Long Racing Campaigns – Bad For Mares In The Paddock?

Robin Bruss' wave motion of inheritance

It is possible to train horses to race more frequently – but to what extent does hard racing affect the breeding potential of mares ?

Robin Bruss writes that eleven times Champion US Hall of Fame trainer Hirsch Jacobs was a legend in his lifetime, not only for how he trained, but also his partnership with his monied patron Isidor Bieber in the breeding of horses.

His record provides an answer.

Hirsch Jacobs

In the mantra of Race to Breed and then Breed to Race, it was the ultimate team interplay, not tainted by breeding to sell commercial yearlings.  There is a difference between targeting the winning post of the sale rings, and the winning post of the racetrack.

Did you read Robin Bruss’ previous editorial? Please click here

By proving the horses to be warriors of soundness and durability, the racetrack test was critical to the selection of Jacobs breeding stock.  As like produces like, his homebreds became his most famous examples of a successful policy.

Jacobs admired the La Troienne female line and determined to acquire descendants.

La Troienne

La Troienne

He started with Searching, a daughter of War Admiral (21 wins in 26 starts). She had been winless in 20 starts when he acquired her from breeder Ogden Phipps. Racing her longer, adding blinkers and racing frequently, within one year the rejuvenated Searching had won 11 times. In a 36 month period, through ages 4, 5 and 6, she racked up 69  more starts, winning 25 races altogether and a further 35 places.  Amongst these were 12 Stakes race wins, including races classified today as Gr.1.

If anyone thought that Searching’s 89 starts in 7 years old would kill her breeding prospects, they were dead wrong.   For Bieber-Jacobs, she became one of the most famous foundation mares in the history of the breed.

The first mating was to Swaps (19 wins in 25 starts) – meaning that the parents started 114 times between them.

The filly foal was named Affectionately. She raced 52 times for 28 wins and 18 places.  She was USA Champion 2YO winning 6 Stakes at 2 years, then later became Champion Sprinter and Champion Handicap mare, winning 17 black type stakes.

Jacobs’ homebred, Hail To Reason

When Affectionately went to stud, Jacobs mated her to his homebred champion colt Hail To Reason (who won 9 of his 18 starts as a 2 year old inc 6 Stakes!).

The foal was Personality, who ran 25 times, winning the Classic Preakness S. G1 and became Horse of the Year 1970.

The second foal of Searching was the filly Admiring (by Hail to Reason), another iron racemare who raced 43 times, winning 7 and became the ancestress of more than 30 Stakes Winners amongst them the Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero (24 starts, three Gr.1 wins).

The third foal was another filly, Priceless Gem (by Hail to Reason), who raced only 15 times, but famously beat Buckpasser in the Gr.1 Futurity Stakes, before going on to become the dam of the best filly in the world in her time, the great Allez France (by Sea Bird), winner of 9 Group 1 races including the 1974 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Allez France – a champion

Champion Breeders of USA four times, Bieber-Jacobs partnership is also remembered for another Amazonian warrior mare, Straight Deal.

Buying a non winning granddaughter of La Troienne for $7,500, they bred her to Hail to Reason and out came the great racemare Straight Deal.

Incredibly tough, Straight Deal had 99 starts over 5 seasons – 20 starts per year – and won 21 races, 21 seconds and 9 thirds. Along the way there were 13 stakes wins and a title of USA Champion Handicap Mare.

For those that might point out that a long racing career can be detrimental to a broodmare, Straight Deal did not produce a live foal in her first 3 years at stud, but then she had 10 foals, eight of which won and three were Stakes Winners. One of them Desiree was a Gr1 winner who Jacobs mated to Seattle Slew (14 wins in 16 starts) and produced  Adored (12 wins in 23 starts including the Santa Margarita H Gr1).

Three generations of Gr1 winners in succession.

It sounds easy, but breeders will point to warrior mares being masculine and physically unable to produce robust foals, and there are many grand racemares who are put up as examples :  the great Zenyatta, for instance, 19 wins in 20 starts, of 13 were Gr1, has yet to produce a winner of any description.



For this reason, its often that we notice their moderate daughters transmitting the genetics of toughness and durability into the next generation.

This year’s $20m Saudi Cup winner, Emblem Road (pictured below) is a case in point.

His dam Venturini was unplaced in 2 starts and culled by Juddmonte Farm for $62,000.

However, she is the product of Champion parents, Bernardini and Ventura, who had 7 Grade 1 wins between them. Mated to 4x Gr1 Winner Quality Road, Venturini produced Emblem Road, an $80,000 two year old purchase who is now a Gr1 winner of $10,240,000.

Closer home in my own experience, my mares Teclafields and Bushgirl, both weak runners, but both are daughters of Durban July winning champions Tecla Bluff and Devon Air respectively.

And between them, these two mares have produced 4 Gr1 winners and founded their own dynasties.

I call this “the wave motion of inheritance”.

Devon Air (photo: Ken Wilkins)

Devon Air

We can’t leave the Bieber-Jacobs story without reflecting on its impact in South Africa.

Their 17 hands champion Hail to Reason is the stallion to whom our chef de race sire Jet Master is inbred to and almost certainly is responsible for his size and strength, and perhaps for his 17 wins in 24 starts !

Our other locally bred chef de race, Captain Al, is a male line descendant of Hail to Reason. Jet Master and Captain Al have impacted the breed more than any other South African bred stallions in the history of our Stud Book.  And ask any trainer about the soundness and toughness of their stock.

We noted the late Buddy Maroun who trained the Jacobs way.

He raced Grecian Gale (by Foveros) 61 times for 11 wins, from 1200m (winning the George Azzie S.) to 3200m.

Grecian Gale wins the 1995 George Azzie Memorial Handicap

Grecian Gale wins the 1995 George Azzie Memorial Handicap

Amazingly, her Durban July campaign was 6 runs in 6 consecutive meetings, and although unplaced in the July,  no holiday for her, she then won her next race in the A Division. And a tilt at the 3200m Durban Gold Cup.  No trainer would do that today.

I was the agent that recommended Grecian Gale’s sale to Mike McHardy’s Rathmor Stud.

When I went to see her, she was like a greyhound, as sleek and fit and tight as any horse I had ever seen, without an ounce of fat, streamlined and pure athlete.   I didn’t see such a thing again until I visited Ballydoyle in Ireland and saw Aidan O’Brien’s team.  Fitness in a different league.

In her first 6 years at stud, Grecian Gale produced only 3 foals.

The first Hurricane Man (Rakeen) won 7 races in 43 starts. The second Malteme (Rakeen) won 5 times in 25 starts including the Gr1 Summer Cup and Gr2 Clairwood Derby; the  third was Wendywood (Fort Wood) who was Equus Champion 3 Year Old Filly, and won the Gr1 Woolavington before being lost to colic.

Hirsch Jacobs would have been pleased.

Let’s think about stud selection.   Is victory in a Graded Stakes Race all important or should we seek other desirable traits such as durability, soundness, toughness and will to win?

Last time we wrote about the admirable Rouge Allure (8yo, 95 starts, 13 wins), but she is not the only warrior mare around:  Rabia the Rebel (7yo, 89 starts, 9 wins), Ginger Biscuit (10yo, 90 starts, 11 wins) and All of Me (6yo, 64 starts, 12 wins).

Their merit ratings may be below 100, but they exhibit these incredibly tough and durable traits in bucket loads.

Rouge Allure – story now well documented! (Pic – JC Photos)

Breeders shy way and I’m wondering if its valid.

The question now is:  Can a breeder take such traits and add the class of a Gr1 Winning stallion in the hope of producing the future champion warrior that can be so sound and tough that it can race more often, give its owner more pleasure, earn more money, exploit the merit rating system and also have class to win at Graded race level as well ?

And probably just as importantly, will that horse find the trainer willing to take him all the way ?

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