La Diosa Brilliant At Riccarton

Today’s clear winner of the CJC Canterbury Belle Stakes at Riccarton stamped herself very much as a future star. The daughter of So You Think and Group 2 winning mare Star Affair defeated a strong field, finishing off the 1200 metre event as though longer distances would pose no problems.

From a pedigree point of view this was no surprise. Star Affair (a Cloughmore recommended purchase at the 2000 yearling sales) has validated her own pedigree as both a racemare and a producer. Prior to today’s win she had left two stakeswinners, Solid Billing (Rock of Gibraltar) and the more brilliant Thy (O’Reilly), but as pedigree consultant to Star Affair’s owner Terry Archer I must confess that it has been a real challenge to find a stallion to provide size and strength in her progeny. In addition, some of her early foals had been distinctly one-paced – a problem which is always difficult to overcome.

High Chaparral appeared to be worthwhile prospect to achieve this latter goal, especially if Terry were fortunate enough to breed a colt out of the mare, but after one filly by High Chaparral, Coolmore informed Terry that the stallion had a full book. However, they offered him a service to his multiple Group 1 winning son So You Think instead. Keen to access the High Chaparral blood, Terry accepted the offer.

La Diosa will now be aimed at the Group 1 1000 Guineas in November but one would not be at all surprised if she becomes competitive at distances well in excess of 1600 metres. In the shorter term, she appears to be an excellent prospect for the Riccarton classic.

The Best Value For Money Stallions Of 2016

I’ve written articles on this theme before and they always get a strong reaction, mainly from the owners of stallions which don’t make the list. So I’d better start of by emphasising the fact that not making the list doesn’t mean that I think that your stallion has no chance of success; all I’m giving is one person’s opinion as to which stallions offer good value for breeders as at July 2016.

Let’s deal with the proven horses to start with. DARCI BRAHMA is currently second on the sires table and at $15,000 constitutes amazing value. He hasn’t set Australia on fire but he’s done very well in Singapore and he has the priceless asset of leaving horses which have that magic extra gear. On a personal note, I own a small share in the courageous mare Candle in the Wind who typifies her sire’s virtues and the Cloughmore Racing Partnership also has a holding in the 2YO Darci filly ex Gabana.

Last night’s Singapore Derby was a triumph for FALKIRK – if you didn’t see it live, do check a replay of Well Done’s freakish victory. The son of Tale of the Cat has a winners to starters ratio of 60% and just about all his best progeny have similar influences in their pedigrees. His sons have outperformed his daughters, but at $4000 he’s a steal.

On the subject of yesterday’s Asian racing, a son of SHOCKING was hugely impressive in winning a Class 3 1200 event in very quick time at Sha Tin. I have little doubt that this Melbourne Cup winning son of Street Cry is the next big thing. At $8500 he has to be huge value.

SHOWCASING and SWISS ACE have both made strong starts to their careers, and readers of this page will already be aware of the respect I have for SUPER EASY, PURE CHAMPION and KEANO. Of the newbies, IL CAVALLO offers very strong value as well.

To conclude, I’m going to give another mention to two stallions I have a significant regard for. Many breeders like to gamble on stallions with rising 2YOs as the stud fee can appear great value two and a half years later when the yearling sales come around.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and HE’S REMARKABLE both stand at $4000 and both continue to appeal very strongly indeed. HE’S REMARKABLE had superior ability and his pedigree has been franked by the deeds of his top class brother Xtravagant. His progeny may well not make 2YOs but you’d have to be very confident that he will be a star on the rise in 18 months’ time.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED is quite simply my number one stallion prospect amongst those sires with progeny which have yet to race. Very unusually for me, I’ve spent the hard-earned on sending three mares to him to date and will be fronting up with another this season. In the front paddock are two of the nicest yearlings I’ve ever bred: strong, sensible and well conformed. I’ve been wrong before, but I’m going to be very surprised if I’m wrong about this horse.

Karaka May Sale Produces Sensational Results

Who would have thought it? The May sale has traditionally been an event used by breeders to unload stock deemed to be unworthy of the expense of being taken through the winter. Now we have a sale in which the median price has increased by 188% and the average price over all lots sold doubled compared to last year’s figures.

Do these prices indicate a new dawn for the breeding industry or are there factors which make these stellar results a mere flash in the pan? There seem to have been three factors which boosted the prices of weanlings. Many had strong pedigrees, a significant proportion were well conformed and well presented and there was a strong Chinese and Australian interest in the catalogue.

However, what was of more significance, in my opinion, was that the prices of broodmares also improved dramatically. The average rose from $6148 to $17,507, the median from $2000 to $4500 and the clearance rate was a stunning 91%. You can understand people wanting to invest in great looking weanlings with strong pedigrees, but with broodmares it’s all about what you can’t see in front of you. If a mare has already left unsuccessful progeny, are they slow-maturing, the victims of poor handling or accidents, or are they just plain slow? If the mare is in foal to an average sire, is her pedigree going to dominate that of the stallion? If she’s in foal to a successful sire, is he going to be able to produce a foal which is an improvement on the mare’s previous produce?

My view is that the broodmare results are very encouraging indeed. The clearance rate was unparalleled in my memory. Buyers, several of whom appear to be new to the industry, seemed to be determined to buy a mare in spite of the fact that she cost them twice what they would have expected to pay 12 months ago. Moreover, unlike the weanling portion of the catalogue, the broodmare section didn’t seem overly strong on paper: it wasn’t difficult to figure out why most mares were being put up for sale.

Let’s hope that this positive trend continues.

Food For Thought As The Breeding Season Edges Closer

I part-own a one-win Chinese Dragon mare named Oriental Bronze and have recently been struggling with a problem which many of you will be familiar with. Do I put her back into work? Do I breed from her? Do I move her on?

As I always advise my students, I thought I’d better start by doing my homework. To my surprise I discovered that Chinese Dragon has a 50% winners to starters ratio. As he’s only had one SW, he’s certainly not a good stallion but I’d thought that he was entirely useless. I’d also thought that he’d ended up somewhere like New Caledonia or Thailand, but no, he’s in Oz and standing at $3300.

The information about where he was standing comes from the article referenced below, which is quite fascinating from at least two points of view. Firstly, the Lucky Country has a huge range of stallions standing at very reasonable fees. Here in New Zealand we breeders have a very restricted choice. There are sound economic reasons for this but the fact remains that if we own a mare which lacks commercial appeal, just what do we do? Over-mating her in terms of service fee is just plain daft; we are often left with the choice of going to stallion X or leaving her in the paddock or getting rid of her. Whilst Option C is no doubt the most fiscally sensible solution, there’s always that nagging thought that just maybe she could leave a Bonecrusher or a Grey Way or an All In Fun…

The second thought produced by the article was how crucial opportunity is in a stallion’s career. Whilst Chinese Dragon was lucky enough to end up at Fairdale, he doesn’t seem to have been overly-well patronised by outside breeders with an avalanche of top-class mares. It’s true that assessing opportunity is quite a challenge because we’ve got to factor in the question of genetic suitability of mares for a particular stallion, not just how much black type they have close up in their pedigrees. If you’d like some proof of this, the enduring success of White Robe Lodge is a case in point.

Anyway, here’s the article.
Click Here To Read

Nashville Wins Trentham Stakes

I strongly suspect that Nashville is significantly responsible for the blood pressure medication I have to take every morning and every evening. He is the sort of horse that every pedigree advisor dreams about and when he won the Haunui Classic for the first time I envisaged a glittering career of Group 1 victories over a range of distances. He did win the Haunui again but his career has been notable for an impressive range of near misses, the Livamol Classic and the Waikato International being the highlights – if that’s the right word.

When he lined up for the Trentham Stakes and I turned on my trusty TV, I was fully prepared for another disappointment. Sure, he was thrown in at the weights but I expected him to find another way of losing a race he really ought to have won.

It’s now history that he surprised not just me but the small army of racegoers who appreciate how good a horse he is when he’s got his mind on the job. His trainers have done brilliantly to outwit him and let’s hope the magic lasts until next week. He’ll find 59kg a challenge but I’m sure that he’ll stay the distance. Rosie Myers has never had much success with Cloughmore runners but today she managed Nashville expertly, keeping him balanced around the turn and then riding him energetically all the way down the Trentham straight. If you look at the replay, you’ll see that he accelerated twice in the last 400, something that only top class thoroughbreds can do.

All In Fun won the Trentham Stakes back in 1994 but since then the race has not been kind to Cloughmore Pedigrees. Nor has the Wellington Cup, with our best results being third placings recorded by both All In Fun and our homebred The Jungle Boy.

Let’s hope that Nashville sets the record straight next weekend.

Karaka Sales Analyses Now Available

I’ve just completed writing this year’s analyses of all three Karaka sales and, apart from my initial reaction expressed in my previous article, this year’s offering has another surprise.

My reading of the industry as a whole is that, by and large, times are tough. It’s not easy for trainers to make a dollar and we can all remember the disaster for breeders that last year’s Festival Sale was. It was virtually impossible for fillies to produce an acceptable return and, in extreme cases, females with perfectly acceptable pedigrees were given away rather than being taken home after failing to attract a bid. As a result of the carnage, I would have expected this year’s Festival Sale to be distinctly short of fillies with any quality at all on the pedigree page. If you had bred a nice animal, not quite fashionably enough bred to make the Select, surely you’d just keep it or lease it rather than going to the expense of a yearling prep.

Well, I was wrong. This year’s Festival Sale has five fillies I’ve rated as A+, whereas in some years the total has been zero. There are 13 rated as A’s, and 15 more as B+. In fact, the standard of filly pedigrees appears to comfortably exceed that of the colts. Whether the strength of the filly catalogue reflects breeders’ natural optimism and confidence in the market or a desperation to dump unwanted yearlings, time will tell, but I have a strong suspicion that buyers will be going home very happy indeed.

It is also worth saying that this year’s catalogues contain the progeny of some very impressive first-season stallions. Ocean Park must have a huge chance of making it as a stallion and it’s also hard to see the brilliant Super Easy being a flop. Reliable Man has had every opportunity and my two favourites, He’s Remarkable and Highly Recommended, provide lots which appeal very strongly indeed. Power was an impressive racehorse with the benefit of the Cambridge Stud broodmare band behind him, Rock ‘n’ Pop ticks every box there is and Niagara has left some stunning weanlings.

All in all, it’s going to be a very interesting few days.

As always, please get in touch if you’d like an opinion on any of the 1378 lots catalogued.

Karaka Sales Offer Exciting Opportunities

I’ve just completed my initial reading of the catalogues and it’s not difficult to sense a significant difference between these volumes and their predecessors.

There seems to be much less of a difference between the K2 and K3 sales than there used to be. As recently as 2015 you could look at a pedigree and have a very good idea which catalogue it came from without looking at either the lot number or the cover. Now it’s a different story altogether. Take the colt by Shamoline Warrior out of the Western Symphony mare Blue Lady, for example. The sire looks promising, the dam has had six winners including a G3 winner which has accumulated over $500,000 in stakes. The second dam features such an amount of black type that Zazu, the third dam, doesn’t appear on the page. Sounds a certain Select lot? Not this year. Here’s another one. A colt by Roc ‘n’ Pop out of an unraced Savabeel mare, herself the daughter of a one-win Masterclass mare which has left two seriously minor winners from six named foals. Where can you read all about him? You guessed it! There he is in the Select Sale.

I realise that it’s always fun to criticise the selections of NZB, but the point that I’m really making is that type seems to be becoming more important than pedigree with every year that passes. Sure, the first requirement that owners have is that their racehorse is sound enough to get to the races and the second requirement is that it remains sound enough so that they can get some idea as to whether it’s worth spending any more money on. However, pedigree remains an important indicator of a yearling’s likelihood to succeed. Would you rather have owned a Zabeel or a Rossini?

OK, that’s a simplistic argument but I think that there certainly needs to be some serious analysis done by yearling buyers as to all factors relating to the purchase of yearlings. Apart from the issue I’ve just outlined, here are a couple more questions for you. What evidence is there that older mares can’t produce stakeswinning offspring? What evidence is there that December foals can’t mature into first class racehorses?

It’s fairly obvious that if you have a late foal or if the mare that produced it is getting on in years, your chances of that foal appearing in the Festival catalogue are much improved – not entirely the right word, but you get my point. On the other hand, smart buyers won’t be put off by these factors. Smart buyers will do their homework.

Anyway, if I can help you with those homework tasks, just let me know.

Pure Champion Shifts South

This is a serious horse. Local breeders will remember his dominant front-running display in the Group 1 Windsor Park Plate but some may not be aware that this attractive son of Footstepsinthesand was also successful in Group company in both Ireland and Hong Kong.

Thoroughbreds need to be physically and mentally tough to stand up to 36 starts in Hong Kong and for a stallion to do this is a remarkable achievement. Towards the end of his time in Asia his form did fall away but there are not too many stallions who retained their zest for racing to the extent that when he arrived in New Zealand at seven years of age he was more than making up the numbers at the highest level of competition.

Kiwi breeders may remember him as a front-runner but an examination of his best performances in Hong Kong show that he was a long way from being a one-dimensional racehorse. He certainly showed the ability to accelerate off a strong pace – a quality that many of us look for in assessing a stallion’s prospects. Any stallion with 50 starts on his resume must also have an excellent racing temperament and, as far as soundness is concerned, breeders would have few concerns with an animal which has competed in five different jurisdictions with widely varying racing surfaces.

Finally, those of you who have read my article about He’s Remarkable posted on 3 September will be well aware of my argument that we can easily be guilty of over-using a stallion’s own sire as a predictor of his likely success. If you are considering Pure Champion for your mare, the fact that Footstepsinthesand is not yet a noted sire of sires should not be seen as a negative factor. I’d be more interested in those statistics which tell us that the ability of Pure Champion is no fluke: his sire has produced 42 SWs and 565 winners from 1062 live foals – more than respectable figures.

Pure Champion is currently standing at Willow Glen Stud, Waimate, at the very reasonable fee of $4000 +GST. I am also impressed by Willow Glen’s agistment costs.

Keano Certainly Worth A Thought

Any relative of super sire O’Reilly has immediate appeal as a stallion prospect. If he’s by a stallion which won two championships in Hong Kong and if he was a more than handy racehorse himself, then the attraction grows stronger. Add in a bargain basement fee of $2000 and you’ve got to start doing your homework to see if he suits any of your mares.

As the headline suggests, the stallion I’m talking about is Keano. An expensive yearling, he raced in very strong company over the Tasman and his best win as a 3YO in the QTC Lightning Handicap is easily accessible on Youtube.

He’s already stood in Australia and only became available because his owner decided to sell all his thoroughbred holdings. As shows us, he’s an attractive type; his purchase by Taranaki breeder Jeff Bliss may well prove to be an inspired decision.

Apart from his pedigree, what I really like about Keano is that he was obviously rock-solid sound. There are not many stallions currently available which have had 27 starts over three seasons. Readers of this site will be well aware of how highly I rate soundness in a stallion: whatever a horse’s level of ability, it’s all irrelevant if he can’t be relied on to stay in one piece.

Keano is likely to leave speed and his pedigree has been highly successful in both our and a variety of Asian racing environments. Without giving away too many trade secrets, I expect him to be well suited to mares by Howbaddouwantit, the Rahy and Nijinsky lines holding particular appeal.

Let’s hope Keano gets the opportunity he deserves.

Echoes Of Heaven Has Dream Debut

Whatever he ends up achieving in his stallion career you’d have to agree that Linwood Park’s son of Encosta de Lago carries one of the most evocative names in the Stallion Register.

It’s often been observed that good horses deserve striking names and it would be interesting to undertake a study to see whether there’s a correlation between a first-season stallion’s name and the quality of mares he receives. I’m not suggesting that a horse’s name is a major influence in a breeder’s decision but we’re very brand-conscious in this day and age, so you do have to wonder.

Anyway, Echoes of Heaven is a name with all sorts of positive associations and after the first race at Wanganui last Saturday you’d have to agree that the number of positive associations increased by one. The Duke of Jazz, a $13,500 weanling purchase, defeated a couple of heavily-backed progeny of Savabeel and Darci Brahma narrowly but well. The son of Such Sweet Thunder certainly appealed as a likely juvenile on physical type but, as I’ve observed before, looks are one thing and performance is another.

Interestingly, Echoes of Heaven has had very few representatives at public sales. This year he had one colt in the Select Sale and just four more in the Festival. The Select colt was a half-brother to Group 1 winner Habibi and the three Festival colts which found new homes averaged $13,000. If the former colt sounds familiar, he’s the one that our Cloughmore Racing Partnership bought into. I’d seen him as a possible staying 3YO but he’s done everything right so far and we’re currently trying to find a 2YO trial for him.

Given that there were two offspring of Echoes of Heaven in the first 2YO race of the season, perhaps his progeny will come earlier than many expected. Nevertheless, I still rate him primarily as a legitimate chance to leave classic 3YOs. He was a very handy young stayer, his best performance being a second placing in the Group 1 South Australian Derby before he contracted a serious illness which effectively concluded his career. His full-brother Manhattan Rain is beginning to look an above-average stallion. To date he’s had 41 winners from 87 starters including 5 SW and 5 SP performers.

All in all, Echoes of Heaven is well worth serious consideration as a stallion prospect – especially if you’ve got a Danzig and/or Sadler’s Wells line mare.