02/16/2012 4:57PM

2011 stallion honors: Old Forester, leading synthetic sire


The young sire Old Forester has gotten off to a fast start at Canada’s T.C. Westmeath Stud in Shelburne, Ontario. In 2010, he was Canada’s leading freshman sire. Last year, with two racing-age crops, he led the rankings for sires of all-weather runners with $2,560,554 in progeny earnings, vaulting past Canada’s perennial leading sire, the late Bold Executive, who had $2,285,596. He also netted a $50,000 award from the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society’s Ontario division as the province’s top sire last season, again finishing ahead of Bold Executive, who died in 2011.

Daughters of Bold Executive helped Old Forester on his quick rise to prominence, T.C. Westmeath owner John Carey said. Bold Executive mares produced four of Old Forester’s winners last year, including stakes-placed L’Avenue.

Old Forester’s top earner last year, though, was Jenna’s Wabbit, a gelding out of a Take Me Out mare. Jenna’s Wabbit won the Bull Page and Frost King Stakes and finished second in the Clarendon Stakes, winning half his starts and earning $219,920 for the season. Another two-time stakes winner last season was Kitty’s Got Class. Weekend Romance and Citius each won one stakes.

“You can definitely spot an Old Forester by conformation, no question,” Carey said, noting that Old Forester also seems to get a high percentage of foals who are chestnut as he is. “You can see the dad in every baby. He’s built like a rabbit. When you see him gallop across the field at his own leisure, and he tucks his back end under him so much, and he just has driving power.”

An 11-year-old by Storm Cat’s son Forestry, Old Forester is out of the Irish River mare Halo River. His dam is out of a half-sister to English juvenile champion filly Forest Flower and to High Yield’s dam, Scoop the Gold.

Carey was a fan of Old Forester when the horse raced in Live Oak Plantation’s string. A $310,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, Old Forester earned $462,632 and won or placed in 19 of 22 starts, all but two of those on the turf. He won a minor Calder stakes at 3, then took Gulfstream’s Canadian Turf Handicap the following year in course-record time, covering the 1 1/16 miles in 1:38.20. At 5, he won the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger at the Meadowlands.

“A friend and myself used to watch him racing,” Carey said. “We loved his talent, but at that time we never thought about what might happen a couple of years down the road. We never thought we’d have him as a stud. Then we heard through a bloodstock agent that the horse was for sale, put a partnership together, and bought him. He was so talented, he had to pass it on.”

The slots-rich Woodbine racing program and the track’s synthetic Polytrack surface have given Old Forester’s all-weather progeny earnings a boost, and Carey thinks his young stallion will continue to be a factor as Ontario breeders look to improve breeding quality in the region. Encouraged by Ontario-breds’ increased earnings potential and lower North American breeding stock prices during the recession, breeders have been upgrading their bands.

“We’re bringing better stock into the country now, so we need better stallions, and he fits the part,” Carey said. “He’s certainly very popular in Ontario, and the thing I like about him is he’s attracting Southern breeders now. That’s new.”

Old Forester bred 112 mares in 2011, but Carey said they’ll limit his book this year to about 85, a concession to the market reality for sale yearlings.

“Our market isn’t like what it used to be,” Carey said. “So we don’t have an outlet for every yearling like we used to at one time. So if we limit his book, it means breeders will get the reward at the sales.”

Old Forester stands for $10,000 this year, giving him the highest fee on the T.C. Westmeath roster. It’s been a satisfying few years for Carey, who said he feels confident his bet on Old Forester will continue to pay off in the long term, too.

“I knew I had a good horse, and I knew I had a horse that would hit the top,” he said, “but I didn’t expect him to jump straight up into first place with just two crops.”

Old Forester pedigree