May 16, 2008

Don't Boo a Dead Horse

More jumping to conclusions, a common form of exercise in the world of Thoroughbred horses. Racetrackers have a saying, “Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see” in order to survive.

Somebody started a rumor the week of the Kentucky Derby that the troubles that beset the sport could be laid at the feet of Native Dancer. The first superstar horse of the television age evidently was found guilty of siring the undefeated Raise A Native who in turn sired the prepotent Mr. Prospector. That Native Dancer also sired the dam of the almighty Northern Dancer was more proof that he had somehow contaminated the breed. Your reporter seemed to support that view.

Descendents of Native Dancer performed wonders on the racetrack and in the breeding shed. Taken together, the male strain via Raise A Native and the female strain through Natalma (dam of Northern Dancer) began to produce a uniquely American runner who could carry their abundant speed l0 furlongs. Danehill and Sadler’s Wells combined to sire 600 stakes-winners world wide and US based Danzig and Mr. Prospector were good for almost 400 more.

If these horses were so successful, why the carping now? Soundness issues say the critics.
As a small breeder myself, I would take my chances with a Northern Dancer/Mr. P stallion rather than patronize lines which have been pummeled by this pair for decades.

What observers often miss is that, in addition to speed and soundness, a stallion needs courage to pass on to his progeny. Courage, often expressed as “heart” can only be detected by observing it in performance. The canny breeder who can recognize a horse like Distorted Humor, who began his career with a $l2,500 fee and now stands for $300,000, may reap huge rewards.

Horses behave much like human athletes. Some have a high pain tolerance while others are finicky and prone to chuck it in when things don’t go their way

Just a few years ago South American breeders began to acquire US stallions to inject more speed into their own stock. Speedballs like Salt Lake, Bernstein, Honour and Glory, and Southern Halo were given an enthusiastic welcome.

Pedigrees have become global, too. A good example is champion Invasor. He is a South American whose American sire (Candy Stripes) raced in France as did his own sire (Blushing Groom) who stood in France before migrating to Kentucky. Red God, the sire of Blushing Groom, was American-bred but raced in France. He was a son of the great Nasrullah who came to American shortly after World War II and sired seven-time champion sire Bold Ruler.

Invasor himself was found in Uruguay and purchased by the Maktoum family of Dubai. Invasor is now at stud in Kentucky.
There is going to be a need eventually for other strains to develop as more popular ones saturate the breed. Dissing Native Dancer and his clans will do nothing to ameliorate the situation, however. How about a shout out for Native Dancer instead!.