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US Thoroughbred Sales
US Thoroughbred Sales

US Thoroughbred Sales

(Photo : Keeneland)


JOCELYN DE MOUBRAY - The decline in the quality of Thoroughbreds bred in the United States has been greatly exaggerated. The U.S. bloodstock industry has declined in many ways since the boom years, which ran from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s, but there is no obvious reason to believe that American breeders are producing inferior horses today.

On the other hand, it is not all that surprising that so many European bloodstock professionals are convinced that U.S. breds today are inferior to those of the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1980s the progeny of U.S.-based sires were the dominant force in European racing. In 1988, according to The Racing Post’s figures, 50% of all the 3-year-olds rated higher than 110 in Europe were by American sires, by 2001 this figure had fallen to 20% and in 2011 to 10%. This year has been a good one for U.S. breds in Europe and the figure for 2012 3-year-olds was about 14% at the end of July. However, it is easy to see why people have jumped from this evidence to the conclusion that, thanks to medication rules, the racing programme, errors of selection or whatever is their chosen culprit, the quality of U.S. breds has declined dramatically.

The evidence is there, if you look at the results of the major races in England or France during the 1980s around half of all the winners were U.S. breds, but it can be looked at in a different way. First, the distribution of the world’s Thoroughbred population has shifted during the same time period. Throughout the 1980s the U.S. foal crop averaged 46,000 and for three years, from 1985 to 1987, it was over 50,000. This means that during the 1980s, the number of foals born in North America was more than double those born in the major European breeding countries of Ireland, England, France, Germany and Italy. From 1952 to 1986, the U.S. foal crop rose every year bar one, climbing from about 9,000 to 52,000, since there have been two major declines and a slight recovery. From 1986 the foal crop dropped 32% over 10 years to 1995, there was a slight recovery of 10% over the next decade, and then, since 2005, the foal crop has plunged again, falling by nearly 40% to the projected figure for this year of 24,000, which by an accident of statistics is exactly the same as in 1971, more or less the beginning of the great bloodstock boom.

At the time when U.S. breds were dominating European racing there were overall twice as many of them as there were European breds, by 2005 the number of European breds had risen to 80% of the U.S. total, and although there has been a decline in Europe in recent years, it has not been of the same magnitude as in the U.S. and so this year’s crop will be around 90% of the U.S. total.

It could be that U.S. breds are every bit as competitive as they were in the 1980s, there are just many fewer of them and many fewer are sent to race in Europe. The number of U.S. breds exported to Europe has fallen by 40% since 2001 and, although exact figures are hard to come by, it is a fair guess that, of the 2-year-olds going into training in the major European racing countries in 2014, fewer than 10% will be U.S. breds.

The great bloodstock boom is long enough ago for even those who were there to experience it to have forgotten quite how crazy and extreme it was. The U.S. bloodstock boom should be in economic text books alongside the tulip mania of Holland in the mid-17th century. For seven years from 1976, the average price at the Keeneland July Yearling Sale rose by at least 24% every year, and twice in 1978 and 1984 by more than 40%. During this time, the format of what was of course the best yearling sale in the U.S. remained the same with between 300 and 350 yearling sold every year. The average rose from $54,000 in 1975 to $540,000 in 1985. This was a period of high inflation, but for those looking for an inflation proof investment there was at the time nothing better than bloodstock, even in real terms the average rose by more than 400%. To put these figures in their proper perspective, you only have to put them into today’s money. In 2011 dollars, the average price at Keeneland’s July Sale went from $220,000 in 1975 to $1.2 million in 1984. In 1984, Keeneland was able to sell 323 yearlings at an average price the equivalent to $1.2 million in today’s money, and the 165 colts at the sale averaged $1.4 million.

This was a pure speculative boom and had nothing whatsoever to do with any individual stallion who happened to be in Kentucky, or even in Canada, at the time. For those in place with the horses to sell, it must have seemed as if it was raining $100 bills. For a time the major Kentucky studs had so much money they could buy any potential stallion in Europe, or elsewhere if they felt like it, just for fun, or to fill in a quiet afternoon. There was a stampede to join in the fun and the U.S. foal crop doubled during the boom years, while of course stallion fees soared to seven figure sums.

It couldn’t possibly have gone on and the fall was steep with the average price of the 8,000 yearlings offered annually in the U.S. losing half its value between the peak of 1985 and 1992. The Keeneland July Sale limped on to 2002, but by 1992 there were only 183 sold at the sale for an average of $400,000 in today’s money. In many ways this boom was so extreme that the U.S. bloodstock industry has been unbalanced ever since and may only now, some 25 years later, be finding a new equilibrium, which may well turn out to be far closer to what the business looked like in the early 1970s, to what it became during subsequent decades. From 1988 to 2011, the U.S. foal crop declined by 45% and the number of races run in the U.S. fell by 36%. From 1991 to 2011, the number of active Kentucky-based stallions halved from 500 to 250. There was a tentative recovery at the end of the 1990s, but of course, recent events have seen the foal crop fall again sharply from 2008.

These statistics will not convince those who wish to argue about medication, racing programs or selection. There is always a tendency to blame unsoundness on something specific, when in fact it is, on average, one of the characteristics of all Thoroughbreds whether they are by Galileo, Dansili, Distorted Humor, Deep Impact or any other stallion anywhere else in the world. When it comes to stallions, bloodstock people tend to be conservative and stick to what they know or see before their eyes, when it often turns out that if they tried something else it might work just as well if not better. For a long time U.S. breds were seen to be inherently superior, which they weren’t, and today they are seen by many to be inherently inferior, which is in all probability an equally misplaced conclusion.

U.S. racing and breeding present a great opportunity. The most positive figures, particularly for those looking from England or Ireland, are those concerning prizemoney. Since 1988, the average prizemoney per race in the U.S. is up by 29% in real terms. And then horses like Elusive Kate, Aesop’s Fables, Main Sequence, Princess Highway and Reckless Abandon have shown that there are still plenty of U.S. bred or sired horses capable of competing with the best in Europe.

Extract from The Racing Post




Howe Great wins Palm Beach Stakes
Howe Great wins Palm Beach Stakes

Howe Great wins Palm Beach Stakes (Gr3)

(Photo : Dana Wimpfheimer/EquiSport)

“Howe Great books his ticket to Kentucky”

Time was, when America’s greatest horse race, the Kentucky Derby (Gr.1), was the preserve of the big owner-breeders, the Colonel Bradleys and his Idle Hour Stock Farm, the Wrights of Calumet, the Hancocks at Claiborne and the Phipps dynasty. Occasionally, you’d find the winner in the odd out-of-state homebred from Tartan Farms, the Genters, or Louis Woolfson’sHarbour View Farm, which turned out the last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed in 1978. From the Wild West, cowboy Rex Elsworth gave America a Derby hero in Swaps. The world has changed though, and commercial imperatives rule these days, to the degree that few of these large operations continue to exist. Just about everyone needs to sell their produce, to remain viable.

For the first time in many, last year, the most successful racing partnership in the world, Team Valor, realigned the stars for a moment, when their home-bred Animal Kingdom scooted home in the “Run for the Roses. Theirs is a thoroughly commercial operation, which survives (and thrives) on the guile, the intuitions and the strategic nose of a man called Barry Irwin. Team Valor keep its mares and their stallion, Visionaire at Summerhill, and we’ve got to know them pretty well, to the point that this year they’re sponsoring a student at our School of Management Excellence. You’d have to peddle a long road to find a team more infected by the bug of our sport and they know the form in South Africa as well as our smartest students. Technology has enabled these guys to tune into everything that happens here, so it’s little wonder, with the energy of the man that holds it all together, that they’ve plundered so many big races in this country, and taken our home-breds to glory abroad.

Breeding with South African mares is a relatively new phenomenon for them, yet 2010 witnessed the production of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile ace, Pluck, born of Fort Wood’s daughter Secret Heart, (whose mother Secret Pact, we sold for a then-record R750,000 in 1998). You see, it’s a fundamental aspect of the DNA of Team Valor to be adventurous, to by-pass caution and to plunge into the realm of what to Americans, is relatively untried. Animal Kingdom himself was a product of a mating between a German-bred mare (ironically, with links to South Africa’s Maine Chance Farms,) and a Brazilian-bred stallion.

On Sunday, Team Valor’s pioneering spirit was evident again in the outcome to the Palm Beach Stakes (Gr.3) at Gulfstream, where Howe Great booked his ticket for Kentucky. With four wins and a second from five starts, the son of the Japanese stallion Hat Trick (by Sunday Silence) out of a South African mare by Western Winter, brought the unlikely into the realm of possibility when sidelining the highly rated Dullahan. Both are now headed for Keeneland’s Bluegrass Stakes (Gr.1), on their way to America’s biggest day.

So you see, at Team Valor, “double-dip” means something altogether different from the speak of economists.

Editor : Howe Great joins unbeaten European Champion Juvenile of last season, Dabirsim among a legion of highly rated youngsters from the first crop of Sunday Silence’s excellent son, Hat Trick, now resident at the Beck family’sGainesway Farm.




mick and cheryl goss with graham beck and laurie jaffee in dubai
mick and cheryl goss with graham beck and laurie jaffee in dubai

Mick and Cheryl Goss with Graham Beck and Laurie Jaffee in Dubai

(Photo : Summerhill Archives)


1929 - 2010

mick goss
mick goss

Mick Goss

Summerhill StudThe word “legend” is a much abused word in racing, or anywhere else for that matter. But in Graham Beck, here was the real life embodiment of the coinage.

What else can one say about a man whose passing has made all of the national news headlines, that hasn’t already been said. Descriptions that race to mind are “bigger than life”; overt generosity; an infectious, guttural sense of humour; a streetwiseness of uncanny proportions, and an enormous capacity for making others feel warm, wanted and, critically, worthy.

South African racing in general and the Jewry of Johannesburg in particular were once blessed with the “Three Musketeers”, Graham Beck, Cyril Hurwitz and Laurie Jaffee, now all passed on, and presumably, in the Elysian Fields. We say “presumably”, because they could at times be wickedly naughty, all three of them, and we’re not quite sure what the test is for entry to this apparent paradise. What we do know though, is that whatever the verdict on the first to go, (Cyril), it would’ve been the same for the other two, so the one assurance we do have is that they’re now together, and they’re probably looking down on us wondering whether we’ll see their like again. For my money, that’s c’est non possible. And you’d have to ask yourself, whether the makers of J&B have a factory big enough up there.

How do we place this man into perspective? In racing terms, he was a colossus, one of the greatest and most benevolent owners the game has ever known. Three things stand out for me in particular, not that they were necessarily, by any stretch, momentous in his life. The first involved the purchase of my first filly off the track from Graham, in a private transaction in his office. Given his stature and my own relative insignificance at 27, he couldn’t have been more accommodating, in what could’ve been frighteningly intimidating.

The second involved his purchase of Gainesway Farm. I happened to be representing the TBA on a trip to Kentucky, when I attended the Breeders Cup meeting. Just the day before, I made the acquaintance of a fellow solicitor, a Mr. Bishop who was counsel to one of the two greatest stallion stations in the world, Claiborne Farm; the grapevine, he said, was that a South African had purchased Gainesway, the other of the two great stallion stations. This was astounding news given that it was 1989, and that no South African had ever made such a splash in the bloodstock world.

The following day, Graham asked me to join him at his table at the Breeders Cup itself, there beside us was the founder, John Gaines himself, as cultured and intelligent a man as I’ve had the pleasure to know in racing. In that instant, Graham Beck had acquired the gigantic likes of Lyphard, Blushing Groom, Riverman, Vaguely Noble, Irish River etc, some of the noblest names of all thoroughbred breeding, and South Africa had “arrived”.

Henceforth, and for some time, Graham Beck would be Kentucky’s most favoured dinner guest, and his legacy at Gainesway today is one of the most beautiful farms on the planet. As a farmer myself, I should use this moment to applaud his stewardship of the land. That is his, and his lovely lady, Rhona’s signature, wherever they have invested.

The third instant reflected his own international standing in the thoroughbred world. I was in Dubai for the inaugural World Cup, and I received a distressed message from Graham’s office in Johannesburg, enquiring whether I could intervene in getting his private aircraft which was already in flight into Dubai. His sin was that he was Jewish himself, and that his aircraft had been to Israel on its journey to Dubai. Given the difficulties Israel and its Middle Eastern neighbours have experienced over the decades, aircraft emanating from there were not always welcome.

There was no one bigger in the thoroughbred world at that time than Sheikh Mohammed, and there was no-one more capable of influencing events in the Middle East than him. Within an hour, the big plane was not only welcome, but Sheikh Mohammed attended personally at the airport to fetch Graham.

In every material respect, Graham Beck was an enormous man, big in personality, big in generosity, massive in his contributions to our game, and in the lives he touched. At Summerhill, his Highlands Farm was our biggest competitor, and no-one competed “better” than he did.

Rest in peace, old pal. Your life has been hectic, and you deserve it.



rachel alexandra
rachel alexandra

Rachel Alexandra

(Photo : Brock Talk / NY Daily News)


One day after finishing second in her seasonal return in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes at the Fair Grounds, Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d’Oro) was officially confirmed out of the Gr1 Apple Blossom Handicap, which will be contested on 9 April. Her owner Jess Jackson confirmed yesterday that, although the defending Horse of the Year exited the New Orleans Ladies healthy, the four-year-old would not be shipped to Oaklawn Park for a match-up with champion Zenyatta (Street Cry).

“Saturday’s race, while a disappointment, helped us define Rachel Alexandra’s racing condition,” explained Jess Jackson. “While she is healthy, just as I had anticipated, she is not in top form. Therefore, I decided on Sunday that she will not be going to the Apple Blossom on April 9. Steve Asmussen and I discussed this fully and we now regret we tried to accelerate her training in order to meet the Apple Blossom schedule. We have a whole season before us to help define her greatness. She will tell us when her next race will be.”

Responding to Rachel Alexandra’s defection, Zenyatta’s owner Jerry Moss said, “We’re disappointed that we’re not going to be able to face each other in the Apple Blossom. Hopefully, we can meet down the line. We respect both Steve and Mr. Jackson as horsemen, and they’re going to do what’s right for their horse. That’s all anybody could ask for. We’ll go on to the Apple Blossom as planned.”

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News


zenyatta santa margarita invitational video
zenyatta santa margarita invitational video
rachel alexandra new orleans ladies stakes video
rachel alexandra new orleans ladies stakes video

Click above to watch

(left) Zenyatta in the Santa Margarita Handicap (Photo : Examiner)

(right) Rachel Alexandra in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes (Photo : TB Times)

(Footage : YouTube)


The unbeaten Zenyatta (Street Cry) strode to her 15th career victory in the Santa Margarita Handicap (Gr1) at Santa Anita on Saturday and in doing so added more hype to her intended match race with Rachel Alexandra in the US$5 million Apple Blossom Invitational on 9 April - a race in which Zenyatta is a finalised starter. The headline story was the defeat of Rachel Alexandra in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes.

It was a bit more eventful than perhaps it had been scripted: Zenyatta was still last as they headed into the stretch, and jockey Mike Smith opted to take the shorter route to the wire. He had to steady briefly and, for a moment, it seemed that the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner was in a spot of trouble. But she angled inside to pass one rival, eased up on the outside of pacesetter Dance to My Tune (Stravinsky), and was on her way to yet another earspricked victory.

“I cut some corners and gambled a bit, but I was confident at all times that if she needed to make room, she could,” jockey Mike Smith said. “She’s a bit of a bully.”

“Everybody really loves her,” owner Jerry Moss said. “Everybody’s so pleased to have her back and to root for her, and when she wins, she makes everybody happy. She’s perfect. She’s the idol of perfection we all strive for. That’s about as profound as I get.”

Meanwhile, the defeat in New Orleans for the Horse of the Year put in some doubt Rachel Alexandra’s participation in the April 9 Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn Park. Trainer Steve Asmussen said shortly after the Ladies. “If I thought she’d get beat I wouldn’t have run her today”. “We’ll have to be cautious. We want to do what’s right for the mare.”

“She needed the race, that’s all,” said JockeyCalvin Borel. “She needed the race more than anything.” That assessment was echoed by Steve Asmussen, who blamed himself for Rachel Alexandra’s defeat.

“The filly’s lacking fitness,” he said. “It was my job to have her there, and I didn’t do it.”

Extract from ANZ Bloodstock News


graham beck
graham beck

J&B MET 2010


For a man who had little in the way of a “horsey” background, Graham Beck has had a remarkable association with great horses. He was telling me on Saturday that he kicked off with a R42 000 buy in Big Swinger (a multiple Graded Stakes winner), but it’s mainly for his stallions that this el padrino of our game will always be remembered. Persian Wonder, Elevation, Harry Hotspur, Jungle Cove, Lords, Badgerland, National AssemblyandJalladrush to the mind in local parlance alone, and while these include several South African Champion sires, we mustn’t forget, this is a man who’s been associated with some of the greatest stallions in history.

His acquisition of the famed Gainesway Farm in the United States from the founding father of the Breeders Cup, John Gaines, included at the time some of racing’s greatest names, Blushing Groom, Vaguely Noble, Riverman, andLyphard and through modern day associations, extends to Unbridledand the current “big hiters”, Tapitand Birdstone.

It must be ten years or more since we saw Graham’s son Antony at the races in South Africa. Now the master of Gainesway himself, his respect extends throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and he sits on both the Breeders Cup and Keeneland Association boards. As the owner of one of the most beautiful stud properties in the world, it was reassuring from a Summerhill perspective to have Antony remind us again, that most of what he knows, he learnt from Summerhill, and that this farm, for its systems and practices, could hold its own with the best in America. Pity he doesn’t come home more often.


katsumi yoshida and point ashley
katsumi yoshida and point ashley

Katsumi Yoshida and Point Ashley

(Photo : Anne M Eberhardt/MCDeesh/Arrowfield/Keeneland)



There are countless stories throughout economic history of successful entrepreneurs who struck up the band in troubled times. What, you may ask, possesses people to so much as attempt to kick off a fledgling business in adverse circumstances? But look at those businesses, and as often as not, you’ll find a common thread; most times, they’ve swum against the tide.

South Africans may not have realised it to the degree the rest of the world has, but bloodstock markets, particularly that in North America face some of the biggest challenges in their histories, and finding investors is about as rare as rocking horse “bog”.

One man whose name is etched deep in the annuals of Japanese breeding success, is Katsumi Yoshida, founder and current proprietor of Northern Farm. Our link to Northern Farm came this year, courtesy of Admire Main, the horse with the princely connections.

Sales watchers who’ve been following the major international breeding stock sales of 2009/10, will tell you there’s been one outstanding (and intrepid) investor putting his hand up at just about every leading American auction. The same Katsumi Yoshida last week added a brace of outstanding mares to his farms portfolio, including the $1 million acquisition of the celebrated mare, Point Ashley (Point GivenGolden Thatch, by Slew o’ Gold), Dance The Classics (Sadler’s Wells - Head In The Clouds) and Ginger Punch (Awesome Again - Nappelon).

One thing you have to say for Mr Yoshida, is that when everyone else seems to be in retreat, he knows its time to invest.


bill oppenheim and northern dancer
bill oppenheim and northern dancer


“Extract from the desk of Bill Oppenheim”

Some things have changed an awful lot in the last 20 years in this business, and in this week’s column I’d like to talk about a few of them: what has changed, why have they changed, and how the business has responded, and is responding, to these changes. Of course, some things haven’t changed much, and we’ll talk about one or two of those, too.

Those of us who were working in the business in the 1980’s have to remember that anybody born in 1970 or later - that’s 40 years old this year and younger - didn’t live through the first Golden Age of the Thoroughbred sales, nor the crash of 1986-1992. It isn’t important that they didn’t know about the ups and downs of the marketplace and business until about the middle of 2007. No, what it means is our business’ thirtysomethings have never seen a time when North American racing was dominated by the big stables of owner-breeders (unlike those of us from previous generations), nor were they around when the Europeans and Japanese bought hundreds of well-bred mares in Kentucky, decimating the North American broodmare band.

For today’s thirtysomethings, the North American breeding market has always been a commercial one, especially given the doubling of stallions’ book sizes and, to some extent, dual-hemisphere shuttling. When they hear our generation talk about “great families,” they must scratch their heads and wonder why these families - if they are so great - have been producing so few top horses for the last 20 years. The two things just about have to be connected, it seems to me: few owner/breeders in North America, fewer still new “great families.”

Things have changed a lot in Europe, too. From having a handful of the best stallions in North America and Europe, they now have half of the top 20 available. Plus, there are a number of large, active owner/breeders with broodmare bands in the hundreds: the Maktoum family, of course, including Darley, Shadwell and Rabbah (surely well over a thousand mares among them); Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms; the Aga Khan; and even Coolmore, though they are half commercial breeders, too, since their primary objective is to stock Ballydoyle and associates with maybe a hundred two-year-olds a year, including what they buy at the sales. Breeders love to buy at the annual culls, from the Aga Khan’s and Juddmonte operations in particular.

Still, even though these big operations have broodmare bands in the hundreds, it seems to me these days it’s not so much a case of there being one or more families in particular that turn out class horses as if from a gusher. Rather, it’s more a matter of them having so many class mares, they produce a certain number of top horses. Breeders tend to buy because it’s “an” Aga Khan family, or “a” Juddmonte family, rather than a particular family or families, which is more what we used to talk about - the Rough Shod family, the La Troienne family, and so on.

What Yearling Buyers Want…

During the first Golden Age of the Thoroughbred marketplace (1978-1985), yearling buyers would roughly weigh three factors of relatively equal importance: the sire, the dam’s side, and the yearling’s conformation. It wasn’t so much that they were weighted equally, but that any of the three factors could be a reason for throwing the horse out. Then came the crash of 1986-1992, when many top pedigrees went into private hands or were exported to Japan.

Coupled with the decline in owner/breeders in North America (which was then producing twice as many foals as Great Britain, Ireland and France combined), by the time we arrived at the Second Golden Age (1998-2007), the nature of one of the three factors had changed: there were fewer truly good first dams in yearling pedigrees. Over the last decade, buyers increasingly concentrated on the sire and conformation. Whereas previously the ratio of factors for “inclusion,” let us say, were 33-33-33, now they would be more like 40-20-40, the reduction coming in the importance of the first dam to yearling buyers relative to the other two factors. Yearling buyers, as a collective group, have made this abundantly clear over the past few years.

At the same time, within the context of its reduced influence, the pecking order on “the dam’s side of the page” also changed. A study carried out by Gary Hadden found that 29 percent of the dams of about 3,000 graded/group stakes winners in 1998-2003 were themselves black-type winners. When we compared those to the profile of racing fillies sired by two top broodmare sires of recent years, Alydar and Affirmed, we found that about 12 percent of their fillies were black-type winners. We have seen independent research which comes up with a similar 12-percent figure. So, the fact that as high as 29 percent of the dams of graded winners were themselves black-type winners looks pretty significant.

What does this all mean in English? It means, if you’re a commercial breeder contemplating buying a mare, your best bet is to buy a black-type winner. It doesn’t mean she should only be a black type winner; breeding history is replete with outfits that banked solely on black type to the exclusion of other pedigree considerations, such as the mare’s sire and the mare’s actual female family. But the research does tell us that black-type mares (black-type placed, too, though not as strongly as black type winners) have moved up the value scale, and non-black-type mares, no matter how good their pedigrees, have moved down the scale. A non-black-type mare is not worth as much as a producer of commercial yearlings as she used to be. So whether it’s actually a good idea, financially, to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on mares who could not get black type must be more open to question now than was the case 20 years ago. This may appear to be less the case in Europe than in North America because of these other factors we’ve mentioned, but I’m not entirely sure that’s the case, either.

What Euros Want…

Another huge difference between the Thoroughbred market in the 1980’s and the market now is the level of participation by European buyers in the North American (essentially, Kentucky) market.

Though they still constitute a significant portion of especially the upper reaches of the North American market, there is a powerful layer of European buyers below the Maktoums and Coolmore who are not active in North America, whereas 20 or 30 years ago half of them would have mares in Kentucky and be breeding to Kentucky stallions.

Part of the explanation, of course, is that the ratio of top 20 stallions went from something like 80-20 in favor of Kentucky to 50-50. European breeders now have much a much better group stallions to breed to - certainly just as good as the group in Kentucky - for European racing. But there’s something else, too, and it’s something really fundamental to the value of horses in the marketplace: Europeans do not understand North American black type below the graded level and, as a consequence, they do not have the confidence to invest in American black type like they used to.

I don’t think it is possible to underestimate the true influence of black type. It was the invention of black type in the 1950’s that resulted in the creation of a scale of value in pedigrees which - refined by the introduction of the Pattern of Graded and Group Races in 1972 - provided the very framework for the growth of the auction sales. These peaked at over $1.8 billion annually in North America and Europe in 2006-2007. I’m not saying it wouldn’t exist; I’m saying the creation of black type provides the framework from which specific scales of value can evolve.

The Europeans are right to be confused, because as it has evolved, there is a huge anomaly in the qualification for black type in favor of North America. To put it in a nutshell, there are three kinds of black type: graded (in North America) or group (in Europe) - Pattern Races; then there are listed races; finally, non-listed black type races. The shocking truth is this: in the major European countries - Great Britain, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy - there are no black type races below listed standard, according to the International Cataloguing Standards booklet issued by the IFHA (International Federation of Horseracing Authorities) for the year 2008. In North America in 2008, there were 1,890 black-type races, and 1,148 of them, or 61 percent, were non-listed, black-type races - in other words, below listed class.

It’s no wonder Europeans can’t make head nor tail of American catalogues, and therefore lack the confidence to buy. Percentage of black-type races below listed class in Europe: zero; percentage of black-type races below listed standard in North America: 61 percent. In a racing population in Europe, if the top tier was 39 percent black-type, the tier below (which in North America is 61 percent of black-type horses) would be high-level handicappers, say horses with Official Ratings in Britain and Ireland of 100, maybe even 95. Europeans don’t consider these black-type horses because they’re below listed standard. But in America, about 1.5 times the number of horses which are listed standard and above are still black-type horses.

There is a devastatingly simple solution: instead of calling them listed races, change the name: call them Grade 4 in North America, and Group 4 in Europe. By adding the G4 option, we would all understand it much better. Europeans could simply see if black-type listings in a pedigree included any “G” designations; that would restore their confidence in the system. The Americans could continue to assign black type as they have, confident both that Europeans would understand North American black type much better, and that they themselves would, too. Of course, it would require a change, from Listed to Grade/Group 4, but all you’re doing is renaming a classification to make it more understandable for everyone.

One other matter cited by Europeans concerning their reluctance to buy in the U.S. is “the medication issue.” At least some European professionals harbor the view that racing on medication by definition signals a weakness in the breed, and therefore they are very wary of breeding to horses that have raced on medication. Since something like 99 percent of American horses now race on Lasix, it becomes a kind of “reducto ad absurdum” - an absurd argument - to ignore American breeding, which they already find confusing. But I would like to say this is a point of view which seems to me to have absolutely no evidence to support it.

For example, the following horses all raced on Lasix: Medaglia d’Oro (sire of two Group 1 two-year-olds in Europe last year); Elusive Quality (sire of Raven’s Pass and Elusive Pimpernel); Distorted Humor; Street Cry; Tale of the Cat; Lemon Drop Kid; and so on. There is one very good reason, even now, why Europeans should still be looking to the U.S. for horses to race in Europe: the success rate is high. America produces twice as many horses every year as the three top European countries combined, and a good many of them can run. The fact their parents raced on medication hasn’t changed things at all, as far as I can see; availability of sires and the pedigree issues I’ve discussed; might have. But the medication knock: can’t buy it. Not proven.

What Euros Got: Inbreeding to Northern Dancer…

This is an issue that seems to still be keeping bloggers, other pedigree buffs and professionals occupied: is there too much inbreeding generally, and is there too much inbreeding to Northern Dancer in particular? Brianne and I will be doing some further research on this in the next few weeks, when the new APEX numbers come out to include all 2009 racing, but in the meantime, I’ve been doing some work on the matter with a database of some 12,000 A Runners foaled 1996-2005, through racing of 2008.

These are very definitely limited measurements. We are measuring only within this population of 12,000, not taking into account what is called “opportunity in the general population.” This is a big thing with a lot of people now, how things ought to be measured against opportunity in the general population. I used to think it would be better if I could do that, but I don’t think so any more. As far as I’m concerned, the “general population” consists of 98 percent of horses that are not “A Runners” (top two percent earners), and two percent which are. I’m not sure I even believe it’s meaningful to compare one population to another essentially 50 times its size.

The other limitation on the information I analyzed is that the “inbreeding” is only “sire on damsire,” or what has also been called “first cross” data. Though this is the most frequently occurring form of inbreeding, there are many other combinations, especially involving the sire’s damsire and the second dam’s sire. I can’t count those - that’s a limitation of the system.

Even given those limitations, what I can count yields what seem to be to be impressive results. The incidence of “Northern Dancer over Northern Dancer” as a percentage of all Northern Dancer-line sired A Runners, by year foaled, 1996-2005, has increased from 13.2 percent among 380 Northern Dancer-line sired A Runners foaled in 1996 to 22.4 percent of the 566 Northern Dancer-line sired A Runners foaled in 2004, and 22.7 percent of the 409 Northern Dancer-line sired A Runners of 2005 (including just three-year-olds by the end of 2008, so the number of 2005-foaled A Runners will have increased significantly by the end of 2009). The percentage of “Northern Dancer over Northern Dancer” A Runners as a percentage of the entire population of A Runners foaled that year has increased from 4.3 percent (50) of the 1,151 A Runners foaled in 1996 to 9.3 percent (127) of the 1,371 A Runners foaled in 2004, and 9.6 percent (93) of the 967 A Runners (through the end of 2008) foaled in 2005.

Those trend lines tell us one thing: Whatever the theories, it is working. Is “Northern Dancer over Northern Dancer” nine or 10 percent of the whole population? I don’t know, and I don’t think I care. What I can see for sure is that, as a percentage of the annual population of new A Runners, the percentage has more than doubled in the last 10 years. How much faster could it possibly be expected to accelerate?

My conclusion: We shouldn’t even be discussing “Northern Dancer over Northern Dancer” any more, except as a sort of umbrella designation, like “Native Dancer” or “Nasrullah” are now used. Northern Dancer is so successful, so powerful, that it really has branched off into nine separate sire lines (in my classifications, one of those lines is actually “Nearctic other than Northern Dancer,” such as Explodent, Icecapade, and Wild Again. Even though it’s historically incorrect, because Nearctic was also Northern Dancer’s sire, that’s the way I classify it). Of the nine, Danzig, Sadler’s Wells, and Storm Cat/Storm Bird are the most active; Nureyev and Deputy Minister/Vice Regent may or may not survive as active sire lines. Nijinsky, Lyphard, Nearctic, and miscellaneous Northern Dancer (includes the likes of The Minstrel and, more recently, Dixieland Band) are very unlikely to survive as sire lines. In any case, it’s time to stop talking about Northern Dancer over Northern Dancer and start talking about, for example, Danzig over Sadler’s Wells - a cross that didn’t even exist in 1996, but had 39 A Runners through the end of 2008, including 11 foaled in 2004. The “cross index,” at that point, came out at 2.39, when 1.00 is average.

Well, I could keep going: the myth that a horse has to be a Grade/Group 1 winner to “really” count for something (Grade/Group 2 winners: Distorted Humor, Pulpit, Dansili); and what really hasn’t changed: prizemoney. The Irish figured out a couple of years ago that prizemoney could be funded by a two percent commission, ring-fenced for that purpose, on all bets, regardless of who placed them; how they were placed (what platform); and where. The endemic problem in this industry is still that the buzz is at the sales, not the racetrack: the tail is still wagging the dog. Ultimately, the industry can only grow by attracting new owners, and an obvious way to attract new owners is to improve prizemoney to the point where owners have a fighting chance, instead of having to accept a desultory return. But that’s another subject. In the meantime, I persist in believing the best strategy for success, or at least the best shot at success, in this business is to see things how they are, not how they used to be, or how we wish they would be. Happy New Year.



william s farish
william s farish

William S. Farish

(Painting : David Griffiths)


William S. Farish will be honoured with the Eclipse Award of Merit for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in Thoroughbred racing, reports the Thoroughbred Daily News.

The Lane’s End Farm head will receive the award at the Eclipse Awards ceremony at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on January 18.

“I am so honored to have been selected for a sport which has given me and my family so much pleasure and enjoyment for the past 35 years,” Farish said. “I am humbled to be chosen to join this list of outstanding people who have received this Award of Merit, many of whom have been longtime friends.”

William S. Farish is currently a steward and vice chairman of The Jockey Club, a director and former chair of the executive committee of the Breeders’ Cup, a member of the board of directors of the Keeneland Association, and a Keeneland trustee. The prominent owner/breeder was also chairman of the board of Churchill Downs from 1992-2001, as well as the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of Saint James between 2001-2004.

“Will Farish is deeply involved in every phase of the Thoroughbred Industry,” said Keeneland President Nick Nicholson. “If you follow the life cycle of the Thoroughbred each stage from mating, breeding, raising, registration, sales, training, racing, and then back to the farm for breeding, Will has positively impacted each step along the way. His knowledge, passion and willingness to give his time for the betterment of the industry and the sport have meant so much for the modern Thoroughbred world. We are grateful to have him serve as a trustee of Keeneland, and appreciate his advice and counsel.”

Earlier this summer, the William Stamps Farish Fund donated $1 million to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. Farish, a member of the PDJF board, is currently working to help raise more than $10 million to provide a continuous fund for disabled riders.

“The more I explored the situation, the more I realized that a sustaining pool of monies was necessary,” Farish commented. “I feel that everyone who is associated with our sport realizes that a permanent source of funding is needed improve the lives of these disabled riders.”

Born in Houston, Texas, Farish purchased his first Thoroughbred in 1963. He is a two-time recipient of the Eclipse Award as leading breeder and has raced no fewer than 150 stakes winners, including 1972 Preakness Stakes hero Bee Bee Bee.



katsumi yoshida azeri keeneland november breeding stock sale 10 november 2009 video
katsumi yoshida azeri keeneland november breeding stock sale 10 november 2009 video

Click above to watch Azeri selling at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale

(Footage : Keeneland)


International connections have been the lifeblood of Summerhill going back twenty years to the time the Maktoum family arrived with their first stallions. More recently, Summerhill has connected with Japan’s headline breeding dynasty, the Yoshida’s, and one of the family was in the news again yesterday.

Multiple champion Azeri made her second appearance of the year in the Keeneland sales ring Monday, and the second time was a charm, with the chestnut mare bringing a final bid of $2.25 million from Northern Farm’s Katsumi Yoshida to top the opening session of the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale in Lexington. Azeri, in foal to Ghostzapper, failed to reach her reserve at $4.4 million at Keeneland in January. She sold yesterday in foal to Distorted Humor. The auctioneer looked to start the action at $1 million, but bidding began at a more modest $300,000. From there, bids came in rapid-fire succession in $100,000 increments, with Blandford Bloodstock’s Tom Goff among the bidders inside the pavilion. Bidding began to stall approaching the $2-million mark, but with encouragement from the auctioneer’s stand Azeri’s price tag inched up to the final figure. Shunsuke Yoshida, on the phone with his father Katsumi, did his bidding behind the pavilion and signed the ticket on the prized mare.

“We didn’t expect that we could buy this mare,” Yoshida said. “We just kept bidding up to our budget, and finally she came to us.”

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News


zenyatta breeders' cup classic 2009 santa anita racecourse 7 november 2009 video
zenyatta breeders' cup classic 2009 santa anita racecourse 7 november 2009 video

Click above to watch Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic 2009

(Footage : ESPN)



The news came as no surprise Monday that the undefeated Zenyatta (Street Cry - Vertigineux, by Kris S.) had run her last race. Trainer John Shirreffs told Daily Racing Form Sunday that the five-year-old mare would remain at Hollywood Park for several weeks to be let down, and then head to Kentucky to be bred. “Where else do you go?” lamented Shirreffs.

“Fourteen-for-14 and top it off with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic? On the biggest stage in the world, she performs. Isn’t it amazing that a horse with her running style is 14-for-14? She’s always stepped up.”

Owners Jerry and Ann Moss, along with Shirreffs and his wife, Dottie, as well as jockey Mike Smith celebrated their Classic victory at the Arroyo Chop House in Pasadena Saturday night.

Following her impressive maiden score at Hollywood on Thanksgiving Day 2007, Zenyatta took an allowance test before earning her first graded score in the 2008 G2 El Encino Stakes. The formidable filly picked up her first Grade 2 score in her only conventional dirt effort, the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn that April, and added four more elite victories that season. Crowned champion older mare after taking the GI Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, Zenyatta, took a deserved break, and returned for a perfect five-for-five campaign in 2009, capped by her historic performance in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic Saturday.

She retires with earnings of $5,474,580.

As Shirreffs observed, the mare will be sorely missed. “It’s a big hole for racing, not just my barn,” said Shirreffs. “You saw the crowd.” Mating plans have not yet been decided.




7 July 2009

G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic

10 October 2009

G1 Lady’s Secret Stakes

9 August 2009

G1 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes

27 June 2009

G1 Vanity Handicap

23 May 2009

G2 Milady Handicap

24 October 2008

G1 Breeders Cup Ladies’ Classic

27 September 2008

G1 Lady’s Secret Stakes

2 August 2008

G1 Clement L. Hirsh Handicap

5 July 2008

G1 Vanity Handicap

31 May 2008

G2 Milady Handicap

4 April 2008

G1 Apple Blossom Handicap

13 January 2008

G2 El Encino Stakes

15 December 2007


22 November 2007


Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News


summerhill mares (michael nefdt)
summerhill mares (michael nefdt)

“…with our figures this season pretty much matching those of last year, almost to the mare.”

(Photo : Summerhill Stud)


Times like these often see people descend into “retreat” mode, intimidated by the doomsayers and the never-ending stream of “experts”, ready to proclaim financial Armageddon. It’s little surprise then, that the greatest businesses in the world were born out of these circumstances, because they’ve seen the retreat and in it, they’ve seen opportunity.

What’s happened in the northern hemisphere though, in terms of racehorse production, has been in need of retreat for at least five years now. With a situation of hopeless overproduction in the number of foals on the ground each year, it’s no surprise to see significant changes in all but one American breeding jurisdiction.

The Jockey Club of America has reported that 2,409 stallions covered 45,317 mares in North America during 2009, according to the Report of Mares Bred statistics received through October 13. The number of stallions declined 8.9 percent from the 2,643 reported at this time last year. The number of mares bred fell 13.5 percent from 52,410 reported at this time in 2008. Giant’s Causeway (Storm Cat) and Medaglia d’Oro (El Prado) led all stallions with 194 mares bred in 2009.

Candy Ride (Ride the Rails) (182), Lion Heart (Tale of the Cat) (180), and Corinthian (Pulpit) (171) round out the top five. The only region to realize increases was Pennsylvania. The percentage of mares bred soared 29.6 percent in the Keystone State; stallions were up nine percent as well. “Our mid-August projection of 30,000 registered foals in North America for 2010 was based on initial RMB returns, and these latest statistics reinforce that estimate,” said Matt Iuliano, The Jockey Club’s vice president of registration services. Iuliano added that the largest decline in breeding occurred at the top of the market, where the number of stallions covering 100 or more mares declined for the fourth consecutive year from 113 in 2008 to 85 this year. The Jockey Club expects to receive more RMBs for the 2009 breeding season.

The one state that has reversed the trend, and has bred almost 30% more mares, is Pennsylvania, buoyed by the attractive returns accruing from their state-bred premium programme.

While our own statistics are a little more tardy in coming through, it will be interesting to see the degree to which our population of mares has been crimped by the recession. That said, our circumstances at Summerhill might be a little skewed because of the strength of the stallion line-up, with our figures this season pretty much matching those of last year, almost to the mare.




‘08 Stallions

‘09 Stallions

% Change

‘08 Mares Bred

‘09 Mares Bred

% Change




































New York





















New Mexico














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keeneland september sale statistics
keeneland september sale statistics
usa foal crop statistics
usa foal crop statistics

Please click above to view

Keeneland Yearly Sales Recap and USA Foal Crop Statistics


The dust has settled on Keeneland September, the biggest annual sale of thoroughbred yearlings in the world, and if you are an American breeder, it doesn’t make pretty reading. Psychologically, Americans as a nation have turned their backs on the luxury world, certainly for the time being, and with credit in tight supply, the impact of horse players having to shell out their hard-earned cash to fund their purchases, is clear in the results.

However, the rather dramatic falls of the last two seasons, were not only as a result of the global financial fall-out. It’s apparent from the graphs at the top of this column, that the American racehorse breeding industry has grappled with structural difficulties for some time, brought about by a gluttonous surge in production in anticipation of a no-end-in-sight upward spiral in prices, and the illness American breeders face right now in the form of bloated production costs, starting with stallion service fees which could never be sustained by anything other than a runaway market.

Besides the supply-side issues of the breeding community, the American racing scene is beset with its own problems, arising mainly out of fundamentals connected with the way their racing industry is structured. Too many of the best tracks, which are mainly privately owned or operated, have outdated business models, and in some cases inept management who’ve failed to appreciate the need to reinvent themselves as other businesses have, while some jurisdictions have to cope with unco-operative government legislators within their own states. Even Kentucky, heartland of the American thoroughbred, faces daunting challenges in its horsemen’s attempts to maintain it as the centre of world thoroughbred excellence.

As we’ve already noted, the downward trend in foal production and yearling averages had already kicked in before the global turmoil, and all the current circumstances have done, has been to accelerate the process. The 33% drop in average and the 42% reduction in gross turnover at Keenland September, on the bald facts, is a daunting thought, yet as our good friend, Bill Oppenheim, the foremost commentator on these things worldwide, noted last week, if American breeders were to wake up tomorrow and the industry was kicking off for the first time, they’d have to believe a $61 000 average ($91 000 last year), was not a bad result. But then you’d have to assume the production costs and stud fees had a sensible base to them in the first instance.

His comments at this time are telling; “Aside from Medaglia D’Oro, Birdstone and Candy Ride, its hard to imagine there’ll be any stud fees rising in North America next year. In fact the definition of a “hot” sire might be one whose stud fee drops by a third rather than a half. Of course, there will be lots of hedging among stallion masters “he stands for x, but you can have him for y”, lots of “I know the market is way down, but this horse is an exception” etc.

It’s up to the breeders if they fall for that or not. At the end of the day, they’re the ones who sign the contracts. There is, really, one overwhelming reason why stud fees really need to be cut in half, and now; because there’s no reason to believe the horseracing industry in North America will recover in the same way as the general economy”.

What about South Africa?

Our own domestic market has been substantially healthier than any of those in the northern hemisphere, and to be fair to South Africa, we’ve fared relatively better than our southern hemisphere counterparts, Australia and New Zealand. Not unlike our general economy, South African thoroughbred breeders have other fundamentals which have rested their business, and they arise in the first instance from the fact that for least the past decade, we’ve been undersupplied in terms of the foals we’ve produced. It is so, that with the burgeoning markets of the last few years and the development of our export markets, more foals have been produced, but in relative terms they represent a substantially smaller increment than that which other markets, north and south, have witnessed.

The result is, fuelled by both the balance in our supply and demand equation and the value our horses represent internationally, the South African racehorse market probably stands as the most stable in the world at the moment, and unless there is another major “intervener” in the foreseeable future, we expect this stability to carry itself through to the next uptick. Make no mistake, it’s not easy in our game right now, but it’s certainly bearable.

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el prado stallion at adena springs
el prado stallion at adena springs

El Prado

Adena Springs

(Please click photo to enlarge…)

We were greeted this week with the news that America’s Champion Breeder and Summerhill client, Adena Springs, had sadly lost their resident and leading sire, El Prado, indeed one of the world’s elite.

The Thoroughbred Daily News reported yesterday that El Prado (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells - Lady Capulet, by Sir Ivor) died of aheart attack soon after being turned out into his paddockMonday morning. Still active at 20, the stallionstood for $75,000in 2009. Althoughwell accomplishedon the racetrack,El Prado scalednew heights atstud, siring eightGrade I/Group 1and 30 gradedstakes winners,and a total of 74horses who triumphedat thestakes level. The stallion’s leading earner is multipleGrade I winner Medaglia d’Oro.

On the track, the Darleystallion won the 2002 GI Travers Stakes, 2003 GI WhitneyHandicap and 2004 GI Donn Handicap, and was runner-up in both the2002 and 2003 GI Breeders’ Cup Classics, as well asthe 2004 G1 Dubai World Cup. Medaglia d’Oro’s racingaccomplishments helped El Prado earn leading sirehonors in 2002, and saw the grey’s stud fee increase to$75,000 in 2003. Medaglia d’Oro quickly assertedhimself as a leading sire in his own right with the likesof GI Preakness Stakes winner Rachel Alexandra in his firstcrop to race.

El Prado is also the sire of 2004 ChampionTurf Horse Kitten’s Joy, a top Freshman sire; PuertoRican Champion Mi Pradera; and Grade I winners Artie Schiller, Borrego, Asi Siempre and Spanish Moon. As abroodmare sire, he is represented by Grade I winners Bit of Whimsy (Distorted Humor) and Laragh (Tapit).

In the sales ring, El Prado was represented by his first seven-figure sales horse when This is That brought $1 million as a juvenile at the 2003 BESMAR Sale. In 2007, Asi Siempre sold for $3 million as a broodmare prospect at FTKNOV, and the following year, Flagship sold for $1 million at the 2008 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Earlier this season, a juvenile colt by the stallion topped the OBS March Sale with a $450,000 final bid.

Group 1 winner El Prado was bred in Ireland by Lyonstown Stud and was campaigned by Robert Sangster and legendary trainer Vincent O’Brien. Out of 1977 Irish 1000 Guineas winner Lady Capulet, the gray is a half brother to 1987 Irish champion three-year-old Entitled (Ire) (Mill Reef). As a two-year-old, El Prado won four of six starts, including the G1 National Stakes, G2 Beresford Stakes and G3 Railway Stakes, and was named Ireland’s champion juvenile of 1991. 

Off the board in three starts in 1992, El Prado was retired to Brereton Jones’s Airdrie Stud in Midway, Kentucky in 1993, standing for the partnership of Sangster, O’Brien, Coolmore and Frank Stronach. Initially offered at a fee of $7,500, he ranked eighth on the 1996 freshman sire list with progeny earnings of $398,925. In 1998, after renovations on the farm were completed, the stallion moved to Stronach’s Adena Springs.



seattle slew documentary
seattle slew documentary

Click above to watch Seattle Slew

(Footage : YouTube)


The arrival at Summerhill of the best racing representative of Seattle Slew’s sire line ever to set foot on this continent, in the form of A P ARROW, revives memories of his famous grandfather.The very sale at which Seattle Slew was acquired is underway in America right now.We recall the fact Seattle Slew remains the only one of eleven American Triple Crown winners to have been sold at public auction.The Thoroughbred Daily News tells this story.

In history, only a select few horses have made it to the G1 Belmont Stakes following wins in the G1 Kentucky Derby and G1 Preakness Stakes, with a chance to sweep racing’s Triple Crown. Of those, even fewer - 11 to be exact - have swept the cherished Triple. Only one of them has ever been offered and sold at public auction. That honour resides with 1977 Triple Crown hero Seattle Slew.

In the market for an early developing two-year-old to win Sunland Park’s Riley Allison Futurity, one of the richest juvenile races at the time, Karen and Mickey Taylor came upon a colt in the July catalogue that looked like he had the potential to fit the bill.

“My husband, Mickey, looked at the whole catalogue before he went to that year’s sale”, recalled Karen Taylor. “He dog-eared hip 128, a colt by Bold Reasoning out of My Charmer”.

“We liked Bold Reasoning because he was a relatively new sire, and the colt was a first foal out of the mare, and we really like first foals,” Karen continued. “We thought the colt would have plenty of speed from his sire.”

While the dark bay appeared to have plenty of potential on paper, the Taylors didn’t shy away from the fact that both the colt’s sire and dam were, at that time, still unproven. When it came to selecting young horses, the Taylors opted to focus on the physical element over the pedigree. And what was the Taylors’s impression the first time they saw hip 128 led out for inspection?

“The first time we met him, he didn’t just walk out of his stall, he burst out with energy and fire,” recalled Karen. “He had pizzazz, he was on his toes and he gave you this eye, that he had until the day he died, that would stop you in your tracks. Everybody noticed his eye. They always talk about the ‘eye of eagles” in a horse, and Slew had it. He had an eye that just could look into your soul.”

While the youngster had plenty of personality and charisma, certain aspects of his physical appearance caused many to look elsewhere. But not the Taylors. “He was well muscled, but he also had a very straight hind leg and, since Mickey was into Quarter Horses, that didn’t deter us,” explained Karen. Mickey added, “His straight leg probably turned off 90 percent of the people, because at that time, people thought a straight leg was just for sprinters. He was a big reason that many changed their philosophy aboutthose types of horses. In fact, A.P. Indy[by Seattle Slew] also has a very straight hind leg, and he went on to win the Belmont Stakes, too.”

But despite Slew’s conformational shortcomings, Karen was instantly sold on the big, awkward colt. “I liked him because he had short cannon bones and short pasterns,” Karen explained. “He turned out slightly in his right front, but he walked straight through it and had a terrific stride, so that didn’t bother us. I just fell in love with him the first time I saw him”.

“When we went to see Slew, Paul told us we were the only people who came back to look at him again,” said Karen. “In fact, we must have gone back five times. We had to go back several times, because he would always dance around and was on his toes”.

Mickey recalled, with vivid clarity, the moment Seattle Slew walked into the Fasig-Tipton pavilion the afternoon of July 19, 1975. On that occasion, Fasig-Tipton’s John Finney was the announcer, while Ralph Retler served as the auctioneer. “We were sitting on the left side of the pavilion, in about the eighth or ninth row, on fold-out chairs,” Mickey remarked. “There was only one other bidder—we could have been bidding against the reserve or the owner. I bid $15,500, then there was another bid from the other side, and I went to $16,500. To tell you the truth, I was probably going to stop at $15,500, but Karen gave me the elbow.” Karen quickly interjected, “I gave him two elbows. I was pretty determined to get him.”

They got Seattle Slew (Triple Crown Winning Champion) for $17,500.Shades of Jet Master a R15,000, on earnings now worth of the order of R80 million.


admire main ap arrow

Grant Pritchard-Gordon, one-time anchor man in the organization of the famed Prince Khalid Abdullah and Juddmonte Farm operations, and founder of Badgers Bloodstock, is as recognisable as the best men in racing.

Among his many achievements, he was also central to the deal that secured his boss his breeding interests in Danehill, and which led to the production of the likes of Dansili, Champs Elysees, Banks Hill, Intercontinental, Cacique and Stronghold.

When “Badger” goes on record; write it down. This is what he said this week about Summerhill’s latest stallion prospects!

“So you obviously needed more excitement and work in your life. Well, you have certainly pushed the boat out this time! I have to admit that you have excelled yourself again in locking into yet another great bloodstock connection with the Yoshida family! Any sons of AP INDY and SUNDAY SILENCE will be a welcome addition to the stallion ranks of South Africa… and being such good racehorses as well must increase their chances of success. I am sure that the team behind AP ARROW will give him every opportunity”.


ap arrow dubaiA.P. Arrow
(Photo : AP Photo)

A glance at the number of publications that carried the news of A.P. Arrow’s importation to Summerhill and South Africa tells us that this is a big “item” horse in the real sense of “big”. Just about every worthwhile daily racing publication in the world covered his story, a veritable who’s who of the game. It takes a “heavy” to make newsworthy reading, and A.P.Arrow’s standing in the pantheon of racing was obvious from the popularity of his story. Here’s a list of the publications.

Thoroughbred Times
A.P. Arrow to stand in South Africa

Summerhill and co acquire a top son of A.P. Indy

Tab Online
Summerhill and co acquire a top son of A.P. Indy

A.P.Arrow to stand in South Africa

Daily Racing Form

Gold Circle
Summerhill and co acquire a top son of A.P. Indy

SA Horseracing
Grade 2 Hero A P Arrow To Stud in South Africa

Breeding & Racing Magazine

Global News Blog
AP Arrow to stand in South Africa

Thoroughbred Internet
A.P.Arrow to stand stud in South Africa

Hatena Antenna

European Bloodstock News

Thoroughbred Daily News

Racing Post
Grade 2 hero A P Arrow to stud in South Africa

A.P. Arrow to Stand in South Africa

Horse Racing Nation
AP Arrow to Stand in South Africa

Mike de Kock Racing
A.P. Indy stallion comes to Summerhill

Thoroughbred Champions
Pioneering to Brazil, A.P. Arrow to South Africa

Breeding Racing
US Sire A.P Arrow To Stud in South Africa

CBS Sports
A.P. Arrow to stand in S.Africa

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MEDAGLIA D’ORO : A windfall for Sheikh Mohammed

Medaglia D’Oro
(Photo : Thoroughbred Times)

There’s been plenty of news of late of new property acquisitions by Dubai’s Ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and then on Friday we were greeted by the announcement that he had purchased the “hottest” young stallion in the United States, Medaglia D’Oro. Those that attended the 2007 version of the Dubai World Cup will recall Medaglia D’Oro’s stirring battle in the closing stages of the world’s richest race when he succumbed, only just, to the persistent urgings of Pleasantly Perfect, and we can attest, following a recent visit there, to the fact that Medaglia D’Oro has let down into one of the most spectacular specimens of a young stallion imaginable.

Besides having spawned the highest rated filly (of any age) in the world right now in the form of Rachel Alexandra, (20 ¼ winner of the Kentucky Oaks (Gr.1) just over a month ago, and vanquisher of the colts in the second leg of the American Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes (Gr.1), Medaglia D’Oro rewarded Sheikh Mohammed’s boldness within a day, with yet another Grade One winner from his first crop in the shape of Gabby’s Golden Gal, who walked off with the laurels in the Acorn Stakes (Gr.1) at the Belmont meeting in New York.

Medaglia D’ Oro’s sire, El Prado, is something of an aberration as a stallion. A son of the thirteen time European Champion, Sadler’s Wells, he raced exclusively in Ireland on turf, and was a Grade One winner of the National Stakes as a two-year-old before his acquisition by Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs (champion breeders of America and clients of Summerhill) where he was asked to embark on a career as a proven grass horse in a “dirty”country. El Prado warmed to his new career with relish, twice topping the American sires log, and it now looks as if he might make a third career for himself as a sire of sires. Everything about him suggested that success on the dirt tracks of the United States was an unlikely outcome to his career, yet it goes to show, there is little we can do to predict the future of stallions, besides educated guessing.

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Classic double for the Becks at GAINESWAY FARM

(Photo : Stallion Register)

Just on twenty years ago, I was privy to a glimpse at an intimate connection at the Breeders’ Cup meeting of 1990 between local “el padrino”, Graham Beck, and the then founder not only of Gainesway Farm, but also of the Breeders’ Cup, John Gaines. Earlier that day, Buddy Bishop, renowned solicitor operating in Lexington, Kentucky, and legal counsel to what was then the principal opposition to Gainesway, the Hancock family’s famous Claiborne Farm, confided in me that a South African was rumoured to have purchased Gainesway. I was astonished, and dismissed it as conjecture. After all, this was the farm that housed the likes of Lyphard, Blushing Groom, Riverman, Vaguely Noble, Irish River, Cozzene, Afleet etc, and it was almost inconceivable that it should be a South African that had put up his hand for this iconic property, when all the world was there to compete for it.

It turned out that Buddy Bishop’s “intelligence” was spot-on, and that the enterprise of Graham Beck, the stuff of legend in South Africa, had indeed laid claim to one of the greatest titles in thoroughbred racing. I wrote about this property two weeks ago as a place of solace to me on the passing of my late mother, and today we can celebrate the fact that one of its resident stallions, Birdstone (who spoilt the party for Funny Cide in his quest for the American Triple Crown, by snatching the laurels in the final leg of the Belmont Stakes (Gr.1), has produced from his very first crop, two winners of separate legs of the Triple Crown.

The first and arguably the most famous leg, the Kentucky Derby (Gr.1) was taken in spectacular fashion by a 50-1 chance in the form of Mine That Bird (by Birdstone), who came from a shotgun position at the back of the field to land a storied victory by six, and who was the sole pursuer of the filly Rachel Alexandra, in the Preakness Stakes (Gr.1) a fortnight later.

In the absence of the filly, Mine That Bird was made a certainty by the bettors for Saturday, and he looked home and hosed shortly after they turned into Belmont’s fabled straight, only to be swamped by two foes, one of whom was his paternal half-brother, Summer Bird, who came home to proclaim his sire, if not yet quite in the same league as Medaglia D’Oro as a commercial stallion, certainly every bit as serious a property in reality.

Birdstone is the son of a Kentucky Derby winner himself, the rather unattractive and poor legged Grindstone, he in turn by Unbridled and tracing back, (no alarms), to Mr. Prospector, whose stamp on the American classics is as indelible as any stallion in history. As for Birdstone, he’s not a big fellow (I would say he stands 15’3 at the most) and he’s what one might describe as a “plain brown job”. However, and particularly considering his ancestral belongings, he’s a clean legged horse, well balanced and displays the touch of class that separates the serious from the ordinary.


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SADLER'S WELLS : From Zero to Hero

bill oppenheim sadlers wells


From Zero to Hero

“Extract from the desk of Bill Oppenheim

In today’s Thoroughbred Daily News, the world’s premier stallion commentator, Bill Oppenheim, writes that Sadler’s Wells is arguably the greatest sire in European history.


A very high-class three-year-old of 1984 (the same crop as Rainbow Quest and Darshaan), he went to stud in 1985, and his first foals were born in 1986. At the time, European sire power was at its nadir, and he led the renaissance in European sire power that today keeps many more top European mares in Europe instead of Kentucky. He’s also probably the most prolific stallion in history.

In 21 crops of racing age through the end of 2008, Sadler’s Wells had sired a truly phenomenal total of 2,149 foals… yes, that’s an average of 102 foals per crop. Even more phenomenal, Equineline tells us he has sired 280 black-type winners worldwide (13 percent of foals), and he’s also the damsire of 183 black-type winners to date. He has been champion sire in Britain and Ireland 14 times, and Primus Advertising in Ireland, which keeps track of such things, estimates he has had over 200 sons go to stud.

Yet, on 1 January 2004, little more than five years ago, there was no Sadler’s Wells sire line to speak of. He had about four really successful sons: In the Wings, who in turn sired Singspiel; Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Barathea; El Prado, who went to stud cheaply in Kentucky in 1993, but ended up the second-best sire in North America from that year’s crop of stallions (numero uno is A.P. Indy), and who topped the North American General Sire List in 2002, when Medaglia d’Oro was a three-year-old; and Fort Wood, in South Africa. Beyond those, it was getting harder and harder to argue that Sadler’s Wells was a successful sire of sires.

Enter onto the scene Montjeu. He was very possibly the very best of the 280 black-type winners Sadler’s Wells has yet sired. Winner of the Gr1 French and Gr1 Irish Derbies and the Gr1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at three, he won three more Group 1’s at four, including an imperious win in the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, where he looked like a group horse in a maiden race. Timeform rated Montjeu at 137 both at three and at four. Yet, when he went to stud in 2001, his fee was a modest IrPound,30,000, a fraction of what his barnmate Giant’s Causeway commanded in the same season, his first year at stud. That’s all you could stand top-class 12 furlong horses for when they went to stud.

Our Insta-Tistics tables (on the TDN website) tell us that, in 2002, a total of 21 weanlings from Montjeu’s first crop averaged the equivalent of $99,982, with a median of $80,000. The conformation judges liked his first foals, and even though there was a certain amount of support from the Coolmore legions, his foals at the European sales impressed neutral pinhookers and other objective observers (as had Cape Cross the year before).

These figures represented excellent return for their breeders. You know how the Coolmore team likes to give their stallions a chance, so there were 66 yearlings sold from Montjeu’s first crop in 2003. They averaged $144,928, with a median just under $100,000, still a good return on investment for their breeders.

Montjeu’s fee for 2004, the year his first two-year-olds would race, was set at Eur30,000, the same as the year before.

Montjeu’s first crop, racing in 2004, included 16 winners, headed by the Gr1 Racing Post Trophy winner Motivator, and he finished third on the 2004 European Freshman Sire List. His stud fee was up to Eur45,000 for 2005, which looked dirt cheap by that autumn, considering not only did Motivator win the Gr1 Epsom Derby, but Montjeu’s first crop included two more Classic winners as well: Hurricane Run won the Gr1 Irish Derby; and Scorpion won the Gr1 St. Leger Stakes, though his more important victory came in the Gr1 Grand Prix de Paris in its first year as a 2400 meter race on Bastille Day - effectively, the “new” French Derby. After Hurricane Run won another little Group 1 contest, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Montjeu ranked second only to Danehill on the 2005 European Sire List (historical lists supplied to us courtesy of John Quinlan at Hyperion Promotions). Not surprisingly, Montjeu’s 2006 fee shot up to Eur125,000.

By 2001, the year his 13th crop were three-year-olds, Sadler’s Wells had sired the winners of nearly every Group 1 race beyond a mile in Europe, but he had never sired a winner of the Gr1 Epsom Derby. Galileo rectified that small gap in his resume, then went on to win the Gr1 Irish Derby and Gr1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. In Timeform’s lengthy essay on Galileo in Racehorses of 2004, they refer to Aidan O’Brien’s determination to run Galileo over shorter, even as short as a mile, in the Gr1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in late September. His two final starts were in fact at 10 furlongs - he was edged out by Fantastic Light in the Gr1 Irish Champion Stakes, and finally finished a non-threatening sixth, behind Tiznow and Sakhee, in the 2001 Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt at Belmont Park. One thing about Sadler’s Wells: he’s never been a sire of dirt horses, so why El Prado is such a good dirt sire? Who knows?

Galileo’s first foals were born in 2003, but he was only 11th on the 2005 European Freshman Sire List, the year Montjeu’s first three-year-olds put him second on the European Sire List. But when Galileo’s first crop got to be three-year-olds, it was a different story. His seven three-year- old graded/group stakes winners that year included two Classic winners; Gr1 Irish 1000 Guineas winner Nighttime and Gr1 St. Leger Stakes winner Sixties Icon, as well as Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Red Rocks. And throw in Teofilo, the first of two consecutive champion European two year-olds by Galileo trained by Jim Bolger, and you won’t be surprised to hear Galileo’s stud fee went from Eur37,500 in 2006 (this year’s two-year-olds) to Eur150,000 in 2007 (this year’s yearlings). Galileo was seventh on the 2006 European Sire List; Montjeu was third, behind Coolmore barnmates Danehill and Danehill Dancer.

In 2007, Galileo advanced to second behind Danehill, with Montjeu again third. Danehill ran out of three-year-olds in 2008; Galileo claimed top spot on the European Sire List, with Montjeu second. I’ve mentioned several times in the past that I call Montjeu “The Derby Sire,” because in four crops of three-year-olds he’s sired six winners of 12-furlong races that are, or amount to, Derbies: Motivator and Authorized have won the Gr1 Epsom Derby; Hurricane Run and Frozen Fire (2008) have won the Gr1 Irish Derby; and Scorpion and Montmartre (2008) have won the Gr1 Grand Prix de Paris since it became a 12-furlong race in 2006. This year’s Gr1 Investec Epsom Derby favorite, Fame and Glory, is from Montjeu’s fifth crop of three-year-olds, and, scarily, won the Gr2 Derrinstown Derby Trial with a higher Racing Post Rating (speed figure, 120) than either Galileo or High Chaparral (also by Sadler’s Wells), who both won the Derrinstown with RPR’s of 119.

For his part, Galileo had sired nine Group 1 winners in his first three crops by the end of 2008.

Besides Nighttime, Sixties Icon, Red Rocks and Teofilo, they include 2007 champion European two-year-old and 2008 Gr1 Epsom Derby winner New Approach; Gr1 Irish Derby winner Soldier of Fortune (bred by Jim Bolger); triple 2008 Group 1 winner Lush Lashes (trained by Jim Bolger); Gr1 Prix Royal-Oak winner Allegretto; and 2008 Gr1 Italian Derby winner Cima de Triomphe, now trained by Luca Cumani and very much a horse to watch in the top races in 2009 once the ground gets faster again.

Interestingly, though the Maktoum family clearly no longer patronizes Coolmore stallions at the yearling sales, they have nothing against buying them privately later, by which method they acquired Authorized (by Montjeu) and Galileo’s two juvenile champ, Teofilo and New Approach, from Jim Bolger. Coolmore, which after all does still have the “factories” – Montjeu and Galileo themselves - stands only Hurricane Run (by Montjeu).

Then again, we could take a look at the list of Aidan O’Brien’s seven three-year-olds that could line up for the June 6 Gr1 Investec Epsom Derby: all seven are by Sadler’s Wells and sons. Two are by Sadler’s Wells himself (Gr2 Dante winner Black Bear Island and Gr3 Chester Vase second Masterofthehorse), one, favorite Fame and Glory, is by Montjeu; three are by Galileo (Gr1 English 2000 Guineas fourth Rip Van Winkle, Gr2 Dante second Freemantle and Gr3 Lingfield Derby Trial winner Age of Aquarius); and one is by 2002 Gr1 Epsom Derby winner High Chaparral. His second crop of three-year-olds, this year, looks much better than his first.

A final observation: it seems like the connections of every Gr1 Epsom Derby winner go to great lengths to prove that their Derby winner is not “just” a 12-furlong horse because of a perception (never actually validated, from what I can tell) that breeders will be quicker to send mares if they can prove the horse at 10 furlongs as well. So guess what? The two top sires in Europe, Galileo and Montjeu, were both 12-furlong horses; each won at least two of the three major European Derbies (though that was when the Prix du Jockey-Club was 12 furlongs), plus a 12-furlong Group 1 race open to older horses. That 10-furlong deal? It’s a complete myth. Get the right 12 furlong horse and you can top the charts.

How El Prado came to be one of America’s leading sires, and is now threatening to open a branch of the Sadler’s Wells line on the dirt, is still a bit of a mystery to everyone involved. He was a Group 1 winner at two for Vincent O’Brien, having won what Timeform described in Racehorses of 1991 as “a particularly substandard running of the [Gr1] National S….” Timeform did rate him 119 at two, but that seemed almost more by virtue of his win at the end of the season in the Gr2 Beresford Stakes over a mile. El Prado didn’t reappear until halfway through his three year-old season, was unplaced in three starts at eight and 10 furlongs, and was packed off to stud in Kentucky. He was always a pretty useful sire, but not until his sixth crop did Medaglia d’Oro appear, and his eighth crop included three $2-million earners, turf champion Kitten’s Joy and Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Artie Schiller on the grass, and Gr1 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Borrego on the dirt. He was Leading Sire in North America in 2002, and second in 2003 and 2004.

Though he’s done well enough in Europe, and gets his share of good grass horses in North America, the truth is El Prado has really got where he is more by siring durable dirt horses with some class than by following the sire line’s otherwise all-turf pattern; he’s succeeded because his runners have successfully adapted to different conditions - dirt. And his very best horse, Medaglia d’Oro, never saw the grass except when they took him out from Frankel’s barn to graze on it - he won $5.7 million racing exclusively on dirt. And from 13 stakes horses to date in his first crop, only one has even placed in a stakes on turf; he has two graded stakes winners on synthetics, but the rest, including the mighty Gr1 Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra, have been on dirt. Also, 11 of his first 13 stakes horses are fillies, though whether that means anything, it would be far too early to know.

So, in five years, the great Sadler’s Wells’ prospects as a sire of sires have gone from doubtful to the point where he had the one-two sires in Europe last year, and the hottest dirt sire in North America right now. It’s a pretty big forward move.