Thoroughbreds are seriously having a moment this fall. First we had Unmarked Bills running clear around a tough Burghley on his first ever attempt, on a course where many other very experienced horses came to grief (Indy 500, another american OTTB, also ran clear across that controversial and influential course). Then we had Paddy the Caddy, a fan favorite, winning the Fair Hill 4*L in October. Plus Mucho Me Gusto‘s win the West Coast 5yo YEH Championships, and Not Ours going from kill pen to second place at the 5yo East Coast YEH (a mere 0.04 points behind the imported warmblood winner). It’s been a fun time to be a TB fan.
This past weekend provided ample opportunity to keep waving that Thoroughbred flag with enthusiasm. Willingapark Clifford, a full TB, won the Adelaide 5* again – the first horse to ever win Adelaide 3 times. Third place at Adelaide also went to a full TB, Sky’s Da Limit.
As if that weren’t enough, Ocala Jockey Club also had thoroughbreds making headlines, with full TB’s taking the win in both the 3*L and the 4*L. They offer great prize money for thoroughbreds at this event, and boy did the horses deliver. Campground won the 4*L, Il Vici won the 3*L, and Bogue Sound was 2nd in the 4*S. Phillip Dutton’s mount Sea of Clouds had one of only two double clear XC rounds in the 4*L on Saturday despite being new to the level and was my personal favorite in the division on that phase. Steady Eddie also carried Mike Pendleton to his second 4*L completion in a month, making them qualified for Kentucky.
There were so many great moments with thoroughbreds this past weekend, I can’t name them all or we’d be here all day, but those were some of the highlights for me. It was a great weekend of sport, especially if you are a thoroughbred fan, and I greatly enjoyed having live streams available. I can’t thank events enough for doing that, it’s really great to be able to watch from home when you can’t make it to the event in person.
I did want to talk a little bit about the commentating though. It’s often painful to hear the commentators, who tend to be upper level riders, try to talk about breeding. I don’t know if they just need to be provided with more/better information or what, but boy was I cringing. First they didn’t have the sheets with the horse’s information on them, then when they got the sheets a lot of it was incomplete. This isn’t their fault or the fault of the person who printed the data, which usually comes from the FEI or USEA listings – best case scenario all you get is the sire and dam name, plus so many horses are listed without any registry or pedigree information by their owners or riders. Even though it’s actually quite easy to find with a tiny bit of digging… I was successful in tracking down most of the “unknown” horses within 30 seconds. SIGH. Come on people. Please put in accurate data for your horses.
A lack of info led to a lot of missed opportunities to point out cool things, like “this horse is by the same sire as Deniro Z” or “this horse is out of the same dam as Tim Price’s 5* winner Ascona M” (yes, both of those scenarios were true). You know… things that, at least to me, are really fun tidbits to know and say out loud on a commentary, and can lead to good discussions or comparisons of horses. But they have no way of knowing most of that from the limited info on those sheets, and most people don’t carry those facts around in their head (ok I do but that’s because I have no actual life, those people are busy riding like 10 horses a day and showing every weekend). There was also no breeder information discussed, not even once, which made me sad. So many of those horses were American-bred, many produced by actual event horse breeders specifically for this sport, and none of them got acknowledged on the live feed. Some breeders even had several horses present. Missed opportunity for some conversation (and great self promotion) there.
I also don’t think that top level riders tend to be great at commentating on the breeding aspect in general anyway. At one point both of them discussed that they had never heard of a “German Sport Horse” and the conclusion was that it must be something that people made up because they didn’t know what the horse really was. Yeah no. It’s an actual thing. One commentator also said that Oldenburgs can be a combination of many different things, which… is actually true of any of the warmblood registries except Trakehner. Trak is the only one with a closed book (they don’t accept anything but trakehner, arabian, and thoroughbred).
Which kind of tied into another comment about how a particular stallion was originally an Selle Francais but was sold to Germany so now it’s a Holsteiner. Much laughing ensued, because they thought this was hilarious. Sigh. No. That’s not how that works. See, a horse can only have one actual REGISTRATION, and that happens when it’s a baby. That registration will never change. That SF stallion will always be a SF. Stallions and mares can be APPROVED for breeding with multiple registries though, and that’s where it gets confusing. They can produce offspring for a different registry than their own. Registration and approval are different.
For example, Presto’s sire Mighty Magic is registered Holsteiner. This will never change, he will always be a Holsteiner. However, he has also been approved for breeding with Selle Francais, Anglo-Arab, Hanoverian, Oldenburg, Mecklenburg, Rheinland, Westfalen, and Swedish WB. That means he can produce offspring eligible for registration with ANY of those registries. To make it even more complicated, there are some registries that will accept foals for registration if they are by a stallion that is approved with certain other registries. For example, sBs (Belgian Sporthorse) is Presto’s registry. While Mighty Magic was not expressly presented for breeding approval with sBs, they accept foals by him for registration based on his other approvals and his sport results. Presto’s dam Sadie was not born sBs either, but she was presented for inspection to sBs and they approved her for breeding in their mare book (she is also approved Westfalen – just like stallions, mares can have multiple approvals).
Presto’s sire and dam were both approved for breeding with sBs, and that’s the registry we went with for him, therefore Presto is Belgian Sporthorse (even though yes, he was born and bred in the US, he actually has a Belgian passport and papers). Presto will always be a Belgian Sporthorse, even though his sire is registered Holsteiner and his dam is registered German Sport Horse (to make it more fun, HER sire was registered Hanoverian and her dam was registered thoroughbred).
This is very convoluted and confusing to an non-breeder, I get it. It’s why these are registries, not breeds. It’s also why the registry ultimately matters so very little, and tells us almost nothing about the horse. To know anything about what you’re really looking at, you must look at the actual pedigree. Most people have no idea how any of that works (as evidenced by a podcast I listened to last week when a big name rider said “well she’s Dutch, so we knew she would jump”. God, cue a massive amount of twitching.). It’s really not THAT hard to learn though, especially if it’s something you comment on to the public. Or if you buy young horses.
Another pet peeve, since I’m on a roll – one commentator kept saying that Zangersheide was German. It’s not. It’s a Belgian registry (there are 3 in Belgium – BWP based in the northern Flemish part, sBs based in the southern French part, and Zangersheide which started off as a private studfarm and turned into it’s own registry later).
I don’t know how to help with any of this though. Part of me wishes they’d throw a breeder in the commentator booth, with the express job of saying who bred the horse, where it was bred, and maybe a quick tidbit about the bloodlines. That would be my absolute dream come true. Let the riders commentate on the horses and the riding, and let the breeding person talk about that part. At the very least it would be nice to provide the commentators with some kind of pre-prepared fact sheet, with more detailed and accurate information about the horses. Show/live feed organizers, I personally volunteer to provide that. Dead freaking serious.
I love having the live feeds so I’m not complaining at all, don’t get me wrong. The quality was super and it was really really really well done. I’d rather listen to wrong information all day long than not have a live feed, that is 100% for sure. But I also feel like if we’re gonna do something, it’s worth doing the best we can. The live feeds especially are such a great opportunity to get more information out there, to recognize our breeders, and to really talk about the horses. It would have also been cool to discuss the thoroughbreds in more detail and what lines they shared – valuable information for people picking up horses off the track, and fitting with the ties to the Ocala Jockey Club. It’s how we learn, and we’re missing a good opportunity for some “free” public education.
Am I being crazy? Does the public not really care about any of this? Am I the only one getting twitchy about these things? Maybe so…