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Apologies for the lack of updates, it’s been a busy few days. Without further ado, a quick rundown:

Rags to Riches: I hope we do see her next year; I doubt we will. One has to wonder whether she is truly delicate (as her half-brother, Jazil, seemed to be) or if she is simply under a microscope and the kid gloves do more harm than good — after all, hard exercise builds bone mass in growing horses, and her light schedule of late did not really lend itself to that.

The Green Monkey: Hey, he picked up a check! He’s a beautiful horse, I’m sure he’d make a lovely show prospect with a little operation.

Super Frolic: This is a real shame; he was a nice, solid horse who always tried; he only came back to the races after being retired to stud because he excited so little interest on the part of breeders. Speaking to the delicacy issue above, maybe they were onto something. But it’s too bad, nonetheless.

John Henry: It sounds as though the venerable old guy is doing better, but is still being closely monitored.

Now, on to the main event! Dan Liebman wrote a great commentary in The Blood-Horse on the breeding industry this week. An excerpt:

For baby boomers, 60 is the new 40; for airlines, 6 a.m. is the new 8 a.m.; and, according to a recent advertisement in The Blood-Horse, for the Thoroughbred industry, 6% stakes winners from foals is the new “gold standard.”


I don’t mind getting older, nor do I mind getting to the airport earlier. But I do mind the notion that 6% stakes winners is now the goal to shoot for when standing a Thoroughbred stallion.

Let me be the first to say that if it is true that 6% stakes winners from foals is what we expect the very best of our stallions to achieve, then this breeding industry has gone to hell in a handbasket.

Well said, sir. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was announced that Sheikh Hamdan will be limiting Invasor and Jazil to 85 mares:

Many farms encourage huge books for their young stallions because if the horses don’t get a grade I winner in their first crop, they are not considered commercially viable anymore. The increased numbers may lead to increased chances at that measure of success as well as generate immediate revenue through stud fees.

However, Nichols [Rick Nichols, Shadwell Farm general manager] said Sheikh Hamdan believes that if it takes 200 mares to produce a grade I winner for a sire, “then that horse is not good enough.”

Nichols and Sheikh Hamdan also are concerned that stallions that cover large numbers of mares may sire more weak offspring in general than those that do not. Furthermore, the trend toward huge books for some stallions means that others that may be worthy are not getting enough opportunities, a trend that eventually will lead to less diversity in the breed.

Speaking of overbooked stallions, it might also be noted that several shuttle stallions (Tale of the Cat, Johannesburg and Lion Heart) are winging their way back from quarantine in Australia so that they don’t miss out on the US breeding season. Fusaichi Pegasus, Dehere, Royal Academy, Elusive Quality, Encosta De Lago and Rock of Gibraltar remain behind. With Encosta De Lago still in lockdown, Makybe Diva has been bred to Fu Peg.

But what has their impact on the breed been? An Australian article in 2004 noted:

On average the service fee of shuttle horses was $15,500, 65 per cent higher than the locals at $9000. The average earnings per runner was $47,000 for the shuttlers, compared to $31,000 for the locally bred stallions.

The average earnings as a multiple of service fees was 3.05 for the shuttlers and 3.45 for the locals, so for every dollar invested the shuttlers gave only a 10 per cent better result. And that is against a background of the shuttle stallions getting much better opportunities.

Taking Danehill out of those figures the shuttlers’ average earnings were only $39,000, bringing the average earnings to stud fee ratio back to 2.62, or 30 per cent inferior to the locals.

The performances of Australian-bred horses such as Choisir and Silent Witness overseas last year has proved Australian-bred sprinters are up with the best in the world.

The recent EI outbreak has also led to calls for bans on shuttle stallions and regulations on how many mares a stallion can be bred to although the plea for artificial insemination seems short-sighted in a market that already breeds far more horses than it can cope with.

But at least the move by Shadwell to limit their stallions books is a step in the right direction; with the possibility of Storm Cat’s fee being reduced and his book being limited (which, given his age seems sensible — it was 111 at last check), it seems that some major players in the breeding game are starting to take a long view that high auction prices don’t magically improve the breed.

Let’s recall that these days, it’s likely that any two racehorses share nearly 47% of their genes and that a Cambridge University study indicated that nearly two thirds of all thoroughbreds are too fragile to race — when you can hear the banjos dueling in the background, you need to take a step back in considering your breeding practices. I’ve complained before that the larger picture has been rather ignored by breeders, and it’s nice to see someone stepping up to the plate — let’s hope others follow. A bit of longue durée would not go amiss…

5 comments to Updates

  • John

    Great post and the reference to dueling banjos made me laugh out loud !

  • josey

    Someone has not been looking at horse peddigres. To compare Jazil to Rags is rediculous. They only have one common relative – mom. Rags will come back as strong as all her anscesters did!

  • Anonymous

    Some should think more carefully before they criticize others’ point-of-view. I hardly think it is “ridiculous” to compare Jazil and Rags to Riches. It is the female bloodline that is most important, and, by the way, mom did not just appear by magic…there is a whole line of ancestors they share through her, so there is not “only one common relative.” As far as I know, there is only one dad too.

    That said, by all means, let’s hope that she does return to racing strong as ever. But, the reality of today’s bloodstock market being what it is, I wouldn’t hold my breath to see her on the track again.

  • Superfecta

    Josey, you may want to check your proof-reading and spellcheck! 🙂

    Note that I refer to Jazil and R2R as half-siblings (although certainly you don’t have to go back very far in either pedigree to find more common ancestors — they’ve both got Nasrullah kicking around on the sire end of things), and her sire only made 8 lifetime starts.

    Line breeding has its uses, but it can certainly be overdone. I truly hope she comes back, but I am also doubtful. I do hope I’m wrong!

  • the chalk

    1. Hilarious comment (“little operation”) about The Green Donkey I mean monkey 😉

    2. In your defense, female bloodlines and the R2R, is one of THE MOST important comparison points to be used. Josey please take note…

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