Dedicated, visionary and opinionated are three words that come to mind when endeavouring to best describe former legendary Australian pedigree guru Mr Gordon Campbell who back in the late 1980's put himself through TAFE night school to study basic computer programming with a vision to create his own fully comprehensive Australian standardbred database.
A colossal challenge if there was ever one but a mighty powerful tool if ever completed.
Over the course of 11 years commencing in 1989 Gordon and his dedicated wife Valerie uploaded more than 350,000 records into their online database which incorporated every horse in Australia's pedigree from 1990 onwards out to 6 generations as well as full statistical data encompassing race performance, earnings and breeding exploits.
It was to easily form Australasia's largest privately-owned standardbred database and to Gordon it provided the trustworthy tool from which he could justify his breeding recommendations to client's in his role as a pedigree consultant.
Now, he possessed the cold hard facts on any breeding cross proposed and could purport this with statistical data on numbers and percentages to either support a proposed mating or to deter from it if the data did not support the likely success of the mating.
A powerful tool indeed and one used prolifically by Gordon in the wake of his own favoured breeding theories and to dispel others.
This whole exercise burst into reality after Gordon had identified that Tarport Low mares' needed Adios blood up as close as possible in a stallion ( the strength of this coming from the stallion's maternal bloodlines ) and having listed manually the pedigrees of some 430 Tarport Low mares plus the stallion's they had been bred to, he then had to go through the tedious exercise of ascertaining percentages in order to define success rates or otherwise.
There had to be a better more expedient way of deriving this data for future exercises and the resultant data mission formed the basis of the foundation of what Gordon named as Computabred Ltd with it's primary function being it's use for bloodline compatibility testing based on factual statistics.
It was from this vast database that Gordon was to substantiate many of his favoured breeding techniques and theories when doing his own writings or stallion recommendations for a client's mare. It also allowed him the flexibility of becoming receptive to new breeding trends the success or otherwise which could easily be identified from his own statistical data.
At the very forefront of his philosophy was a strong belief that maternal lineage is crucial to ongoing success both on the racetrack and in the breeding barn.
He was extremely cautious of the progeny of standout mares from ordinary families just as he was the likely success of sires with poor female families, the latter often being a derivative of Sires Stakes racing of which Gordon was no fan.
As the 'X' chromosome comes from the sire's mother, if this is weak so too will the progeny be weak. Heart size comes from the female which is all important to the athlete in any species.
Allied to this was Gordon's strong belief that one of the very best forms of breeding was to emulate that which occured naturally in the wild. This was centered on the horse being a herd animal and a flight animal, living in fear of predators, characteristics that are still evident today despite human involvement with the horse now stretching to some 3000 years.
A 20 plus year old mare in a natural state could not produce simply because she would most likely have been devoured. Speed was essential to simply exist with nature saying that the first born is vital for the ongoing existence of the species.
Are there not some clues or guidelines here on breeding from young mares with their earliest foals being their best? Much food for thought here including the wisdom or otherwise of breeding from an older mare, all of which could be supported statistically from the Computabred database.
Gordon has also been a staunch advocate for returning the best blood from a mare to the stallion's "bottom ( direct maternal ) line" as sheer speed and stamina is all that has enabled the wild horse to frustrate their would-be predators, and that speed and stamina comes from stallion's " breeding back into the herd" ( BBITH )from which they themselves have come.
We would like to point out that there are two variations here and both can be highly effective in a planned mating.
The first of these is returning is returning the same blood from a mare ( often via a different sibling ) from any position within her pedigree back to the stallion's direct maternal bloodlines ( otherwise known as his "bottom line" ).
This breeding practice has been happening for a long time now and it's success has meant that it has endured in both standardbred and thoroughbred breeding circles as it is looked upon as a highly successful formula for speed enhancement just as Gordon was referring to as occuring in the wild.
The second means of returning the same blood from the mare to the stallion is much more position specific and is known simply as "breeding back into the herd" ( aka BBITH ). This breeding formula features the same female ancestor present in "bottom line" of both the stallion and the mare ( either via the same or a different sibling ).
Once again this simulated that which naturally occured in the wild where the dominant stallion of the herd often covered close relatives or more distant relatives sharing the same maternal family.
Incorporated into this whole returning of the same blood from the mare to the stallion can be another breeding feature known as a Rasmussen Factor. Allegedly founded by Leon Rasmussen, the Rasmussen Factor was defined as "Breeding back to superior female through different individuals( siblings ) within the first 5 generations".
Gordon Campbell was a proponent of this practice offering the comment that "If the Rasmussen Factor is understood, it is on the mark", citing examples such as Surfing Safari and Mazzini Magic. Both of these very good horses are examples that position in pedigree matching is important otherwise there can be no effect at all.
Premier Pedigrees is also a fan of this form of breeding with no better example of it being highly effective in inducing high speed than the template set by the superior mare Blue Horizon ( a grand-daughter of the "Queen of Gait" in Golden Miss ) when she featured in a 3x3 reverse-sexed Rasmussen Factor in the pedigree of the Paul Fitzpatrick trained NSW Derby winner Make Me Smile ( $517,518, 34 wins from 68 starts ) who possessed sizzling top end speed including blistering gate speed.
So taken were we with Make Me Smile's dazzling speed that when Southland's Debbie Scarlett ( now Smith ) emailed Premier Pedigrees a short time later looking for a mate for her Panorama mare Sly Shard we had little hesitation recommending Grinfromeartoear. The template had been set and hence the beginnings of what was to become Smiling Shard.
Ironically, I was working at Geoff Small's barn sometime later when Cran Dalgety walked in looking for Geoff. It was just after the Karaka PGG Standardbred Yearling Sales and I made the comment to Cran in passing that he had purchased the best breed yearling in the Sales. I recall vividly his response "Oh, I don't know about that, the little squib, and I paid too much for him" knowing he had secured him for $42,000 and hastily showing me in his Sales Catalogue that he had him marked down as a $30,000 yearling.
The rest is history as they say as the " little squib" ( alias Smiling Shard ) won the Tabcorp Breeders Crown 2YO Colts and Geldings Final amongst his 17 wins from 50 starts with lifetime earnings of $1,089,831.
Whilst things like Rasmussen Factors were seen as real strengths in the pedigrees of top horses, Gordon Campbell remained open to the fact that genes further back in pedigrees could also have an influential effect on a foal.
This is something that has been more widely exploited in thoroughbred breeding circles particularly with regard to ascertaining patterns in a mare's pedigree and whether these carried through into the pedigrees of a likely consort.
Gordon was also not afraid to make a call on matters close to his heart and it was such bravery to "put it out there" which gave him his at times controversial reputation. These were often voiced through his regular Datapace columns that he wrote in the bi-monthly Harness Racing International magazine. I recall one particular phrase that he espoused time and again "Never believe every thing you read" often targetted at a glossy advertising brochure of a new offshore stallion arrival.
When In The Pocket was beginning to create a breed-shaping ripple with his first crops in New Zealand, Gordon was of the opinion that most Australian mares did not have the genetic make-up to click with him.
We tended to be in agreement with Gordon on this one as the Australian broodmare genepool carried a massive Adios influence as opposed to the New Zealand genepool that was heavily skewed towards Meadow Skipper and his sons and grandsons.
One of the prime factors supporting our opinions was "position in a pedigree" with a lot ( and there were numerous ) of the grand-daughters of Meadow Skipper producing foals bred on a 4x4 reverse-sex cross to Meadow Skipper which proved an overwhelming success ( often to the point of lethal ) and featured in the pedigrees of most of In The Pocket's best sons and daughters led by the likes of Christian Cullen, Courage Under Fire and Under Cover Lover.
There may have been another factor at play here as well. Adios was well-gaited allowing for speed maximisation. Meadow Skipper on the other hand had imperfect gait and so the injection of Direct Scooter ( refined gait ) attributes via In The Pocket may have been far more breed shaping in New Zealand than it would have been in Australia.
This all appeared to make good sense but there is also a school of thought that Adios was in fact the catalyst that In The Pocket required to produce his best horses . With no Adios blood of his own, In the Pocket's two best performers in North America in Sanabelle Island and All I Ask both carry a double dose of Adios on their dam's side as do the three New Zealand performers we have identified above in Christian Cullen, Courage Under Fire and Under Cover Lover.
Gordon was also of the belief that Christian Cullen may have struggled as a sire on the grounds that he did not descend from a particularly strong maternal family and certainly not from a sire producing family up until that time, Tiger Jones and Julius Caesar following on but of no real consequence.
I guess there is always an anomaly to be found somewhere in any situation and when you are dealing with a freak the old adage " expect the unexpected" surfaces as Christian Cullen went on to become a dominant sire in New Zealand.
When Premier Pedigrees officially launched in 2001 and released extensive advertising into the Australian ( as well as New Zealand ) market to establish a new client base particularly through the excellent magazines Harness Racing International as well as Track Bred, little were we to know that in a very short time we would be inundated with breeding match requests from new Australian clients, many of whom were former Computabred clients.
Upon the passing of his treasured mother Elsie at the grand old age of 98 in 2001, and being an only child, Gordon and his loving and supporting wife Valerie, suddenly determined that there were other priorities in life and up-anchored to the central Northern Coast of New South Wales to go fishing and play lawn bowls.
Very few persons would know what happened to that great database that the couple developed, whether it is still in existence somewhere and still being privately maintained or whether it was left to simply expire but there has been no talk or evidence of it resurfacing in the two decades that have since elapsed.
Back in 1999 in a Datapace column for Harness Racing International, Gordon did make a comment, perhaps a little " tongue in cheek " and with thoughts of retirement obviously beckoning, that he may release a book "The Campbell Factors" in 22 years time.
Well, if that is the case and the thought has come to fruition, then Premier Pedigrees will be the first in the queue when it is set to go to print in 2021.
The Origins of Smoken Up
In the formative days of Premier Pedigrees back in 2001 ( also the year of 9/11 ) I recall taking a call from a hobby breeder by the name of Stan Dunlop who lived on the outskirts of Morrinsville.
Stan had a Camtastic mare by the name of Carnlough Bay and sought our advice as to a suitable stallion for her. He and his wife were going to breed her with their good friends the Monk's.
Stan told me, almost challengingly, that Carnlough Bay was from the "Grantham breed" tracing back through Dinnaken ( bred by the Corrigan's ) and what I vividly recall from Stan were the words "crossfire", "crossfired" and "crossfiring" throughout the conversation until they were absolutely ringing in my ears sufficiently so for me to be mentally ( not verbally ) replying "Direct Scooter", "Direct Scooter", "Direct Scooter" in response to Stan's pleas for a remedy.
This was at a time when Standardbred breeding was immersed to the point of saturation in the blood of Meadow Skipper but it also coincided with a new opportunity.
It also corresponded with the arrival of a new potential breed-shaper in the form of Direct Scooter bloodlines through several of his sons the likes of Deal Direct, Direct Flight, OK Bye and others.
But it was another son in In The Pocket who had begun revolutionising performance of the Standardbred on New Zealand racetracks through fast dominant and precocious horses such as Christian Cullen, Courage Under Fire, Tupelo Rose and Under Cover Lover.
Put a Meadow Skipper-line mare to In The Pocket and you just about had a licence to print money. And after all, Carnlough Bay was a Meadow Skipper-line mare.
Whilst this outcross blood was very welcomed to broaden the New Zealand Standardbred genepool from the almost total dependence on Meadow Skipper bloodlines, the real value at play here was the contribution that Direct Scooter made in enhancing the relatively moderate gait qualities inherent in a large majority of Meadow Skipper descended progeny.
Enhanced gait was Direct Scooter's trademark ( even if temperament wasn't ) and laid the platform for energy conservation and efficiency which in turn created the ability to sustain higher levels of speed over greater distances.
Evidence of this was certainly on show in plentiful abundance particularly with the top sons and daughters of In The Pocket.
When it came time to making a recommendation to Stan that he should breed Carnlough Bay to In The Pocket I was a little deflated when he thought he was a little expensive at his then Service Fee of $6000+gst. At that stage his progeny were in full flight and there were strong murmurings that his Service Fee was about to head North of this figure. In The Pocket was now proven and you knew what you were getting.
So it was back to the drawing board, but racking my brain it didn't take long to come up with an alternative.
I was hellbent on staying with a son of Direct Scooter and then I remembered.
I had been at Alexandra Park one day, not sure whether it was at a rare Sale Day they had there or if it was a race day/night and Michael House had a new stallion arrival in the barn on parade. His name was Tinted Cloud and he was a big 16.2 hands eye-catching son of Direct Scooter. Michael was displaying him proudly to prospective breeders and alike and I thought "what a grouse looking horse" and he was only going to be standing at $1500+gst.
I mentioned him to Stan and at that price I could feel Stan warming to him by the minute on the premise that he could counter a lot of the gait imperfections that his breed held.
So a breeding match was rubber-stamped and a booking made.
Little did either Stan or Premier Pedigrees know that together they were about to create another of Australasia's pacing greats.
As a non-Commercial foal, Smoken Up as he was to become known ( as named by the Dunlop's and the Monk's ) was bred as a racing commodity and placed in the care of trainer John Butcher at nearby Tamahere.
A 2002 foal, Smoken Up qualified locally at Cambridge on 24/8/2006 winning his trial in 2:51.5 at a mile rate of 2:05.4 so nothing out of the ordinary.
I saw Smoken Up run one evening at Cambridge in a low class event and was of the opinion that a small hitch was still evident in his gait.
This may have been an immaturity weakness which is often present in a young horse and later disappears as they develop but it was not enough to deter a vastly experienced Australian trainer/driver in Lance Justice to purchase him for a Group of his owners.
And it soon became evident with more racing and maturity that Smoken Up became more fluent in his gait.
Never in a thousand years could Stan or myself have believed that this horse of humble origins would go on to record 74 wins, 23 seconds and 11 thirds, earn $2,681,026 and acquire a personal best time of 1:48.5.
These figures could have been even better if he had not been disqualified from winning the Inter Dominion Grand Final in Auckland for a subsequent EPO breach.
I was there that night in Auckland as he flashed past the winning post in front of me some 3 lengths clear of some pretty reputable horses after easily doing the most work in the race. He left me just shaking my head in awe. What a heart this horse must also have had.
Smoken Up, you were one of the true ironhorses and one where we may have held a small but important part in his creation.
Tinted Cloud is testimony to the old adage that "every stallion is capable of leaving a good horse". The secret is presenting him with the right cocktail ( physical and genetic ) to allow it to happen.
For Tinted Cloud that horse was Smoken Up just as for Sharvid Adios it was Tyler Foulden whilst in the Thoroughbred world for Pag-Asa it was Bonecrusher and for Sharivari it was Shivaree.
There are many other examples in both codes and they will continue to occur sometimes planned but mostly by fluke.
Photos On The Wall - Jeff Wallace
If ever a client exemplified the cliche "Our success is your success" then long term Premier Pedigrees client Queensland breeder Jeff Wallace would stand at the top of the pedestal.
Back in 2012 a brief but much appreciated note came through on the Premier Pedigrees email stating something to the tune of "Ken, thanks to you we now have 18 photos on the wall".
This positive feedback came from one of our most loyal Australian clients in Brisbane breeder Jeff Wallace and his wife operating with a band of around half a dozen mares.
It never ceases to amaze us how one stallion can change a breeders fortune and the stallion in Jeff's case was Western Terror.
The vast majority of the 18 photos Jeff possessed at that stage were provided by two sons of Western Terror that Jeff had named Blazing Terror and One Eyed Terror.
Both turned out to be evergreen warhorses.
Blazing Terror became the veteran of 242 starts for 36 wins, $234,654 in earnings and with a time credit of 1:54.6 whilst One Eye Terror fashioned a similar record with 254 starts for 45 wins, $229,226 in the kitty and a personal best of 1:54.9.
Another stallion to create an affinity with the Wallace's breed was Mach Three.
Some of their success stories with this stallion included Mach Dreamy, 58 starts for 10 wins, $75,257, 1:58.0, Mac Sweet, 124 starts for 13 wins, $61,908, 2:01.3 and the talented but ill-fated mare How Will I Know, 70 starts for 18 wins, $195,159 and a 1:55.9 mile credit. It was a bitter disappointment losing this mare carrying her first foal as she had provided the Wallace's with a great thrill on the racetrack winning the Group 2 Qbred Triad Final 4YO Mares in 2014.
Four mares have largely contributed to what these days would be closer to 318 photos on the wall ( I don't know if Jeff has kept a record of his winning tally ) for the Wallace's who are "Breed To Race" breeders rather than "Yearling Sales" breeders therefore emphasis when breeding each season has always been to look at stallions that offer value for money and most importantly are also genetically compatible with their mares.
These four mares are Forgiven ( Perfect Art ), Sweet Shania ( Fake Left ), Impish Princess ( Fake Left ) and the latter's daughter Lets Rocknroll ( Rocknroll Hanover ).
Forgiven has left Blazing Terror and Mach Dreamy ( see details above ) as well as Just Rokin ( Rocknroll Hanover ) 114 starts for 19 wins, $109,348, 1:53.7, and has foal's yet to hit the racetrack by the likes of Captaintreacherous and Always B Miki.
To date Forgiven's progeny have won 77 races.
Sweet Shania has left One Eyed Terror and Mac Sweet ( again see details above ) as well as Girl With Fire ( Grinfromeartoear ) 68 starts for 14 wins, $94,355, 1:53.7.
To date Sweet Shania's progeny have won 90 races.
Impish Princess was an elite racemare brought back from North America for breeding with the ill-fated How Will I Know ( see her details above ) being her best racetrack performer to date ahead of the likes of Mista Natural ( Mister Big ) 9 wins and Rocknroll Annie ( Rock N Roll Heaven ) 10 wins.
Daughters still on the racetrack include Western Showgirl ( Western Terror ) 7 wins and Royal Princess ( Pet Rock ) whilst an un-named yearling filly by Sunshine Beach awaits in the wings.
To date Impish Princess's progeny have won 45 races.
Lets Rocknroll is the first foal from Impish Princess and only had one unplaced start before hitting the matron's paddock where she is now creating the beginnings of her own breeding legacy.
Her first foal Ima Rock Princess ( Shark Gesture ) won 1 race from 6 starts and is now being bred from but in her second foal Im Norma Jean ( Modern Art ) the Wallace's hit the jackpot fittingly providing them with Group 1 glory in the $100,000 2016 Qbred Triad Final for 2YO Fillies.
At last, the Wallace's had achieved a much deserved and treasured Group 1 winning photo on the wall and it came about through focussing on a mating that was endeavouring to exploit a Rasmussen Factor to a mare that oozed precocity in Wendymae Hanover.
It is immensely satisfying when a targeted mating plan comes to fruition for the right reasons given bloodlines are only one of the variables that contribute to winning performance at any level.
Im Norma Jean had 94 starts for 17 wins, $172,837 and a personal best mile credit of 1;52.8 so is well-credentialled as she heads into the breeding phase of her career..
Following on from Im Norma Jean, Lets Rocknroll had Corey William ( Mr Feelgood ) with another powerful genetic build behind him. To date Corey William has raced 89 times for 22 wins, $134,580 and a mile rating of 1:52.4.
Two years after the birth of Im Norma Jean came a full-sister in Miss Mia. As a now 5 year old to date her figures are 60 starts for 7 wins, a modest $38,691 in the bank and a personal best of 1:58.3.
From this outcome we become true believers in Mendel's Law Of Probability as it pertained to Genetic Variation where if you truly identify a superior pedigree mating then you should do it 4 times because of gene variation where in equine parlance one will be a superior performer ( Im Norma Jean ), two will be fair to modest performers ( we would put Miss Mia down as one of these ) and one a complete dud ( not being able to run fast enough to keep warm ). There already exists a lot of equine evidence to support this Law,
Ima Beach Babe ( Sunshine Beach ) and Joy Maker ( He's Watching ) have won 3 and 1 race respectively to date and are currently racing whilst Lets Rocknroll has had a Changeover filly this season.
To date Lets Rocknroll's progeny have won 51 races.
It will be the daughters and grand-daughters of these four mares that will continue the already amazing breeding legacy of Jeff Wallace and his wife and Premier Pedigrees thanks the Wallace's for being allowed to be part of the journey.
Two years after the birth of Im Norma Jean a colt was born further South of Queensland bred on the same genetic template i.e. by Modern Art out of a mare who was a great grand-daughter of Western Hanover...his racing name is Lochinvar Art and he just happens to be one of Australia's current elite modern day pacers.
Whilst we cannot lay any claim to the mating which produced Lochinvar Art we did have at least six genetic reasons why Lets Rocknroll should be mated with Modern Art and the rest is history as they say.....the creation of a Group 1 winner.
Jim Dalgety and Imagine That
Rene Descartes back in 1637 penned a famous phrase "Je pense, donc, je suis" ( I think, therefore, I am ) and one could be excused for thinking that he was applying this to legendary Canterbury horseman and standardbred pedigree authority Jim Dalgety.
A recent article written in the NZSBA Breeders' Weekly Update told us the story of Jim Dalgety and his wonderful racemare Imagine That ( Man Around Town - Happy Hazel ), winner of 15 races and $415,289.
From 2008 through to 2015 Jim had bred her to the best available stallions resulting in 5 live foals which included a colt by Mister Big and four fillies, one each by Falcon Seelster, Christian Cullen, Bettor's Delight and Art Major.
None of these foals was to meet with success on the racetrack.
In 2016 Jim had literally "given her away as a breeding proposition" and little was thought of her until one day noticed by a fellow standardbred breeder Keith Shadbolt in a paddock whilst passing by.
Being keen to breed from her, Keith took the advice of Jim to breed her to "trotting stallions" so adhered to that advice despite Imagine That holding what is predominantly pacing bloodlines, to a point where Keith is now the breeder of a colt by Andover Hall and a filly by Father Patrick from the mare.
So why would "a master" like Jim Dalgety recommend to Keith Shadbolt to breed her to trotting stallions other than the obvious that he had seen evidence of her trotting at some stage?
Perhaps only Jim can supply us with the real reason but I think I may know at least partial reason if not the full reason for this recommendation.
Back in 2008-9 I was working as a pedigree consultant at the thoroughbred stud Stoneybridge Farm in Karaka, having replaced Peter Jenkins who had moved on to Arrowfield Stud in the Hunter Valley, when I received a phone call from Jim Dalgety.
It was a phone call to "knock your socks off" from a man who regularly thought outside the square.
In brief, Jim was asking to breed Imagine That to the Stoneybridge thoroughbred stallion and former NZ Derby winner St Reims.
Why did he single out St Reims of all the thoroughbred stallions available in New Zealand?
Jim's fundamental concerns were that the Standardbred as a breed was quickly beginning to lose it's hybrid vigour. Whilst it was becoming faster, it was also becoming too refined and more frail, not standing up too long to the rigours of training and more regular racing with racing careers encompassing lesser starts than in decades gone by.
St Reims appealed to Jim to re-inject hybrid vigour, he had demonstrated stamina and as a son of Zabeel he offered scope as well as a more dense bone structure, all valid reasons to cross breed.
With the Standardbred becoming more refined particularly with the genepool beginning to narrow ( something which was to hasten in the future with the prepotent dominance of Bettor's Delight in the pacing ranks ) Jim saw a quick thoroughbred "bloodline infusion shock" as one way of reinstating hybrid vigour to his beloved standardbred breed.
Another option was to breed Imagine That to the more coarse or heavier boned trotting stallions although there wasn't the choice back then that there is now.
Having previously toured the great breeding farms of North America ( both Standardbred and Thoroughbred ) in the company of the likes of Patrick Hogan ( before his knighthood ) may have been another reason for singling out St Reims as Sir Patrick possessed a number of Breeding Rights to St Reims which could see nominations transferred in private deals at rates substantially below the Advertised Stud Fee of that stallion.
And Jim needed a Service Fee as cheap as possible as the resultant foal could not be registered with the governing body ( in this case Harness Racing New Zealand ).
He also needed to get a resultant filly foal from which to breed, any colt foal being a total write-off for that which he was trying to accomplish.
A filly foal could not be raced as a cross breed but she could be put to a standardbred stallion and have her foal registered for racing as a standardbred.
So a potentially costly path with inherent risks and patience required at the other end as this was a plan that was all going to take a little time.
Needless to say after talking with Jim we both agreed that his best course of action was to touch base with Sir Patrick Hogan and that is where we both left it.
I did not hear back from Jim or Sir Patrick and was certainly not aware of Imagine That being booked to St Reims in the time that I worked at Stoneybridge Farm so I can only assume the matter was not taken any further but I have often wondered what the outcome would have been if those ideas and events had come to fruition.
What we do know is that the alternative option did occur with Imagine That having been subsequently bred to trotting stallions in her most recent breedings and we will watch her progeny's performance with keen interest knowing that there was " a Master" at work in their creation.
A Classiebawn Legacy
Premier Pedigrees lost one of it's most loyal client's with the sudden passing of Mike Stratford during Covid lockdown in 2020.
A client for nearly two decades, Mike would ring me with a list of 10-20 mares each season to be pedigree-matched utilising his favoured Tesio linebreeding techniques.
A builder by trade morphing into a property developer in more recent times, no one experienced the tough periods such as the Global Financial Crisis 2007-9 or the Christchurch Earthquakes 2011-12 more than Mike.
Whilst these major events did not deter Mike from breeding during these times it did mean that he adjusted either by breeding less mares or by breeding more where he could obtain a package deal price from a Stud.
Often his requests would come with the qualifier, "here's my list of mares, which are the best four mares that go genetically with Stonebridge Regal, Gotta Go Cullen or Sir Lincoln" during these times.
During the good times in the building and property development sector Mike had no fear in going to the best stallion's, the likes of Bettor's Delight, Mach Thee, Christian Cullen or Art Major if we felt the mare warranted them.
It was indeed from one of these that "we" were to able to breed Mike's best horse. The mating of his Washington VC mare Suzy's Delight to Christian Cullen produced NZ Derby winner Locharburn.
So where did Mike's passion for breeding Standardbreds originate?
Back in my early punting days through High School and onto University of the mid to late '70's like many others I had favourite horses that I faithfully supported primarily because of their honesty ( they seemingly always gave you a good run for your money ) and secondarily because they nearly always returned a healthy dividend when in the money.
One of these was the bonny Canterbury pacing mare Classiebawn ( Scottish Hanover - Heathmount ) who registered 10 wins when racing against legends of the grit that included household names the ilk of Bad Luck, Trusty Scot, Roydon Scott, Lord Module, Palestine, Rondel, Sun Seeker, Rocky Tryax, Wee Win, Majestic Charger, In Or Out and Sapling to name a small cluster of her illustrious opponents.
As fate would have it, Classiebawn was raced by Mike's father and was to become the foundation mare for the naming of Mike's father's horse stud.
Many of the broodmares that Mike took over to breed from had Classiebawn appearing at some generational level in their maternal lineage.
Most also carried Scottish names such as Penscroft, Stronechrubie, Monaveen etc and it was perhaps no coincidence that even foundation mare Classiebawn was by none other than Scottish Hanover, of course.
This Scottish naming tradition was also ingrained in Mike and something he proudly sustained as part of the Classiebawn legacy. No better later example than Locharburn.
Whilst many of his breedings were simply in the name of M J Stratford, many others were in the name of his company, Cee Bee Holdings Ltd, the Cee Bee naturally an abbreviation for Classiebawn.
It was under the latter banner that he acquired the nice racemare Sagitta to breed from, a move which provided Mike with some of his proudest achievements as a Standardbred breeder.
From this daughter of Nero's BB, Mike was to breed some outstanding racetrack performers including Deimos ( a prolific winner in Australia ) and Smiling Star ( $106,878 ) and from Sagitta's daughter Lilsistar things got even better with the latter becoming the dam of Classiesistar ( $209,799 ) and Just Cala ( $247,547 ).
The sheer number of horses Mike has bred in the last two decades is phenomenal for a relatively small breeder and his success rate also staggering.
The Standardbred family in the years to come are going to miss the breeding endeavours of Michael J Stratford but for now we will still see M J Stratford printed in the racebook or on the Internet as the breeder of horses currently running around such as Cranbourne or Bundoran to quickly name a couple currently doing battle out on the racetracks of New Zealand.
So long Mike, Premier Pedigrees thanks you as an unsung breeding hero and Standardbred participant.
May you rest in peace.
She's Allthe Craze
It was an absolute privilege when owners the McCully's contacted Premier Pedigrees in the lead up to the 2011 breeding season to ascertain some stallion matches for their Group 1 winning NZ Harness Jewels 2YO Trotting Fillies Final mare Kylie Ree.
Being by Monarchy and from a mare that was predominantly pacing bred ( Nerokilo ) was going to be a challenge for even the most devout student of geneology.
Running though the test-matings for Kylie Ree with all the available trotting stallions to New Zealand breeders, it became clearly evident to us that the lightly patronised frozen semen stallion Crazed was her best genetic match.
Full credit must go to the McCully's for trusting our judgment with the resultant filly foal being named She's Allthe Craze who recorded her 8th victory on NZ Cup Day 2020, taking her earnings to $85,793 to date and meaning that she had doubled the number of wins recorded by her more illustrious Group 1 winning mother.
So why did we like the breeding match of Kylie Ree with Crazed?
The simple answer is for two prime reasons.
Firstly, the resultant foal would be bred on a 5x5 reverse-sex cross to Noble Victory.
This would ensure the foal would not only have a desirable breeding core but also be presented with a likely engine room.
Noble Victory was by a World Champion in Victory Song and also out of a World Champion in Emily's Pride. For us, he is an ancestor to be targeted where the opportunity avails.
Noble Victory also set or equalled 12 World Records in his 3YO season alone so is seen as a highly influential forebear.
Our second reason for recommending Crazed was that he equally contributed with Kylie Ree in offering filly factors to the resultant foal if indeed it turned out to be a filly. Luckily it did!
Filly factors are determined via (1) a son and a daughter of an influential mare combined with (2) two daughters of a male influence appearing relatively prominently in a pedigree.
In the case of Crazed's union with Kylie Ree we see linebreeding to the mare Important at 7x5 through her daughter Amalulu ( in Crazed ) and son Noble Gesture ( in Kylie Ree ) with both Amalulu and Noble Gesture being full-sister and brother ( full siblings ), both being by none other than Noble Victory.
Two daughters of a male influence relate to the 5x6 female only double of Bonefish that She's Allthe Craze possesses via Grassbed ( as found in the maternal pedigree of Crazed ) and Valley Victoria ( as found in the paternal pedigree of Kylie Ree ).
Perhaps not the kudos of a Group 1 winner like her mum but She's Allthe Craze does have the distinction of having put twice as many photos on the wall as her illustrious mother.
With a breeding career still beckoning, who knows what this durable mare may still have to offer.
Despite being predominantly pacing bred, Nerokilo raced 40 times only as a trotter for 6 winsand 9 minor placings.
It is a solemn belief of Premier Pedigrees that if a largely pacing bred mare prefers the trotting gait then she should be bred to trotting stallions rather than pacing stallions for best outcomes.
There are other examples out there that readily spring to mind such as Cyclone Vancewho have followed this path with great success.
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.