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An Interview with So You Think's Breeder

Triassic, the dam So You Think, in April 2012

I recently had the opportunity to interview Cecile Smith, owner of Piper Farm and co-breeder of Australian champion and 10-time group I winner So You Think (NZ) (TrueNicks). Cecile owns So You Think's dam, the 22-year-old Tights mare Triassic, who is currently in foal to Medaglia d'Oro (TrueNicks,SRO) and is carrying a colt. Cecile uses TrueNicks reports to supplement her stallion research, but as you'll read, making the final stallion selection is a challenging process.

Ian Tapp: What type of mare is Triassic?

Cecile Smith: Well, from a completely biased point of view, she is gorgeous! She is a big (16-2) handsome bay mare with the most "schmoozy" personality you could ever hope to have in a broodmare. Her paddock name is Large Marge. She has a propensity to snooze in the paddock which sends everyone in the neighbourhood to their telephones to tell me that Triassic is down. After racing to her paddock and waking her up, she looks at me as if to say, "What???" She is an absolute darling.

Will Triassic be bred in 2012, and if so, to which stallion?

To be honest, at this point I haven't got a clue who the next stallion for her will be. That sounds somewhat remiss of me, I know, but firstly, we need to get her through this next foaling safely. And, if the vet says she is capable of carrying another foal, we will then get serious about her next mating. I have lots of input from friends and neighbours and EVERYONE has an opinion.

As you know, Triassic went from being just another old, non-commercial broodmare to one of the Southern Hemisphere's most important mares. I got her in my property settlement when my husband, Alex, and I separated. My problem is that it is difficult to see her any other way except my lovely old girl. She is a pure pet. As I am a relatively private person, I find the attention uncomfortable, and no matter what decision I make for her, it will not satisfy everyone and it will be commented on publicly.

What are the factors involved in your stallion selection process?

Because we have never had well-bred mares, breeding has always been a balance between pedigree and type of stallion. In the beginning, we got sucked into the hype of the studs' marketing managers and over-bred our mares to expensive stallions. But, like everything, you learn from your mistakes. We began to take the advice of more experienced breeders and look at the physical type of stallion that would go with our mares. (The largest number of mares that Piper Farm had at one time was four).

My neighbours are wonderful, knowledgeable horse people who look out for me. I am the first to admit that I know practically nothing about horses except that I have loved them since childhood. For the record, I have one broodmare and an eight acre farm...not exactly the profile of a commercial breeder. One neighbour in particular was invaluable in helping us choose stallions for the mares and that was Brian Jenkins, the winning trainer of the 1998 Melbourne Cup with his big mare, Jezabeel. [Jenkins also trained Triassic.] He suggested that we use Shinko King, a much under-rated stallion here, for our old K3 mare, La Magnifique. That mating produced C'Est La Guerre, the group I New Zealand Derby winner and 3rd placegetter in the 2009 Melbourne Cup. It was Brian who also suggested to us and our co-breeder of So You Think, Mike Moran, that we use High Chaparral for Triassic in 2005. Because Triassic is a big masculine mare, Brian felt that High Chaparral would give her foal more refinement. And voila! So You Think was the result.

With Triassic being such a significant mare now, and with her age (22 in August), finding the right mate for her is crucial. New Zealand is limited in the number of commercial stallions that would be suitable for her. If she were in Australia, this would not be a problem but because of her advanced age, I would not risk sending her to Australia again. It was a risk sending her to Darley for the mating with Medaglio d'Oro at her age then but all worked out well. The care and attention that Darley and the agistment farm that she stayed at was outstanding. It was suggested that I leave her in Australia and, in truth, that would have been the commercial thing to do. But, as I said earlier, she is a pet and I would have missed her terribly. So, in the end, I brought her home, in foal, back to NZ and Piper Farm.

As mentioned earlier, the number of suitable stallions is causing a dilemma for me. Some people say that it would be a great dilemma to have. I can assure you it isn't. I have been to-and-fro-ing between different stallions for as many different reasons. There are commercial stallions. There are stallions that match her pedigree perfectly. There are stallions that would complement her physically. Then, there is the age factor of the stallion. What is the stallion's fertility like? Is it a proven stallion or is the stallion just starting his stud career? And on and on. Truly, it has taken over my brain! However, all this angst may come to naught if the mare is not able to carry another foal. Her foaling date is mid-September and we will find out the answer to that question then. One step at a time.

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Very much enjoyed reading this interview. For someone who claims to know so little, I find her approach to this dilemma quite admirable. Others would do well to take note of her thought process. I can certainly empathize with her "angst", and agree that the first issue is whether or not to re-breed the mare. This 1990 mare wouldn't produce this hypothesized foal until autumn 2013 (when she'd then be 23). Not only is her very survival a huge concern, but also the quality of foal she would be capable of producing at that age. Fiscal considerations no doubt enter into both, but I'll resist any moralizing about the former. Her more, and most recent produce should offer some clues re-the relative physical "quality" of a 2013 foal, but I wonder how predictive they can be about the risk to the mare.

Should she be given the "green light" it would seem prudent (but we all come from different perspectives/situations) to breed her to a local "proven" stallion of some repute, but even this is open to debate. A thorough physical appreciation of all the mare's previous foals, and of their respective sires' physical attributes and that of their offspings' would seem a necessary starting point-a lot to do right there! There are so many other pieces of information and variables to consider-especially with an aged mare that has produced many offspring. Risk vs reward in stallion selection is very much at play here. For example, after reading this interview and then doing a small bit of research, the New Zealand based stallion, Pins, came to mind for her. But, this idea was based only on the facts that he is a proven stallion of repute, and that I like the Tights/Nijinsky II with the Snippets/Lunchtime/Silly Season/Tom Fool. I wasn't, rather, wedded at all to the notion that she should be bred back to a Sadler's Wells-line stallion, since aside from So You Think, Triassic didn't fare too well with other from that line. Pins, though, appears that he may not be the right body-type for her (hard for me to know from so afar), and very possibly isn't the best for her, aptitude-wise...This project does deserve the time and careful thought her owner obviously feels is required. My guess is she would do well to seek out those most knowledgable about the region's stallion population.              

sceptre 09 Aug 2012 5:54 PM

The age of a broodmare doesn't come into consideration if she is in the care of knowledgeable people and no one knew more about horses than the Victorians, also the quality of a foal does not deteriorate with the age of the broodmare.

The great mare Pocahontas was 25 years old when she produced Araucaria, dam of Chamant, Wellingtonia, Rayon d'Or, among others... William L'anson's wonderfull mare Queen Mary (dam of Bonnie Scotland) was 27 years old when she foaled Bonnie Doon, gr/dam of Disguise, Black Toney, Beldame, etc, through different daughters.

There are many more famous "old" broodmares in the studbook.

Hal Dane. 10 Aug 2012 8:16 AM

Sultry Sun produced her last SW at age 25. The NZ mare Dulcie produced 3 major SWs and was second dam of G1 winners before she foaled Balmerino at 19. Somethingroyal produced her last stakes horse at age 20. Age in mare is not a bar to production of good runners but condition is. Usually an older mare will tell you when she is ready to stop by not catching. Breeders then have to do the right thing and not use hormones to force the issue.

Pedigree Ann 10 Aug 2012 11:13 AM

Hal Dane's first paragraph comments are, unfortunately, dead wrong. Re-Pedigree Ann's sentence beginning with "Age in mare...", yes, an aged mare can produce a fine offspring (see most recently Jeanne Jones' fine 4 yr. old filly) and, on occasion one of her very best, but odds are generally against, and it varies from one mare to another. Also, the outward condition of the mare is often not a good barometer to what's going on internally. It is without question that the older mare has a greater risk of death during the last trimester through foaling. Also, as the mare ages the uterine environment tends to become ever more compromised ( due to multiple factors), and there's also the issue of the ever aging "eggs". The above posters would do well to read and research a bit more before asserting with such conviction...Those positive anecdotes notwithstanding, the market certainly frowns on the older/aged mare; perhaps a bit too much.  

sceptre 10 Aug 2012 1:51 PM

So You Think was an unbelievable racehorse.  He pretty much ran anywhere and everywhere against everything and was astoundingly consistent and sound at the top grade and with some very tough racing.  This is what you get when you breed clean and keep your offspring off drugs

dooquila 10 Aug 2012 5:44 PM

(**In the preface to "Matriarchs" written by Seth Hancock of Claiborne Farm, he writes that "a study at Claiborne showed a high majority of stakes winners come from mares that were not older than fourteen and had not had more than six foals. After fourteen and six they hit a little wall when it came to foaling runners. However, I don't think the daughters of an older mare have less chance of being good producers themselves."  

Obmar 10 Aug 2012 11:28 PM

>>>There are many more famous "old" broodmares in the studbook<<< INDEED, there is a 'famous' example here in New Zealand in DULCIE (Duccio o/o Caste) at 19 years old in Spring 1972 produced her 15th foal and what was to be her BEST runner in Trictrac colt BALMERINO. Dulcie had already produced five superb high class gallopers in Fulmen, Fileur, Gay Filou, Micheline & Mia Bella. What a broodmare!!

Cecile Smith has two choices IF this spring is to be the "last serve" / last hurrah for Trissiac as a broodmare. (1)Go Commercial and put her to an expensive, highly credentialled stallion that will ensure big bickies @ the sales OR (2) Go for a proven, physically refined type (like my 'like' POSTPONED ) and hope for a filly !!!

Good Luck

Gunga Din 11 Aug 2012 9:54 PM

Piece of history... a very famous last foal (dam 19-y-o) was GALOPIN, winner of the Derby 1875, beating Claremont, who actually won the 2000 Guineas that year, but was not noticed by the judge in that finish at Newmarket as he was racing alone on the near side, whilst all the action was on the opposite side of the course lead by Camballo and Picnic, with the crowd screaming for Breachloader who was finishing like a train, the judge placed them the first three....

Galopin was only beaten once (as a 2-y-o) he became the leading stallion three times, plus siring the immortal stud St Simon.

Hal Dane. 12 Aug 2012 11:00 AM

Excellent topic ! Personally ,I would'nt feel comfortable breeding a mare over the age of twenty , but then again , look at Somethingroyal and what she produced at her age !!!!

Weekend Surprise 14 Aug 2012 3:32 PM

What I have learned more than anything else about the thoroughbred in both racing and breeding is that there are exceptions to EVERY rule (and generalisation)!

Pedro1874 15 Aug 2012 10:59 AM

          I have an excellent stallion suggestion for the aformentioned broodmare Triassic (NZ) , His name is the exciting new Stallion , Eskendereya !

Eskendereya , a son of super sire Giant's Causeway out of the well bred Seattle Slew mare Aldeberan Light . This mare's female family decends from the ultra blue hen mare Almahmoud ! Ancestress of Northern Dancer ,Halo ,Cannonade and others . The hypothetical mating would produce a foal with a Dosage Index similiar to Medaglia D'oro DI-0.91 and inbred to Northern Dancer 5sx4sx4d . Eskendereya also introduces Seattle Slew and Alydar to this New Zealand Pedigree . I feel this young stallion will excel in the future !   PS. I used to go by the screen name Pedigree Shelly , but i could not retrieve it back !!!!!

Weekend Surprise 15 Aug 2012 2:19 PM

       I have selected another possibility as a stallion for Triassic(NZ). Lonhro (AUS). Standing at Darley in Austrailia he makes geographical sense as well !

       I love this horse's pedigree ! He is from one of the few lines left of Sir Ivor through his son Sir Tristram , a leading sire in Austrailia for many years. Lonhro's broodmare sire Sraight Strike By Mr. Prospector out of the Never Bend mare , Bend Not , adds some American bloodlines as well . Lohnro is also a proven sire ! He crosses very well with mares from the Northern Dancer line as well .

Weekend Surprise 15 Aug 2012 3:21 PM

Hi Weekend Surprise, I think you'll find that Cecile Smith (owner of Trissiac) doesn't want to travel her out of the country (New Zealand) again because of her age, so IF she's covered this spring it will an (NZ) based stallion, probably within the Waikato or Auckland area (within an hour's drive). Lonhro stands @ Darley NSW (outside Sydney) whilst presumably Eskendereya stands (??) outside NZ too :)-  

Gunga Din 15 Aug 2012 6:03 PM

Gunga Din , Thank You for pointing that out ! I should have realized that :(

Weekend Surprise 16 Aug 2012 3:01 PM

What a heartwarning interview with Cecile Smith! You are a real horse lover, putting the wellbeing of your lovely Triassic first.

Just enjoy her and her new foal - I don't think she needs to have another mating, Triassic is a happy girl just relaxing with you - her mate!

Thank you for So You Think....as Bart says..he is perfection, Triassic can retire on that!

best wishes

bernadette 23 Aug 2012 1:15 AM

So You Think was a great horse so it stands to reason that Triassic's latest foal may have greatness, too.  So that will make this foal very valuable.  I understand that Smith and her partners, Mike and Helen Moran, are suing each other over ownship of Triassic's progency.  What's happening with that?

Cousin Jenny 19 Apr 2013 12:12 AM

I am one of So You Think's fans and I am so sorry to hear that his full brother born in 2010 had to be put down last year due to a very serious illness.I had been wondering where he was and only read about his demise two days ago and I feel extremely upset about it. From all accounts I believe that like his older brother he had a most wonderful nature and that he was a big horse. So sad!  I wish your lovely broodmare all the best and I hope she has a long g and happy life ahead of her and that she can have a spell from producing any more foals.She has done her dash .

Geraldine 22 Sep 2013 10:40 AM

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