Southwind Frank - foreshadowing a new Golden Cross

"If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us. But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us." stated the British philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge already at the beginning of the 19th century. More recently Winston Churchill said: "Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it." Another nice one "History repeats itself because no one was listening the first time."

These quotes are all consistent with an article Marloes Harkema recently published on this website, titled "A little patience would be nice". I agree with most of what she writes. The flavour of the day is flourishing in the global breeding, while history teaches us that hypes mostly are bad advisors.

The article highlights the undistinguished first crop of Speedy Crown. But there are several sires that are now seen as "legendary", while their first crops were at the time received with doubts, for example Star's Pride, Speedy Somolli and Muscles Yankee. With the knowledge we have now it almost seems comical that there were any doubts about the qualities of these breeding stallions. And it's not that long ago that Cantab Hall, now a multiple "juvenile champion", was significantly reduced in rate following critical considerations.

Marloes is completely right in saying that in this particular case, Muscle Hill was initially judged (or condemned) as nothing special. However, there is one part in the article I don't agree as much with. The people who were critical towards Muscle Hill would be silent now. And that's not entirely true. Do not misunderstand me: I think this Muscles Yankee son is the most talented trotter that has ever raced. Therefore my expectations regarding his breeding career were really high. However; where the consensus now seems to be that Muscle Hill is a new breed changer like Valley Victory, I still hold firmly to the first two paragraphs of this blog. One should not be too critical of a stallion from the start, but the opposite is also true. One shouldn't be too positive from the start either.

The fact is that Muscle Hill has had an absolutely fantastic support from breeders. Both quantitatively and qualitatively. From that perspective, the statistics are actually still not quite convincing. In 2013, 62 % of his 2-year olds (his first crop) started in North America.  Then in 2014: 55% of his 2-year olds and 58% of his 3-year olds started. In 2015 only 69% of his latest (and apparently most promising) crop started and only 54% of the sophomores. That is not bad, but those percentages are nowhere near the startpercentages of Cantab and Conway Hall.

Muscle Hill didn't score too well with his first two crops.  And so there were critical voices. However, it is important not to take a first observation too seriously. Do not be too proud or too stubborn to not take any new insights to heart. Last season was an eye-opener. In previous years, Muscle Hill already produced several outstanding horses, but his latest crop also seemed stronger than ever. And with Southwind Frank he again produced an outstanding horse. Early in the season it was already clear that the Ron Burke-pupil would be the dominant factor in his year. It was not until October 8 I realized how good Southwind Frank actually is ...

In the International Stallion Stakes on the Red Mile, Yannick Gingras started him cautiously. Where the Muscle Hill-son at the majority of his victories is in the lead before entering the final corner, this time he was (partly motivated by the hard pruning tempo) not. Then, in the final stretch he managed to outclass his opponents, the cotton wool in his ears still being untouched. In the closing stages of the race I suddenly realised: "This is the new Muscle Hill". Both in terms of appearance (although slightly larger) and his phlegmatic appearance. Only: his gait is rather like his grandfather Cantab Hall. An intriguing element, since the theory behind the cross Muscle Hill x Cantab Hall is clearly reflected on the track.

This specific cross is up to now hardly tested. The results are striking. In 2012 two horses with such pedigree combination were born in Sweden: Swiss Account, 3, 1.12,6 / 1:56.4 (SEK 381.050) was clearly the most talented, even though she showed her rather temperamental nature during a win in the Trav-Oaks series. Furthermore, there was Commander Mearas, 3, 1.15,5 / 2:01.2 (USD 16.600), who has not won anything yet. His new trainer Peter Untersteiner will undoubtedly change this. In North America, Receive Love (dam Missy's Doubtfire) from the same crop has not started (yet?).

In 2013 the phenomenon Southwind Frank 2, 1.09,9 / 1:52.2 ($ 786,419) was born. From the same year we find two other Muscle Hill x Cantab Hall-pupils in North America: Breeders Crown champion All The Time, 2,1.11,7 / 1: 55.2 ($ 483,396) and the Swedish registered Daydream AM, who galloped during her only qualification test in June. In Sweden we also find the stallion Jaguar Hill (u. Daydream Hanover) and in Norway the Swedish-registered mare Luxury Tile (u. Moonbeam Hanover). These two have not started, but we can't (unlike in North America) draw too many conclusions from this.

Five out of eight products have already started. And when you conveniently leave out the two European two-year-olds (in Scandinavia, starting two year olds is more the exception than the rule), the starter rate is even 83.3%. Including three distinct toppers. Recalling the first paragraphs it is obviously too early to draw conclusions from this. And of course, the eight trotters do not only have this combination, they invariably stem from proven maternal lines. Yet this development deserves our attention. Is Southwind Frank foreshadowing a new Golden Cross? And is Muscle Hill a new breed changer? History will tell us eventually.

Bas Schwarz

Bas Schwarz was born and raised in harness racing. Ten years ago, he made the switch from the sulky to the laptop. Besides Dutch harness racing, he specializes particularly in Swedish and North American harness racing and breeding. Besides his work as a journalist and writer, as (former) editor of the magazine "Draaf" and correspondent for Travronden, he is primarily active in the breeding industry. In that capacity he has worked for various stud farms and auction organizations and as an independent agent and consultant.

All views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Sophia Pedigrees.