The incomparable Bettor’s Delight showing no signs of waning
By Garrick Knight
The greatest sire of the modern era was the centerpiece of a quite remarkable national standardbred yearling sale earlier this week.
Across three days, in Auckland and then Christchurch, nine horses sold at auction for $200,000 or more smashing all previous records for top-end purchasing.
Eight of them were pacers and, of them, seven were sired by the incomparable Bettor’s Delight.
He’s at an age now where most sires have retired or are close to it – 22.
Yet he’s still going strong, shuttling back and forth across the Pacific Ocean every year between Woodlands Stud in Clevedon and North America.
After four years of frozen semen and minor books, he first shuttled here in 2007 and served nearly 500 mares, including 345 in New Zealand.
In the ensuing 13 years that number has swelled to 5000, including 3650 here.
The decision makers at Woodlands Stud, led by Director and co-owner Andrew Grierson, made a conscious decision to cut his book by more than half 18 months ago in an attempt to look after him.
They even raised the price to an eye-watering $25,000 + GST per service so try and scare off a few.
But it didn’t work. Well, they stuck to it, but it didn’t sate breeders’ unquenchable thirst for his offspring.
And this week, those breeders were roundly rewarded with some unbelievable sale statistics – an average of over $80,000 for a colt and over $65,000 for a filly.
All but one colt sold out of 43 and a total of 19 lots by him sold for over $80,000.
Grierson says it just cements the horse’s legacy as indisputably the greatest sire of all time.
“He’s just as popular in America, too; the only horse to ever be leading sire up there at his age.“
Of course, he’s been New Zealand’s champion sire for the past nine seasons, too and in Australia since 2012.
Even if he never served another horse in Australia, Grierson says the longevity of his racehorses “will likely have him leading for five years plus after he stopped breeding, in my assessment.”
But there are no plans for that at this stage even though Grierson, arguably the country’s foremost veterinary consultant, is giving him every chance to stick up the white flag.
“His feet are normal despite being checked twice a year for signs of laminitis.
“He gets plenty of exercise on the walker, we take regular bloods and they’ve always been normal.
“At the start of the last breeding season I sent his semen away to Lee Morris for review and she said it was the second-best quality she’d seen this season.
“Having a big set of ‘nuts’ helps that, I suppose.”
Asked to summarise the horse that changed the professional and financial course of his life, Grierson was pretty succinct.
“He’s just a freak.
“He’s certainly underpinned our Stud for the last decade.
“We weren’t struggling but we certainly weren’t dominant like we are now.
“We’re all so hugely proud of him and grateful for what he has done.”
The Stud itself has gone to another level over the past five years and this past season, 180 mares owned by the Stud, Grierson personally, or nonagenarian co-owner Charles Roberts were served.
“Tony Grayling, our studmaster, said when he joined five years ago, he weaned 50 foals and we had 24 go to the sales so that shows you how far we’ve come.
“We’ve had the strength of stallion power with Bettor’s Delight, American Ideal and now Sweet Lou, and it’s allowed us to increase our broodmare band markedly.
“I don’t profess to be an expert on breeding, but there is a saying that you put the best to the best and hope for the best, and that’s what we do.
“And those stats from the sales this week – averaging $80,000 – shows that many others are thinking the same.
“It’s a big commitment for some of them who are putting five, ten or more mares in foal.
“Sure, they get a bulk discount, but it’s still $20,000 a service which shows the faith everyone has in him.”
So, the big question on everyone’s lips is how much longer will Woodlands and their North American partners go to the well on their equine money-printing machine?
“We’ll let him tell us.
“As soon as he’s not well and unable to travel, he stops.
“But there was a very successful sire in North America called Mr Prospector, who served mares until he was 27, so who knows?
“I have told the Americans though that it’s best for the horse to retire to a paddock in Auckland.
“That snow up there won’t be fair on him in his old age.”
Footnote: Bettor’s Delight’s best Australasian progeny is a ‘who’s who’ of the last decade’s racing and include Lazarus, Tiger Tara, Chicago Bull, Bit Of A Legend, Adore Me, Dream About Me, Beautide, Thefixer, Arden Rooney, Have Faith In Me, Self Assured, Ohoka Punter, Ultimate Sniper, Border Control, Gold Ace, Belle Of Montana, Elle Mac, Spanish Armada, Carabella, Bettor Cover Lover, One Change, Pat’s Delight, Spankem, Jesse Duke and many, many more.