The book on how Hanover buys its broodmares

The book on how Hanover buys its broodmares

January 12, 2020

by Murray Brown

My Aussie friend Brett Coffey recently sent me a six-item question relating to my experience at Hanover in purchasing broodmares.

1. What does Hanover look for in a broodmare?
2. What characteristics made you rule out a mare?
3. What were some of the characteristics of the best broodmares?
4. What mares exceeded expectations and what mares fell short?
5. Were there any great mares that Hanover missed on that turned out great?
6. How are mares purchased by Hanover?

I’ll start with question #6

Through the years, the vast majority of potential Hanover broodmares were purchased privately.

People, friends and customers would call about mares that they would like to sell. The mare’s name and credentials were passed out to a screening committee which consisted of Jim Simpson, Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky (Dr. J), Russell Williams, Pete Spears and myself.

The majority were outrightly dismissed due to several factors — mostly lack of commercial pedigree and age.

The possible seller was then notified of our lack of interest.

With mares that passed the litmus test, price comes into question. If the asking price is acceptable we would tentatively meet it. If it was too high, we might reject the mare or if we were not too far away, we might come back with a counter offer.

Hanover would never make an offer on a mare before the potential buyer had set his or her asking price.

Once a price had been set on the mare, the sale became contingent upon the mare being shipped to the Farms at the owner’s expense and being judged both reproductively and physically acceptable. At such time, the sale was consummated. If for some reason the mare was rejected, she would be shipped back to her owner at Hanover’s expense.

The other main vehicle was buying mares at public auction — mostly at Harrisburg, but sometimes at other venues such as the Tattersalls Winter Sale.

What generally occurred was that Dr. J and I would peruse the catalogs and independently come up with a list of mares that we felt would be of benefit to the Farms.

The lists were combined and Dr. J would evaluate them physically at the sale. Most were ruled out due to conformation or size defects. The ones deemed desirable were put on a list and price limits were established. Generally speaking, and likely to a degree based on the success of the preceding yearling sale, these prices might be exceeded, but rarely by much.

Question #1

We looked for a mare to check most of the boxes.

Pedigree, most specifically commercial pedigree, would be the number one necessity.

Following that would be size and general conformation, followed by race record and race earnings.

People might think that compatibility to the stallions which we stood would be a factor, but I don’t remember it being so. If the mare was attractive enough, we would certainly find an acceptable mate for her.

Question #2

The major things that would rule out a mare for us would be a lack of pedigree, size, age and of course significant conformation flaws.

In quite a few cases, we were offered mares that were good race mares, had high earnings but lacked what we felt was an attractive pedigree.

We wouldn’t rule out a mare that was on the small size, but we weren’t interested in shrimps. Small mares will generally produce small yearlings. Small yearlings do not generally sell well.

A notable exception is the mare Panera Hanover, who is quite small, but is the dam of the outstanding coming 3-year-old Papi Rob Hanover, who is a pretty good sized horse.

With the rare exception, a mare older than five would not interest us. In such cases, the mare would be 10 or more before we knew what we had.

Most conformation flaws are generally passed on. If a mare had a major physical defect, then we just were not interested.

Question #3

I think that Dr. Jablonsky, or others that work with mares on a regular basis, would be better suited to answer this than I.
From what she and her predecessor Dr Peter Boyce have told me, one of the main characteristics of good broodmares is that they are generally good mothers to their foals.
Beyond that, I cannot say too much.

Question #4

The first and most obvious example would be Rich N Elegant. She was a decently-bred, decently-performed mare who we expected to be a decent broodmare. We bought her through Bob Boni for the bargain basement price of $12,000. Nobody, least of all me, expected her to become the great mare that she became.

Another great buy was the mare D Train. I don’t remember exactly what we paid for her, but it was likely in the area of $10,000. If it was more, then not much more.

As I recall, we didn’t particularly want her, but the price was right and we were buying her from a couple of good customers. Romola Hanover, who I regard as the greatest producing pacing broodmare of all time was a homebred who was retained by the Farms at a time when Hanover made a practice of retaining some fillies to become future broodmares. She had world class speed but lacked the gait and manners to become a high earner on the racetrack.

We bought the Hall of Fame broodmare Tricky Tooshie for a pretty high price. The number $100,000 comes to mind. If it wasn’t that, it was somewhere in that vicinity. I recall that I didn’t like the buy, especially at that price. The mare was a wonderful race filly, earning in excess of a million dollars. But, in my opinion, at the time, she lacked the pedigree to become a high-caliber broodmare. On the other hand, Dr. J loved her. It is one of the many instances where her wisdom prevailed over mine. Not only has she been a great and very consistent producer herself, but one of her daughters is the dam of this year’s Dan Patch 2-year-old pacing filly winner Lyons Sentinel.

Question #5

The one that we missed out on that most comes to me was Heathers Western who became the dam of Betting Line.

I loved Heathers Western.

I first saw her as a yearling when I went to Delvin Miller’s old Meadow Lands Farm doing yearling evaluations for the Harrisburg sale.

I remember Bobby Sutton showing her to me and saying that in his opinion this was the best looking yearling filly ever raised at the farm. I don’t believe that he was exaggerating one little bit. She was drop dead gorgeous. She turned out to be a decent race filly and was sent to Harrisburg at the end of her racing career. I was sure that we would get her. But Fair Winds Farm wanted her more than we did and we ended up being the under bidder on her.

All worked out well though. If we had bought her, there would have been no Betting Line and Hanover would not be standing him.

Conversely, there were some that got away that we bid strongly on and turned out to be relative disappointments.

I recall us bidding at least $600,000, maybe more, on Continentalvictory. Thankfully, we didn’t get her. On the other hand, maybe, and it’s a big maybe, if we had bought her, she might have had better production than she did.

Even worse was the purchase of Rae. We wanted her, but the price we set on her was a maximum of $300,000. I believe she brought something like $600,000 and we were the underbidder. Thank goodness we didn’t get her. Sadly, I believe she died even before she produced a single foal.

My beshert experience

The word “beshert” is a Yiddish term which means preordained or destined to be.

Such an occurrence recently befell me.

Anybody who knows me, knows that I am a crazy Duke Blue Devils fan — emphasis on the crazy.

When I first received this year’s Duke Basketball schedule. I noticed that the Devils were scheduled to play University of Miami in Florida on Jan. 4.

I said to myself, that’s a game I’ve got to go see.

As often happens, life got in the way.

My daughter Stacey and my grandkids Annika and Charlie were in Orlando and were scheduled to leave for home that morning. The only chance I had to see them was to join them for dinner in Orlando on the previous evening. That would mean I’d be driving back to South Florida on Saturday, thus missing The Deck and most importantly missing the Duke game because:

1. I am a road warrior, but as I’ve aged, I’m not nearly as capable as I used to be.

2. In addition to a second long drive on the same day, I am not the best driver at night. I had no great desire to drive to a place with which I was totally unfamiliar and be driving until midnight which is three hours or so past my normal bedtime. In addition, the traffic on I95 is horrible, especially in the Miami area.

3. Then “beshert” or destiny kicked in. From out of the blue, I received a personal message from Robert Goldstein on Facebook saying “My dad (the late Joey Goldstein), reached through the cosmos and asked me to ask you to be my guest Saturday evening for Duke basketball at the Miami Hurricanes”.

Talk about beshert.

Not only was I being invited to go to a game that I so desperately wanted to see, but I’d also be picked up and driven home, the thing that most prevented me from going in the first place.

We went to the game. I enjoyed it immensely. Duke annihilated Miami winning by 33 points. Not so good for my friend Robert who is a Miami fan.

Thank you so much Robert and Joey. I hope one day to be able to reciprocate.

Have a question for The Curmudgeon?
Reach him by email at: hofmurray@aol.com.

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