Dreaming is free

What I would do if I were standing Dan Patch champion Monte Miki.

by Alan Leavitt

One of Debbie Harry’s best lyrics is Dreaming Is Free. Applying it literally to myself, indulge me when I fantasize that I have miraculously found that I’m now the owner of the champion pacing colt Monte Miki.

For those with short or even shorter memories, i.e. less than a week of function, Monte Miki was the champion 2-year-old pacing colt of 2021. He won the Breeders Crown and the Metro, and was only beaten once all season, and that in a photo (click here).

For me, and the greatest thoroughbred breeder of all time, Federico Tesio, the 2-year-old racing season is the definitive time that accurately predicts a stallion’s sire potential.

Parenthetically, recently one of the major breeders in our sport, and highly successful, told me he hadn’t bred to Walner because he hadn’t come on and raced successfully as a 3-year-old.

I know when to keep my mouth shut, at least part of the time, so I said nothing. Of course to the small but hardy band of Leavitt-Tesio believers, Walner is to us the perfect proof of our belief in 2-year-old brilliance.

Again, for those with short memories, Walner was untouchable at 2. I haven’t looked up his lines, but I doubt he was ever headed. Linda Toscano wrote her name indelibly in the history of our sport by training this great horse to an unbroken record at 2, and then had the wisdom, and the courage, not to take any chance of blemishing his name by bringing him back for a full season at 3 when she knew he was just a hair off. A lot of other people would have doctored him up and gone back to the track with him, but Ms. Toscano, in Kenny Roger’s words, knew when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. That’s why she well deserves her place in the Hall of Fame.

Back, however, to Monte Miki, a great future sire prospect, whom I am lucky enough now to “own”, thanks to Debbie Harry of Blondie fame. In case you forgot, Monte Miki was retired from training three weeks ago after he suffered a tear in his tendon sheath.

So Debbie Harry notwithstanding, I didn’t get to race Monte Miki this year at 3, and I’ve now got him home at my farm.

First thing would be to have Dr. Larry Bramlage check him over and make sure we were taking the right care of that tendon sheath. Meanwhile, we’d be turning him out every day, assuming Dr. Bramlage says it’s alright to. He’d be in a medium-sized lot with good grass, a water fountain, and rounded, not square corners. Too many horses hurt themselves when they jam themselves down running into a fence in a square corner.

His stall would be the size of two regular stalls, and there’d be a section of each side wall that was barred, not solid, so he could get friendly with each of the mares on either side of him. Same principle when he’s turned out. There would be an eight foot aisle all the way around his paddock, and there would be mares, several of them, always in even numbers, in the neighboring pastures. There wouldn’t be another stallion within sound or sight of M², ever.

After Dr. B. gives the green light to breaking our horse to breed, he’d enter the breeding shed. There would be an open mare in the tease stall, one who was red hot in season. We’d let him tease her until he finally got the idea, and, euphemistically, “dropped down.”

Then he’d be led over to the breeding dummy, or, technically, Phantom Mare. This is one of the great inventions of the modern horse breeding industry, and it is used for many breeds besides ours, including Morgans, Arabians, Quarter Horses, and Saddle Horses. Every breed in North America, actually, except for the thoroughbred.

The Phantom Mare, without which there couldn’t be commercial artificial insemination, was invented by one of the greatest vets who ever lived, Dr. Wendell Cooper. Dr. Cooper worked for me at one time, in the days before semen transport was sanctified by the USTA. One season I gave him 37 mares to breed to Speedy Crown, and by June 25 every one of them was in foal.

Since Debbie Harry has allowed me to have everything the best in our breeding shed, our breeding dummy is adjustable as to height. The trick here is to have the stallion hit the dummy with his chest at approximately the same height as an actual mare’s behind. In case our new pupil, in this case Monte Miki, sill doesn’t quite catch on, we’ll walk the tease mare up beside the dummy, but when he jumps to mount, we’ll keep his body and his head pointed at the dummy.

Once he’s mounted, my manager, Keith Cox, a top horseman, will appear with the aptly named Artificial Vagina, get M²’s willy inside it, and that’s where he’ll ejaculate.

We’ll do this routine every other day for a week, then give him three days off and then collect him twice, on the fourth day, within the same hour. From that second collection, the great equine repro specialist, Dr. Karen Wolfsdorf will analyze his semen and then we’ll know exactly how much we have to work with.

Another point, in passing. Many stallion deals include a condition that calls for a fertility test before the deal is closed. That isn’t really necessary. A skilled repro vet can take certain crucial testicular measurements, put them into an equation, and the result will tell with 95 per cent accuracy what that horse’s semen output will be.

It doesn’t, of course, tell you what the semen quality is, but it does give you the most important number in evaluating a stallion’s breeding potential. And it eliminates the necessity of actually breeding the horse, which can’t be done during the racing season.

So that’s my rendition of Dreaming Is Free, and I think I did it pretty well considering I’m not a professional singer. And if whoever actually owns Monte Miki ever feels like a duet, I’ll be happy to sing along with him anytime he calls, lyrics courtesy of Debbie Harry.