Talkin' Horses - Live Discussions

Byron Rogers Stallion Manager/Pedigree Analyst

Thursday, Nov 29, 2007

Byron Rogers comes from an Australian racing background with his family racing some top flight gallopers in that country. He attended race meetings in his home town of Sydney, Australia with regularity. While attending university, he worked for leading Australian trainer Les Bridge as well as a period for leading Bookmaker Mark Read. He spent time in Europe at Coolmore Stud in Ireland and Paul Cole's training yard at Whatcombe before travelling to Hong Kong to work with leading trainers Ivan Allan and Peter Ng Bik-Kuen.

Byron spent eight years working for Arrowfield Stud in Australia as Stallion Nominations and Bloodstock Manager, being part of the team that developed the careers of leading sires Redoute's Choice, Flying Spur and Danzero and playing an integral part in the relocation of leading Chilean sire Hussonet.

Byron extended his overseas experience to the United States, where for the past three years he has been the Director of the Stallion Division for Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky. Byron has written numerous articles for Owner-Breeder, MarketWatch and The Australian Blood-Horse Review and was a co-author of The Great Thoroughbred Sires of the World. He also writes on his own blog www.thepedigreeguru.com and shortly launches, along with pedigree authority Alan Porter, www.truenicks.com, a pedigree analysis program developed in conjunction with Blood-Horse publications.

Ocala, FL:
Drugs and horse racing, breeding etc, what is your opinion on this subject? In my opinion, a true honest racehorse, filly or colt is a drug free horse. For all the drugs in racing in the US it seems to me that for all the work vets and others put into these horses they still don't stay sound. Why do people want to keep breeding these horses with each other, it seems we are breeding problems with issues instead of stallions with mares?

Rogers:
Rogers: This is a question that I will have to state unequivocally is my opinion only and not that of my current employer who may or may not share the same opinion on the matter.

Firstly having seen enough limping horses in my lifetime and knowing the reality of training I am not going to be so foolish to suggest completely drug free racing. Horses are given steroids, bute and lasix in just about every country I know of, they just can't turn up on raceday with it in their system. I think this is where North America needs to head towards. Go ahead and use bute and lasix, just adhere to the withholding periods.

Steroids are another story all together. I can't see any validity in their use at all, some of it is downright scary in what it can do to a horse, and I think that if you look at the American Thoroughbred as a product the wholesale use of steroids really does put a negative connotation on it.

I think that Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton have done a great job in implementing a protocol that goes in some way to addressing this issue and I applaud them for it. They are rightly looking at themselves as guardians of the breed in some ways and have implemented a protocol in very difficult circumstances. This, along with the American Graded Stakes committee's policy on drugs is a great start and hopefully over time we can "wean" the American Thoroughbred off its regular dose of winstrol.

As far as anything beyond that, interestingly it seems the market is making allowance for it. Over summer I was trying to sell a very nice stallion prospect to Japan and they kept on saying "not interested". The horse kept winning and I kept calling them. In the end they turned around and said "We would like to buy the horse but we do not buy any fillies or colts that are trained by that horse's trainer as he gives them too much help". I guess that is what people are noticing now - the North American culture of medicated racing is affecting export markets which is not a good thing and that itself will force change.

Otisville, NY:
Thanks for taking the time out of your day. Do you see the all weather surfaces playing a part in the breeding shed?

Rogers:
Long term - absolutely. When you change a fundamental feature of a racing environment Darwin kicks in and it becomes survival of the fittest. It might take a generation or two but it will have an influence.

Great Falls, MT:
Hi Byron, What would be your "dream" pedigree for a Triple Crown candidate?

Rogers:
Of the current 2yo crop? I like Court Vision. Bred the same way as a classic winner and from a genuine classic family. Generally I like speed on top and classic leanings in the broodmare sire and female family.

Ireland:
How would you advise those that have no background in the bloodstock industry to get started? What articles or books or resources did you use to become so knowledgeable in your area of profession?

Rogers:
Read a lot, don't believe everything you read and observe. There have been a couple of other questions I have answered on this. A lot of resources are now on the internet to read. Being in Ireland you have a great resource in the Irish National Stud. They run a terrific course that you might want to look into. Just don't start talking to John Clarke (stud manager) about Rugby. He still thinks the Irish have a good team and can't understand why they get beaten. He and Geoffrey Russell here at Keeneland share the same delusions.

Floral Park, NY:
Byron, Sorry to see the pedigree guru has been shut down as it was always insightful to a casual fan but excited about your new project. Good luck with true nicks. Being that you are from Australia I remember reading that you went down there this spring to introduce some Americans to the Australian sales. I kept reading how everyone was commenting on how much bigger Australian yearlings were than our American ones back home. Do you ever see people shuttling their stallions or mares up the US to increase the size and durability of our seemingly smaller and more fragile breed?

Rogers:
Good question. There is no doubt that the Australian horse is a little more forward physically and has a little more bone than the American Thoroughbred at the same time of development but I think that it is a function of environment. Firstly foals are only in boxes/stalls if they have something wrong with them, otherwise they are out. This is often not the case in North America. Secondly, we have a lot more emphasis on two year old racing and early maturity so we select for body, musculature and bone more than they do up here and indeed in Europe. Most Australians would consider the American Thoroughbred to be racing on matchsticks for legs.

The last point you made you reflected on the fragility of the North American horse. I am not sure if they are more fragile. They train differently up here. In Australia a horse will go out to the paddock for a layup/spell for 6 weeks twice a year but race every two weeks when they are ready to run. I think the break helps a lot. Over here there is year round racing and horses stay in work for an awful long time, but race more sparingly.

People will try to bring Australian raced horses up. They did in the past (Noholme wasn't a bad result). It is going to be harder though as the American gene pool is built around its own lines such as Lexington, Domino, etc whereas Australia is built upon more European lines. Often the two don't mesh too well. Just ask Unbridled's Song.

Sydney, Australia:
Why are "nicks" any more valid than inbreeding to superior females in pedigrees?

Rogers:
Firstly, I'd like to say that utilizing the two concepts is not necessarily mutually exclusive. You can plan a mating which is good nick, and has inbreeding to superior females. As far as the validity, we conduct a study of the TrueNick on a group of 100,000 contemporary horses and found a measurable and significant correlation between the nick rating and stakes success. In addition to finding evidence for the validity of nicks in general, it is very easy to establish statistical evidence for nicks working and not working in the case of individual stallions.

Inbreeding to superior females is a popular breeding theory and I myself have used it in the past and will continue to do so. However unlike the Truenicks program I don't believe the same test has been applied to inbreeding to superior females. Indeed of the studies that I have seen, which were based on large but far from complete databases, it seems that when inbreeding to superior females it is more often the case of not only inbreeding to specific females in a very small subset of names but also their presence appearing through specific offspring. This nuance makes wholesale application of inbreeding to superior females a little more problematic than one is led to believe.

Nicholasville, KY:
I know that when you flush a toilet in Australia the water goes down in the opposite direction from an American toilet. Your horse races are also run in the opposite direction. What else do you do backwards?

Rogers:
I took this question seriously until I saw you were from Nicholasville, KY. Clearly there is not enough to do in the office at Taylor Made! Did you know that there are people who live in Nicholasville that think that Lexington is the "big smoke"? Amazing, yet frightening. In Australia, and the rest of the world, when you are eating a meal your entree comes first followed by your main meal, we don't call you main meal an entree as entree, derived from the French word for entry, signifies the beginning of a meal. It is pretty simple and logical stuff but you Americans don't seem to get it and would like the world to change for you. Shall I go on to talk about all the ways Americans have completely bastardized the English language? Then we can move on to your efforts in world politics, religion.

California, MD:
Hi Byron, It's all about the money? What is your take about race horses not racing because the breeding money is so high? I think the owners are hurting the very sport that they are involved in. Example: You have a graded stakes winner or Triple Crown winner so you breed to develop a great horse! But he races at 3 years of age then he's gone. What's the purpose?

Rogers:
This is a problem that has been around for some time and it is getting worse. With prize money not keeping up with costs of racing and the lure of stallion income it is more difficult for an owner now not to take the safer route and retire a horse earlier. There are a couple of suggestions on how to change this but none look like a perfect solution.

New York, NY:
Hi Byron, Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions! What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the business if you do not come from a training, breeding or racing background? If you are willing to start from the bottom, will farms take a chance on you?

Rogers:
Every farm I know will take someone who is willing to work and learn. I'd start on a farm that you can be immersed in seeing a lot of horses and meeting a lot of people so try a bigger farm with a good sized sales consignment. Just watch and learn. After a couple of years at sales watching guys like Demi O'Byrne, Mike Ryan, Buzz Chace, etc at work you will soon get an eye for what works on the racetrack (and there are no absolutes to that statement). I would then go and work at the track for a year or so either with a trainer or a vet. Watch what you can and can't live with conformationally. Just make sure you keep in touch with people who can help you get to the next step and never think that you can't do it.

Toronto, Ontario:
I have a mare inbred 3X3 to Bold Ruler and linebred to Polynesian What kind of stallion should I breed her to?

Rogers:
Hard question to answer. She could be by A.P. Indy or Mr. Greeley and my answer would be completely different.

Louisville, KY:
Thank you for joining the forum. Which sire of first crop 2-year-olds has surprised you the most this year with his progeny's performance on the track? Who is your current pick to have the best first crop runners next year?

Rogers:
Probably Van Nistelrooy. A great name for a racehorse but I thought he wasn't much of a runner (putting it politely) and I thought at the fee he was at he would fade into oblivion. He has surprised me for sure. I was asked to be on the Thoroughbred Times Freshman Sire selection panel and I was the only one that picked Posse and I sort of think that going with that style of horse is the right play when looking at first season sires. I really liked the Lion Heart's this year. Despite the numbers of them and the potential for variability, I thought he got a consistent yearling. I also liked the yearlings I saw by Chapel Royal, Cuvee, Strong Hope and Speightstown.

I am going to omit Smarty Jones only because Case Clay and Jason Litt convinced me that Sky Mesa was the real deal and I picked him #1 only to be disappointed. I am not going to fall for those smooth talking Three Chimneys marketers again!

Finch, OK:
Your Pedigree Guru blog included some strong criticism of certain stallions. Are there certain sires that you completely avoid? Is it for conformation or temperament or soundness?

Rogers:
There is a great betting maxim - "horses for courses" and I think that this really applies with stallions also. Each racing environment has unique features to it and appreciating those features and selecting stallions to fit into that environment is the key in my opinion. Some stallion operators elect to bring in stallions that don't suit the racing environment then expect people to completely change their unique racing environment to suit them.

Simpsonville, KY:
G'day Mate! I'm a big fan of Crocodile Dundee and the late great Crocodile Hunter. When I saw that you were from Australia I just knew you could answer this question for me: How much did Phar Lap's heart weigh?

Rogers:
No idea. Do they ask this question on the Australian citizenship test? If so, I have failed miserably.

Shawnee, KS:
It seems like here in America our young horses are so much more fragile than they used to be and we see very with the stamina to go the classic distance of 1 1/4, Have we inbred so much for speed that we've depleted are stock in this area and if so do you think we will ever see the rugged campaigners of old.

Rogers:
I almost fell of my chair when you said the classic distance was a mile and a quarter! Genuine stamina does take a few generations to establish and you have to really set up your racing around it. I think that the Japanese have it right for genuine stamina. They have their Guineas over 10f, their Derby over 12f and their St. Leger over 14f and they build the rest of their racing around these races.

While I am not necessarily advocating it, to be serious about building stamina back into the breed you need to build a few more races at a mile and a half and further and make them worth money. Start with the Breeders' Cup Classic. Make it 12f. Add in a race like the Jockey Club Gold Cup and then move from there. It would take a couple of generations to build stamina back in the breed though. Unlike drugs in racing, I doubt that there are enough motivating factors to bring about genuine change in this area.

Paris, KY:
My question comes stems from a stallion managers position. How do you deal with subfertile stallions, and more importantly how do you deal with breeders that want to jump to a new stallion?

Rogers:
Subfertile stallions are a tough one. In the case of a first season sire that is having issues upright honesty is the best policy. It helps nobody if you don't admit the problem, if it is one, and give breeders a chance to make alternate plans. Clients should be with you for life and it is not worth upsetting them over one stallion. As far as everything else is concerned I would be guided by our vet on what are the best management techniques to use. In respect of first season sires, we pretty much have them "broke" as stallions well before the season starts. We keep a couple of test mares (mares without ovaries) and use hormones to bring them into season now and test breed the stallions. Master Command and Half Ours have already had a couple of jumps each and both got the idea very quickly. By the time they breed a Thoroughbred mare early next year it is certainly not going to be their first rodeo.

Montreal, Canada:
Hello Mr. Rogers, What is your opinion on the sire Pulpit as far as being able to sire a mile and a quarter horse for the Derby?

Rogers:
I love Pulpit. Being by A.P. Indy you would figure he would have no problem but he has a lot of speed in his pedigree. I would think that with the right mare, say an Unbridled mare or something like that he should get it done. I am surprised that they have not sent more Mr. Prospector line mares to him as he seems to do well with it. I know it is inbreeding to Mr. Prospector closely but I don't see that as a negative.

Dublin, CA:
What exactly is True Nicks and how does it differ from Werk's eNick and the VGS rating in G1Goldmine software? When will True Nicks be released?

Rogers:
The TrueNicks figure is a rating compiled using the data base of The Jockey Club, and which is able to take into account every known foal and starter on the given cross. By comparing the percentage of stakes winners produced by a sire or sire line when bred to mares by a broodmare sire or from a broodmare sire line, to the percentage of stakes winners sired by the sire or sire line out of all other mares, and the percentage of stakes winners that specific group of mares by the broodmare sire (or sire line) have produced when bred to all other stallions, it is possible to tell how much the cross is improving (or disimproving......is that a word?) both the sire (or sire line) and the broodmare sire (or sire line). The TrueNicks rating is a function of both those figures.

This method means that rating is based on matings which have taken place, rather than one what matings might have taken placed which is what enicks and G1Goldmine base their results upon. It is a actual vs. hypothetical situation. By using the entire population as Truenicks does it also means that one can often achieve a rating based on horses closer up in the pedigree, rather defaulting to more distant generations, thus giving a better representation of a specific cross. The report also includes the top five horses bred on the cross, which should greatly assist in making informed decisions.

We are hoping that we can start offering some basic products next week. If you have any ideas for some products that you might like please get in contact with me.

Schoharie, NY:
As a small family farm I am always under pressure to get the best value for the breeding of my mares as possible. It is upsetting to see stud fees so much higher than auction prices of foals. Can you give me some examples of stallions who are value priced ($10,000 or less) who you feel will make an impact on US racing? I fault many of the pedigree systems on just paying attention to the sire lines. My feelings are that the mare and her lines are more important. How much weight do you give the mare's family and her female family?

Rogers:
As far as proven value sires around $10,000 I like a horse like Victory Gallop. They run and I think he will keep getting it done and the market will start to pay for it. Regionally at the fee you mentioned I like Bechmark and Trippi. There are a number of unproven sires at the $10,000 mark but I couldn't be sure that they will make "an impact on US racing".

I answered a question previously on female lines or should I say inbreeding to females. I do actually place a lot of weight on the direct female line as while I don't know the true extent; my observations tell me that mtDNA plays a significant role in the Thoroughbred. I just wish The International Stud Book would start testing Thoroughbreds' mtDNA so we actually knew what horses belong to what female line. Ironically for some reason the Thoroughbreds true heritage doesn't seem to be important to them.

Ventura, CA:
I am a big racing fan and love Unbridled's Song. How does he rate as one of your favorite horses and what do you attribute Real Quiet and Artax who were two tremendous race horses and relative failures at your stud. Real Quiet seems to be doing okay but why couldn't they make it in Kentucky and therefore moved to regional markets?

Rogers:
Unbridled's Song is a cool horse to be around. Nothing worries him and he is as smart as it comes in the breeding shed. I swear he can tell the difference between a mare that has been programmed to come into heat and one that has come in naturally. He is an easy horse to work with and basically tells you when he is not happy so from that viewpoint he could be the best stallion I've worked with.

Real Quiet and Artax were both tremendous racehorses who unfortunately have been unable to reproduce themselves with any consistency. I have a little bit of time for Real Quiet as he got shuffled around a little in his first few years at stud, and I see he is moving yet again, which is never ideal. He might be able to get some consistency in a regional market.

Medfield, MA :
Hi, Will the European sire lines of Sadler's Wells and Danehill ever become popular in the US or is the racing just too different?

Rogers:
It was not too long ago that European sires and sire lines dominated North American breeding and racing. By in large, two things changed that - the speed handicappers and quarter horse trainers. When the speed handicappers started betting on horses that could get out of the gate in 21 and change and stagger home in 24 and still win the race a lot of the European lines were on the wrong side of the "survival of the fittest" ledger. They just were not built for that type of racing. Quarter horse trainers coming across to Thoroughbreds with success also added to their demise as the physical type of a typical Blushing Groom, Caro or Riverman just didn't fit their model. Maybe the synthetics will change all this and we can look at European horses again returning to dominance.

Tucson, AZ:
Although this question doesn't directly pertain to you, what are you feelings and thoughts when discussing toe grabs on horses' shoes, with both TB's and QH's? Pros, cons etc... Thanks

Rogers:
There are more qualified people to talk about this than I, but as a casual observation (and please weigh it with that consideration) I can say that I am surprised at the amount of toe and lack of heel that North American trainers tend to have on their horses. Trainers in Europe and Australia have a lot more heel and a lot less toe. I understand the concept behind having more toe but I believe the problems associated with doing this outweigh the benefits. Toe grabs, in addition to the above, is only looking for trouble in my opinion.

Brooksville, FL:
Hi Byron. I was just wondering about when you go to breed a mare, I know you pick a stallion with qualities that she lacks, but are there certain things that really seal the deal when picking a potential stallion?

Rogers:
You have sort of phrased the question on an assumption that I don't necessarily agree with.

I do both in that I might pick a stallion because he improves the mare and is hopefully able to dominate her and equally I have sent mares to stallions in the hope, or knowledge that she will dominate him.

In general terms it is easier to do the former as in my experience stallions tend to dominate the mare on musculature and body shape while a mare tends to dominate on size and length of the resultant foal. There are exceptions to every rule but in general I would advise attempting a mating where the variability between the sire and dam is small. Look at the size (height and width) of your mare and the body length of her and pick a stallion that suits on pedigree that might improve her a little in one of these characteristics or not change her characteristics greatly. There has been exceptions (like say Fashions Afield) but I have never had much luck with small mares to big stallions.

Louisville, KY:
I read that you've traveled to Europe, Australia and Hong Kong to work with some horse trainers. How popular is horseracing in those locales?

Rogers:
When I was in Hong Kong it was outrageously popular but it seems that alternatives to gamble on have, like North America, reduced the day to day appeal. In both Europe and Australia horse racing seems to be a lot more popular to the masses than it does here in North America.

Reno, NV:
Good afternoon, the good Mr. Rogers (You might have an inkling who this is). Only one question: Taylor Made was late compared to other large commercial farms with announcing the across-the-board stallion fee reductions for 2008. While it was much to the benefit of your clients to do so, it may have left a bad taste in the mouths of buyers of broodmares in foal to a Taylor Made stallion at Keeneland earlier this month. Let's just assume that market conditions again call for more reductions in fees in 2008. If there is indeed a concern by the 2007 purchasers, will Taylor Made again announce reductions later than other large commercial farms in 2008?

Rogers:
Of course the reality is you can't win either way in respect to the question you have posed here but in general we felt that we had an obligation to those who had supported our stallions to wait until the sale was well underway before announcing an across the board reduction in service fees. It wasn't an easy decision but on reflection I don't think it was as big an issue as we first thought. I certainly don't think that we have left a "bad taste" in the mouth of those buyers as to date I haven't had a single buyer ring me and tell me that they felt we had done them an injustice in announcing the fee when we did. I guess they had already made a discount in their mind prior to purchase. We are always trying to improve the way we serve our customers and you have raised an interesting viewpoint which we will consider next year when setting our fees. If you have any further feedback just give me a call.

Lampasas, TX:
Byron, We are searching for a stallion to go to with my Afternoon Deelites mare. Any suggestions?

Rogers:
One direction which might be interesting would be a Storm Cat line stallion. Storm Cat/Private Terms (sire of Afternoon Deelites) has a very good strike rate for stakes winners to opportunity. What is particularly interesting with Afternoon Deelites is that he is out of a mare by Medialle d'or, a reverse Northern Dancer/Secretariat cross to Storm Cat.

Mt. Sterling, KY:
I am a big fan of Arrowfield and Redoute's Choice. Do you think he would be a successful stallion over in America? Also if you had to list your top 5 stallions and didn't factor in sales averages who would they be?

Rogers:
Redoute's is a great stallion, one of the best in the world. I don't know if he would be a success here in America though. His pedigree would be interesting and could work but like a lot of Danehills, he gets a lot of his foals back at the knee. That is like a death sentence on dirt tracks as you are invariably fishing for chips after the first breeze. Maybe artificial surfaces might change this?

Mt. Sterling, KY:
I am a big fan of Arrowfield and Redoute's Choice. Do you think he would be a successful stallion over in America? Also if you had to list your top 5 stallions and didn't factor in sales averages who would they be?

Rogers:
Redoute's is a great stallion, one of the best in the world. I don't know if he would be a success here in America though. His pedigree would be interesting and could work but like a lot of Danehills, he gets a lot of his foals back at the knee. That is like a death sentence on dirt tracks as you are invariably fishing for chips after the first breeze. Maybe artificial surfaces might change this?

My top 5? Can I make it 8?

AP Indy (USA)
Distorted Humor (USA)
Monsun (Europe)
Pivotal (Europe)
Redoute's Choice (Australia)
Sadler's Wells (Europe)
Western Winter (South Africa)
Zabeel (New Zealand)

I am sure I missed one!

La Jolla, CA:
From the pedigree analyst viewpoint, what can you say about the US stallion Tiznow? I've been following his stud career from the very beginning, and I'm curious about where he nicks best, considering his rather obscure pedigree and all.

Rogers:
He has Champion Folklore out of a mare by Storm Cat, and G2 winner Tiz Wonderful out of a mare by Hennessy (by Storm Cat). Storm Cat is bred on similar lines to Tiznow's granddam, which might help. G1 winner Tough Tiz's Sis is out of a mare by a son of In Reality (in Tiznow's own sire line via Relaunch) and Cee's Tizzy/In Reality has three stakes winners from limited opportunity; Bear Now is out of a Caro line mare, which has a good strike rate with Relaunch. Slew's Tizzy is out of a mare by a Seattle Slew son, and is bred by crossing a stallion back over his own broodmare sire line, a pattern which can work well. The promising Colonel John is out of a mare by Turkoman, and this is probably an example of Seattle Slew and Turkoman working well, as has happened with Point Given (out of a Turkoman mare).

Westport, CT:
How will your new pedigree analysis program differ from others that are currently out there, like Goldmine and enicks? Will it perhaps consider significant money earners, or stakes wins that are not graded, to include in the stats? Any little nuances to help the small breeder, especially in the regional markets, is appreciated.

Rogers:
The key difference is that being powered by Equineline and utilizing the Jockey Club database, the program is able to consider all known foals and starters bred on a cross, so is looking at real, not hypothetical opportunity. We do include regional stakes winners, and so, for instance, a breeder in Maryland with an Allen's Prospect mare would have a rating which took account the Maryland-bred stakes winners out of Allen's Prospect mares. We have thought about using alternatives to the stakes winning measure but feel that we are dealing with regional crosses as well as could possibly be asked.

Birmingham AL:
My questions are why do some stallions never become fashionable although they throw nice horses and MGS winners again and again from less than the quality of mares than much higher priced stallions? Next would be does age effect quality? Cryptoclearance comes to mind he started out great and later couldn't seem to throw anything of value for years.

Rogers:
I am not sure that they never become fashionable, it just might take a little time for them to be recognized for what they are (like say Dynaformer). The free market is a pretty good judge of performance and if a sire is doing the job then the market adjusts pretty well and gives the stallion the opportunity he deserves. Sometimes it takes the buying market a little longer to adapt to the type that the stallion produces. I know that there are buyers who still struggle to work out what type of Dynaformer to buy as he generally doesn't get the commercial body shape that buyers like but this doesn't stop him from getting the runners on the track.

As for your question of age, it is a hard one to answer as it is not wholesale. Danzig for instance had no trouble producing G1 winners late in his career; indeed he had two three year olds this year win at the highest level. Slew o' Gold however has me, and I suspect a ton of other people, completely beaten. It was almost like he said "I am going to do my best work in my first crop and after that you may as well use soapy water with these mares because I am holding back the good stuff."

Outside of Slew o' Gold, the only logical comments I can make are that among others, I think there might be two factors at work. Firstly, the pedigrees that a stallion had had success with can be bred out of the population as he ages. If a stallion worked brilliantly with particular broodmare sire at age 4, chances are that by are 20 there are not too many mares with that blood left in the population. Secondly, older sires tend to fall into the role of a proving ground for young mares. Breeders often take a young maiden mare to the stallion hoping to get her off to a good start and she both might not have the pedigree elements that the older sire likes and indeed might just be a completely useless producer. I will say that the question of performance dropping off with age tends to hurt stallions that need good mares to survive rather than those truly good stallions who just get it done.

Goshen, KY:
It appears to me that the great middle class that supports racing is disappearing from the tracks. The fans that have traditionally supported racing day in and day out have been the all-American blue collar working class people. How do we pull them out of the casinos and attract them back to racing or do we simply make horse racing a second class attraction at the casinos? Simply put how do we promote and keep our fans?

Rogers:
Good question and one that I suspect there are smarter brains at work on the answer to than I. One comment I would make is that racing would be best served as a national product, yet it has to deal with its development and issues on a state level which varies considerably from state to state. If we did have a national perspective to it all then issues such as marketing, attracting and retaining fans, turning fans into owners and problems such as licensing, penalties, retaining and creating new funding etc can be dealt with on a national level. The problem obviously is that the states use the gambling on racing to fund various things and they are not going to hand that over.

Reading, PA:
With all the crosses to Northern Dancer, I was surprised to see Makybe Diva bred to a Northern Dancer grandson, and now bred to one with another cross to Danzig. Why not an outcross?

Rogers:
I suspect that the main reason was that no viable outcross was available! The top of the commercial market in Australia is dominated by Danehill and his sons and Encosta de Lago. There is varying opinions on inbreeding to Northern Dancer and I am in the camp that having more strains of Northern Dancer is a good thing rather than a bad. Have a look at the pedigrees of some of the great horses of the past and look at the number of strains of St. Simon or even Nearco that appeared. That hardly hurt them and I suspect multiple strains of one of the greatest stallions ever is going to become more and more commonplace. Take a look at the pedigree of the Golden Slipper winner Forensics (by Flying Spur) as an example. That all said, I probably would have sent her to More Than Ready if I was given the choice.

Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico:
I am a great fan of the Caro sire line. In your opinion what is the forte and weak points (if any) of this sire line? Also do you consider this a potential sire line that could balance out the speed influence in the American Thoroughbred of today by providing more stamina?

Rogers:
Caro was a great racehorse and sire. Like a lot of other European sires, his sire line sort of suffered a little when the American Thoroughbred moved more towards out of the gate speed and short distance racing. They were also noted for being a little temperamental. It is going to take an exceptional stallion prospect to revive the line I am afraid. Maybe it will come through a horse like In Excess or his son Indian Charlie. I like a horse named Notional as a stallion prospect for the future. Hopefully he will come back and be able to shake up the older division next year and get himself a good home in KY. He would be my idea of a prospect capable of reviving the Caro sireline.

Darien, CT:
With your experience with breeding all over the world, would you say the most expensive horses are in Kentucky, and why, if so, is that? Are they simply the best? Is it in the grass, because so many are bought there and then shipped to so many different countries? And do you think a novice, like me, who wants to get in the breeding business, should go by a mare and breed to an expensive stallion and hope for the best, or do you recommend another approach?

Rogers:
Tough questions to answer. Are the most expensive horses in KY? Depends on the exchange rate! Deep Impact is/was an expensive horse as a foal and as a stallion. Right now I would have to say that Europe has the more expensive horses based on the exchange rate. The Tattersalls December sale will give us a good guide though. Kentucky has a lot of things set up to make it one of if not the epicentre of Thoroughbred breeding. Let's just hope legislators in Frankfort keep it that way.

As for the second part to your question, there are a myriad of different ways to get involved in this business and equally as many ways to lose money! My only advice would be to research the market, develop a written plan and stick to it. So many people come into this game thinking that they can rewrite the rules or what they did in one business they can apply to Thoroughbreds and they walk away richer in experience but poorer in their hip-pocket. If you don't have the time to do the research and develop a plan, buy it, there are plenty of smart people in the game whose intellectual property and advice can be bought.

North Andover MA:
Is the statement 'Bred the best to the best and hope for the best' succinct, overly simplistic or somewhere in between?

Rogers:
You should be able to do more than just hope for the best! There is a balance. Racing class of two parents will often overcome what could be considered a poorly constructed pedigree. When we conducted the Truenick Study of over 100,000 horses there were some stakes winners that rated poorly. Investigation of these stakes winners revealed that in many cases the racing or production class of the immediate parents might have had an impact. They were usually by stakes winning stallions and out of stakes winners or mares that produced more than one stakes winner.

However, a well constructed pedigree can out-produce the racing class of its parents. Again, if you have two unraced parents I think the chances of you producing a multiple G1 winner are very, very small, but with a well constructed pedigree and physical mating you might be able to move the needle and get a Listed stakes winner or slightly better.

Sydney, Australia:
The list of stallions, both North American and European, which have seriously under-performed - nay, they've been abysmal - in the southern hemisphere when shuttled, is long and legendary. Are we any closer to identifying the causative factors?

Rogers:
I often wonder if Danehill had not come about if the shuttle concept would have died a natural death! As far as causative factors, I would have some observations, but I wouldn't classify them as researched facts so treat them with the appropriate skepticism.

1. I think that the genetic landscape found in the Australian broodmare population finds a lot of stallions out. The Australian Throroughbred has been built around European lines of Hyperion, Nasrullah, Fair Trial and the like and the broodmare population is saturated with it. Stallions that have been effective have been the ones that have been able to suit that population. This is why I think it is slightly harder for a stallion from North America to make it. The typical North American stallion has been built on a different backgound altogether. Looking back on it Unbridled's Song and Honour and Glory had no chance. Mind you, this landscape is changing and changing faster as fewer stallions are breeding more mares.

2. Physically a lot of stallions just don't suit. The likes of Unbridled's Song, Timber Country, Brocco etc. were just too big and there was too much difference physically between them and the average mare. They also like a fairly muscular horse, especially through the hind leg (who doesn't right!) and a lot of the European horses that have come down have lacked that body type.

3. Generally speaking the North American and European sires that are being imported are not suited from the viewpoint of aptitude. With 3 one million dollar (or more) 2yo races over 6f all run before the end of autumn/fall, there is a strong accent on being able to get up and running early. This means that they have to have the physical ability to get up and race and also the constitution and mental ability to cope with hard training early in their lives. Danehill's were great for this. They had great minds and just ate and worked. Trainers loved them because they could work them hard and they would cope with it. A lot of stallions that get progeny that are a little fragile from a mental viewpoint get eaten up and spat out in this environment.

There are probably a few more factors that I should mention but it is hard to think on the fly in this type of forum. I will say that you have to remember that the Australian Thoroughbred has been solely developed on imported stallions. The industry there is very very bad at sustaining local pedigrees and sire lines so the group of "shuttle stallions" are naturally going to be an easy target.

Palm Beach, FL:
Byron, I purchase shares in stallions for my breeding program and I'm looking to purchase some additional shares. My question is there are so many stallions to choose from how should I choose a stallion other than price.

Rogers:
How about one that you like! I think you should believe in the horse to start with and want to support him. That is paramount. The farm is also important. Communication and transparency are important in this respect. If you are part of a syndicate you should know how the stallion is breeding, how many mares etc, and given timely updates on what the proposed advertising budget is and where they are on collections. Some farms are better at collecting and distributing any pool proceeds in a timely fashion than others.

Lexington, KY:
Why do some of our very best stallions NA stallions like Unbridled's Song and Distorted Humor, which you are involved with, are dismal failures in Australia except for the champion steeplechase horse this year. What kind of stallion do Australian breeders like to breed to?

Rogers:
Distorted Humor actually did very well in Australia for the opportunity he was given. I think he had 10 stakes winners from about 120 foals. I think I have answered this question in a previous question but early maturing, well built types that can cope with hard training. Dehere and More Than Ready have done well in Australia so that should give you an idea.

Zuber, FL:
A few questions. Have you been back to Australia recently? What do you think how Australia has handled the EI crisis?

Rogers:
I generally get back to Australia at least once or twice a year, invariably during the sales there. As far as the EI crisis is concerned it is hard for me to make a comment. Hindsight would indicate that the response should have been quicker and vaccination introduced earlier but that is easy to say in hindsight. It is also hard when you have commercial interests and government agencies involved. They have different goals.

Richmond, VA:
Thanks for taking questions. I just finished Robert Shoop's "Down to the Wire". He states that the strength of USA Thoroughbreds has suffered because of so much exportation to Europe. Do you agree with this?

Rogers:
To a certain extent. I do think that the North American Thoroughbred suffered in the 80's when a lot of their better stallions were sold to Japanese interests but at that stage it was often a case of selling the horse or losing the farm. Shoop is referring to the likes of the Sangster/Coolmore team and Maktoum brothers buying a lot of yearlings and exporting them to Europe I can see his point however I do think that John Gaines did a pretty good job of getting just about every good European stallion around into North America at the same time. Both operations now have North American bases so this is probably going to be less of a problem in the future.

Portland, OR:
One of the saddest things in breeding is when you have a stallion like Saint Liam die in a total accident walking back to his paddock or Free House while showering. What are some of the precautions taken to protect horses? How do employees involved in situations like this begin to cope?

Rogers:
Farms, in particular stallion divisions, are generally designed with the horses' safety in mind. Even after that freak accidents, and in the two cases you mentioned they were exactly that, can still happen. Horses can do things you never imagine they would. It is hard on the staff. At Taylor Made we have one groom for every two stallions so they get to know the stallions very well which is a great thing. Last year one of the stallions had a very mild bout of colic. The fact that his groom was right there, noticed that the horse wasn't himself and got the vet in early to treat the horse probably averted anything more serious. Such a close relationship however makes any loss hard to take.

Portland, OR:
Hi Byron, thanks for your time. In general, can you tell me how much time stallions have to just be a horse? What kind of turn-out do they get, etc.

Rogers:
As much as possible. Generally we like to keep them out and will do so unless there is the threat of a storm. During the actual breeding season it can be a little harder as not only are they in to breed but also clients come to look at the horses. Officer actually likes being kept up because he knows that is where his food is and also that his groom will rub on him which he loves.

LAST UPDATED: 1:28 P.M. (ET)

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