Good afternoon everyone,
Caroline goes off into the realms of fantasy breeding for this weeks article, something a little different!
Happy reading all, hope you enjoy it.
How to mate your mare
Good day all, and thanks again for your kind comments on last week’s piece about Diminuendo; clearly some fellow fans of hers out there, as well as those Warren Place followers who are as devoted as my own allegiance to Freemason Lodge!
I’ve side-tracked myself into a slightly different article this week, aka the bloodstock version of Let’s Pretend: how to mate your mare. Let’s face it, sadly most of us aren’t going to get to do this for real, but for anyone interested in the breeding side of racing, pondering potential blue-blooded matches for your favourites is a happy pastime! Some of my favourite breeding articles are those featuring the mating plans for the major studs each spring. So I thought it might be fun to have a look at some big names ourselves and what we might choose to do, if money was no object.
When a mare owner picks a stallion to mate her with, they will be looking to combine the best traits of both parents in the resultant offspring. This means not just what both of them did themselves as performers on the course but their physical make and shape, which has a huge impact on racing ability. To provide some illustrations here, let’s have a look at three top class mares who we all know well (and – coincidentally of course – I have a massive soft spot for!) and consider what their lucky owners may be taking into account when the time comes for them to be broodmares.
The Sprinter – Mabs Cross
In the case of Mabs Cross, that time has come already. She’s been a real sprinting star over the last few seasons, peaking with her Prix de l’Abbaye victory in 2018. This was a much-deserved G1 win following multiple placings at the top level, her optimum conditions appearing to be the minimum 5f trip on quick ground. She didn’t race as a 2yo and improved markedly from 3 to 4. Medium-sized with no glaring physical flaws (at least from a tv perspective – I never saw her race in real life), she isn’t one who looks like she particularly requires size adding or reducing in her foals. So the crux of the mating decision in her case may be whether you want to blend her speed with some stamina, via a sire who stayed further, in order to try and produce a high class miler or middle distance horse; or to mate like with like and aim for pure speed.
When she was offered at Tattersalls last December, I would have bet good money that she’d be bought by Coolmore and end up in Galileo’s court, to attempt the former approach. Coolmore have plenty of form in buying high class sprinters to pair with their champion, such as Marsha and the Wokingham winner Laddies Poker Two (the dam of Winter), but surprisingly this time they did not seal the deal, and Mabs Cross was subsequently sold privately to Tweenhills Stud, owned by Sheikh Fahad, to mate with their own shuttle stallion, Zoustar. The latter was a champion sprinter in Australia, so the foal which results from this pairing is bred to fly! It will be interesting to see if Tweenhills pursue this pattern of mating Mabs Cross with sprinters in future seasons; other such potential mates for her could be Oasis Dream, Bated Breath or Blue Point if so. The alternative approach would be to choose a sire like Frankel or Golden Horn to add some stamina.
My own choice for Mabs Cross would be Frankel, to try and produce a Guineas horse or miler. He is such a powerful horse who tends to get big stock that stay very well, so sharper mares seem to be proving a good match for him, similar to his own sire Galileo. As I said though, it’s easy to sit here and make these judgements when the £175,000 covering fee isn’t coming out of your bank account!
The Classic Horse – Enable
Middle distance queens like Enable provide the opposite conundrum: do you want a classic mating with a Derby-winning sire or to try and inject some speed? Enable needs no introduction of course; she’s one of the very best middle-distance mares of recent years, boasting two King Georges and two Arcs already on her CV, with perhaps more to come. I really hope that the sporting gesture by her connections to keep her in training again at six is rewarded with a suitable racing programme and a good preparation for her repeat Arc de Triomphe bid. Whatever transpires this year, it would seem very likely that she will retire to stud next spring and news of her first suitor will be eagerly awaited.
For me, one of the keys to mating Enable successfully could be her size. She is a big rangy mare, so a risk of choosing a big strong stallion could be that the resultant foal would grow to be too big and gangly. Because she already has plenty of Northern Dancer blood (she is inbred 4×3 to him via Sadler’s Wells), I’d also be cautious about adding more strands, but I can imagine Juddmonte may be tempted to use their own young sire Kingman with her at some point if they don’t mind this. He also has ND blood on both sides of his pedigree (4×5) though, so it isn’t a straightforward decision. If they look elsewhere, the most obvious proven sire is Dubawi, who is more of an outcross for Sadler’s Wells’ descendants and is increasingly being used as such. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, and he’d have to rate the favourite for a mare of her calibre.
However, one alternative that I might be tempted to try with Enable, combining both the above ideas, is Dubawi’s son Too Darn Hot. He is an altogether more compact model than her: well made but smaller and sharper, demonstrating more speed as a racehorse. A champion 2yo who trained on, he would complement Enable’s Classic stamina in these respects. Intriguingly, via his own very strong female line, he would add a third link to Sadler’s Wells, making any foal from this cross inbred 5x4x3 to him. Given what a prepotent influence Sadler’s Wells has been to the breed over the last three decades, you could certainly view this as a positive. Anyway, we shall see!
The Chaser – La Bague Au Roi
In recent years, the National Hunt programme for mares has grown hugely and as a result we’ve been rewarded with many more top class members of the fairer sex competing over jumps. My current favourite of these has to be the lovely La Bague Au Roi, pictured here before her Peterborough Chase run last season.
Although I fell for her when seeing her before a Listed hurdle win at Kempton in 2017, it is over fences that La Bague Au Roi has excelled, and you can tell why when you see her in the flesh. Like Enable, she has that loose, rangy frame, a proud, intelligent head carriage and is beautifully balanced. She clearly had the size and scope for fences, and connections were brave enough to send her that route the following season. They were immediately rewarded when she proved to be a natural, and she became a Grade 1 winner against geldings in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase before following up at Leopardstown. In general, she seems to be at her best on flat tracks, better ground and over a maximum of 3m.
She was not quite so good in the 2019/20 season but, as far as I know, there are no plans to retire La Bague Au Roi just yet, so hopefully we will see her back again in the autumn. However, now aged nine, she probably only has one or two more seasons’ racing before she becomes a broodmare. Her owners will then, like their Flat counterparts, have the exciting decision to make of which stallion to breed her to. La Bague Au Roi is French-bred herself, and by their exciting young stallion Doctor Dino, who is now the most expensive NH sire in Europe. He is basically a Flat-bred horse but his Northern Dancer blood is a good few generations back (4×5) and La Bague Au Roi’s dam, Alliance Royale, has none at all, so this leaves most options open for her in terms of blood.
So who to choose? You may recall that I listed my favourite NH sires in a previous article, https://dailypunt.com/what-makes-a-good-nh-sire-part-2/ so they are the most obvious place to start. Although she is a good size herself, this is obviously a desirable trait in jumps horses and I would be less concerned at off-setting this in the mating than I was with Enable. However, it might give me pause with using Kayf Tara, perhaps, who is a unit himself and tends to get really good-sized types. Similar caution may be exercised with a number of my other choices – never let it be said that I don’t have a weakness for a big horse! Anyway, that would apply to several others on my list, such as Yeats and Walk In The Park, whilst Flemensfirth may well have been retired from duties by the time La Bague Au Roi is ready to be mated. I think that I would therefore look to one of my younger, unproven choices for her: Crystal Ocean or Goliath Du Berlais. My gut says that Crystal Ocean could be the one to complement her the best. An excellent pedigree that combines class and stamina, brings in the Sadler’s Wells line via Sea The Stars, plus a less extravagant size (without in any way being small), Crystal Ocean brings a great deal to this possible mating and would be a strong candidate for me.
What wonderful ‘problems’ to have, eh? If you have any thoughts of your own regarding these mares, please feel welcome to share them in the comments below. And if you’d really like some homework, how would you choose to mate any of these recent stars if they were yours?
Laurens (Siyouni – Recambe by Cape Cross)
Quadrilateral (Frankel – Nimble Thimble by Mizzen Mast)
Benie Des Dieux (Great Pretender – Cana by Robin Des Champs)
Remember, when it’s all theoretical and you don’t have to stump up the readies, or face the commercial realities of today’s bloodstock markets, you can choose whoever you like!
Stay safe everyone, and happy planning!