Breeding Theories……What do you believe in ?

Rob Courtney

One man’s opinion….

There is no truth to a theory. You believe what you want to believe.

In our lifetime, we are exposed to any number of theories but we generally settle on a small handful that influence our decision making and our own ‘life choices’

Being a breeder in the harness racing industry is no different, whether you are breeding to sell at a commercial level or breeding to race.

This writer believes there is a strong correlation between a mare’s racing career and her ability to produce top line offspring. (Theory #1)

The 2024 Race by Grins field

That is to say, the harder and more extensive her racing career, the less likely she is to breed on.

How do we define ‘harder and more extensive’ ?

Lets say…..race mares having more than 40 raceday starts.

This writer also believes that the best progeny of any foal is in the first 4 produced (Theory No.2)

Of course, there will always be exceptions to the rule and because it’s a theory, you can buy into supporting it or not.

Lets select a random sample to illustrate the theories and just because its happening this week, lets pick The Race By Grins, featuring supposedly the best pacers across Australasia (with the exception of Leap To Fame)


Horse Dam performance Foal No.

  • Kango Qualified/unplaced (2 starts) 3
  • Don’t Stop Dreaming 15 wins (24 starts) 1
  • Old Town Road 1 win (3 starts) 6
  • Mach Shard 4 wins (27 starts) 7
  • Merlin unraced 4
  • Republican Party 6 wins (31 starts) 2
  • Better Eclipse unraced 1
  • Speak The Truth 4 wins (37 starts) 1
  • South Coast Arden 9 wins (47 starts) 3
  • Self Assured 2 wins (23 starts) 5
  • Sooner The Better unraced 7

Just to add NZ’s most valuable mare Adore Me into the mix

…..won 26 (36 starts).

Her first five foals to the races (all fillies) have all won in sub 1:56.

Her best credentialed progeny at this stage is Darling Me (13 wins) and was foal # 2.

Her latest star performer All You Need Is Me is foal # 5.

Her first colt, by Captaintreacherous is a weanling in 2024 and foal no. 7.

In The Race By Grins, only one mare of any listed runner had more than 40 starts….the dam of South Coast Arden (47 starts)

The best performing mare was clearly the dam of Don’t Stop Dreaming (15 wins) and by season’s end could be NZ’s best bred pacer.

But 3 of these elite performers come from unraced mares!

Merlin, though, belongs to the Adore Me family.

The mother of Sooner The Better is a full sister to Christian Cullen

Better Eclipse is the exception and is the best credentialed offspring from his family by a long way.

Which leads to Theory # 3………the race career of the broodmare is not that important as long as her ‘immediate family tree’ jumps out at you and delivers several excellent examples of very good racehorses.

What might be more important is her age and how many foals she has had.

But although this is a very small sample, I don’t see any older mares who have had 90 odd starts (even though they might have won $120k over seven seasons of racing) leaving their 12th foal as a top performer!

Remember, these are just theories!

What do you believe in?