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.
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