little in the way of heirs to continue the flow.
Albatross had found himself caught up in a dam.
But such fate was not to be the case for Most Happy Fella who has found himself as the modern day equine powerhouse through in particular his sons Cam Fella ( 1979 ) and Oil Burner ( 1973 ).
Cam Fella is at the headwater of his own sireline, recognised as one of the four great remaining pacing sirelines of today with the stirp through his best son Cam's Card Shark ( 1991 ) having led on to giving rise to the Bettor's Delight ( 1998 ) dynasty.
Oil Burner via his immensely talented son No Nukes ( 1979 ) has given rise to the prolific Western Hanover ( 1989 ) sireline, another of the four great sirelines of today, with the greatest current being provided through Western Hanover's potent son Western Ideal ( 1995 ).
It does however take a diversion to the Happy Medium headwater to find down river our fourth and final modern day sireline, that of Direct Scooter. Tracing through Volomite ( 1926 ), who was recognised as a great contributor of horses that could both trot and pace, of his four most most notable sons, King's Counsel, Worthy Boy, Poplar Byrd and Sampson Hanover, it was Sampson Hanover ( 1947 ) who was to create the greatest pacing current through his son Sampson Direct ( 1957 ) and grandson Direct Scooter ( 1976 ).
At this time the Southern Hemisphere was becoming a largely Hal Dale empire through sons Adios especially in Australia and Dale Frost via son Meadow Skipper in New Zealand.
But change was in the wind as a new river as mighty as the Amazon was about to sweep in and shake things up.
With Stud farms recognising the potential to narrow the genepool the search was on to introduce an outcross bloodline for the profound Adios and Meadow Skipper proliferation.
A few sons of Direct Scooter were introduced into Australia and New Zealand acting as tributary feeders the likes of Deal Direct, Direct Flight, Stoneridge Scooter, Yankee Sensation, OK Bye and WRH but nothing of any great notice until the mighty gush that was In The Pocket ( 1987 ).
Another pacing breed changer had arrived amongst much local speculation that he would not work especially in New Zealand with it's plethora of Meadow Skipper-line broodmares.
But just like any formidable outcross, clean the rivers he did.
In The Pocket almost single-handedly opened the floodgates for the Direct Scooter sireline and in turn his own great son Christian Cullen continued a strong flow.
In The Pocket was in more recent times ably assisted by sons of Matt's Scooter ( 1985 ) most notably Mach Three.
For breeders of high-end Commercial broodmares in the Southern Hemisphere the last twenty or so years has been a decision between Christian Cullen, Art Major, Mach Three, Bettor's Delight, Rocknroll Hanover or American Ideal with little further options apart from maybe Somebeachsomewhere.
In North America the last two decades or so have seen the Western Hanover / Artsplace sireline cross ( and vice versa ) feature as the "go to" reliable and proven cross for producing hard-hitting early running two and three year olds ( where the big purses feature on the racetrack ) but there is mounting evidence that change is in the wind as the vast majority of stallions shuttling ( or being made available via frozen semen ) to Southern Hemisphere shores are from either the Cam Fella-line ( sons or grandsons of Bettor's Delight in particular ) or the Direct Scooter-line ( sons of Somebeachsomewhere or Captaintreacherous ).
As we approach the delta of these great rivers there is upheaval as to which route to take for breeders.
The Artsplace sireline has pinned it's faith in Art Major for continuity. His progeny are testing the waters but so far from the likes of Santanna Blue Chip, Major In Art, Art Official, For A Reason, Renaissance Man, Restrepo, Follow The Stars, Vincent, Sky Major or Ride High we have yet to see a successor of his equal but to be totally fair for a number it is very early days and time is still on their side. It may yet happen. Still, one gains the initial impression that it is rather vulnerable. Maybe Sweet Lou can put his hand up for the Artsplace sireline.
The Western Hanover sireline bubbles away through the two leading sons of Western Ideal in Rocknroll Hanover and American Ideal, Rocknroll Hanover hanging his hat on the deeds of Rock N Roll Heaven, A Rocknroll Dance, Pet Rock, Yankee Rockstar, Foreclosure, Johny Rock, The Storm Inside and Rocknroll World whilst American Ideal is now represented by his sons He's Watching, Heston Blue Chip, Bling It On, My Hard Copy and Soho Tribeca.
Another son of Western Ideal in Always A Virgin also adds lifeblood to the waters Western Hanover navigates through his notable son Always B Miki.
For the Cam Fella sireline nearly all future continuity appears to channel through Bettor's Delight and his sons or maybe even his grandsons as the cascading effects of three generations come together to stir up the waters as they fight for dominance. Among some of Bettor's Delight's sons there appears real hope.
In no set order, Highview Tommy, Gold Ace, Betterthancheddar, Tiger Tara, Lazarus, Betting Line, Ultimate Machete, Ultimate Sniper, Bettor's Wish, Tall Dark Stranger, Bettor's Creek, Caesar Augustus, Caribbean Blaster and Ohoka Punter are some amongst his lineup set to compete to keep this great line active whilst we also see the cascade effect once gain in play with Im Gorgeous's son Lather Up ( a grandson of Bettor's Delight ) also joining the fray almost acting as an island anchor at the delta.
But the current shining star reflecting over the river is provided by the Direct Scooter sireline led by Mach Three's illustrious son Somebeachsomewhere and his sons, once again in random order, the likes of Net Ten EOM, Sunshine Beach, Huntsville, Downbytheseaside, Papi Rob Hanover, Stay Hungry, Soho Lanikai, Poster Boy, Goodtime Sammy and Captaintreacherous.
The last-mentioned, widely touted as a likely successor to Bettor's Delight, has barely had time to get established downunder than he is already facing stern opposition from his own sons the likes of Captain Crunch, Capt Midnight and Captain Ahab.
All the signs are in place for a healthy river here.
Somebeachsomewhere may yet have another cannon to fire in the future too, and one to rival the Captaintreacherous stirp as a two year old has emerged in North America of considerable talent. Named Beach Glass ( 2019 ), and raced by similar connections to those involved with Somebeachsomewhere, this young colt is bred bred in somewhat similar fashion to Downbytheseaside ( a 4x4 reverse-sex cross featuring as the breeding core ) but has an intriguing feature in his maternal line of descent where his 14th dam Nina Neave was bred to her own sire Cassius M Clay Jnr in the late 1800's resulting in her daughter Nina Strader ( 13th dam of Beach Glass ) being 1x2 incestuously bred to Cassius M Clay Jnr. But we digress.
Whilst the rivers might be healthy in some areas there are signs of confusion at the deltas.
With the growing North American practice of retiring their best colts at the conclusion of their three year old season ( they are worth more money in the breeding shed thereafter ) the cascade effect has never been so pronounced.
We have Bettor's Delight still in active service, whilst in competition with his sons, both the the North American shuttlers as well as those available by frozen semen and joining them are home grown sons of Bettor's Delight ( both in Australia and New Zealand ) as the genetic gap closes between the Southern Hemisphere and North America and on top of this grandsons of Bettor's Delight ( e.g.Lather Up ) are also being added to breeders choices.
The same scenario is now also in evidence with Somebeachsomewhere where limited amounts of frozen semen supply remain well after his death yet his potent son Captaintreacherous is barely entrenched in the Southern Hemisphere ( perhaps more to do with his level of Service Fee and frozen semen restrictions than rivalry from a shuttling Bettor's Delight rivalry ) before he faces company from three of his young sons all shuttling downunder.
Consistent with the latest developments in North America, the tides of change are clearly pointing in the direction of the two greatest rivers, the Nile ( these days fronted by the Bettor's Delight scion ) and the Amazon ( these days fronted by the Somebeachsomewhere scion currently being led by Captaintreacherous ).
Perhaps one should have listened more closely just a few years ago when Empire Stallions principal David James boldly claimed that "The Captain" would become the natural successor to "Bettor's".
Whilst this could well prove the case in North America, where mounting evidence supports this, it will be a more difficult challenge in the Southern Hemisphere where it is clearly a numbers game.
This has seen shuttling stallions and the cost benefits of fresh chilled semen access provide Bettor's Delight and his sons and now grandsons with a competitive edge over the non-shuttling Captaintreacherous.
Is there capacity for change?
Of course there is.
The moment Bettor's Delight ceases shuttling there is room for immense change and very quickly too as we must remember that there exists a tsunami of Bettor's Delight broodmares waiting in the wings.
In the current era where swift flow ( speed ) is the desirable destination one cannot help but feel that Captaintreacherous and his new cascade of sons are extremely well-placed genetically to absorb the many Bettor's Delight and for that matter Art Major mares going to Stud where they will offer great genetic connections to highly influential female bluehens ( a time proven formula in the speed stakes ).
For mares by Bettor's Delight this includes a tail female connection to the highly influential matriarch Aida which is also shared by Captaintreacherous's great grandsire Matt's Scooter ( the best racehorse produced by Direct Scooter ) whilst mares by Art Major and his sons are set to reap the genetic rewards of resultant Rasmussen Factors ( in their foals ) to the revered bluehen Rodine Hanover.
Exciting, if not challenging times, lying ahead. May the rivers of change be kind to you in your in your future breeding endeavour.
Premier Pedigrees has been tracking the seemingly "X-factor" mare Blue Horizon in recent years in the belief that she creates "something special" when duplicated in pedigree compilation wherever the opportunity arises.
That "something special" is extreme high speed ( one of the hardest attributes to breed into any horse ).
As readers / breeders will have noticed in our previous article, Blue Horizon is a grand-daughter of the famed mare Golden Miss aka the "Queen Of Gait", something seen as an absolutely fundamental pre-requisite in the evolution to extreme high speed.
The Direct Scooter invasion in the mid-nineties and beyond gave us our first glimpse of how refined and superior gait attributes could enhance speed in a largely Meadow Skipper genepool but with Blue Horizon came no Direct Scooter influences.
She was seemingly "doing it on her own".
Even more noticeably, she was producing it when duplicated relatively close-up in a pedigree, particularly via the use of what is known as a Rasmussen Factor ( Breeding Back To Superior Females Through Different Individuals Within The First Five Generations ) breeding technique.
Blue Horizon first came to our attention having been highly impressed by the racing attributes of 2005 New South Wales Derby victor Make Me Smile ( Grinfromeartoear - Panoramic Lady ). His sizzling gate speed to cross fields in the blink of an eye from wide draws was eye-catching not to mention his electric bursts of speed on many other occasions.
As with any exceptional performer or one which displays specific outstanding attributes it would be remiss of any pedigree consultant not exercising due diligence on the subject horse's pedigree to ascertain the likely contributer/s to these standout traits.
Make Me Smile's pedigree revealed an immediate and highly likely cause which suggested that close "inbreeding" to the mare Blue Horizon was a highly likely source of developing high speed.
Technically, in Standardbred breeding circles a 3x3 reverse-sexed Rasmussen Factor at that position in a pedigree is not inbreeding but rather the first stage of linebreeding at Factor 6 ( Factor 5 being the true outside edge of inbreeding ).
As Blue Horizon featured in the direct maternal bloodline of the stallion via her daughter Smile Upon ( dam of Grinfromeartoear ) this also allowed the opportunity to return the same blood from the mare Panoramic Lady ( a daughter of Panorama ) to the stallion's "bottom line" also recognised as a speed enhancement breeding practice ( and widely utilised by both Thoroughbred and Standardbred breeders ).
With Panorama being a son of Blue Horizon the reverse-sexing opportunity not only provided Make Me Smile with a desirable breeding core but also a likely "engine room", an engine room based on high speed.
But one example does not provide absolute proof of any contention. We needed to find another example to solidify our belief.
Back in 2003 I was fortunate enough to accompany then Linden Park Studmaster Graham Bell ( he was standing stallion's such as Sands A Flyin and Road Machine at the time ) as his pedigree authority on a week long South Island road trip visiting other Studs as well as numerous breeders throughout Canterbury and Southland.
At about that time Sly Flyin was going great guns flying the flag high for Sands A Flyin.
We had dual hosts in Southland in Mark Shirley ( a son of Ascot Stud's Gil Shirley ) and Debbie Scarlett ( later to become Debbie Smith of Shard Farm fame ). Both proved wonderful hosts introducing us to nearly every horse-interested person in the province.
So it was not surprising that a couple of years later an email came through to Premier Pedigrees from Debbie seeking opinion on who she should breed her Panorama mare to. The particular mare in question was Sly Shard ( a half-sister to Sly Flyin ).
Here was the opportunity to test our theory on Blue Horizon using essentially the same template that was used to produce Make Me Smile.
But it was hard work convincing Debbie especially as it involved an element of seemingly "inbreeding". I recall having a file about half an inch thick on email correspondence back and forth trying to convince Debbie on the merits of this breeding without the knowledge that Dave Phillips and an unidentified Australian breeding consultant were on the same wavelength as ourselves.
But we stuck to our guns on every query Debbie threw at us on the mating as we were desperately wanting another example to support our beliefs about Blue Horizon.
Fortunately the mating went ahead and in 2006 Sly Shard foaled a small yet neat compact colt by Grinfromeartoear.
That colt was named Smiling Shard and he went to the PGG Yearling Sales in Christchurch as Shard Farm was primarily a "seller".
Only a week or two later I was in Geoff Small's barn one day when Cran Dalgety walked in looking for Geoff. I recall making a comment at the time to Cran that he "got the best pedigreed horse in the Yearling Sales" having been the successful buyer of the colt.
Cran's reply still rings in my ears today, "Oh I don't know about that, the little squib" and "I paid too much for him" in reference to his $42,000 price tag when, Catalogue in hand, he showed me that he had $30,000 written down as his maximum limit ( self valuation ) on him.
It did not take long to have our observations and beliefs about Blue Horizon confirmed as Smiling Shard proved precocious and went on to win both the Australasian Breeders Crown Final 2YO Colts and Geldings and the Australasian Breeders Crown Final 3YO Colts and Geldings displaying both natural precocity and great dash on his way to becoming a millionaire pacer.
So where to from here with further opportunities to double-up on the prize blood of Blue Horizon?
To answer this question we first need to identify those stallions or broodmare sires that hold the presence of Blue Horizon in our part of the world. Forgive us if we have missed any.
They include Panorama ( 1st generation ), Grinfromeartoear ( 2nd generation ), Smiling Shard ( twice at the 3rd generation ), Mr Feelgood ( 3rd generation ), Shoobees Place ( 3rd generation ) and The Storm Inside ( 3rd generation ) whilst Soho Tribeca holds the presence of Panorama at his 5th generational level meaning Blue Horizon appears at his 6th generational level.
We can see from this that all except for Soho Tribeca offer distinct opportunities to create Rasmussen Factors to Blue Horizon where their bloodlines are brought together in a planned mating.
Moving forward though we are particularly excited by the opportunities provided to the young Alabar based stallion The Storm Inside ( Rocknroll Hanover - Spirited Storm, by Artsplace ) with mares from those other stallions as identified above. Why is that?
The answer lies in the way The Storm Inside has been bred.
And this is the way former Australian pedigree guru Mr Gordon Campbell ( ex Computabred Ltd ) favoured best "Breeding Back Into The Herd" ( aka BBITH ) and hopefully also incorporating a Rasmussen Factor ( breeding back to superior females through different individuals within the first 5 generations ).
The Storm Inside is the product of being "bred back into the herd" utilising a 4x5 Rasmussen Factor to Shifting Sands ( the famed daughter of the "Queen Of Gait" Golden Miss ) through her own powerful daughters Proven Perfect ( granddam of Rocknroll Hanover ) and Shifting Scene ( 3rd dam of Spirited Storm via Blue Horizon ).
So let us do a brief summation of the outcomes of breeding mares by those other stallions we have afore-mentioned to The Storm Inside.
Panorama mare - produces a 4x3 reverse-sexed Rasmussen Factor to Blue Horizon via daughter Stormy Pursuit and son Panorama. This is a similar template to that used to produce both Make Me Smile and Smiling Shard.
Grinfromeartoear mare - produces a 4x4 Rasmussen Factor to Blue Horizon via her daughters the full-sisters Stormy Pursuit and Smile Upon ( both by Storm Damage ).
Mr Feelgood mare - produces a 4x5 Rasmussen Factor to Blue Horizon via her daughters the full-sisters Stormy Pursuit and Smile Upon.
Shoobees Place mare - produces a 4x5 Rasmussen Factor to Blue Horizon via her daughters the half-sisters Stormy Pursuit and Shoobeedoaday.
Smiling Shard mare - produces a 4x5x5 Rasmussen Factor desirably sex-balanced via the full-sisters Stormy Pursuit and Smile Upon and their half-brother Panorama.
Soho Tribeca mare - perhaps one for the future but produces a 4x7 sex-balanced linebreeding opportunity to Blue Horizon via daughter Stormy Pursuit and son Panorama.
Trainer Emma Stewart's comments on The Storm Inside's traits and attributes on the racetrack are perhaps very salient in terms of what we have identified as being typical of this Family, "He has everything you'd look for with his blistering high speed, beautifully gaited and a real athlete".
As we see it, the only word's missing are "family inheritance" which allowed him to display these great qualities on the racetrack right from an undefeated precocious juvenile through to his 5 year old season where he ran his career best time of 1:50.7 for the mile and winning 16 or his 19 career starts.
We also see The Storm Inside as enjoying considerable success in the future with mares from both the Artsplace and Meadow Skipper sirelines and we will be following his Stud career with a little more than a keen interest.
Premier Pedigrees was born out of Ken Mackay's passion for horse pedigrees to offer a very affordable pedigree matching service and valuable recommendations to new and existing Australian and New Zealand clients for both thoroughbred and standardbred mares.