The 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 Corey, 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 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.
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.