02/15/2017 9:21AM

Bergman: Sebastian K is injecting French blood into North America

Gunjan Patel
One of the first U.S. foals by Sebastian K was a filly by Product Placement.

Hanover Shoe Farms has made an indelible mark on the history of the sport. With each passing year the nursery’s valuable bloodlines enrich the racing landscape in North America and abroad. Entering 2017 Hanover will mark the second year of an “experiment” to integrate and expand its impact on the sport. Sebastian K, the fastest trotter of all time, could represent the kind of stallion the sport has never seen.

“People have been talking about crossing the French blood with American blood for a long time,” said Russell Williams, Chairman of Hanover Shoe Farms. “To produce a horse that is sounder and faster.”

The French stallion book is closed and the ability to cross the two dominant trotting lines rests solely on what goes on in North America. In Sebastian K, the rich pedigree extends back to 1970 when the owners of International champion Roquepine decided to breed the French phenom to the incumbent superstar stallion Hanover’s own Stars Pride.

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“I wasn’t that old at the time,” said Williams, “But I remember when they brought Roquepine here to breed her.”

The resulting foal from Roquepine would be a horse called Florestan and he is represented generations back on the male side of Sebastian K’s impressive pedigree.

Fakir Du Vivier, Sebastian K’s grandsire, is one of the all-time great French stallions. “I would say to compare him to someone of our day, he was their Muscle Hill,” said Williams.

While the names on the male side of Sebastian K’s rich pedigree may not be all too familiar with those breeding for the market in North America, they should serve as a solid backbone to a horse that more than proved himself on the racetrack.

The epic 1:49 victory at Mohegan Sun Pocono was a mind-boggling performance by a horse that displayed such an uncommon burst of speed at the start that he made other horses in full flight appear as if they were standing still.

Sebastian K made his reputation overseas but in a very brief time in North America he was a picture of trotting superiority that few have ever seen.

Sebastian K enters his second season as a stallion with more challenges facing him. He bred a solid number of mares in 2016 and foals are just hitting the ground as this is being written.

“He’s had two foals so far and both are fillies from my mares,” said Williams with some excitement. “One was premature and will need some time to mature. The other filly is magnificent.” Williams noted that he was obviously a bit biased.

How they look and how they stand will matter when sale time comes around in a few years, yet what Williams and those at Hanover are hoping for is that the traits they inherit through the rich and deep bloodlines will pass something along to future generations currently void in our trotters. That by altering the bloodlines just slightly, a more refined and sounder horse can emerge.

“Thankfully we were able to work out an attractive deal that makes this experiment worthwhile,” said Williams in regard to Sebastian K.

While some including Williams are concerned with a second and third crop from an as yet unproven sire, Williams cautions those that sit on the sidelines of the downsides in waiting.

“When his first crop hits the ground and does well, those sitting with foals from his second crop will do quite well,” said Williams.

It’s hard not to imagine what that next generation of yearlings will look like with the French-bred Sebastian K on one side and daughters of Muscle Hill on the other. The experiment has taken a long time in unfolding, but perhaps we are at the dawn of a new era in this sport where the 1:50 barrier is not just broken by one but by many and with regularity.

Sebastian K stands at Hanover Shoe Farms in Pennsylvania for a $6,000 fee.

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