When it comes to horse breeding, does a mare’s success as a performer correlate to her success as a broodmare?
Does a great broodmare have to start as a great racehorse? Or is a mare’s race record unimportant, especially in light of her pedigree? The American Quarter Horse Journal looked at 359 mares who have produced a Grade 1 winner to see what history shows and found that only 17 percent were graded stakes winners themselves. However, 45 percent of them were a stakes winner – and a whopping 71 percent of them were at least stakes-placed during their racing career.
A majority – 60 percent – earned less than $30,000 during their racing careers.
The Journal spoke to two leading breeders to get their opinions on the importance of mares.
Dr. Ed Allred
American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer Dr. Edward C. Allred is the sport’s all-time leading breeder and all-time leading owner, and many times the champion breeder and/or owner. In four decades of breeding, his program through mid-2013 had produced 1,393 winners and the earners of more than $43 million, including 136 stakes winners, world champion Freaky, and other champions Catchmeinyourdreams, Hawkish, Hawkinson, Separatist, Way Maker and Flame N Flash.
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Spencer Childers and I were very close. We shared the breeder of the year award one year (1996), and I learned a lot from him. One of the things he taught me was the value of the mare family – good mare families, good female families. That’s what I base my program on all the time.
You can find families of the so-called blue hen type, and you stay with them. Spencer tried to tell me this, but sometimes I would get impatient. I had Angel Layne, but I got impatient, and I sold her for something like $2,200 at the Vessels sale. And the next year, she had Dashing Knud, who was a champion and won over a million dollars. She had a couple of other good ones, too.
I didn’t breed the mare, but I had accumulated that family. They were Ivan Ashment’s horses. I had observed that family and thought this was a family that is going to emerge. Before Ivan’s death and after his death, I wound up with three of them. So I ran a few horses out of each of them. Two or three or four years went by and I had a few nibbles. But they didn’t do anything great, and I got impatient, and I sold them all.
If you’re going to be a breeder, you can’t get impatient. If you’ve got a good family, and your gut tells you that it is – whether it’s a proven family or perhaps an emerging family – you have to stay with it. Be patient sometimes. I’ve learned that.
I always concentrate on strong female families that I personally have observed. Over the years, I’ve been much more prone to buy into families that I’ve seen run. Sometimes you get a horse that you know can run – if you’re around the racetrack, you see horses that are from good families but have some reason why they couldn’t achieve their full potential or reach their full ability, and you can buy them for not too much money sometimes. Myself, I have so many horses that I’m often running horses in claiming races, fillies and mares and colts that are well worth the money. In fact, sometimes they’ll get claimed, taken back to Oklahoma and put in a sale and make pretty good dough on it. So I concentrate on strong female families.
Based in Seguin, Texas, Bob and Jerry Gaston have bred horses for more than 30 years. From a band of only eight broodmares, in 2010, the Gastons were the breeders of champion Double Down Special and Grade 1 winner Bodacious Dash and had the sport’s second-highest breeder earnings for the year. They have bred 69 winners from 104 starters, with earnings of more than $4.1 million. Bob adds that, in addition to genetics, environment is important to starting foals off right. That includes letting them live like little horses and watching their diet so they don’t become too fat.
I prefer a mare who has performed on her own. They don’t necessarily have to be stakes winners, although I prefer a stakes winner. But I like it if they’ve shown a lot of speed, a lot of endurance and a lot of soundness.
I define soundness as if she’s had a lot of races without too much interruption. There are some families where the horses are big flashes-in-the-pan early in the spring, then when summer and fall come along, they’re no longer on the track. You can trend the offspring of a mare, that’s just the way they are. They do really well early in the year, then later on, they’re not around. To me, that’s an indication of some problem in the horse, and generally that’s soundness.
I do like it if they’ve won a lot of money in races, or at least competed in stakes races. Some mares never get black type, yet they end up with a pretty good sum of money because they qualified for futurities and ran high enough to make a nice paycheck. If the rest of a mare’s family is made up of performers, then the money she earns is important.
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I like a good bottom side. I think 70 percent or more of the baby is going to be from the mama. You’re beating your head against the wall if you take a common mare and go to Mr Jess Perry or First Down Dash, thinking you’re really going to get a big-time runner. You have got to have that mama. That’s pretty elementary to most people, but occasionally I see a horse in a sale that’s by First Down Dash out of a mare who has no bottom side at all. Then they scratch their head and wonder why they didn’t get their stud fee back. So I want a good mama with a good pedigree in her, then match that mare to a stud and cross that way.
I knew Pamper Me Special, who produced Double Down Special, had the pedigree. I didn’t give her credit because she couldn’t run a lick. I didn’t give her credit for pedigree and I should have. But as it turns out, I think she’ll be a great broodmare.
I just like good bottom sides on my pedigrees. If they don’t produce in a couple of years, say three babies or so, then I’m pretty well off of them. But we generally have raced most of our broodmares, and I bought them because they had good bottom sides, then raced them and they were successful. Then I made broodmares out of them. This is really a rule-of-thumb. You can always say, hey, this runner came from nowhere. Yeah, that happens, because the genetics are there. But your percentages are just so low doing that, I’m just not willing to gamble that.
I want a good pedigree and a good individual. I don’t think it’s a real complicated process, but that’s how I select them, and I guess we’ve just been in the right place at the right time, more than anything.
The American Quarter Horse Youth Association supports the next generation of horse enthusiasts. AQHYA members have the opportunity to participate in the AQHYA Racing Experience program. Youth members get to see a behind-the-scenes look at different racetracks across the country at this one- or two-day event. Scholarships are available to attend the event. Learn more on AQHA’s website.
Want to see a glimpse of racing behind the scenes? Check out this AQHA video, a recap of the 2012 All American weekend at Ruidoso Downs. This video includes a look back at the Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale, Ochoa’s record-breaking victory in the All American Derby, Noconi’s retirement after the All American Gold Cup, the Sam Thompson Memorial jockey award won by Gilbert Ortiz, and of course the All American Futurity won by One Dashing Eagle.