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The terminal decline of harness racing in New Zealand continues unabated and the future of this industry is looking shakier by the day. The recent announcement by the New Zealand Racing Board that Harness Racing New Zealand has given up another 59 races for next season is yet another nail in the coffin of the industry in New Zealand. The rationale given by Harness Racing New Zealand is that with less races they hope to improve overall field size and improve the quality of the racing. That is about as realistic as me wanting to sleep with Demi Moore. It ain't going to happen. Both the Thoroughbred and Greyhound national bodies have maintained the same number of races as last year and logic would suggest that they will continue to take market share off harness racing as a result. Harness Racing has lost 4% of its races in just two years and that is before the big reductions in foal numbers start to kick in which will really affect the number of races we can conduct each season. So what is our governing body proposing to do to arrest the slide and turn the industry around. Apart from a bit of tinkering around the edges, in my view they are sitting on their hands while this industry goes down the gurgler. The question I would pose is how is the industry travelling in New Zealand at the grass roots level. I talk to scores of industry people each week throughout New Zealand and the feedback is overwhelmingly negative. There are a great many trainers who are looking to cross the Tasman or get out of the industry completely. These include some household names in the industry in New Zealand which leads me to conclude that we are reaching a tipping point in the industry in this country. Auckland is by far the worst area but is not alone in the disillusionment engulfing this industry throughout the country. If the current trends continue and then accelerate when the lower foal numbers kick in shortly, then I don't think harness racing in New Zealand in its present form will exist in ten years time. We need to act now and turn this industry around or prepare ourselves for its demise I know I have been beating this drum for a while but I thought that Harness Racing New Zealand would take up the challenge and they would turn things around. However they have done next to zero and this industry is now living on borrowed time. Several times over the last twelve months I have put forward proposals to change the way we do things in the harness racing industry in New Zealand to help it survive. I don't want to go back over these in detail but I will touch briefly on them here so we are all on the same page.   There are a multitude of structures that need urgent change but I will focus here on the four that I think are critical to any chance of saving this industry. 1) Management Structures The management structure of harness racing in New Zealand is more akin to that of a 1960s sports club than that of an industry that turns over hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The clubs in New Zealand were set up to run race meetings and they do an outstanding job of performing their primary function. No one can tell me that clubs that meet once a year were ever envisaged to be running the multi faceted and complex business that harness racing in 2015 has become. We need a small  business savvy board with representatives elected by the rank and file participants in the industry in conjunction with some appointed members who are there for their business acumen. 2) Breeding Incentives The breeding side of harness racing is in a death spiral at the moment and unless we do something urgently then the breeding numbers will continue to fall. We have just lost 59 races for the coming year due to lack of runners per race and with the significantly smaller crops now starting to come on stream, that reduction in races per year will accelerate in the coming years. There are several models in use worldwide where other countries heavily support their breeders and we need to follow suit and soon. There is no time to argue about the merits of each of the systems, just adopt one and use it before it is too late. 3) Handicapping system The present system for the majority of horses is not working. The system has been tinkered with for many years and it still has major flaws. A lot of trainers I speak to think the handicapping system is worst now than it has ever been. We have had some minor improvements over the last few years but at this rate we will get it fully sorted about 2050 Why have we not tried something like a points system as Richard Brosnan has been promoting for some time? It is simple, easy to follow and would extend the life of a lot of our poorer performed horses. The Australian market for our cheaper horses has virtually disappeared overnight with the tax imposed on our horses by the Australians.  Harness Racing New Zealand is trying to solve the problem by making better usage of the horses that are presently racing. A recent HRNZ quote is " We have started less horses more times".   If you take that solution to its logicial conclusion we are going to have less and less horses racing more often over time. It is the exact opposite to what they should be trying to do. The ideal would be to have more horses racing if the system was working, not less. Less horses means less owners, less trainers, less drivers and so on and so on. At some point we will be down to  just Alexandra Park and Addington if we don't change our present course. 4) New Zealand Racing Board If you want to know where the money is going in the three codes in New Zealand then look no further than the New Zealand Racing Board. The pigs have got there noses that deep in the trough that it is no wonder that the three codes are struggling to survive. I could pinpoint several examples but I think it is just as easy to set out below some of the costs associated with the New Zealand Racing Board. Operational costs of the New Zealand Racing Board - August 2014 - just after the last HRNZ annual conference. - NZRB's running costs have increased by $24.4 million in four years, a rise of 6.2%. - For the same period turnover increased by just 1.5% and income 2.3%. - Since August 2012, staff costs had risen by $2 million or 4%, an April KPMG audit report said. - The NZRB's annual report of 2013 listed staff expenses of $54.98 million. - In the NZRB's more recent half-yearly report its staff expenses for the six months ending January 31,2014, amounted to $30.71 million, up $2.5 million on 2013. - Its total expenses for the same six months were $64 million, up $3.1 million. - The 2013 annual report listed 72 staff that was paid more than $100,000. - Twenty four of those earned more than $150,000, and eight earned more than $250,000. I have been involved with this industry for nearly forty five years and not much has changed to be honest in that time, except the cost of running the Industry. We need to change the structures that run this industry and bring them into the 21st century. Its like Harness Racing New Zealand is aware that the Titanic is going down but instead of taking any action they would rather sit and listen to the band. JC

Delaware, OH - Sugar Valley Farm and the Dragon Again Syndicate have announced that Dragon Again's book is full and closed for 2015. Sire of the richest pacer ever, Foiled Again p,1:48f ($6,925,031), Dragon Again p,1:48.3 ($2,343,428) is perennially ranked among harness racing’s leading pacing sires in both speed and earnings categories. Standing his second Ohio season in 2015, he has been enthusiastically received by breeders in the Buckeye state with full books in both 2014 and 2015. His first crop of Ohio-eligible foals will be yearlings in 2016. For further information, contact Sugar Valley Farm at 740.363.5618 or e-mai

With two thirds of the New Zealand harness racing season over, we thought it was a good time to take a look at how some of our siring charts were tracking. The one that immediately caught our eye was this season's broodmares sires list which is currently headed by the outstanding trotting sire and now broodmare sire in Sundon. Second last year to champion broodmare sire In The Pocket, Sundon has established a healthy lead over his pacing rivals this season and is going to be hard to head off. As of today Sundon holds an advantage of $314,494 over reigning premiership winner In The Pocket  with Holmes Hanover and Christian Cullen close behind. There are few major changes to the list this season below the top handful with the exception being Live Or Die who has dropped down a few places after finishing fifth last year and the emergence of Mach Three whose mares have only left 84 foals old enough to race yet he presently sits in 20th place after finishing 41st last year and is obviously a broodmare sire on the rise. The ability of Sundon to lead the broodmare list is quite a stunning achievement as generally the trotting component  of most meetings is only three races on average yet he is heading off pacing broodmare sires who have at least double that number of races at most meetings. Armbro Invasion is making steady progress as a broodmare sire and has overtaken Chiola Hanover as number two on the trotting only side of things but is well over a million behind Sundon still. On the pacing side of things nothing else is really standing out but Bettors Delight is just starting out as a broodmare sire and after finishing 90th last year, is presently sitting in 62nd place. With Bettors Delight being widely recognized as the best filly sire worldwide by a lot of breeders and with the huge number of  his well performed mares heading off to stud in the next few years, it would seem only a matter of time before he tops the broodmare sires list as well.   Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing in New Zealand is in a real bind in our opinion and unless our leaders do something very quickly then we could very easily become a "sunset industry" in this country. The breeding figures for the just completed breeding season are now available and the annual decline in mares bred continues unabated with the decline looking to be in the region of 7.5%. This decline has been evident for well over a decade now and if it is not stopped our industry as it is presently structured will cease to exist. We are not saying the harness racing industry as we know it, will disappear but its shape and form will look nothing like what we have at present. That is the cold hard reality we face when the number of foals bred cannot possibly meet the needs of a racing programme set up for foal crops of nearly double what we are going to now produce. A lot of short sighted people have claimed repeatedly that we are only getting rid of the poorer performed mares each year and that the decline is nothing to worry about. Nothing could be further from the truth. With the continuing decline we are seeing it is only a matter of time before the ability of some clubs to conduct meetings will be severely compromised. Regional areas of New Zealand that rely on horses from other provinces will be the first to feel the pinch in our view. We already have a situation in the thoroughbred code where they are absent from some provincial areas in New Zealand where they use to be strong and we think that harness racing will go that way as well if the breeding numbers continue to decline. Many point to the yearling sales as a guide to how healthy the industry is but it only represents 20% of our industry and while good for morale it can't change the basic premise that harness racing is an industry in rapid decline. The strength of harness racing in New Zealand has always been the fantastic spread of our industry throughout the country. In other words the grassroots of our industry has always been our strength. If that base was to be severely weakened, then the whole structure becomes vulnerable.  There are numerous methods used overseas to help the breeder stay in the industry and we have covered these in depth in previous articles. Harness Racing New Zealand and the New Zealand Racing Board have been strangely silent on solutions for this complex problem. There has been plenty of hand wringing and platitudes but no plan of action to help breeders stay in the industry. Time is of the essence in this matter and the longer we dither before doing something, the more chance that the intervention will be too little too late. JC

The Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society is pleased to announce that their 2015 Stallion Auction will begin this Monday, February 23, at 9 a.m.   The Stallion Auction is a major fundraiser every year for OSAS which has been finding forever homes for retired harness horses for almost 20 years. We are very grateful to those who have donated stallion services as well as those who will purchase them.   Bids may be made for each stallion via email to The auction will conclude at 4 p.m. on February 28. Questions regarding the auction should be directed to Joanne Colville at 905-854-6099 or 905-339-6748.   The stallions available for auction this year are as follows:   Stallion                         Donated By Windsong Espoir                          Bill Loyens Big Jim                                       Seelster Farms Justice Hall                                 Seelster Farms Sunshine Beach                          Seelster Farms Holiday Road                              Seelster Farms Sunfire Blue Chip                        Tara Hills Stud Glidemaster                                Winbak Canada   Heather MacKay  

Harness racing followers on this side of the Tasman have been hearing for a few years now how Australian breeders were producing more and more of their elite age group and aged performers and that in the not to distant future they would overtake Kiwi breeders as the major supplier of elite level horses in Australasia. Those same Australian breeders must be looking at this weekends Hunter Cup and wondering what to make of the fact that eleven of the fourteen runners have that little tag of NZ beside their name. Of the four favourites heading into tonights $400,000 Hunter Cup, three have that same NZ tag. Christen Me, Adore Me and Terror To Love are all rated huge chances to take home the Cup with the only Australian given a chance being the Emma Stewart trained Guaranteed by Artsplace from the outstanding Australian mare Jadah Rose.. The other two Australian breds in the field are also in the Emma Stewart barn in Restrepo (second dam the NZ mare Cerebrand by Lordship) and Philladelphia Man (third dam the NZ mare Sue Adios) whcih are both just a yard behind the top quartet. Ever since the harness racing industry began in New Zealand over 100 years ago, New Zealand breeders have been selling their fillies and mares to Australia but always retaining more than enough of their best bred stock to allow the breed to thrive in their own country. Each country has had periods where they seemed to be getting the upper hand but for most of the last 100 years the Kiwi breds have held the upper hand. When you consider that there are hundreds of well bred Christian Cullen, Mach Three and Bettor's Delight mares still to join the broodmare ranks in New Zealand and that dominance over the Australian breds looks set to continue. With the ongoing results achieved by New Zealand bred stock in Australia, the breeding side of the Industry in New Zealand looks to have a great future. Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing is a worldwide industry but the results of stallions can vary widely between countries let alone hemispheres. A lot of stallions perform to the same level in both hemispheres but some really struggle to reproduce in one hemisphere what they have already achieved in another. One stallion in this category in our opinion is the son of Western Ideal, Always A Virgin. Standing at stud for the first time in North America in 2009, the first foals by Always A Virgin hit the ground in Indiana in 2010. Now Indiana is not New York or Pennsylvania but it is still a strong harness racing state and right from the start Always A Virgin has produced the goods. His first crop hit the tracks in 2012 and he immediately made an impact finishing eighth on the two year old sires list in North America. And he did it from a state that does not have a Sires Stakes program of anywhere near the same value as New York or Pennsylvania. That crop has just turned five and the numbers are very impressive. It includes the outstanding mare Always About Katy 1:51.1 ($794,992) as well as such smart types as Right Touch 1:50.1 ($489,660)  Sweet Talkin Satin 1:49.1 ($349,600) and Crazy On You 1:50.2 ($238,734) Foals - 117     Winners - 83     $100,000 Winners - 14     Sub 1:50 - 2     Total Stakes - $5,737,563 His second crop hit the track in 2013 and if his first crop was good, his second was even better. Even though he again finished a highly creditable eighth on the two year old North American Sires List in 2013, Always A Virgin produced two horses in this crop who performed with distinction at the highest level of the sport. Always B Miki 1:47.4 ($930,891) won 12 races during the 2014 season  but his best run was his great effort for second in the $776,000 Meadowlands Pace where he ran second to He's Watching (who equaled the world record for a three-year-old of 1:46.4) in 1:47.1 after starting from barrier nine. Colors A Virgin 1:51 ($744,322) went one better winning 13 races during the 2014 season with her best run being her winning performance in the $178,000 Final of the Jugette at Delaware Other of note from this crop include Candy's A Virgin 1:51 ($268,871) and Not A Virgin 1:50 ($259,453) This crop has just turned four and the numbers are once again very good Foals - 111     Winners - 59     $100,000 Winners - 7     Sub 1:50 - 2     Total Stakes - $4,240,879   His third crop was significantly smaller as breeders sat back to see if the initial crops would perform and he had the new boy Rockin Image standing his first season in Indiana as well. Always a Virgin had 51 two year olds in North America in 2014 and while his overall numbers were down he still produced some lovely two year olds. His two best performers last season were Harfo Hanover 1:51.3 ($135,492) and Tonis Affection 1:51.4 ($112,400) Overall his percentages were on a par with his first two crops. Foals - 51     Winners - 20     $100,000 Winners - 2     Sub 1:53 - 3     Total Stakes - $485,232 His next crop which are two year olds in 2015 only numbered 42 foals but on the back of his first crop performing well he has 85 yearlings and has served 128 mares last year. Comment Has made his name the hard way by producing quality stock from good mares but not out and out "blue bloods " like some stallions serve. The fact he has done all of this while standing in Indiana just adds further kudos to what he has achieved. Always A Virgin has shown he can leave that elite level colt or filly that all breeders are looking for. Southern Hemisphere Always A Virgin stood his first season down under in the 2010/2011 breeding season. His first crop numbered 105 foals and they raced as two year olds in the 2013/2014 season. As of today they are nearing the halfway mark of their three year old season and the results so far look to have being disappointing. They finished tenth on the Australian two year old sires list in 2013/2014 and presently sit thirteenth on the 2014/2015 Australian three year old list. His best performers to date have been Lovelist 1:58 ($50,922) and Blackntan 1:58 ($40,115) but what is even more concerning is the overall percentages which are way off the pace of most of his competitors. As you can see from the chart below, it does not make good reading. Foals - 105   Winners - 17 $50,000 Winners - 1   % Winners / live foals - 16.19% Total Stakes $294,649    His second crop down under are two year olds in the current season and they number 54 foals. The two-year-old racing season is just getting under way now so it is way to early for any definitive comments. Always A Virgin has 88 yearlings on the ground and served another 145 mares in the 2014/2015 breeding season. Comment At this point of his first crop's three year old season, you would have to say they have been very disappointing to date. There were 27 starters in the heats of the Victorian Derby on Saturday night and Always A Virgin did not have a runner in any of the three heats. Always A Virgin needs to raise his numbers of winners and quickly and needs to find some Derby and Oaks runners as well if he is to achieve any real credibility as a sire in the Southern Hemisphere.. Overview At this stage the stock of Always A Virgin in the two hemispheres are like chalk and cheese. In North America they have over achieved for a stallion standing in Indiana and earned a reputation as talented and durable performers. In Australia they have under achieved to date and they will quickly lose their appeal to breeders and owners if this trend continues. If by the end of the current season in Australia Always A Virgin hasn't significantly improved his overall numbers and produced a couple of standout individuals, then there will be a big question mark about his future in the Southern Hemisphere. Harnesslink Media

The 2015 Pryde’s Easifeed Australasian Premier Trotting Sale will be held on Sunday, March 8, at Tabcorp Park Melton. The catalogue for the sale is out now and can be viewed via an app on iPad by searching Equineline Sales Catalogue in the app store. The March 8 sale will kick off at 1pm and will be run in conjunction with the Lyn McPherson Memorial Breed for Speed and the Great Southern Star series. More detail on the sale is available at To obtain a printed version of the catalogue visit Harness Racing Victoria during office hours, your local country club or email Further information can be obtained by phoning Adam on (03) 8378 0232. CODY WINNELL HARNESS RACING VICTORIA

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    

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 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,, 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 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

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