What is the ideal breeding nick for my mare? Is there a proven formula crossing certain stallions bloodlines with those of certain mares?

These are the questions that hundreds of breeders across Canada are pondering as the 2011 breeding season gets underway.

For the next few months, breeders will pore over pedigree pages, log into databases of stallion statistics, sales information and broodmare records looking for that perfect nick. There are dozens of options for mare owners too as Canada, and Ontario in particular, is bursting at the seams with stallions.

Whether you believe in nick-breeding, popularly defined as crossing different stallion lines, it is interesting to study what has been successful with some of the country’s newest stallions, and some of the older studs. Some of the top Canadian stallions of 2010, analyzed by some of their top offspring are examined below according to pedigree nicks, offering a guide as to what has, and may, work for your own mare.

(his sire/dam line: Northern Dancer-*Nasrullah)

The new kid on the block is also the hottest kid on the block. Canada’s leading freshman sire of 2010, Old Forester is a flashy chestnut son of Forestry (by the Northern Dancer-line stallion Storm Cat out of a Never Bend-line mare) and his first crop was flashy on the track too.

Old Forester was a confirmed two-turn turf runner but he also had speed, a trait he no doubt received from Forestry, a Grade I sprinter. Therefore, it is no surprise that Old Forester had a litany of very quick and determined speedy winners in his first crop. Standing in Ontario at T.C. Westmeath Stud, Old Forester was fifth in all of North America by progeny earnings at just over $1 million. He sired 14 winners of which two were stakes winners.

Tree Pose, the sire’s first stakes winner, was produced from the Alphabet Soup mare Alpha Angel, a granddaughter of Caro (Ire). This Northern Dancer – Caro (Ire) cross is the same mix that gave Canadian racing the great With Approval, a Triple Crown winner. Alphabet Soup had natural speed and could carry it longer distances.

Citius, winner of the Frost King Stakes at Woodbine over another son of Old Forester, Altius, descends from a Raise a Native-Mr. Prospector line mare, Ritta, by the very fast Afleet. That is the same cross that worked with Old Forester’s multiple stakes placed filly Shadowsinthenight, a daughter of Regal Search. Altius has an all-Ontario pedigree as he is a son of a Bold Executive (Bold Ruler-line) mare.

At least three other of his winners came from mares by sons/grandsons of Northern Dancer, adding to an early picture that mares with the speed breeding are clicking well with Old Forester.

(*Turn-to/Hail to Reason-Raise a Native)

This Gardiner Farms, first-crop sire is a son of Kris S., a stamina-oriented stud from a Raise a Native-Mr. Prospector line mare. As a racehorse, Philanthropist preferred distances upwards of nine furlongs but he had a wide variety of sprint and route winners from his first crop. In total, Philanthropist had six winners from 16 starts, two stakes winners and four stakes horses in 2010.

Medabuck, a fleet filly from a *Nasrullah-Never Bend line mare (Opening Line, by Bet Big) was the sire’s first stakes winner as she took the six-furlong Victorian Queen Stakes. Later in the Woodbine season, Pender Harbour won the two-turn Display Stakes to become the sire’s second stakes winner. Pender Harbour’s dam, Uproar, is by Hail the Ruckus, from the Bold Ruler line through Bold Ruckus. The sire had other good runners from Damascus and Northern Dancer line mares.

Interestingly, sons of Kris S. have been hot in the stud. Those include Arch (from a Northern Dancer line mare) who is the sire of Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Blame, Prized and Rock Hard Ten.
If you are looking for more stamina for your mare, then perhaps Philanthropist, who did not race as a two-year-old would be a stallion of choice.

(Northern Dancer-Storm Bird, out of His Majesty-line mare)

The second leading freshman sire in Canada by number of winners is the British Columbia-based Forest Grove, like Old Forester, a son of Forestry. Forest Grove won the Grade III Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood Park on the dirt, the Ocean Place Stakes at Monmouth Park at one mile on turf and the Patterson Stakes at the Meadowlands at 1 1/16 miles on turf and sizzled six furlongs on one occasion in 1:07 3/5. From 29 starters, he had 12 winners and two stakes horses.

Forest Grove’s stakes winning daughter, Overvalued, is by Cox’s Ridge, a grandson of *Turn-to. His stakes placed filly Cash at Night, is a daughter of an Olympio mare, a great grandson of *Nasrullah. Another good winner, Forbidden Forest, is from a Raise a Native-line mare, and a nick which has had success with Old Forester.

Both Forest Grove and Old Forester seem to be crossing well with sire lines loaded with stamina, and the popularity of Old Forester will further improve the reputation of B.C.’s own Forestry stallion.

(Northern Dancer-Hail to Reason)

Theatrical’s graded stakes winning millionaire Strut the Stage was a sprinting maiden winner but had most of his success in marathon grass races. While long distance turf runners are not often wildly commercially attractive, the addition of a speed presence, such as Northern Dancer, has helped Strut the Stage land in the top rung of first crop sires. Owned by Sam-Son Farms, the compact, flashy chestnut had two route winning stakes winners in 2010 from just 11 runners. Celtic Conviction won the prestigious Cup and Saucer Stakes on the grass and is from a Mr. Prospector (Raise a Native) stallion.

Certainly there is nothing new that the “Dancer – ” Prospector nick is strong. Isabella Bay, a sprint winner, stretched out to win the South Ocean Stakes and her sire, Ascot Knight, is a grandson of Northern Dancer. Two other offspring of Strut the Stage won first time out in their careers at a route distance. Megha is out of a Woodman mare (Mr. Prospector) and Novo is out of an Unreal Zeal mare, also by Mr. Prospector.

The stamina from Strut the Stage no doubt crosses well with speed influences to get a runner with a seemingly perfect match that plays out well on the racetrack.

(Bold Ruler-Victoria Park)

Canada’s perennial leading sire has continued on the power of the bloodlines brought in by Michael Byrne through the stallion Bold Ruckus. After 19 crops, there is a lot of information on the offspring of Bold Executive. He has had more than 40 black-type winners and over 80 black-type runners in total.
The stallion stems from the Bold Ruler line and the top runners for Bold Executive have come from mares from the Northern Dancer line (Timely Ruckus, out of a Great Gladiator mare), Jacally, a 2010 stakes winner out of an Ascot Knight mare, Sambuca On Ice (Alwuhush mare) and Krz Exec (Regal Intention mare).

Bold Executive’s two champion runners, Blonde Executive and Simply Lovely, are from *Turn-to and Ribot line mares. Ribot is also the great, great grandsire of Mythical Status, the dam of 2010 multiple stakes winner Sand Cove, one of Bold Executive’s all-time richest runners.

Indeed, with so much success as he enters his 27th year, Bold Executive has proven to cross well with pedigree lines that pass on speed or stamina as with the Northern Dancer and Ribot lines respectively.

(Nearctic – Round Table)

Adena Springs new stallion division is packed with proven sires and some newcomers. Milwaukee Brew, a son of Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Wild Again from the Wolf Power (SAf) mare Ask Anita, began his career in Kentucky and has blossomed after just four crops of racing age. A graded stakes winner of $2.8 million including the 10-furlong Santa Anita Handicap (GI) in two consecutive years, Milwaukee Brew has sired 10 black-type winners, over 150 winners and two champions.

Two of his top runners, champion Ginger Brew and last year’s Grade I winner Dr. Zic, descend from a Mr. Prospector (Raise a Native)- line mare. The former is out of Coral Necklace, by Conquistador Cielo while Dr. Zic’s dam, Royal Corona (Holy Bull) is a great granddaughter of Mr. Prospector. Another Milwaukee Brew stakes winner that comes from the Mr. Prospector cross is Thunder Brew, a three-time stakes winner last year whose dam is by Thunder Gulch (Gulch, by Mr. Prospector).

Milwaukee Appeal, also a champion, is from a dam by Open Forum, a son of Deputy Minister (Vice Regent, by Northern Dancer). Canadian stakes winner Amazing Rose, based at Northlands Park in Alberta, is a Milwaukee Brew filly from the Northern Dancer-line sire Awesome Again. What appears from just a small sample, is that Milwaukee Brew has had tremendous success with both Mr. Prospector-line mares and any Northern Dancer-line mare.

(Sword Dancer-Bold Ruler)

Western Canada’s shining star is American champion Gilded Time, who is 21-years-old in 2011. The son of Timeless Moment offers an intriguing outcross to any mare owner as he is from a Sword Dancer sire line, suggesting stamina, and out of a Bold Ruler-line mare that has proven to add speed. His Grade 1 winners include Gayego, who is out of a mare who is bred 4 x 4 to Ribot; Elloluv from a Mr. Prospector-line mare; and Mandy’s Gold, whose dam stems from *Nasrullah. Of course, Gilded Time also crosses well with anything with Northern Dancer in the mix. His millionaire son from Australia, Barely a Moment (Aus) is out of a mare by Danehill (Danzig, by Northern Dancer).

(Mr. Prospector-*Nasrullah)

Canada’s third-leading sire for 2010 by progeny earnings is Where’s the Ring, brought to Gardiner Farms by Pin Oak Stud following his retirement in 2004. The stakes-winning sprinter is by the Mr. Prospector stallion Seeking the Gold and out of the Blushing Groom (Fr) mare Wedding Picture. Blushing Groom’s grandsire is *Nasrullah. From just three crops of racing age, Where’s the Ring has 60 winners of over $5 million and nine black-type horses.

The stallion has two stakes winners from the mare Cosa Rara, a Tethra mare who descends from Hail to Reason on her sire’s side and Northern Dancer from her female family. Race for Gold, last year’s Deputy Minister Stakes winner at Woodbine, is out of a mare by Riverman and he comes from the *Nasrullah line.

Where’s the Ring is also the sire of stakes-placed Gypsy Ring, who is in-bred 3 x 3 to Mr. Prospector as his dam is by Varick. As a grandson of the potent Mr. Prospector, Where’s the Ring’s early success from the Hail to Reason and Northern Dancer line mares is not surprising.

(Mr. Prospector – Mill Reef)

Group 1 winner Best of the Bests (Ire) stood his first few seasons at stud overseas before he was imported to Canada in 2006. The 14-year-old chestnut won five of 19 career starts and over $684,000 while racing successfully in stakes company from ages two through five. Among his wins was the Prix d’Ispahan (GI) at just over one mile at Longchamp and the Prix Guillaume d’Ormano (GII) at Deauville at about 1 1/4 miles. The horse entered stud at Windfields Farm in Oshawa and then moved to Norse Ridge Farm in King City when Windfields closed.

Best of the Bests (Ire) is a son of leading sire Machiavellian, a son of Mr. Prospector (by Raise a Native) who is out of a Halo mare, Coup de Folie. Machiavellian is also the sire of top American stallion Street Cry (Ire). In Europe, Best of the Bests was a leading juvenile sire and his top runners included Stella Di Quattoro, a highweighted mare in Italy who is by the Nasrullah line sire Groom Dancer. The sire’s 2010 stakes winner, Amico Mio, a French-raced colt, is by the Northern Dancer stallion Dancing Brave.

In North America, Best of the Bests first crop were two-year-olds in 2010 including stakes placed Good Better Best, who is out of a Bold n’ Flashy mare, thus descending from the Bold Ruler line. His other maiden allowance winners included two from Storm Cat-line mares (descending from Northern Dancer) and one from the *Ribot line through Pleasant Colony. Best of the Bests, who has sired over 64 winners and six blacktype horses, offers the classic miler’s pedigree that has already proven to cross well with mares from prominent Canadian lines.

(*Turn-to – *Nasrullah)

Canadian stakes winner Tethra stands at Colebrook Farms Stallion Station in Uxbridge, Ontario and was a fleet two-year-old who also won up to 1 1/16 miles. The 19-year-old son of Cure the Blues (by the *Turn-to line stallion Stop the Music) is out of Ada Prospect, the champion two-year-old filly in Canada in 1983 and a daughter of the *Nasrullah-line sire New Prospect.

Tethra has sired seven black-type winners and 14 black-type horses among his more than 153 winners in 11 crops. Many of his top runners have come from the Bold Rulerline stallions including Bold Ruckus, the damsire of Tethra’s stakes winning son Don’s Folly, and Bold Executive (by Bold Ruckus) who is the damsire of Mighty Quinn, also a multiple stakes winner.

Tethra’s top female runners include Kissed by a Prince ($436,378), a daughter of a Mr. Prospector stallion, Conquistador Cielo and Nicki Knew ($401,128), whose dam is by Cool Victor, a grandson of Intentionally.

With a pedigree that offers the broodmare owner a distinct outcross from Northern Dancer or Mr. Prospector blood, Tethra opens up many opportunities for breeders.