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Modern Trotting Sire Lines

 

Review from the TIMES: In Harness, May 3, 1997
A Welcome Addition to the Literature of the Sport

Harness racing literature is a little like Indian lore.

Much of it is passed from generation to generation by word of mouth, by retelling the legends and the myths, rather than in books.

That's one contributing factor to the lack of growth. It's tough to find anything current and worthwhile to read about the sport, other than its trade journals.

During the last half century - which spans the modern history of harness racing almost precisely - there has been far less published on harness racing than there should have been.

John Hervey's monumental and definitive history The American Trotter appeared in 1947 - 50 years ago - under the auspices of the Hambletonian Society, and there are only a few writers around today qualified to update it with authority.

The history of that momentous half century in harness racing is undocumented in a single volume, and those interested in the sport today - or potentially interested - are left largely to wander in a literary wasteland and scrounge for books that are out of print and hard to find.

During the last 50 years there have been a few histories, of Castleton and The Red Mile and DuQuoin and Batavia Downs, among others; two works of fiction, Alan Leavitt's Shame the Devil and Don Evans' Captain Slick; a few general guides to the sport, the most noteworthy by Phil Pines; biographies of leading horses and drivers by the late Don Evans, Phil Pikelny and Californian Marie Hill, who is working on one right now of Delvin Miller to go along with her earlier books on Joe O'Brien and Adios; a sheaf of handicapping books, perhaps the best by Tom Ainslie, the noted Thoroughbred handicapper, Frank Cotolo, editor of this publication; and Jerry Connors; two guide to exceptional broodmares, one written in Canada and the other in Lexington, both now sadly outdated; a reference volume on careers in harness racing and scattered other efforts that fall into those general categories. Most are out of print.

There have been, of course, two editions, of Care and Training of the Trotter and Pacer, the USTA's superb compendium on just what the title indicates, with chapters taped by leading trainers and drivers of 30 years ago in the 1968 edition and by stars of the present era in the new version.

But what about the breeders, large and small, private and commercial? What's been done for the people who have little to guide them except for the immortal but impractical (for many) advice of "Breed the best to the best and hope for the best."

You can do that only if
(1) you have the best or can afford to buy it
(2) can afford to breed to the best.

For them, and for all others, rich or poor, now comes bloodstock veteran and TIMES:' contributing editor John Bradley, with a sleek and handsome work called Modern Trotting Sire Lines.

Published by the Russell Meerdink Company of Neenah, Wisconsin, which has grown into major status in recent years as a producer of books on horses and equine subjects, this 350-page beauty fills a long-standing void.

In well-written words and pictures, if outlines the pedigrees, racing performances, and siring accomplishments of 51 major trotting stallions in the sport today, or that have had an impact on the sport today.

It provides historical background, from Hambletonian to the 21st century, shows the modern trotting sire lines in graphic form, outlines the pedigree crosses of the 1:55 trotters now in the sport, gives their broodmare sire credits, and then discusses and analyzes each stallion's sire and maternal line, and progeny of note.

In his introduction, Bradley - a journalist who once was vice president and sales manager of Lana Lobell Farms of New Jersey in its glory days - says, "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."

That in itself is admirable and worthwhile. But this book goes beyond that.

It provides, to the discerning reader, some guidelines and road markers that can lead to more successful nicks and crosses.

And it provides what the sport desperately needs: good, authoritative reading material that can entertain and educate.

Happily, a companion book on pacers is available:  Modern Pacing Sire Lines.

There are still 200 or so shopping days until Christmas. But Mother's Day and Father's Day are just ahead. If they're horsey they'll like this book, and if you're nice to them, both will let you borrow the copies you give them.

Modern Trotting Sire Lines is available by mail from The Russell Meerdink Co., Ltd., 1555 South Park Avenue, Neenah, Wisconsin, 54956, 1-800-635-6499 in the U.S. and Canada, 414-725-0955 worldwide, fax 414-725-0709, for $34.95 plus $3.95 shipping. It also is being sold at the gift shops of many harness tracks.
-Stan Bergstein

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