Letter: stallions being judged too early

"Breeding solely for speed is a recipe for disaster"

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker Letter: stallions being judged too early

Breeder, bloodstock agent and journalist Sue Cameron from Melton Mowbray writes to warn against making judgements about stallions too early in their stud career

I'M SURE there are many breeders who will concur with Peter Stanley's lament over the sale of such useful sires as Champs Elysees and Mount Nelson. It is just another indication of the direction the industry is taking, to the long-term detriment of the breed.

The sad thing is that in an industry where perception seems to rule over fact, the minute any horse changes location to a so-called National Hunt stud he immediately becomes known as a National Hunt sire.

The horse has not changed and there is no reason to believe that, given the right mares, he can't continue to get high-class Flat winners.

His location has nothing whatsoever to do with it, but auction houses and many breeders will totally ignore the horse from then on. So even with the advantage of a likely much lower nomination fee, no Flat breeder who needs to sell can afford to use the horse any more.

What a waste. The question of perception is a curse in the thoroughbred industry: so often horses have been wrongly condemned or on the other hand wrongly lauded because people do not check the true facts but just follow on like sheep.

Years ago there was a well-known horse who got good-looking yearlings and people flocked to buy them. In fact the horse's ratio of winners to runners was appalling, but his sales success continued nevertheless. Equally there have been a number of commonly well-regarded horses who have got one or two outstanding offspring among a load of dross and yet they continued to attract large books of mares anyway.

The original opinion of both types of horse has often been formed far too early to judge, but minds are not easily changed. Why this should be when the facts are staring people in the face is a total mystery.

The auction houses do not always help as they too form an ‘opinion' and their actions can stymie a horse before it gets off the ground.

A few years ago practically all the mares in foal to a new stallion were placed on the last day of the December Sales and breeders immediately ignored the horse and he got few opportunities.

My husband Bill Cameron was the first person to publish winners-to-runners ratios for stallions, way back in the early 1970s. The figures were very revealing but had little effect on the commerciality or otherwise of the horses concerned.

A horse's success often seems to be more often influenced by his connections than his own abilities. Here again perception plays a large part. Another very wrong perception is that horses who can stay 12 furlongs are necessarily slow.

That is far from the case and yet any horse who steps past ten furlongs is immediately regarded in a derogatory fashion as a stayer, a reality mentioned by Peter Stanley in his excellent letter. But to have speed alone is no good, there needs to be a basis of stamina too and breeding solely for speed is a recipe for disaster.

Mr Stanley also mentions the fee for a good juvenile, retired far too early, as being only slightly less than that of a dual Derby winner. That sums up the whole situation in a nutshell, and something needs to be done along the lines suggested by Mr Stanley. And sooner rather than later.

    Read More at Racing Post Bloodstock

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