Keystone Kops and Karma – Trotting Update

With luck on your side, procrastination can pay off.

by Trey Nosrac

Owning a broodmare is my favorite part of trotting. Every foal that is born is a story. It is fascinating to follow each story. My buddy and I are little gamers, but every day is a fascinating adventure for every horse, from choosing a sire to losing the hammer at auction. As with any adventure, there are good times and bad times.

We try to plan our breeding successes carefully, but you know the saying about the best plans of mice and humans. A dozen of our carefully planned yearling sales were lost. On the other hand, our best-selling yearlings and best racehorses were leeches. For us, every step in raising a yearling falls somewhere between Keystone Kops and Karma.

Our current story reaches a critical juncture: the birth of a foal. Until now, before this creature has breathed fresh air, karma has played a significant role in this story. Again, these are real harness horses with actual events but names are not listed to protect the innocent.

About a year ago, in April 2022, our mare gave birth to her second baby, a filly who joined our non-paying band. So there we were, a broodmare, a yearling frolicking in the field, and another suckling baby. Birth always signals the need to dig deeper and breed our mare to another stallion, escalating the madness.

At that time everything was unknown in our small breeding world except monthly bills, stud fees, registration fees, X-rays and the occasional vet bill. Despite this, no money came in, while the money out remained constant. And more money would be flying out the door from pre-sales, videos, staking, cataloging, and various bills for the fall sale.

The math gets fuzzy, but because we overlapped with another broodmare, we were up to five horses of different ages roaming the farm. We’ve had delusions of appropriateness and happiness, but nothing is certain. Here’s a tip for anyone considering jumping into the breeding game: Events can snowball and get out of control amazingly fast. You visit the farm, look around and wonder what happened. You suddenly have a herd of horses and years without a dollar in earnings from a sale.

At this point in our story last year, in deciding the next stallion for our broodmare, I must take responsibility for events. I’m a card-carrying member of the Oscar Wilde school of procrastination. Wilde once said: “What I can do the day after tomorrow, I never put off until tomorrow.”

I wait until just short of fillies to sign up for a stallion for the same reason I rarely respond to parties: you never know what might happen. My shift in responsibility irritates my equine partner, but early planning takes away my spontaneity.

We had not booked a trotting stallion to breed our broodmare. We had discussed several potential stallions at length, but the ink was yet to fulfill the contract. Some stallions fill their book. Our two top candidates were among them: book full and closed. I call that karma. My buddy calls my procrastination stupid.

never be afraid On a remote farm in our state, there was an intriguing new stallion with a touch of “Sweden.” I had not heard the name of this stallion, nor was I familiar with his track record until I stumbled upon a notice in this publication. I sent an email for a booking but nothing happened. What happened these few days is a bit mysterious, maybe a communication error on my part. But after a few unsuccessful attempts to contact my Swedish sleeper stallion, the clock ticked and we still didn’t have a stallion in the lineup. We were now on to our fourth stallion candidate, a stallion just down the road.

The down-to-earth stallion has always been one of our retreats. This neighbor stallion hadn’t had many mares in years one and two, so we weren’t left out. Also, the guy who ran the farm was a friend. We booked this sire and our broodmare became pregnant with baby number three. To be honest, this third breed was a bit disappointing. Broodmare owners did not smash the door on this stallion during his first two seasons and although he looked superb to us, we thought this stallion would have limited commercial value. He had intentions of producing a home-grown racer.

But here Karma paid a visit.

For some reason, or reasons we still don’t understand, when the first crop of this stallion hit the market this fall, his small crop sold insanely well. Buyers kept bidding, he had the best seller and his average yearly price led the sale. Its popularity amazed us. His small second small crop is coming to market this fall. His third small harvest, to which we will belong, is sold the following year. His fourth harvest will be significant: he increased his fee and filled his book ahead of Thanksgiving. How often does a stallion’s booking explode in his fourth season?

The story of our next foal, due out of the womb in a few weeks, is just beginning. With the Nowheresville sire jumping on the scene, this filly could be in a great position if all goes well. But of course a lot can happen between the first wobbly steps in the straw and the hammer blow at an auction.

After the foal, our madness continues as we face the annual stallion selection game. We currently have at least ten options with different prices and government requirements.

Breaking News: I mentioned how and why I procrastinate a few paragraphs ago. Guess what? Another possible sire was announced today, a late entry in our list of Trotting Stallions of 2023. Although I have never heard of him until this morning, he is on our list.

The next few weeks will be a lot of fun. We will make our lists, make our arguments and study brilliant stallion advertisements to look for our next stallion choice. Looking years later and predicting what will capture the imagination of year-old customers is an exciting challenge. Our selection process is going to be a blast, but I can’t help but think that for the Keystone Kops, maybe the best way to go is to put a dozen stallion names in one hat, reach into that hat, and let karma take over.


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