Sizzling Summer

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Masar – Godolphin’s first Derby winner

Last time I wrote we were reaching for the snorkels and wishing for the good weather – and the wish has come very true!  The flat season has also got off to a sizzling start with no clear leader in the classic generation, but instead a wide open, and therefore very interesting outlook at the higher levels of racing.  It is always good to see healthy competition amongst the training elite, and some great results for the “smaller” names too.  Does this mean it’s not a great generation of horses, or are they all so good that there is no clear leader?

Royal Ascot was superb as usual (with Frankel really showing his prowess as a sire), the Derby threw up a potentially great horse for Godolphin in Masar – their first winner in the famous blue silks.

Abacus Horses & news

Meanwhile back at Lower Linbrook Farm all the horses are going well.  The three foals are growing really fast and showing early signs of some athleticism.  The yearlings meanwhile are blossoming and working well in preparation for the sales and racing.

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Cityscape – a sire on fire!

Of note is the superb record of stallion Cityscape.  The Dubai record holder is proving real value and as a result we are hopeful that our colt yearling by him will do well for prospective owners.  He, like all our yearlings, offer great value for the prices we are asking and can be seen at our website.

Our Abacus Bloodstock bred runners continue to impress on the track, with the youngsters performing well for their connections, and the ever reliable Roll on Rory continuing his winning ways with a runaway success at Newmarket last month.  He is entered in the Bunbury Cup at the July Festival so we hope he makes the cut.

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Rory continues to win EVERY year!

We have acquired yet more land in the last month so our expansion continues.  Work on fencing and securing the new paddocks is a little held up with the dry ground, but at least hay making is going well!

Retirement from Racing

As many of you will know, the highly successful Pancake Day returned to us following a superb career – with 8 wins in the UK and Europe for his

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Fangfoss Girls – retired to stud

connections.  He joins a number of retirees we have, including his mother, Fangfoss Girls, and Imperial Bond who was injured as a 3 year old and therefore never got to fulfil his potential.  As a stud, we can offer our mares a retirement in the breeding program where possible, and if not we have space to accommodate the horses on our farm.  We have also sent Elegant Joan (“Treacle”) to the Northern Racing College, where she is a great favourite and is training the jockeys of the future – as she is still only very young she will have a hopefully long and successful career.

Sadly many horses do not make the grade as racers, and even if they do, they all eventually need to retire.  Whilst we, and therefore our horses, are fortunate, many are not.  The growth in syndication means that there is now a widening number of owners, most of whom have neither the facilities, or the ultimate ownership, to enable them to look after retired horses.  There is a market for thoroughbreds elsewhere in equestrian sport, but supply outnumbers demand.

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Treacle now working for the NRC

There are some excellent initiatives in UK racing to find new homes for retirees.  Indeed owners now pay an increased levy for all race entries, which is dedicated to the retraining of racehorses.  The Retraining of Racehorses and other charities work hard to support owners and trainers in finding new careers for what are very often still comparatively young horses at the end of their racing careers.  Therefore I would urge everyone to support these initiatives and make sure we give these horses the very best reward – a safe and enjoyable retirement.

Staff Dedication

Finally, a word for the staff we have here at Abacus Bloodstock.  We are a family run business and therefore our staff are mainly family members.  Sadly, due to this we cannot nominate them for the excellent Stud & Stable Staff Awards due to the rules.  Therefore I wanted to write, as we near the end of the stable staff awareness week, to thank everyone who works for and with us here.  We know we could not do it without your efforts – much of which is done in your own time and through a real professionalism and love of the horses.  Thank You!

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Spring? What Spring?

For anyone who follows my Twitter account (@stumat) you will know that my patience with this wet weather is wearing thin!  Not only do we have no turf racing due to the

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Our new 5 bay walker – at least the roof keeps the horses dry

downpours, but the stud farm is, like many others, gradually getting muddier.  Last year we had the horses out on the summer paddocks around now, but as I write we are still stabling all the horses at night and allowing them to get used to “heavy going” during the day on the winter grazing.  At least the haylage man is making a packet!

Looking ahead, we still await our last two foals.  Fangfoss Girls is due to foal a Garswood in the next few days, and Littlemoor Lass has another Albaasil on the way in a week or so.  That will add to the beautiful Heeraat filly foal we had in February.

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Our new Heeraat filly (born in February) – with mum Princess of Rock

We have invested in a lovely little mare by Ifraaj called Vale of Clara.  She ran in Ireland to a mark of 86 and won over sprint distances.  A really pretty mare, she will visit Pearl Secret in a week or so all being well.

Other mating plans are that Princess of Rock has already visited Swiss Spirit and looks to be in foal – and Makindi is preparing to visit new sire Mattmu at Bearstone Stud.  Once again the weather is making the mares’ reproductive cycles very slow to react but good rugs and quality food will help them on their way.

We will rest both Fangfoss Girls and Littlemoor Lass this year to allow them to be covered earlier next year.  Both girls have produced superb foals in the last 4 years and deserve a year off from the kids we think!

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Pancake Day as a foal – He returns to the team that bred him after a successful racing career

At the other end of the career of a racehorse, we are pleased to say that multiple winner and globetrotter Pancake Day has retired to the stud after amassing wins and places for his owners in every year he ran.  He will be retrained for RoR events and is settling in well – telling the yearlings how to win races we hope!  His half sister, Elegant Joan was less adept on the racecourse and has been retired to work with the Northern Racing College, training budding jockeys and enjoying herself immensely.  She was one of the fastest horses over 800 metres, and then seemed to get bored!

We have a bumper crop of horses we have bred about to enter battle for various owners this season.  We wish them and their connections the very best of luck and a safe season.  We will be following them avidly and may see you at the races soon.

Lastly, if you are interested in buying one of our 5 superb yearlings then pop along to our website and see their details on the Horses for Sale page.

Now, where’s the sun-cream?  Helps to be optimistic!

Abacus Review 2017

We have now completed our second year at Lower Linbrook Farm and what a year!

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2017’s foals are a lovely bunch

Whenever you move it is of course an upheaval, but when you have nearly 20 horses of various ages to take with you, it can be a real challenge.  Not only that, but it is getting used to the new grazing; the soil conditions, growth rates, weed control and local weather.  Then there is getting the best suppliers to support the operation and building a new team of staff to make it happen.  They are the things you have to hope work out and then there are the things you can control like investing in fencing, new stables and equipment.  So at the end of 2017 we can safely say  we have settled in and that we are now all systems go for the future.

First though, a look back at 2017.  The year started well when Pancake Day once again delivered a win at his favourite track Southwell for new trainer David Griffiths.  Pancake has consistently delivered for his owners and this year was to be the same again.  He was our first winner as breeders and, when he was sold overseas in March he was to go on to be our first winner overseas too.  A real fighter, he will race until April 2018 and hopefully retire sound after about 60 runs in competition – almost 30% of which have earned prize money!  He has won at least once EVERY year he has raced.

Roll on Rory had a slow start to the season.  He must have been a real challenge for trainer Jason Ward and his owners as he went to his races fit and well, only to run into traffic or a few horses in better mood for racing.  His 2016 season resulted in a high mark of 93, but it was not until he dropped to a mark in the 80’s that he made an impression this season.  With a number of placings in some hot races, he finally shone with a very impressive win on the Rowley Mile at the back end of the turf season, beating some top horses and showing he was just playing in his previous races.  All look well for next season when he should be a black-type horse in all honesty.

Our two year olds all found some nice homes as yearlings and so far there have been a few runs from them.  No wins as yet but some very useful educational runs which will see them good for the coming season as 3 year olds.  We were also pleased to see the 2016

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Mazameer yearling now with Nikki Evans

crop go to some superb trainers and we will look forward to some very exciting appearances as 2 year olds in 2018.  There is a very exciting Mazameer colt with Nikki Evans and it will be interesting to see how the only colt from Albaasil’s first crop does for Richie Fiddes.  It is becoming a real challenge to keep up with all the horses nowadays, it is only six in total but will double next year – thank goodness for the BHA tracking service!

March was a really busy month for us as we had our foals born throughout the month.  Three colts (Mazameer, Telescope and Cityscape) and a filly (Fast Company).  We subsequently purchased another mare with a filly foal by Heeraat making it 5 foals.  All of them are doing well and growing like crazy.  The grazing here is great for growth and with an additional 20 acres recently acquired, we are able to offer turnout all year, although getting a rug on a stroppy weanling can be fun at times!

On a sad note we lost Los Organos this year.  She was not in foal and whilst she was not

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Los Organos – a sad loss this year

an old horse, it became apparent that the recurrence of her back injury from racing would make life too uncomfortable for her.  She was a lovely mare and is sadly missed.

Happier times later this year as we completed the installation of our all-weather arena and gained planning permission for the horse walker (installing in January 18).  We also

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Elegant Joan – racing throughout winter & 2018

launched Abacus Bloodstock Racing Club in the autumn and have a number of members looking forward to the first run of Elegant Joan (Assertive x Fangfoss Girls) for the club at Wolverhampton on 27th December.  She ran twice on turf for the owner who leased her originally, but financial issues meant that she has come back to us.  She will eventually retire to stud with us, and so it is important we give her the very best chance of winning in the meantime.  To become a member of the club (just £80!) please visit our website.

More about the future in the new year, but all that remains for me to say is a big thank you to my wife Sarah, who works 7 days a week to make the place work.  Also to the staff, our professional support including Andy the farrier and Jenny the vet and to our suppliers who work with us to give the horses the best feed and care.

To the horses on the track, and those yet to run, we wish you and your connections success and a safe return.  To our clients and members of the Abacus Bloodstock Racing Club we say thank you for choosing us and may you all have a Merry Christmas and a successful, winning 2018.

 

Abacus Bloodstock Racing Club Launched

Abacus Bloodstock has launched its new racing club, aimed at offering “full” ownership without the expense.  Many clubs offer low rates of membership, but in return members get a tiny percentage of prize money (more like a dividend), if indeed any is offered; a lottery entry into race day ticket draws; and a few extra perks – none of which constitute a true ownership experience.

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ABRC’s first horse – Elegant Joan (Treacle) is a daughter of winner Fangfoss Girls

Abacus Bloodstock Racing Club is different however in as much as it GUARANTEES a raceday ticket for all members with a 5% or greater stake, prize money is not a dividend but paid out in direct proportion to the shareholding, and members can choose shares from 1% and upwards in 5% share allotments.  Prices start from £25 per month with 5% costing just £80.  There are no hidden fees and nothing more to pay.

Stuart Matheson, club manager and co-owner of Abacus Bloodstock, says “As breeders we wanted to offer a way for people to enjoy racing without blowing the bank, and to also benefit from being part of the experience from the birth of a foal, into racing and through to retirement and potentially into the breeding sheds. We will predominantly race our fillies through the club, and with the ‘This Filly Can’ scheme currently in place, the potential prize money is excellent.”

Members can enjoy the full raceday experience as well as additional benefits like social events, regular visits to the stud in Staffordshire, updates on all the horses, and of course trainer visits.  The horses will be leased to the club, meaning costs are low as there are no purchase prices to recoup, and options will be offered on horses upon retirement to the stud as broodmares or stallions.

Stuart went on to say, “So whilst members do not physically own the  race horses, we want to offer members the chance to invest in longer term breeding options once the horses have shown their potential.  It’s a bit like ‘try before you buy’, and it also means that by investing in a horse at an early stage, there is the potential to benefit in the longer term and reap the rewards so often denied club members elsewhere.  A fact we believe is fair and innovative in the world of racing clubs.”

The first horse to run in the club colours is the homebred filly Elegant Joan (known as Treacle), a daughter of Assertive and of Abacus Bloodstock mare Fangfoss Girls.  She is half sister to two multiple winners in Pancake Day (a recent winner in Belgium – The Prix

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Group winning trainer David Griffiths

Strasbourg) and Roll on Rory who contested the Windsor Castle Stakes as a 2 year old and has gone on to achieve a rating as high as 93.  Both brothers have won in every year they have raced and been in the money places in more than 60% of their races.  With the mare having a 100% strike rate for producing winners, Treacle is poised to add another winner to the family and will race throughout Winter 2017 and through 2018.  She is in training with group winning trainer David Griffiths.

 

To become a member please visit the Abacus Bloodstock Racing Club website, or contact us at racing@abacus-bloodstock.co.uk

 

 

Abacus expands and invests

It has been a busy Summer so far at our headquarters in Staffordshire.  Since moving into Lower Linbrook in December 2015, the team has been working hard to improve the already excellent facilities.  Initially we had just over 10 acres but in 2016 acquired a 20170723_150907further 5 acres and have just secured another 20 acres of adjoining quality grazing land – bringing our total acreage to just under thirty-five.  Much of this made up of high quality grass, previously used for haylage and the grazing of cattle.  All the fields are surrounded by either thick hedges, or by secure fencing – a combination of post and rail and purpose made stud mesh fencing.  We are favourite customers of the local fencing contractor!

With the increased land, we have now been able to invest in further facilities without having to sacrifice pasture to do so.  In the last week we have just completed the installation of a new all-weather exercise arena, built by Midland Horse Arenas and with a Combi-ride surface suitable for our requirements.  This will allow us to pre-train youngsters, provide on-going and respite training for older horses, increase our sales preparation facilities and develop new skills for retired racehorses.20170721_140717_resized_1

Another innovation has been the installation of 4 large stables in our pole barn to allow the mares and foals to be accommodated after birth and away from the main foaling area.  Our two foaling boxes are each 20 feet by 16 feet and in the main yard, allowing easy access and room to work.

The farm is bristling with the latest CCTV system both for security, and to allow the team to monitor the mares and foals – with cameras covering the foaling boxes, the nursery stables, the yearling barn, main yard, front and rear gates and most of the paddocks.  On a wet day you do not even have to leave the house!

We have an isolation area for horses on restricted grazing, as well as an all weather turn-out with a small shelter for when the weather is nasty.

In the coming weeks we will be installing a 5 horse walker supplied by Monarch to complete the facilities and allow us even more scope for horse preparation, and on-going care.

In order to breed the best horses, you need the best facilities.  We have already seen the benefits of investment simply through the condition and welfare of the horses – if they could smile they would be beaming all day.  We are now able to offer the very best for our own and client horses making Abacus Bloodstock the source of breeding you can count on!

 

O’Brien – Oh Boy!!

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Aiden O’Brien – Master of Ballydoyle

As I write, Aiden O’Brien has seven entries in the Epsom Derby this coming weekend.  SIX of those entries are sired by the currently unassailable Galileo, a stallion seemingly on track to beat even his sire Saddlers Wells’ stud record.  The only Ballydoyle runner not by him is Wings of Eagles – by Pour Moi who’s grandfather was Saddlers Wells.  You see the connection?

Add this to the fact that the four classics to be run in the UK and Ireland thus far in 2017 have ALL been won by O’Brien trained horses, all sired by Galileo!  And all owned by the various partners who also have interests in the seat of this great breeding empire; Coolmore, in Ireland.  It makes sense that when you have access to the best sire in the world, of course you are going to exploit that advantage.  But do not forget that you also need the trainer to get

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Churchill ( Galileo)  – a double classic winner for Team Ballydoyle

the horses into the frame.  And boy have they found him in Aiden O’Brien.

No relation to the great Vincent O’Brien who previously oversaw the many successes of the team in the 70’s and 80’s, Aiden has delivered more success than any other trainer currently in business anywhere in the world.  From his training base at Ballydoyle he has consistently won the best races in both the UK and Ireland, but also around the world.

In so doing he has been able to show Galileo, and his sire sons, can produce horses capable of winning over sprint distances as well as marathons.  That makes him not only

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Galileo – undisputed champion sire

key to the racing interests of his employers, but also to the continued success of their Coolmore operation throughout the world.

Some say that the grip on the Group races which O’Brien enjoys is unhealthy for racing; that the almost certainty that an O’Brien horse will win every Irish group race (to the extent that a number of races attract an exclusive Ballydoyle field!), and that he looks set, even at this early stage of the UK flat season, to be champion trainer for 2017.

However, it is hardly the fault of O’Brien that there is no Irish trainer other than perhaps Dermot Weld, who can compete at the highest levels on the flat.  Even David Wachman, related to O’Brien through marriage and supplied with a string of horses from Coolmore, gave up his licence last year.  It is more likely a reflection on the issues facing racing in Ireland as a whole not the fault of Team Ballydoyle.  Particularly given the number of trainers from over the water who have given up in the last year alone.  Indeed it is this team which is in all likelihood keeping much of Irish racing in business and of importance to the racing world.  Without this awareness it would not take long for Irish flat racing to suffer the same death throes we are seeing in the increasingly troubled, and less high profile Italian racing scene.  Happily Irish jumps are in a better state but this is seeing a crystallisation with major studs and owners polarising with only a small band of trainers.

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Frankel in full flight

In Britain, there are of course trainers and owners who can compete with – and indeed beat- the Ballydoyle / Coolmore steam-roller.  But even these compete with horses who have pedigrees dripping with Galileo and his sons – Frankel, Galileo’s most successful son, being the next most “popular” sire of the 2017 Derby entries!

For me there are a number of trainers who epitomise the characteristics of what a trainer should be.  Yes winners are a good measure, but there is also the ability to talk to

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Joseph – a chip off the old block – and with the same quality of humility

the public, to develop a story to follow, to combine passion whilst speaking with humility and professionalism.  And when Aiden O’Brien speaks he does so with all this and more.  He is a real ambassador for Irish, and increasingly International racing.  Never slow to deflect the glory onto his owners, or jockeys or staff he is quietly spoken and avoids any suggestion that his input has had anything to do with it.  Ballydoyle are THE team to beat, from the breeding sheds of Coolmore to the raceday successes – many ridden by the best jockey in the world, Ryan Moore.  Indeed as with the Coolmore stud line, O’Brien himself has bred another successful trainer in his son Joseph – at 24 a Group winning jockey and trainer with the same brand of humility and determination seen in his father.

BUT – as readers may recall from my article back in February, breeders increasingly face a narrowing choice of stallion pedigrees to choose from.  Danehill (Coolmore again) and coolmorehis sire line are cornering the market in sprinters, whilst as mentioned above Galileo and his sire line are competing at the classic distances.  This is where the concern should be focused, not at a trainer who has a gift – albeit with the best bred horses – to deliver winner after winner at the highest level.  As already stated, it makes sense for Coolmore to exploit the successes of Galileo’s offspring but we must not end up with even less choice for breeders, and a gene pool which will inevitably become so shallow that it will jeopardise the future of the thoroughbred racehorse.  Non-Galileo sires are out there and should be used too.   Their success as sires will come with numbers, as they have with Galileo for he too has had his failures on the racecourse, but he has the numbers, and the trainer, to outweigh these.

 

Finalising the Future – Breeding Plans Confirmed

With all the foals now born, attention now turns to where the mares go next for the next generation.  It’s an exciting time as we study form books, stud books and sales statistics to decide the best mix for our mares.

So 2017 for foals to be born in 2018 it is about reading the future; how will the current

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Albaasil (Dansili) – a return visit for Littlemoor Lass

crop of the chosen stallion affect the future crops? Who is going to be the “hot” sales prospect in 2 or 3 years time? How does the stallions “book” look (how many mares and of what quality are visiting him)?  And finally, and most importantly what is best for the mares and the foals?  Decision to foaling is 11 months – decision to sales can be 36 months or more.  Get those crystal balls out!

For Abacus Bloodstock our decisions are based firstly on best pedigree mix in the hope that if you breed the best mix, the rest will fall into place.  So our plans for this year are as follows:

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Fangfoss Girls to visit Garswood

Multiple winner Fangfoss Girls, daughter of Monsieur Bond and dam to two multiple winners from her first two crops will visit Garswood.  Seven year old Garswood stands at Cheveley Park Stud in Newmarket and won Gr1. Maurice de Gheest and the Gr2. Lennox Stakes. His trainer Richard Fahey states “He is definitely the fastest horse I’ve ever trained”.  He is a son of multiple group winner Dutch Art and a perfect outcross for the Danehill/ Northern Dancer line.  Without doubt we will get a sprinter with speed stamped in all four branches of the prospective foal’s pedigree.

The beautiful Littlemoor Lass, an unraced daughter of Motivator and steeped in classy racing blood, will visit Dansili’s son Albaasil.  This will be her second visit to the stallion, having produced a colt foal by him in 2016.  Albaasil stands in Yorkshire with our good friend Ritchie Fiddes and has consistently produced good stock – the first of which will race in 2018.  The previous foal was genetically tested as a “C:C long” meaning a sprinter miler type, so we hope that we will see the same again this time.

Makindi, daughter of Makbul and dam of three foals so far will visit Cityscape again this

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Multi-Group winning Cityscape

year; the son of Selkirk, formerly trained by Roger Charlton holds the track record at Meydan and is a multiple group winner.  Indi  gave birth to a colt by him earlier in April and we are so impressed by him it was a no-brainer to go back to him.  Makindi will be 18 next year and so this may be her last foal for us as we like to give the horses a retirement before they hit their 20’s.  As ever that plan is open to change but we feel certain that the foal for next year will provide us with a fantastic future racehorse with a quality pedigree.

We will update you all with the pregnancy results in the next few weeks.

New Beginnings at Lower Linbrook

April is perhaps the most exciting time of the year for us all in the bloodstock and racing industry.  Not only are we seeing the start of the turf season here in Europe and

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Littlemoor Lass with her 2017 filly by Fast Company – born 12th April

therefore the appearance of the youngsters we have bred in previous years -including the 2 year olds, but we are also at the culmination of the breeding cycle with new foals being born, and the mares visiting their next stallion.

 

All the work of researching pedigrees, choosing the best match for the mares, seeing all the theory actually become flesh and blood reality – whether as healthy foals here at the stud, or the

equine athletes we hoped they would be as they step foot for the first time on a racecourse – is happening right now here at Lower Linbrook Farm and across the industry.  So for that “aah how cute” moment here are our new arrivals.

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Another colt foal – this time a son for Makindi by record breaker Cityscape born 17th April – 2 in one day!

 

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Colt Foal born 17th April Mazameer x Rainbows Destiny

 

 

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Fangfoss Girls has a colt by first season sire Telescope – born 8th April

And the job never stops as we are now finalising our plans for coverings this year, for the 2018 crop.  Once again this has been based on scouring pedigrees and stallion books as well as looking at the commercial and racing value of prospective sires.  So one set of sleepless nights ends and another one starts as we try to fit in the stallion visits before the middle of May to ensure reasonably early and therefore commercially attractive foals.

But as with everything we do, it is done with a sense of excitement and that we are writing another chapter in the history of the racing thoroughbred.  Good luck to all the owners of our horses this season – we will be following with great interest.

2017 Flat season looking busy for Abacus bred horses

Cheltenham Festival is over, the Grand National field is taking shape, and as the clocks skip an hour in a week it can only mean we are fast approaching Lincoln day and the start of the 2017 flat turf season.

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Pancake Day – our first overseas runner

Not that there has been a lack of runners over the winter, with Pancake Day, our first ever winner, continuing to impress in his new home over in Germany with the von de Recke stable.  Another Abacus bred is Diamond Princess who has failed to fire in her 2 year old season and on the all-weather, but will hopefully find her way as she turns 3.  You can’t win them all!

 

 

As we go into the season there are 7 horses facing the judge in the UK and Pancake Day, after a deserved rest, will return to the racecourses of Germany.  The highest rated is the full brother of Pancake; Roll on Rory.  Both sons of sprint mare Fangfoss Girls, they are bred with her speed and tenacity coupled with the physical presence of their sire, Mullionmileanhour.  It is a shame for the stallion that he has not been used more and his future in the breeding sheds is under threat.  “Rory” remains in training with Jason Ward and runs for a syndicate of guys including first time owners.  They must feel very lucky to own a 95+ rated horse with a 40% win rate as their first horse – indeed they have invested in other horses so we are proud to have encouraged another new owner into the world of racing.

Over the coming weeks we will be showcasing the 8 to watch, including three very exciting 2 year olds.  Keep an eye out for our in depth focus on the first of them in the next few days.

Meantime catch up with our website : abacus-bloodstock.co.uk

 

Don’t Exceed to Excel

With the breeding season about to start, it is timely to take a look at the growing number of “speed” sires now available to breeders, a large number of which come from two sires of sires;   Exceed and Excel (Danehill – Patrona) and Invincible Spirit (Green Desert – Rafha).

There is no denying that both horses deserve their place as top stallions, and the resulting

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Exceed & Excel – standing @ Darley

male progeny in turn also can lay claim to their positions in the world’s breeding barns given their prestigious wins.  The worry however is that the very success that attracts mare owners to sires – multiple top class winners – also threatens to flood the market with bloodlines of ever narrowing diversity.  Invincible Spirit has himself and 12 stallion sons at stud (ref Weatherby’s Stallion Book 2017), whilst Exceed and Excel has 8.  This excludes those standing outside the UK, US and Europe and those who choose not to use the Stallion Book to     advertise..  The same source tells us that 18 sons of Galileo can be visited.

A perfect storm

From a breed perspective this proliferation of horses from the  Northern Dancer line has long been an issue but one which has been counteracted by using mares with no connection to this great sire-line, or with a healthy mix of stallions providing an outcross.

Certainly these opportunities still exist with new stallions only this year including Pearl Secret (Compton Place)  – one of only a few remaining descendants of foundation stallion

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Pearl Secret – one of few remaining descendants of Byerley Turk

The Byerley Turk.  BUT the issue facing the industry today is the result of a cocktail of circumstances which can only lead to a perfect storm.

  1. Speed v. Stamina – As mentioned by trainer John Gosden before the 2016 St. Leger, the lack of good middle distance horses is threatening the long term future of the breed.  Speed in middle distance is important of course but this has increasingly been bred to produce speed over shorter
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    John Gosden

    distances, rather than the careful mix of “fast and durable”.  It is for this reason that Dubawi and Galileo, perhaps the only consistent producers of classic distance horses, seem to hold the top spots in the sire lists by prize money and are the go to horses for breeders wishing to produce classic hopefuls.

  2. Sales Demand – Top lots seem to continue to come from the ranks of classic producing sires but for breeders without £100K to spend on a covering, the market offers lower priced stallions with some credentials as winning progeny producers.  In turn, the rising cost of training a racehorse coupled with proportionately lower prize money in mid to low range races (class 4 and below being the largest proportion of UK races), means that purchasers want precocity – which for the reasons above invariably means sprinters.
  3. Reduction in owner breeder numbers – The rising costs of breeding and training means many breeders can no longer afford to do both.  Historically breeders have had more time to play with and of course more patience in getting their mares’ progeny to deliver winners even if it takes longer for them to achieve that.  After all the long game is the success of the mare, not just her racing offspring.    This is not the case when the mix and type of ownership is changing. Shared owners, particularly success hungry, value for money, quick return on investment syndicate or  racing club members want to see success in the fairly short term of the syndicate.  This is generally a year or two of racing and then straight to the sales ring.  As such the type of horse has to be precocious, race often, win and have a residual value at the end of its 3 year old season if it is lucky.  That means as a stud owner breeding that type of horse if you want to make even a small profit – and where better to go to than a proven stallion at a cheap fee.
  4. Mediocre Pattern winners – There are a record number of pattern races in 2017 in the UK.  Many of these are little more than handicaps made up to look better than they really are.  Trainer Tom Dascombe said that it is harder to win a 0 – 100 handicap than some Group 3 races, and as a result a stallion which would have historically not made the grade is now able to stand as a Group winner.  Add this to being a close relation to a proven sire of sires and we have a market flooded by stallions which have no business being at stud, but offer the market a chance of success “by association”.  A prime example being two horses currently standing in Britain – one of which a full brother to Frankel which failed miserably in his ONE racecourse appearance, and the other, whilst a beautifully put together specimen, covered over 100 mares in his first season despite winning only a maiden and a listed sprint before retiring at 2! – both yet again from the Northern Dancer sire-line, but neither of whom would have been considered as stallion prospects 10, or even 5 years ago.  Indeed at the recent TBA stallion parade at Tattersalls, only 1 of the stallions on show had achieved a Group 1 win!
  5. Shuttlers – The world is an ever smaller place and with the major studs having global interests, it is increasingly common to see stallions from the Southern Hemisphere standing in Europe.  Certainly the Exceed & Excel group of stallions has therefore got double the exposure that other stallions had in the past.  As such, his sons are able to spread the dynasty far quicker and wider than preceding dynasties such as Saddlers Wells and even Northern Dancer.

Storing problems for the future

I feel certain that some readers will be upset by some of the comments, but the situation is in a way no one person’s fault.  Indeed anyone in business has to make the most of market demand and return on investment.  Whilst the issue may not be immediately apparent however, it certainly will become so in the next few years when we are left with a choice of stallions all of whom are inter-related.  Not only will this lead us to seeing the type of races common in Australia and elsewhere with 5 furlongs to a mile being a majority of races and anything over 10 furlongs seen as a marathon, but it will invariably damage the thoroughbred as a breed.  In-breeding is not something I personally steer entirely clear of, but I do make selections based on what is best for the pedigree of the offspring, not what will sell.  Although a major consideration has to be a return on investment, it should not be the primary concern.  But as the choice of stallion narrows, so will the resulting next generation of sires and mares and the healthy if diminishing sprinkling of outcross pedigrees we see today will be a thing of the past.  Not only that, but the racehorse will become a lesser animal.  A clone of its predecessors and the result of a poorer gene pool.  As breeders, as owners, as race-goers and as animal lovers we all need to look at where we are now and look also at the evidence.  Class is in the proven stallions producing horses that train on and run at classic distances.  Champion trainers win titles not at a 5 furlong seller at Southwell but at York or Ascot or Epsom, running horses with classic bloodlines, owned invariably by owners with time to let them progress.

I love breeding fast horses – indeed our best mare is an out and out sprinter producing sprinters.  But they also train on to 7 furlongs and then further.  We have also put her to Telescope and await the foal any day. Why you may ask?  Because we do want speed and precocity most certainly, but also because the heady mix of Danehill and Galileo lines was

horse_telescope-big

Galileo’s son – Telescope

the best for the mare and the best for the foal – and hopefully will add some endurance to the speed.  We could have gone to Dark Angel or Outstrip, or any other guaranteed sprint maker,  and probably made a killing in a few years, but we live in hope that quality will shine through and someone will see the value in our approach and enjoy running a horse bred on its merits as an athlete and potential winner, not on its potential selling price.  After all its easy to see the cost of everything, not so easy to see the value.