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Cholly
02-28-2012, 10:52 AM
The Triple Crown is coming, along with its ever attendant clamor about breeding. So I’ve been inspired pull down from my shelves Mike Helm’s 1993 book Bred To Run, give it a re-read. In two words: Insightful + entertaining.

During the spring of 1992, he was given extended access to the activities of Claiborne Farms during their breeding season. He interviewed Seth Hancock and other farm employees, and witnessed the care given to the stallions, broodmares, and foals. Included are first-hand accounts of breeding, birthing, and training activities. He relates insights about the financial restraints, rewards, and challenges of maintaining an operation of this size, and Hancock’s strategies for pairing breedings.

As a handicapper, sometimes I look at a mare running in a claiming race and wonder why she’s being offered for sale instead of being bred. So I was interested in this quip Seth Hancock relayed to Mike Helm: “When our fillies leave here as yearlings, we know them. We’ve bred them right here on the farm. They’ve been raised here and broken here and we know all about their families. So when they leave here I can pretty much tell you that, if this one doesn’t win a stake, she ain’t coming back. If that one breaks her maiden, we’ll take her back. If this other one can’t outrun you, Mike, I’m still gonna take her back because she’s out of one of our best-producing mares.”

To someone like me who knows little to nothing about raising horses, the book is an eye-opener. One could posit that, compared to what precedes, the actual races of the Triple Crown are but the tip of the iceberg. A monumental outlay of time, effort, and money are required to produce and raise the type horse that will contend at that level.

Bred To Run is twenty years old, and even in that era I think Claiborne was considered “old school”: breeding, boarding, and racing their own horses. How much has changed in the breeding industry since 1993? Is an integrated approach like Claiborne still a norm? If somebody could recommend a book more contemporary or describing alternate approaches, I’d like to read it.