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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Will Artsplace And Cam Fella Survive On The Top Line?

SBSW has become the top line elephant in the room on the pacing side of the ledger. Time to take a look at how this is likely to play out in 2014 and beyond. The Adios line is on its way to top line extinction if the current trend continues. McArdle will dead-end Bret and Artsplace, who gave us the last of his sons in 2008, needs Sportswriter to step up and dominate with his first crop to allay our fears. It would seem that 15-year-old Art Major, who is very successful inside and out of the New York program, is a lock to keep Adios well clear of taking a top line genetic dirt nap, but that isn’t the way it’s playing out. Bob Marks points out that, “The key with siring sons is that the son must either be better than sire or possess an ingredient the sire didn’t have.” Art Major’s most successful son, Art Official, has been exiled to Ohio, and his fee has been trimmed in half since he started his siring career. Santana Blue Chip and Hypnotic Blue Chip were so successful and well received in the breeding realm that they’re both back on the racetrack. He’s Gorgeous? Whosurboy? What about Artiscape or Life Sign’s son Real Desire, or that one’s son Tell All as extenders of this line? How about Real Artist and his sons Dali and Fred And Ginger? Fool Me Once? Plenty of possibilities, but how much faith do they inspire? Art Major may yet turn the trick, but it appears Sportswriter will be the key figure as this drama plays out. At one time Adios, Tar Heel and Good Time were the big three. The latter two are gone on top and the big guy may be on a slow but steady path to joining them in top line Heaven.

Albatross is dead and the Meadow Skipper branch running through Most Happy Fella appears on its way to losing the vein passing through Tyler B, Dragon’s Lair and Dragon Again. The latter is 19-years-old and now resides in sirepalooza—Ohio. The hard hitting raceway warriors like Foiled, Atochia, Aracache, Custard and friends notwithstanding, Dragon Again has never produced anything resembling an extender, unless you think Roddy Bags Again or Dovuto Hanover will save the day for him. So it comes down to Western Hanover and Cam Fella, both of whom have benefited mightily from the line breeding between the descendants of Most Happy Fella that has kept this line on top of the mountain for so long. During the 43 years from 1970 on, 75% of the Jugs have been won by colts, and one filly, that trace back to Skipper on the top line. In addition, eight of the first ten editions of the Meadowlands Pace were won by sons or grandsons of Meadow Skipper.


In the case of Cam Fella, his fate seems to be in the hands of his grandsons Bettor’s Delight and Roll With Joe. The former, along with Rocknroll Hanover, has been a top tier volume producer of successful raceway stock and Grand Circuit money makers. Cam’s bravest son, Cam’s Card Shark, has extended him via tough guy Bettor’s Delight. Betterthancheddar and Bettor Sweet have been superior FFA pacers, Peelers and Shebestingin were brilliant fillies and Vegas Vacation (G) just won an O’Brien. But 16-year-old Bettor’s Delight has not wowed us with his siring sons. Kenneth J didn’t exactly take our breath away last year and this, and Cheddar is just getting started. While his late cohort at the top of the overall money list, Rocknroll, burst out of the gate with the dazzling Rocknroll Heaven, Bettor’s Delight has done no such thing. His little brother, Roll With Joe, sells his first crop this year.

Cam Fella was a ridgling. He was operated on for testicular cancer in 1995 and eventually died of that disease at age 22. He only produced ten crops. Cambest, Cam’s Card Shark, No Pan Intended, Presidential Ball, Allamerican Native, Lis Mara, Riverboat King, Village Jolt, Village Jove as well as those mentioned above all go back to him on top. He took a mark of 1:53.1 and was known more for his grit than his speed; Cam Fella won 68 of his 80 starts. In this case Marks’ “ingredient that the sire didn’t have” would be extreme speed. Cam, whose first crop appeared in 1987, has 13 sub 1:50 credits, with all but Eternal Camnation being males. Many outstanding pacers have emerged from his family group but they come up short on line-extenders. Maybe Bettor’s Delight will put it all together if they leave him in one place for a stretch. Marks notes that, “Bettor’s Delight has yet to give us a son better than he was.” Maybe Roll With Joe will be a world beater. Maybe Cam will go the way of Tyler B.

There’s a much better chance that Meadow Skipper lives on through Western Hanover than there is that Cam Fella does the honors. The loss of Western Hanover’s grandson Rocknroll Hanover at such an early age is a devastating blow to the breed; let’s hope his first crop son Rocknroll Heaven carries on for him. What Most Happy Fella was to Meadow Skipper Western Ideal is to Western Hanover. Aside from Rocknroll and grandson Heaven there is American Ideal. One could say Jewel is his best thus far, but He’s Watching is a freak. Pet Rock and ARNRD both begin their stallion careers this year. Big Jim, another son of Western Ideal, sells his first crop this year. Western Hanover’s son Well Said is off to a very good start in PA; another son, Big Bad John, sells his first crop in 2014; and another son, We Will See, is also standing in Ohio. Grandson Shadow Play threw an impressive first crop in Ontario and another grandson—Always A Virgin—has shown signs of being more than a successful regional stallion in Indiana. Grandson Ponder has a very high success rate for a small output. Badlands Hanover, If I Can Dream and Jereme’s Jet are other sons of Western Hanover. While the Cam Fella branch may bite the dust, this one should endure.

And then there’s SBSW, savior of the Volomite line on the pacing side. Bye Bye Byrd couldn’t do it, nor his son Armbro Nesbit. Overtrick didn’t get it done. The trotting bred pacer Sampson Hanover is the one who carried the line. After all the flak SBSW got for skipping the Jug, it’s ironic that Sampson Hanover became the first standardbred to win over a half-mile track in under two minutes, and he did that at Delaware, Ohio—1:59.3. And that win was his 16th in a row—no slouch he. His son, the speedy Sampson Direct, who was standing at Walnut Hall Farm for $1,500 in 1973, produced the outstanding FFA pacer, Direct Scooter, who was out of a Noble Victory mare and half to the dam of 2003 Jugette and Nadia winner, Numeric Hanover. Direct Scooter in turn gave us Matt’s Scooter, who was the sport’s fastest three-year-old pacer for more than a decade, as well as In The Pocket, the fastest three-year-old pacer of 1990. The latter produced Christian Cullen and Courage Under Fire Down Under, while Matt’s Scooter threw Mach Three, the sire of SBSW, over here. It’s not a case of The Captain and all the rest, but Captain T stands alone in the first two crops; none of the other colts are close to being as good as he is. That being said, SBSW, by every metric, is a very successful stallion and stands above all others in desirability and perception.  

Maybe it won’t be long before we have, on the top line, a single Hal Dale line running through Western Hanover and the Volomite line dominated by SBSW—in North America, anyway. The Adios line will have dried up, along with the Cam Fella and Tyler B branches of the Meadow Skipper line. Good Time and Tar Heel disappeared from the top faster than anyone would have imagined it could happen. The ubiquitous Albatross also left the top at an alarming pace; we turned around and he was a marginal sire of sires, then he was gone.


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