After my morning being given the ultimate tour of Newmarket with Phil Mcentee, I headed out of town to meet Rob Speers who is Bloodstock manager for Mr V.I Araci and consultant to Al Asayl Bloodstock.
Rob is currently working on Mr Araci’s new stud development in Chippenham. The facility is still being developed and improved but the facilities on offer already are incredible and every detail has been thought of. From an indoor turnout area for the days of bleak weather, to the birthing suites and the rounded corners on all the paddocks.
Many people (myself included) who have leisure horses don’t know about how much goes into the breeding and care of thoroughbreds in order for them to be so well developed and strong at such a young age. Speaking to Rob was incredibly eye opening and educational and feeling his passion for the horses and the sport was very special. Rob has worked with horses in various different disciplines and whilst working with dressage horses, discovered his love for bloodstock and interest in breeding. He then decided that racing was where his deepest interest lies and set about making it his career.
Breeding and development.
So, the process and everything that goes into getting these amazing athletes to the track;
First of all for breeding is the process of acquiring mares that they believe will have good careers as broodmares. Looking at things such as their breeding, their build and if they made it to the track, their racing careers.
Next comes picking the stallions; as well as picking stallions with good breeding, race records and successful progeny, the stallion has to compliment the mare’s conformation and assets. The mares and stallions should both have positive assets and one should be stronger in areas that the other is weaker.
Throughout the pregnancy, the mares are closely monitored with regular scans to ensure the pregnancy is running smoothly and in the case of Rob and Mr Araci, the grass and forage is tested to ensure their mares are getting the correct levels of the vitamins and mineral they need in order to ensure the correct development of the foal in the womb. Two weeks before the due date the mares are kept overnight in the foaling suites. They have heat lamps, cameras and doors that open into a staff area, so they are closely monitored. Mares have the ability to hold off on labour if they do not feel it is safe to give birth, so warmth and reduced noise are important. Having the staff close by and monitoring the mares, means that if there are any complications with the birthing process, then they can be on hand to help or call the vet at the earliest opportunity.
This process then continues with the foals once they hit the ground, the grass is closely monitored throughout the year, the mineral content analysed and the feed adjusted appropriately.
This is important to ensure that the growing and developing foals don’t get a flush of anything that may cause them to grow at irregular levels. When the young horses grow too quickly, this can cause weakness or issues in their growth plates. So the true aim is to help the foals to develop as a consistent and even level to become the best that they can be in the long term. This is closely monitored through a regime of measuring and weighing the foals at Mr Araci’s facility using the Saracen Gro-Trac system.
This system monitors the growth and development of the young horses, creating easy to interpret graphs for their weight and height changes and makes it possible to compare growth rates against horses of the same breed, age and location. It gives users a wealth of information to compare their horses against. For example you can search for rates within ‘Thoroughbred Colts Worldwide’ or ‘Thoroughbred Fillies England’.
Photographs and notes can also be added to the system for a visual comparison and files can be shared confidentially.
Having this knowledge at the click of a button is such a huge benefit to breeders and stud staff. It means they can monitor the horses and adjust their feed accordingly, to prevent irregular patterns of growth.
The system also creates PDF format reports that can be sent out to owners or other invested parties.
In short, the system has a wealth of features that are endlessly valuable and interesting for the studs that use it. You can read more in-depth about the system here.
The next steps.
With horses bred for flat racing when the youngstock reach a year old, most will be sent to sales, to find owners for their racing careers. Before the sales they will have a full set of x-rays. This is done to ensure the horses growth plates are properly fused and developed before they are sent on to their ridden careers.
Good x-rays and a well developed horse are just as important to buyers as the breeding. Without the x-rays showing the horse is mature and developed enough to work, they’re unlikely to be ready for racing as a two year old.
One of the things that really struck me about the young horses at the stud was how well developed and strong they are at a young age, you can really see through their movement and their shoulder and hind quarters that they are set to be special. The horses are so inquisitive and bright and are handled much more than the warmblood horses I’ve worked with at that age. This is another integral stage of their development, helping to prepare them mentally for the next stage of their life, and ensuring that they are polite and safe to handle from a young age, so that they can be trusted as they get bigger and stronger.
Mr Araci’s Stock.
So what makes Mr Araci’s place so interesting? Well, he has some really exciting foals and mares with proven progeny already. He’s also incredibly passionate about the sport in this country and in Turkey, investing a lot of money into building a breeding programme for the future of racing.
Vasilia is probably one the most noteworthy mares currently in their programme. She’s the dam to five winners, including Dream of Dreams and the two year old Fantastic Fox, who is currently in training with Roger Varian and looks a really smart horse for next year. In October this year her filly by Galileo sold for £1.4million so keep an eye out for her in future.
Another mare of note is Butterscotch, full sister to Tiger Moth who was second in the Melbourne cup this week. Currently on the ground Mr Araci has a Butterscotch x Justify filly who instantly stood out to me when I saw the young horses in the paddock, surely another one to keep an eye out for.
I hope this gives you all a bit of an insight into what goes into making these horses so special, they’re given such an amazing level of care and consideration and from the moment decisions are made as to which mares are put to which stallions, they become someone’s dream, someone’s pride and someone’s livelihood.
As ever thank you to everyone who reads my blog, sends kind messages and donates (through my ‘About‘ page) to help me keep doing this. From now until Christmas I shall be forwarding 20% of all the donations I receive to The Injured Jockeys Fund. To help give back to the sport we love.
I love spreading the message of how much these horses mean to the people that look after them before, during and after racing. A huge thank you to Rob Speers for being a fantastic host, sharing his insights, knowledge and passion with me.
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