02/24/2014 3:07PM

Jay Bergman: White Birch Farm is breeding success

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Derick Giwner
Michael Parisi runs White Birch Farm, breeder of Bee A Magician and Captaintreacherous.

If your name doesn’t contain “Hanover”, the odds of producing a Pacer, Trotter or Horse of the Year in the same year is remote. While there may be safety in numbers, the standardbred sport is not just a numbers game.

When you look at Sunday night’s winner’s circle at the annual U.S. Harness Writers Awards Banquet, one name sticks out—White Birch Farm.

Founded by the late Joe Parisi and now run by his son Michael, White Birch has carved a niche in the sport that’s hard to imagine. It peaked on Sunday with the ascension of Bee A Magician to the Horse of the Year throne and the second straight victory by Captaintreacherous as the sport’s Pacer of the Year.

For Michael Parisi the honor seemed to be overwhelming.

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“My dad loved to race,” Parisi said. “If he was here he would probably mention the awards we didn’t win. But he would be proud.”

And there would be a lot to be proud of.

While buyers search each year for just the right horse, breeders must look for what will work in the future. Whether that’s finding broodmares with the ability to produce champions or purchasing into stallion shares, it’s a high-risk game that rewards very few.

“When it came to the sales my dad didn’t want to have anything to do with the yearlings. He would focus on the broodmares,” said Parisi.

It was that kind of focus that led White Birch to end up with the dams of Bee A Magician and Captaintreacherous.

“Worldly Treasure (the dam of Captaintreacherous) was meant to be a good horse. She got hurt trying to get under a gate,” Parisi said.

As for Beehive, Horse of the Year Bee A Magician’s mom, the meeting with Kadabra was in some way a stroke of luck as opposed to a brilliant decision.

“We weren’t having any luck with shipped semen from Canada,” said Parisi. “Because of that the only mares we could send to Kadabra were mares that were barren.”

Here’s a case of bad fortune turning into good, since had Beehive been in foal in 2009 she would not have been shipped and would likely have never produced the undefeated phenom.

Beehive recently foaled a filly by Muscle Hill and Parisi has been talked into her next booking.

“Herb Liverman (co-owner of Bee A Magician) came up to me and said that he would not bid on any foal out of Beehive that wasn’t sired by Kadabra,” Parisi said, suggesting that the astute owner would not look for lightning to strike twice unless circumstances were identical.

“We’re going to breed her to Kadabra this year,” said Parisi.

Not long after Myron Bell had successfully bid $250,000 for Captaintreacherous, he approached Parisi to buy a share of the horse. “Myron asked me but when I sell them I let them go,” said Parisi. “But he was persistent and told me that I should be in, so I took 10 percent.”

Despite his investment and the obvious rewards on the racetrack, Parisi seemed to have greater appreciation with the knowledge that he had a 100 percent interest in creating a champion.

Ironically, Michael Parisi growing up in Queens, New York wanted to be involved in the thoroughbred industry. His dad sort of convinced him that it was a more expensive business and much harder to come up with a top horse. The elder Parisi had what you might call a mom and pop breeding shop more than 30 years ago named Jo-Mar and they produced some nice New Jersey-breds, including the rugged Free For All performer J M Jupiter.

The farm has grown immeasurably since and does have thoroughbred interests with 10 mares on the Allentown, New Jersey property.

“We have about 80 broodmares. I culled about 12 recently,” said Parisi of his wealth of solid standardbred mares.

When it comes to his breeding strategy, while Parisi deflected the success to luck, he noted that his dad was a strong follower of the famed thoroughbred breeder Federico Tesio and as such looks for 2 X 3 crosses when mating potential stallions with his broodmares.

Those who pay attention to the breeding business understand that sometimes it takes a few generations for a family to pay off. In the case of both Wordly Treasure and Beehive, the dams of this year’s champions, they are second generation White Birch broodmares that happened to click in the same year.

Worldly Treasure is a full sister to world champion Worldly Beauty from the dam World Order, a mare purchased in 1997 as a six-year-old by Parisi. Two-time pacer of the year Captaintreacherous was the first foal from Worldly Treasure by first-year stallion Somebeachsomewhere.

“The great thing about Somebeachsomewhere is with his pedigree he can be bred to most any pacing mare,” said Parisi.

Bee A Magician, a $90,000 yearling, was Beehive’s first foal. She too was a second generation mare, the product of Miss Yellowjacket (a mare purchased by White Birch in 1994) and the Ontario-based stallion Balanced Image.

In a business that is far from an exact science, the success of White Birch Farms has a lot to do with solid strategy of purchasing quality well-bred mares and as Parisi said, “Luck.”

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“Look at Hot Lead,” said Parisi, referring to the 1996 Meadowlands Pace winner, “We had a mare (J M Valinda) that we needed to get into foal. Jaguar Spur was right up the road so we took her over there to be bred.”

The late Joe Parisi has left his mark on the standardbred business in more than one way. In the early 60’s, Parisi leased space to Jack Cohen, the founder of Harness Eye nee Sports Eye, helping to lay the foundation for a publication that would change the face of harness racing past performances for generations to come.