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A breeders meeting on Standardbred pedigrees will take place Sunday, February 1 at the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus in Bible Hill, NS, in the Haley Institute, Room 116. The harness racing seminar-style meeting will get underway at 1 p.m. The Haley Institute is located at 58 River Road in Bible Hill, NS. The main entry doors during the weekend is located next to the upper parking lot. Melissa Keith is an aspiring Standardbred owner with a lifelong interest in the pedigrees behind great horses. She is the secretary of the US Harness Writers Canadian chapter and a regular contributor to Trot, Hoof Beats and Atlantic Post Calls. "At this time of year, I thought other Nova Scotians who would want to attend the Island-based educational sessions on pedigrees might find travel a bit tricky. So I was happy to discover that the 'Pedigree Guru' was willing to bring his presentation here, to the Dal Agricultural Campus," added Keith. The Nova Scotia event will be the fourth in a series presented by the PEI Colt Stakes. The seminars are open to all breeders of Atlantic-bred Standardbreds and to any members of the public that are interested in the horse breeding industry. All attendees will receive a complimentary three-month subscription to the PM Online pedigree resource website to assist with their breeding decisions for the coming season. The PEI Colt Stakes, for Maritime-bred or foaled horses, is the longest running stakes program in Canada, and the organization has presented a stakes racing program and related breeder development programs for the past 80 years. Last year, the Island Breeders Series saw 53 races contested for total purses over $312,000. In 1934 there were three races for combined purses less than $1,000. Norman Hall, the current manager, is in his 33rd year in that position. "I have seen a lot of breeders come and go over my years with the colt stakes, but one thing remains constant and that is the need to provide educational opportunities especially for younger breeders just getting into the industry," noted Hall. "I encourage those young men and women to take advantage of every opportunity to improve their chances for success in what can be a very rewarding but demanding challenge to breed the best horses possible." For further details, please contact: Norman Hall (902) 628-5581 or email at norman@pedigreematching.com    

Diamond Creek Farm has announced that the initial book for 2014 harness racing "Pacer of the Year" and runner-up for Horse of the Year, Sweet Lou, is now full and closed. “We expected a great response, and that’s certainly what we got,” said Diamond Creek’s owner Adam Bowden. “It seems like this horse’s charisma equals his credentials, and his popularity on the racetrack pretty much just transferred over straight to the breeding shed. “With the quality of the mares he’ll be bred to, his first crop of yearlings should rival those of any horse out there,” he added. Sweet Lou retired to stud at Diamond Creek Farm of Pennsylvania after his 5-year-old season with earnings of more than $3.4-million and a World Record mark of 1:47 taken on a five-eighths mile track. He is a son of Yankee Cruiser from Sweet Future, also the dam of $2.7-million winner and World Champion Bettor Sweet. “I think that sometimes people primarily see Sweet Lou as a champion free for all pacer, which is true of course, but the fact that he was also a World Champion, Breeders Crown winner, and divisional Pacer of the Year as a 2-year-old is sometimes overlooked,” Bowden said. “We think he has everything it takes to be a tremendous sire.” The multiple World Record-holder--and first horse to ever pace six consecutive sub-1:48 winning miles--was campaigned by Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Lawrence Karr and Phillip Collura and trained by Ron Burke. Breeders and fans may follow the continuing career of the horse many called “The Great White Blaze” on Twitter @greatwhiteblaze. Sweet Lou - 2014 Ben Franklin - Mohegan Sun Pocono Diamond Creek Farm

The surprising thing when you look at the siring charts for the two-year-olds in the 2014 harness racing season in North America is the small number of new sires that cracked the top twenty list. As the season is now history we thought it would be a good time to review the impact the new sires had and how we think they performed. Only three stallions who were first season sires made last years top twenty list and they were: Sportswriter -- 1:48.3 ($1,649,411) Rocknroll Heaven -- 1:47.3  ($2,774,478) Rockin Image - 1:48.2 ($903,424) All three have plenty to recommend themselves as far as pedigree goes. Sportswriter is by Artsplace from Precious Beauty 1:53 ($112,842) who has also left the top Art Major filly in Precocious Beauty 1:50.1 ($778,196) Rocknroll Heaven is by Rocknroll Hanover from Artistic Vision 1:50.2 ($644,623) who is also the dam of Clear Vision 1:48.2 ($2,318,598) Rockin Image is by Rocknroll Hanover from Kikikatie 1:50.3 ($1,415,566) whose five live foals have all gone in 1:50 or better As they all stood in completely different states and sire stakes programmes it is hard to compare them and you end up having to make some judgments for better or worse. Sportswriter Stood his first season in 2011 in Ontario in the midst of the great broodmare exodus from Canada. With the access to the "pokie" money denied, there was a lot of doom and gloom in the Canadian breeding industry and a lot of the top end mares were relocated to the USA due to the fear that the  sire stakes programmes in Canada would be substantially reduced. They still continue to race for great money and recents agreements mean the stakes are set to improve again Even allowing for the problems at the time Sportswriter served a huge book of quality mares which resulted in a foal crop in 2012 of 154 (largest in North America) which raced as two- year-olds last season in Ontario. They took the Ontario Sires Stakes programme by storm and dominated a lot of the races throughout the season. His first season statistics make great reading Foals -- 154 Starters -- 89 Winners -- 48 Sub 1:55 -- 21 Sub 1:53 -- 5 Total Stakes -- $2,489,354  We thought we would take a look at the maternal families of his top five stake earners for the season to get a line on weather Sportswriter is lifting pedigrees. Sports Chic 1:54.2 ($241,389) is from Vesta Blue Chip (unraced) who amongst her many winners has also left the champion mare Rainbow Blue 1:49.2 ($1,600,012) Reverend Hanover - 1:51.1 ($218,500) is from Razzel My Tazzel 1:58 ($13,026) who already has four $250,000 earners but Reverend Hanover looks like he might be the best of them Code One Hanover - 1:54.1 ($182,325) is from the very smart racemare Current Hanover 1:50.3 ($380,248) and is her second $100,000 winner to date Sporting The Look - 1:53 ($178,594) is the fourth foal and best winner to date from the smart racemare Lyons Mandi 1:53 ($162,482) while the grand-dam is the talented Merci 1:55.3 ($264,938) Bob Ben And John - 1:53 ($149,996) is from My Best Girl (lightly raced) who is a half sister to the top horse Calypso Beat 1:52.1 ($828,361)  From that close look Sportswriter is obviously not hurting pedigrees. The one negative and one that is repeated frequently to us when we talk to clients and owners in North America is his lack of a real superstar to go with all the winners. Sports Chic finished 15th on the 2014 seasons money won list while Reverend Hanover finished 22nd on the same list so for Sportswriters two best winners to be so far down the list is a concern  No Sportswriters were in the 2014 versions of the  Metro Pace or the She's A Great Lady Finals even though those races were in their backyard at Mohawk. Reverend Hanover was a late arrival in the later part of the season who did look a touch special but never got the chance to prove it. Comment - A great first season all round but did have several things in his favour namely the 154 foals and the lack of competition in the Ontario Sires Stakes programme means it is very hard to get a real handle on how Sportswriter stacks up. The numbers on there own are great but he does need some grand circuit performers to emerge at three or the naysayers will be out in force.  Rocknroll Heaven When Rocknroll Heaven went to stud he did so with a fanfare not accorded many stallions. Everything about the horse suggested this was a horse that could be a great sire if you listened to a lot of the breeders and owners in North America. He had a great racetrack career to go with his looks and a maternal family to die for. His dam Artistic Vision had won $644,623 and taken a mark of 1:50.2 and had also produced Clear Vision 1:48.2 ($2,318,598) Consequently he served a big book of the best mares in the standardbred world but that was balanced a bit in our opinion due to the fact that he stood at Blue Chip Farms in New York That meant that his progeny would be in the same Sires Stakes programme as Art Major, Bettor's Delight and American Ideal. Without doubt the toughest Sires Stakes programme to compete in during 2014 was New York so any success that Rocknroll Heaven had was going to be well earned.  Rocknroll Heaven's first crop was noticeable for the fact that his best four performers were all fillies headed by the brilliant Sassa Hanover 1:50.1 ($485,591) Foals -- 103 Starters -- 62 Winners -- 33 Sub1:55 -- 16 Sub 1:53 -- 3 Total Stakes -- $1,731,306 Again we have a look at the maternal families of the five biggest stakes earners  from his first crop Sassa Hanover 1:50.1 ($485,591) is the first foal from Sayo Hanover 1:54.2 ($45,317) who is a half sister to Sharky Osbourne 1:49.4 ($900,660)  Shadyshark Hanover 1:47.4 ($771,172) and Shaky Hanover 1:51.2 ($500,189) Band Of Angels 1:51.3 ($184,373) is from Time N Again 1:54 ($60,186) which makes her a half sister to the outstanding filly Romantic Moment 1:50.1 ($1,077,352) Divine Caroline 1:53.1 ($142,597) is the second foal from Loving Caroline 1:52 ($197,059). The first foal is Aunt Caroline 1:51.3 ($230,382) while the second dam of Divine Caroline is Best Laid Plans 1:50.4 ($401,085) Heavenly Bride 1:50.3 pl ($119,345) is the first foal from the former outstanding racemare in Native Bride 1:50 ($707,493) Arque Hanover 1:52.2 ($66,820) is the first foal from A Pippin Hanover 1:52.4 ($104,230) who is a half sister to Appleoosa Hanover 1 52.1 ($519,187) What is very obvious from just those five examples is the quality of the mares Rocknroll Heaven served in his debut season. The performance of his fillies is a big bonus for breeders but there must be some concern that his best son only earned $66,820 Still his sons and daughters were racing in the toughest Sires Stakes programme on the planet so they performed creditably overall. Comment - Given every chance to prove himself with the quality of the mares he served in his first season but more than delivered in the tough New York environment. Able to produce a standout filly in Sassa Hanover (3rd on stakes won list) and several other smart fillies as well but the lack of a real top line colt is a concern. Rockin Image While not a real star on the track, Rockin Image was a very talented racehorse nevertheless. He won in 1:50.4 at two and 1:48.2 at three and banked $901, 756. The big plus is a pedigree without peer with the dam Kikikatie 1:50.3 ($1,415,566) having the unbelievable record of all her five live foals having gone 1:50 or quicker and earned $3,098,977 between them. Rockin Image ended up at stud at Victory Hill Farm in Indiana alongside the state's leading sire in Always A Virgin whose three- year-olds had such a great season last year. He served a large book of good mares who while probably not in the same class as those mares served by Rocknroll Heaven, they have still got a lot of credits to their name with plenty of smart horses on the pedigree page. Rockin Image had 107 foals in his first crop and they did a stellar job in their debut season in the Indiana Sires Stakes programme. He had a good mixture of fillies and colts in his better performers and finished the season in 8th place on the North American 2 year old sires chart which was a great result for a stallion based in Indianna. Foals -- 107 Starters -- 60 Winners -- 29 Sub 1:55 -- 19 Sub 1:53 -- 4 Total Stakes -- $1,339,063 Again we have a look at the maternal families of his five biggest stake earners. Freeky Feet Pete 1:50.3 ($261,950) is from Skyway Lori 1:54.1 ($56,663) who  already has six $100,000 winners apart from this colt. Rockin Good 1:53.2 ($181,250) is from Do Me Good 1:52.4 ($435,346) and the dam is a half sister to Another Mile 1:50.1($641,587) and Do Me Justice 1:53.2 ($412,844) Camturo Rock 1:52.3 ($100,980) is from the smart racemare Camturo 1:52.2 ($190,715) and the dam is a half sister to Matt Damon 1:51.2 ($261.205) Image Of Felicia 1:53.2 ($91,926) is from the smart racemare Keep Your Pans Off 1:51.1($298,441) who has three $100,000 credits as a broodmare including Pans Culottes 1:54.3 ($318,472) Rock The Look 1:54.4 ($88,020) is from Halle Go Lightly 1:54.2 ($65,660) and the dam is a half sister to Trade Sign 1:50.4 ($484,030) and Whogoesfirst 1:49.3 ($357,325) while the grand dam is Go Lightly 1:53.4 ($242,666) A nice group of mares who seem to have clicked with Rockin Image with most of these five on track to be the best winner produced by the dam.  Freeky Feet Pete was the eight fastest 2 year old produced in North America last year and has the look of a horse who will be a great flag bearer for his young sire as a 3 year old. Took the mantle of top 2 year old sire in Indiana off Always A Virgin at his first attempt, which given the success of that stallion on the national stage lately is no mean feat. Comment  - Did a huge job when you take everything into consideration and to finish eighth overall in North America in season one from a base in Indianna is a great result. Has smart fillies and colts and they seem genuine types which is a big plus. We will surely see a couple of the Rockin Image's on the grand circuit as 3 year olds. Harnesslink Media

Hindsight is a wonderful thing when you are assessing harness racing stallions and one that a lot of breeders resort to when stallions exceed expectations or fail miserably. One stallion who would qualify with bells on for the "hindsight" condition is the Albatross stallion B G's Bunny who was an outstandingly successful stallion in North America before being purchased by JC International on behalf of  Queenslander John Geiger in early 1992. B G's Bunny was eighteen years old when brought by John Geiger and had fifteen crops on the ground in North America when he purchased the stallion. As a sire B G's Bunny had $51,464,913 in earnings for his progeny  at the time with his standout sons McKinzie Almahurst ($1,532,870)  and the smart Butler B G ($878,,709) being easily his two best performers. Both of these horses made their way to New Zealand as sires in the late 1980s with a wide gap in the results that they achieved in New Zealand. Mckinzie Almahurst was an abject failure leaving just 31 winners who earned a paltry $383,628 and his daughters were only slightly more successful in the broodmare paddock. Butler B G on the other hand did an outstanding job in New Zealand leaving 227 winners who won $6,117,529 in stakes while his daughters were even better at stud producing the winners of $8,204,817. So when it was announced that B G's Bunny himself was on his way to New Zealand to stand at stud in 1992, the reception was mixed. Those who had bred to McKinzie Almahurst were very skeptical while those who had bred to Butler B G were a lot more interested. However despite the reservations of some breeders, B G's Bunny created quite a stir at the time and ended up serving a huge book of 245 mares in his debut season in New Zealand. There was no semen transport at the time so all the 245 mares were covered in New Zealand but it was to be his only season at stud down under as he died in the off season. B G's Bunny was quite well received at the sales but to say he was disappointing as a sire from his one crop would be an understatement. From the 245 mares served B G's Bunny produced 161 foals of whom 32 won a race for stake earnings of just $352,812 His best performer by some way was the smart racemare Scuse Me 1:53.8 ($126,841) who took her mark when winning the Noel Taylor Mile at Alexandra Park. All the naysayers were out in force saying that like his son McKinzie Almahurst, B G's Bunny had failed to nick with New Zealand mares. If he hadn't have died after his first season his numbers would have shrunk dramatically after the failure of his first crop to fire.  The chance of his daughters firing at stud was generally considered to be pretty slim but as soon as they were written off, B G's Bunny's daughters did just that. And that should not have surprised anyone who had taken the time to look at his results as a broodmare sire in North America. His numbers are very impressive with stake earnings just over $100,000,000 and 330 1:55 credits and his mares were very potent when crossed with Cam Fella and his sons. Cams Card Shark 1:50 ($2,498,204) -  Precious Bunny 1:49.4 ($2,281,142) and Armbro Operative 1:50 ($1,012,712) are all sons of Cam Fella from B G's Bunny mares In New Zealand there were just 81 fillies/mares from his one crop down under but they have done their sire proud in the broodmare paddock. Over the years quite a few made their way into Australian hands so you need to look at both countries to assess his true worth as a broodmare sire. As of today B G's Bunny's mares have left the winners of $6,484,717 in Australasia alone and some of the winners are household names. Scuse Me has undoubtedly been the star at stud, twice winning the New Zealand Broodmare Excellence Award. Her best performers of course include the brilliant Adore Me 1:51.6 ($1,435,101) Imagine Me 1:56.9 ($247,175) and Have Faith In Me 1:53.2 ($201,502) while she is also the grand-dam of the champion Christen Me 1:49.1 ($1,753,987) Plenty of other B G's Bunny mares have also stepped up to the plate with Summertime Girl probably being the best known of them as the dam of the champion pacer The Falcon Strike 1:54.5 ($1,303,060). Other top horses who have raced in Australasia to have B G's Bunny as their maternal sire include such talented performers as Vanlo Yorker 1:55.9 ($426,230) - Fox Street 1:55.1 ($236,527) - Bachelorette 1:56.3 ($187,408) - Speriamo 1:57.7 ($155,342) and Scolari 1:58.4 ($134,558) to mention just a few. Quite a few of the progeny of B G's Bunny mares have ended up in North America where horses such as Sly Grin 1:53.4 ($308,653) - Cosmic Illusion 1:51.4 ($245,694) - Cosmic Trader 1:51.1 ($149,701) and Grandios Eurofighter 1:54.3 ($100,482) have preformed with distinction. If nothing else the complete turnaround in the stocks of the New Zealand bred B G's Bunny's mares due to their great record at stud adds further wait to the old adage of never writing off a sire until he has been dead for twenty years. Harnesslink Media 

It has been a big week for WA Sales Graduates. Commencing with the Gloucester Park meeting last Friday there have been three WA Yearling Sales graduates win in the past seven days. Bettor Party, a $20,000 yearling at the 2011 Gloucester Standardbreds WA Yearling Sale, won the $17,500 IGA Stores Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday 28th November. The win was the gelding’s 10th and took his earnings past $77,000 proving that his lot number of 13 was lucky for some. The following night Affluent Bell won a 3yo race at Gloucester Park to take his earnings to just shy of $30,000 from six wins. More importantly for his owners the son of Rich And Spoilt picked up a $5,100 Westbred Bonus in addition to the first place stake-money of $4,550. Affluent Bell was sold as Lot 90 at the 2013 Gloucester Standardbreds Yearling Sale for $20,000. Last Monday, at Pinjarra, Five Star Major broke s maiden status winning a Graduation Stakes and in addition to the first place stake-money he collected a $2,000 Owners Westbred First Win Bonus plus a $2,000 Breeders Westbred First Win Bonus. Five Star Major was sold for $8,500 as Lot 26 at the 2013 Gloucester Standardbreds Yearling Sale. Last night at Northam the 4yo Courage Under Fire x Lady Maryclaire gelding Tarsao brought up his fourth win overall and third this season. In the process Tarsao qualified for the $25,000 Peter Dempster Memorial at Northam on December 18th . Gloucester Standardbreds will offer a full-sister to Tarsao as Lot 87 of the 129 lots scheduled for sale at the 2015 WA Yearling Sale on February 22nd . The catalogue for the 2015 Gloucester Standardbreds Yearling Sale is now available on-line at http://www.gloucesterstandardbreds.com.au/ and the hard copy catalogue is at the printers and will be available later this month to be mailed to prospective purchasers.

Those planning to enter harness racing horses for the Meadowlands January Select Mixed Sale should do so by Monday, Dec. 8 in order to be included in the main catalog, according to sale manager David Reid. Entries submitted after Monday, until cutoff time, will go in the sale supplement. “The catalog is coming together nicely and we’ll have quality horses in all categories--racehorses, in-foal broodmares, broodmare prospects, ‘short’ yearlings and stallion shares,” said Reid. “The market continues to show that demand is still exceeding supply when it comes to high-quality horses, and I expect a great market to continue,” he added. The sale is scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, January 19, in the race paddock at the Meadowlands. When finalized, main catalog entries, along with catalog pages and racelines, will be posted on the sales company’s website, tattersallsredmile.com, and on the Equineline sales catalog app. Those wishing to enter should call (914) 773-7777 or use the online entry form on the Tattersalls website. For more information contact David Reid at (914) 773-7777 or email davereid@preferredequine.com. Tattersalls Sales Co.

Southwind Farms, Manager of the Muscle Hill Syndicate, has announced that the book for the 2015 Breeding Season is now full and closed.  Muscle Hill will once again stand at Marion Farms, New Hope, Pennsylvania. Muscle Hill enjoyed a banner year, highlighted by TRIXTON’s Hambletonian win and MISSION BRIEF’s World Record performance at Lexington, becoming the fastest two year old trotter of all time, with her 1:50.3 victory.  He is currently the leading Money Winning Sire of Two Year Olds with over $2,000,000 in progeny earnings. In addition, he is the leading sire of 1:55 Three Year Olds.  Other top performers sired by Muscle Hill in 2014, include World Champion filly JOLENE JOLENE 2,1:52.1, MUSCLE DIAMOND 2,1:53.4, SOUTHWIND STRYKER 2,1:53.4, three year olds EL TITAN 2,1:53.4, HEAVEN’S DOOR 3,1:52, ROYAL ICE  3,1:51.3, ODDS ON AMETHYST 3,1:52.1,etc. Mike Klau, Syndicate Manager, said that he was overwhelmed with the booking requests that have come in and that breeding contracts for approved mares will be forwarded by the end of the month. We would like to thank everyone who has supported the stallion and would also like to welcome new shareholders, Coyote Wind Farm and Crawford Farm. Southwind Farm

One of the most pressing issues for people involved in the harness racing industry in New Zealand is what are we going to do to address the continuing decline in the number of mares bred. Many participants in the industry have a various rationale for the reasons for the decline which has seen the  number of mares bred last breeding season drop back to levels last experienced in the late 1960s. On the racing side of the industry a lot of time and effort has gone into getting better utilization of our racing stock and progress has been made. Our two major clubs have made great strides in recent times with regards to stake levels and returns to the industry. However on the breeding side of the industry the core issue for breeders of affordability continues to languish in the too hard basket. The chances of the average New Zealand breeder returning a profit on their foal/foals has continued to decline over the last 20 years as costs have risen far quicker than returns. The commercial side of the breeding industry has held up reasonably well to a point but the hobby breeder who sends one or two mares to stud each year are starting to resemble 21st century moas. The reason that it is so important to keep numbers up overall is the position of harness racing in the New Zealand gambling market. At present we have a market share around the 29% mark, down from a high of 32% in the not to distant past. Greyhound racing continues to grow its market share and with its low cost structure and overheads and ability to stage wall to wall racing it presents a major challenge to the long term health of harness racing in New Zealand. To see off that challenge, harness racing needs to continue to have a presence in as much of rural and provincial New Zealand as possible.  The way the breeding numbers are heading, harness racing is going to have enormous difficulty maintaining some of the current meetings held outside of Auckland and Christchurch. We haven't even got to the significantly smaller crops that are coming through the system and yet we are struggling to card even eight races on some recent programs. Harness Racing New Zealand is being extremely creative in trying to frame races to fill the shortfall but that job is just going to get more and more difficult as the smaller crops come on stream. Several industry participants have put forward suggestions to try to turn around the breeding decline and while there was merit in all of the ones we have seen, none in our view were going to stop the decline. In our view we need something tangible that the breeder can see is going to help their bottom line if we are to encourage breeders to continue to send their mares to stud. The idea of a breeders payment every time a racehorse wins a race has been around for ages and in our view is an option whose time has come. We envisage a standardbred breeding fund operated and controlled through Harness Racing New Zealand. Every time a race is held in New Zealand, a breeding credit of $500 will be added to the standardbred breeding account held by Harness Racing New Zealand of the breeder of that winner. Every breeding season, breeders will be able to offset stud fees they owe against money held in their standardbred breeding account at Harness Racing New Zealand. Promient breeders we spoke to thought the idea had merit but how do you fund the proposal without hurting the stakes side of the equation. The closer we studied the available data surrounding the breeding industry in New Zealand, the more convinced we became that a funding model sustained by the studs was the way to go. The first thing that strikes you when looking at the stud scene in New Zealand is the domination of our market by overseas interests.  In the last breeding season, 77% of the stallions available to New Zealand breeders were owned by foreign interests and thats where most of the income from those stallions ends up, offshore. By our calculations, close to $10,000,000 was sucked out of our industry last year by overseas owned stallions and going by the list of stallions available this season, that figure will continue to grow. So we think a breeding levy is justified but setting the rate and how it would operate are not clear cut. We looked at several overseas examples, both here in Australasia and in Europe and have settled on the "Kiwi" model we think best serves New Zealand's harness racing industry. The formulae is simple: Every mare with a positive 42 day test attracts a breeding levy of 5% of the advertised stud fee which is payable by the stallion owner to Harness Racing New Zealand by May 1st each year after every breeding season.   There are a lot of questions around whether the breeding fund should be universal or not or should there be a limit on how much a breeder can accrue in one season but they are all solvable. Could this proposal be the answer to the decline in our breeding numbers is a question for industry participants to answer. What no one should lose sight of is the status quo or tinkering around the edges hasn't worked and time is quickly running out to reverse the slide.. Action is long overdue to support  the remaining breeders and the clock is ticking. J.C

The 'CSBA Summer of Speed' is another push from the association representing and promoting interests of standardbred breeders in Canterbury.  Scheduled to start the first week of December it's a race series that gives good class mares an opportunity to upgrade their 'CV' with an eye on a post racing life at stud explains CSBA deputy chairman Martin Pierson.  “We have to be urgent in the breeding sector of the sport. Incentives to keep good mares in New Zealand producing the foals that'll  'put on the show' in the future is a priority right now.”   Pierson is part of a sub-committee formed by the association targeting areas it sees as helping turn a tide of decreasing harness horse numbers caused by a financially strapped breeding sector.  “The absolute top tier mares can look after themselves, it's those chasing we're losing too quickly to keep a sustainable population of quality horses coming on. Those 2nd tier mares are being exported to Australia mainly, filling up race fields and stud farms in Victoria and New South Wales instead of Canterbury and New Zealand.”  A tighter summer race schedule and new supporting stallion group are two fresh starts this season for the races recently known as the Christian Cullen Mares Series.  The 'Prodigal Seelster Summer of Speed' starts at Methven on December 7th then moves to Addington just under a fortnight later on the 19th.   The C2 and faster pacing mares then stretch their legs at Ashburton's renowned speedway on Boxing Day before heading back to Addington on January 16 and a last bid at qualifying for the $16 000 final at Ashburton, February 7th.  All races will be over a mile which immediately brings the controversial start point at Addington for such events into question again. Pierson says the series sub-committee debated more than one issue strongly and mile racing at New Zealands premier track came back frequently.  “We've opened the class eligibility a little wider this summer with a total stakes won cap of $65k which will help keep about half a dozen C5, 6 and 7 mares in the mix. Addington's mile start provides a natural barrier draw handicap which, as we've seen already this spring, keeps the C2 mares very competitive with the more tightly assessed girls who'll get their shot matching motors at Methven and Ashburton.”  Methven's grass track venue also came under review says Pierson but while it scored down on the 'fast track fast times' objective, the prospect of 14 runners in front of the club's typically big crowd on a summers day was deemed a great start for the series.  In addition to backing the $9000 heats and $16 000 final, stallion owner Noel Kennard has proposed a package of free services to 'Prodigal Seelster'.  Prodigal Seelster winning the “Battle of Waterloo”  Not only for the winner of the 'Summer of Speed' final but the fastest mare through the series and in fact all competitors will be in a draw for a 'free date' with the stallion.  “He's locked in for 3 years” Pierson enthuses. “That gives the CSBA confidence to develop the series and the stallion is exposed to quality, fast mares coming through the series”.  Canterbury Standardbred Breeders Association  

Nevele R Stud, one of Australasia's leading Standardbred Stud farms, is pleased to announce that Michael Taylor has joined the harness racing company as the new Australian Sales and Booking Co-ordinator. Michael brings to the role a vast amount of industry knowledge, enthusiasm and professionalism. He is a leading sponsor of trotting races in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia through his company Taylor Made Travel, and is also both an owner and breeder himself. His cites his 19-win mare Miss Adelade winning both the Queensland Trotter and Trotting Mare of the Year titles in 2010 as his highlight to date as an owner, and as a sponsor Arizona Blue's win over the colts in the Taylor Made Travel  NSW  Trotters Derby rates highly. Based in New South Wales, Michael will be responsible for assisting breeders with their bookings, taking  semen orders throughout the season and facilitating the distribution of frozen semen throughout Australia. "We're very much looking forward to Michael taking up the role as we believe he will be an integral part in providing our Australian clients with an exceptional level of customer service" stated Marketing and Sales Manager Nikki Reed. Michael joins Nevele R at an exciting time for the company, with Nevele R partnering with Alabar in an industry first to bring the beautifully credentialled $2.4 million winning son of Rocknroll Hanover, A Rocknroll Dance down-under this season. A Meadowlands Pace winner and the first two-year-old ever to record multiple sub 1:50 wins, A Rocknroll Dance has proven incredibly popular with breeders and is close to having his Australian book closed. The coming breeding season also sees the addition of the champion North American trotting sire Andover Hall to the Stud's frozen semen ranks. Andover Hall has been a sensation from the day his stock hit the tracks - with his remarkable first crop featuring the champion trotters Donato Hanover and Pampered Princess, along with Hambletonian runner up Adrian Chip and Hambletonian Oaks winner Danae. Michael looks forward to discussing Nevele R's stallions and services with breeders, and welcomes enquires. His contact details are: P: 02 4346 1781 M: 0410 565 244 F: 02 9045 0542 E: mxt1225@hotmail.com  

“We canvassed standardbred breeders around the country and agreed the harness racing market to sell a broodmare in foal or ready to foal would be greatest in the early spring”.  CSBA Chairman Noel Kennard articulating the main reason for the association's just confirmed 'Broodmare and Mixed Stock Sale' this spring. There are several points of difference with the September 11th event. The first early vendors have been encouraged by is a 0% commission on any transaction. “We aren't a business,we're just providing a platform for breeders to present and sell their product” says Sheldon Murtha, one of six Sales Sub Committee members charged with shaping the new sale. “Any associated costs will be covered by the $125 per entry fee.” Previous mid-winter mixed stock horse sales have often proved uneconomical for most concerned. The racing and yearling sales seasons are over when they're scheduled with no real demand from investors to buy and then carry an animal through the cold months. “The one taking the hit in the pocket,year after year lately,is the breeder. This spring sale will at least give them an opportunity to sell when there is more demand at the start of a breeding season.” says Kennard. Another cost being circumnavigated is that of transporting and parading a horse at the venue. Prior sales knowledge and inspection will be paramount for potential buyers to get comfortable bidding on a broodmare not necessarily being shown in front of them on auction night at Addington Raceway. “In this economic climate it's a dead loss tripping a nice mare from say, Southland, only to have to transport her home again if a buyer hasn't been found on the day” expands Murtha. “This way the only real cost to the vendor is the entry fee, the rest is fielding and answering inquiries about their horses for the month leading to the sales night. By then any buyer or agent will have matched a type with what they want to pay as with any auction really”. The CSBA is confident the sale will appeal to breeders and buyers across New Zealand and even Australia given the quality of stock already nominated. All final entries accepted from across New Zealand will be published by August 17th.A website based catalogue will be available on the NZSBA web pages at www.harnessracing.co.nz. followed quickly by an industry wide media campaign. Harnesslink media

A couple of years ago Mark Purdon while visiting Natalie's family in Queensland was called upon to sort out a couple of yearlings Vic and Cheryl Rasmussen might be interested in. The first one was Aldo Rossi a $6000 purchase which won $50,000 in his first 10 starts from Rolleston before returning to Queensland where he had to be put aside after developing a problem. The second one, believe it or not, cost a lot less than Aldo and was named Horace Greeley-but things didn't go so well for him. "He was just ready to come over and get ready for some nice races here when he suffered a freak injury. He was out for over eight months so his three year old career was on hold. He only got over here a couple of months ago but he had been trained up and it is just good to get him to the races." Horace claims a place in the Timaru fields on Sunday but it is unlikely he will be asked to back up. He had to work quite hard to get to the front and was challenged early in the run home in a 28 and change quarter so it rated as a bold debut. Horace Greeley is a son of former Burwood Stud stallion Western Edition a combined thoroughbred and standardbred breeding and agistment operation based near Toowoomba on the Darling Downs by the Denning family. The stud has five standardbred stallions (more than any other Queensland stud) and two thoroughbred horses. By David McCarthy (ALL STARS RACING STABLE) *The All Stars team were also successful with Petite One, Go-Harness Syndication trotter Saratoga, and Change Stride, who headed an All Stars quinella when downing stablemate Have Faith In Me in the fourth event. However, it is evident neither of them came as cheap as Horace Greeley. Change Stride is a Rocknroll Hanover half-brother to New Zealand Cup champion Changeover while, Have Faith In Me, is a Bettor's Delight full-brother to superstar mare Adore Me. Purdon was understandably impressed with both juveniles. "Change Stide burned the gate and still won with something in reserve, while Have Faith In Me produced a big run after being left out three-wide for the last lap," said Purdon. Tonight's earning took All Stars total stake earning for the season above the $3 million mark for the first time since 2010.

The continuing drop in the number of standardbred mares bred in New Zealand is a major impediment to the longterm survival of our industry. Every breeding season the problem continues to worsen with little or no attempt to address the major causes. From a high of 8798 mares served in the 1987/88 breeding season, the number of mares served has gradually declined to the point that last season just 2861 mares were covered in New Zealand. The fact that you have to go back to the 1968/69 season when 2755 mares were covered to find a season with a lower number than last year should have everyone in the industry very concerned. In an effort to combat this long term trend the focus to date has been on increasing stake levels returned to stake holders and on this front solid progress has been made. But as must be patently obvious to Harness Racing New Zealand, this strategy has not arrested the slide in numbers of mares bred. Some commentators have even been as brave to suggest we are only discarding the poorer mares at the bottom of the breeding chain and not to worry about the drop off. In our view that is a very short shighted position and could have dire consequences for the New Zealand industry long term. We desperately need to stop the breeding slide in the first instance and then have a long term plan as to how to grow our breeding industry. The focus has to be on the breeding componet of the industry as a seperate entity. The focus needs to be around what help/ reward can we implement that will incentivise those breeders who have withdrawn from the industry to start breeding again and to intice new breeders to begin breeding. In our view there are two options that overseas experience tells us are worthy of consideration in this matter. A breeding bonus paid directly to the breeder of a horse every time it wins a race in New Zealand. A good starting point in our view would be $500 per race.                                                                   OR A percentage of the stakemoney of each winner on raceday is directed to the breeder of winner Settling on that percentage would be difficult but in France for instance it is 12.5%. We think that is way to high for New Zealand but the concept has merit. On the issue of how to fund these payments,it is the obvious that other stake holders will protest loudly if they percieve they are losing out to the breeders. That will be the view expressed but it is a terribly short shighted one in our opinion. In our view it is up to the larger clubs to set the ball rolling and so when the next round of stake increases are announced by the likes of  the Auckland Trotting Club and the NZ Metro, they should set aside up to $500 per race of that proposed increase to be paid to the breeder of the winner of every race they stage. One thing is certain. If we continue to think that lifting race stakes on its own will arrest the slide in breeding numbers then we are sadly mistaken. Unless we introduce specific measures to help breeders, then all the future will hold will just be a further slide in the breeding numbers. If that happens, then our ability to maintain our current 32% share of the New Zealand gaming market will be severely compromised and our longterm viability would then seriously come into question.  Visit the sires register for full details of breeding numbers Harnesslink media

Breeding wise Poppymalda has a lot to recommend her. By champion harness racing trotting sire Armbro Invasion, Pollymalda is from the Sundon mare In The Sun who is a full sister to the former standout trotter Sundowner Bay 18 wins ($259,856). In The Sun is also a half sister to the dam of the brilliant Enthusiast 1:59.5 ($90,585) who won 11 races as a two and three year old, Inspire 9 wins ($147,468) including the Group One Rowe Cup and Call You Later, 9 wins $73,174. The great race mare Framalda (22 wins) is another standout trotter close up in the pedigree. So it should be no surprise that Poppymalda looks to have inherited all of the family ability. Having just her second lifetime start last night at Forbury, she was sent out a short priced favourite even though she drew the outside of the second line. That was due in no small part to her huge run on debut where she lost a 100 meters early but still finished a close up sixth. Last night she settled last of the bunch before coming out with a round to go to work forward to the death. She remained there until they turned for home where she shot clear with driver Nathan Williamson sitting as quiet as a church mouse as she cruised to the line,an easy winner. The stock of Armbro Invasion are noted for getting better with age so Poppymalda looks to have a big future ahead of her if her first two runs are anything to go by. Poppymalda Harnesslink media

All maternal lines of horses go through periods where they seem to be winning everything they enter and the “Kenny” breed of North Otago is doing just that at the moment. One Over Da Moon won the group two VHRSC Holmfield at Melton on Friday night, his eighth career success to date taking his earnings over the $150,000 mark. At Oamaru on Sunday, King Kenny was very impressive winning his ninth race from just 24 starts after starting from a 50 meter handicap, while his half sister One Two Kenny also looked on the path to better things when easily winning her maiden race earlier in the day. It is a breed that doesn't have a long history but one that seems to be on a real roll at the moment. Raymauwarrhen Son (22 wins) and ($146,235) started the run off but it is the performance of his race winning half sister Frances Jay Bee (6 wins) at stud which has really lifted this family to such prominence. She left three outstanding trotters headed by the champion mare, One Over Kenny ($1,098,007) as well as One Kenny (19 wins) ($110,133) and One Under Kenny (11 wins) ($87,919). One Over Da Moon is a son of One Over Kenny while both King Kenny and One Two Kenny are from her full-sister One Under Kenny. Another full sister to One Over Kenny and One Under Kenny is the two win mare ,Nice One Kenny who has already left the very promising Queen Kenny who has won three to date from just seven starts. It is a breed that is quickly cementing itself as one of the premier trotting maternal families in the New Zealand studbook. One Two Kenny King Kenny Harnesslink media      

‘‘A BLIND man can see what’s happening, we’re running out of horses.’’ With that stark statement, North Auckland trainer Ray Green issued a warning that unless Harness Racing New Zealand got off its hands and did something to address the problem, the game would quickly die. Green went on the attack this week with the revelation that the number of mares served was down another 6.6% and for the first time in decades New Zealand’s foal crop will dip below 2000. Alarmingly, the number of mares bred is down to 2832, a drop of 28% on 10 years ago. And Green says that’s all down to the wonderful policy HRNZ had adopted to arrest the decline - ‘‘it’s called let’s do nothing.’’ ‘‘Breeders are quite rightly getting pissed off - the owners aren’t there to buy their horses any more because the costs are too high and stakes too low. And HRNZ is the enemy because it has done nothing to counter that.’’ Green, trainer for the powerful Lincoln Farms operation, said they had recently sold talented pacers Medley Moose, Hawkeye Bromac and Imhisdaughter to Australia because it made no sense to keep racing them here. ‘‘Medley Moose is a beautiful horse, I would love to have kept him, but we had a good offer for him and it would have been hard to win that sort of money here. The handicapping system is such that with one more win he would have been up against Terror To Love. You just have to sell them.’’ Green said owners are continually weighing up whether to take a punt and keep their horse or to sell them. ‘‘If an owner thinks his horse can win two more races, and perhaps another $10,000, if an Australian wants to give him $50,000 for his horse, it’s a no-brainer. ‘‘The Auckland Trotting Club, struggling to fill its fields, is offering higher stakes, hoping people will retain their horses. But horses will still be handicapped out of it too quickly and people will still want to sell them.’’ Green cited the case of a two-year-old in his stable who had won three races.‘‘He’s a c2 but if he wins another race over $15,000 he’ll start next year as a c3 horse and to get a run he’ll have to go in standing starts and have Besotted, our c9 horse, breathing down his neck.’’ Crazily, Besotted, who has never won a race over $15,000, is still rated an M0 in Australia and could go to Sydney and win two or three races really quickly. ‘‘They need to create more opportunities for horses to be viable here if they want to keep them. But people will not wait forever. Like cars, horses depreciate as they get older, and the more a horse wins here, the less it is worth over there. ‘‘The game’s going to die unless something is done but  the powers that be don’t seem to be interested.’’ HRNZ chief executive Edward Rennell said Green was completely wrong to say nothing was being done to solve the problem but there was no silver bullet. ‘‘Yes, the number being bred is of concern but what is encouraging is the wastage factor is less.’’ Rennell said the breeding decline was a worldwide problem. In Australia, standardbred breeding numbers dropped by 33% in the last 10 years and by 47% in North America, according to a report it commissioned from the New Zealand Standardbred Breeders’ Association. The thoroughbred code faced the same issue, he said. Rennell said while the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club had introduced a breeders’ bonus - in the last three months 34 $500 bonuses have been paid out to breeders of tote race winners at Addington - HRNZ did not agree that all stake payouts should incorporate the same bonus, a French initiative being promoted by Studholme Bloodstock’s Brian West. ‘‘There is a limited pool of funds and if you pay some of that to the breeders that’s less that goes to the owners,’’ Rennell said. ‘‘And we are trying to make ownership more attractive and viable.’’ Rennell said HRNZ had increased the minimum stake to $5000 this season and stakes were up overall by 6%. It would be examining whether to increase the $80 payout to every starter. HRNZ was also looking at reducing the number of races next season by 2%. In the 2005-06 season, 2435 races were run while that number rose to 2743 last year, putting more strain on field sizes. Discussions were also underway with the Sires’ Stakes Board, the breeders and two principal clubs on whether changes were needed to age group and premier racing. ‘‘But we think that the changes to the handicapping system are working because field sizes are up from 10.4 starters per race to 10.6.’’ While that might not sound much, it was a significant improvement when it covered 2700 races. Rennell said the handicapping sub-committee was meeting next week to review the performance of the new system and its age group concessions and would make a recommendation on whether it thought the drop back provision should be reduced from 10 starts. The challenge for HRNZ was not only to get more horses to the races but to better use the horse population – if every horse raced just once more in a season, field sizes could be maintained. Rennell said the number of horses sold to Australia was actually down on previous years. ‘‘It averages around 850 a season but that’s down 50-100 because of the new import levy.’’  Overall, exports were similar with about 100 sent to China. WASTAGE COSTS BREEDERS $11 MILLION HALF OF all the standardbred horses we breed never get to the races. And that disturbing fact, rather than the continuing decline in numbers, will be the immediate focus for the industry’s main breeding body. The annual cost to breeders of the high level of wastage is put at $11 million in a paper by Kiely Buttell, executive manager of the NZ Standardbred Breeders’ Association. ‘‘At an average service fee of $6000, plus vet costs, stud handling fees and agistment charges of a further $1500, the annual (wastage) cost to breeders is $11 million.’’  While figures show the percentage of the foal crop wasted dropped from 61% in 1995 to 53% in 2005, Buttell says the continuing high level is a major conern. ‘‘There will always be a percentage of the foal crop that is born with defects, die at an early age or suffer accidents that will impinge on their racing viability. ‘‘But we need to understand the percentage of horses that are deemed unviable for non injury related reasons and identify solutions to address this.’’ The NZSBA would also be focussing on conception rates. Only 71% of mares served in the latest breeding season were confirmed in foal, a figure which has been static in the last 20 years despite improvements in artificial insemination in other breeds. "Serving a mare three times and not getting her into foal is a massive cost to breeders.’’ Buttell said the association had engaged Palmerston North trainer and equine researcher Jasmine Tanner to scope a research project to investigate the quality parameters of chilled standardbred semen in New Zealand in order to improve conception rates in mares and increase the economic viability for broodmare owners. Funding would be sought from the NZ Equine Research Foundation but the industry might have to foot some of the bill itself, she said. Evidence suggested it was the smaller hobby breeder who was exiting the game, citing rising breeding costs along with declining stakes. That was a problem when breeders here raced 50% of horses. BARRY LICHTER Courtesy of the Sunday Star Times

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