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.
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.