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Modern Trotting Sire Lines

Preface by John Bradley

The purpose of this book is to point out to the novice breeder, and affirm to the experienced breeder, which Standardbred trotting stallions most consistently sire the sport's best performers.

Sire line success tends to change with each new generation of horses. Certain male lines march on to greatness while others lose favor among breeders. There are sires which come along every quarter of a century or so and change the breed forever. For example, Speedy Crown and Super Bowl arrived to replace Star's Pride and Rodney. Today, Valley Victory has made a dramatic impact on the sport with his first few crops and he and his sons may become the superstars of the next millennium.

Each horse generation is different from the previous one, but we have learned through years of study that certain sire lines tend to breed on better than others. We also note that each generation has a different genetic pool of broodmares for us to work with in our quest of producing champions. Another constant is that the leading sires of racing performers later become the leading broodmare sires.

The great, unanswered, centuries-old question is, who contributes more to the foal - the sire or the dam? The biological answer is that each contributes an equal number of chromosomes to the offspring so there should be equal influence. And that is part of the reason why man began, centuries ago, selectively breeding horses, as an attempt to "assist" nature in the improvement of the breed.

The old axiom is "breed the best to the best and hope for the best" and it appears to be as good a rule to follow as any. But first you must know who is the best at a given point in time. Fortunately, since horse racing is a very statistical and record oriented endeavor, facts and figures are available to permit a detailed study of the proven results of various matings.

My purpose in this book is to provide a guide for breeders at all levels, to which bloodlines have worked best for trotting sires and broodmare sires, in the past and present, and to learn from the successes and failures. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it may also be the shortest way to the winner's circle. Only a small percentage of the Standardbred population reaches the pinnacle of the sport by winning major stakes events, taking fast records and earning large sums of money. It is those horses which deserve further study. Of course, there will always be the "rags-to-riches" stories of a few less than fashionably bred horses who achieve fame and fortune, but my choice is to play the percentages. We are in a gambling sport and horse breeding is not much different - you want the odds as much in your favor as possible.

There are trotting sires available to fit all budgets, all sires stakes programs and all bloodline requirements. This book will point out the modern-day sire lines which are achieving success and seem to be moving forward, as well as a number of young, unproven sires who are the sons of today's most successful stallions. The other ingredient for a good racehorse is the broodmare and the impact of trotting broodmare sires will be discussed. History has shown that the top sires become the top broodmare sires. But history has also shown that some sires who achieved less than dramatic success through their offspring's racing results can, and have, become outstanding broodmare sires. It's important to be aware of this when assessing possible broodmare purchases.

Thus, the bloodlines of the dams of your future champions are extremely important when considering "nicks" with your chosen stallion. Some work better than others to an astounding degree. Inbreeding, linebreeding and outcrossing will also be discussed since they appear to work in different ways with different stallions. This book discusses pedigree crosses, which sire seems to work best with other sires, and so forth. But it is equally important to keep in mind the rules of basic horsemanship and consider the physical attributes of the sire and the dam. Just because Sire "A" crosses well with Sire "B" on paper, it doesn't mean you can ignore conformation strengths and weaknesses, temperament, size and athleticism of both sire and dam. The stallion and mare do not read their pedigrees and say, "Hey, baby, looks like you and I are supposed to produce a 1:53 trotter here." This is where the breeder steps in and does not go to war with "Mother Nature" by breeding a mare with bad hocks to a stallion with bad hocks, or breeding back to any other faults - conformation or otherwise. In the real estate business, the popular saying is "location, location, location." In the breeding business, it should be "conformation, conformation, conformation."

The 51 sires selected for study in this book have been active since 1950 and represent a mix of currently popular stallions along with several generations of their ancestors. By studying both the past and present, we can possibly get an idea of the future. All of the younger sires outlined have offspring of racing age (as of 1996) except American Winner, Pine Chip, Victory Dream and Mr. Lavec. American Winner was chosen because he won the Hambletonian and has the potential to become the great siring son of Super Bowl, for which the sport has been waiting. Pine Chip is the fastest trotter in the history of the sport and will be trying to keep the Arnie Almahurst sire line alive in North America. Victory Dream was chosen since he is the first Hambletonian champion from the prolific young sire Valley Victory. Mr. Lavec appears because he is the richest son of the top sire Speedy Somolli and has unique maternal bloodlines with a French mare in his third generation.

All of the older stallions have had an impact on the breed as outstanding sires or broodmare sires and have appeared in the United States Trotting Association listings of leading sires over the past few decades. In the case of some of the younger stallions, such as A Go Go Lauxmont, Cumin, Giant Victory, Sierra Kosmos and Super Pleasure, early performance has been promising and/or expectations are high. Some from this group may go on to become successful sires, while others will fall from favor if no stars appear in their first few crops. The breeding business is impatient and unforgiving, but every year there are new stallion prospects, and new hopes.

Statistical data for stallions, and records and earnings for their offspring, have been obtained from the records of the United States Trotting Association and are current through late 1996. Since many good North American trotters have been exported to Europe for further racing, I have included the reduced records and additional earnings of which I am aware. I have kept my own personal records of many top American-bred performers in Europe for over a decade. My records are not official and some earnings are approximate, due to currency exchange fluctuations. I point this out because some records and earnings differ from those listed in the Sires & Dams Register or Yearbook.

The United States Trotting Association is making efforts to obtain current European records and earnings for American-bred horses. Some foreign registries have been more cooperative than others in supplying the data in a useable manner. It is an ongoing and monumental effort, for both the foreign registries and the USTA, to get this information coordinated, validated and computerized in order to have it appear in the official USTA publications.

For the purposes of this book, I have chosen to use the European records I have available. Those horses did race and win in Europe and I'm not going to pretend they never left America. There are scores of American horses who left these shores with records of 2:03 and earnings of $25,000 who later had outstanding European careers and now have records of 2:00 or better and additional earnings of $100,000 to $1,000,000 or more. This is very valuable information if you are a stallion or broodmare owner, or a yearling buyer. In today's "information age," every little bit and byte of data affects economic decisions you make on a daily basis. Wouldn't you think your Super Bowl colt was worth more if you found out his full brother won the $400,000 Gran Premio della Lotteria in Italy last week in 1:56.2? What if you own a mare whose foal was purchased and exported as a yearling, and you found out he now has a record of 1:56.3f with earnings of $825,000? Your Sires & Dams book will tell you the foal has no record or earnings. It may list the European owner, but that's all. But wouldn't that information affect how you value your mare, or your decision about which stallion you would breed to in the future?

Breeders have important decisions to make every year about booking their broodmares. Some crosses are very obvious and need little thought. But other decisions may be more risky unless the breeder has some idea about what has worked in the past for a particular sire, or with daughters of a certain sire. My purpose here is to point out some of those twists and turns which may not be readily noticed in a cursory review of a sire's produce. This is not a science, and I don't want this book to get bogged down in technical terminology. It is simply a "nuts and bolts" approach, pointing out factors which are present when breeding one bloodline to another. If I can point you in the direction of what has proven successful in the past, or provide you with some kind of "secret pedigree pattern" which works, then I will have done my job. All I am trying to accomplish is to put the odds more in your favor than they would be if you were merely to guess which sire to breed to which mare.

I have attempted to keep this book light, without being frivolous, and provide an entertaining and informative look into the pedigrees of the modern American trotter. History teaches us that crosses which work now may not work later with a different generation of sires and dams because they will have already combined most of the common popular crosses. They'll need something different. This breeding business is constantly changing and evolving. The astute breeder needs to be aware of breeding trends before the competition, and before these trends become common knowledge, if he or she wants to become a leader. Unfortunately, there are few hard and fast rules to live by in the breeding business. There are no manuals or textbooks which guarantee certain results. The famous Italian breeder of Thoroughbreds, Federico Tesio, had great confidence in his pedigree theories and physical selection of his bloodstock, but he also knew he may have to breed four foals from the same sire and dam before the "champion" colt or filly would appear to prove his theory. He had the patience and staying power to see it through and, while he had some failures, his successes were monumental. Tesio was a legend and is still considered the greatest breeder of all time. I hope you find this book informative. Perhaps it will also provide a clearer understanding of pedigree crosses and structure. My hope is that it will serve as a road map to see where we have been and where we are headed.

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