Updated on 09/15/2011 12:53PM

Juddmonte selection is a natural to win


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Juddmonte Farms, the bloodstock operation of Khalid Abdullah, produced four stakes winners in the United States last weekend, and a fifth in England on Tuesday.

The highest of the highlights were the victories of Flute in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes and Skimming in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. Aptitude, second to Fusaichi Pegasus in last year's Kentucky Derby, won the Grade 2 Saratoga Breeders' Cup, the third graded race among the five victories.

To produce so many racers of such high quality takes more than luck. Breeders with consistent success have to sway the probabilities in their favor as much as possible. To do this, horsemen can select the most likely breeding prospects on racing class, pedigree, and conformation; they can provide good land and proper care; and then they can place the horses in the hands of the best trainers for their athletic preparation.

Variables such as these at least allow judgment and practical management to weed out the most likely problems. But some breeders, ever wanting to improve their odds for getting a top horse, frequently grasp after a breeding theory or set of criteria for choosing their breeding stock and matings.

Garrett O'Rourke, farm manager for Juddmonte in Kentucky, said, "When it comes to breeding horses, I think you can shoot yourself in the foot by having too many rules and restrictions.

"At Juddmonte, there really isn't a set criterion for choosing mares to keep. You start at the top and work your way down, thinking classics first, and any mare who has the potential to throw graded-stakes class foals will be given two or three foals to prove herself. Anything that doesn't show that potential would go to the sales, usually at Newmarket."

This process is so matter-of-fact that it may seem too simple for many fans of the sport. It lacks the intricate numerology of some theories and systems popular in the press, but these principles, first selecting for athletic ability and then for producing ability, obviously work.

An operation such as Juddmonte has to be very selective (otherwise there would soon be 600 mares on the farm), but "there are certain families that don't get sold," O'Rourke said. "The Nimble Folly family is so productive that I don't believe we'd want to sell anything out of it."

The Pacific Classic winner, Skimming, and Comfy, winner of the Acomb Stakes in England on Tuesday, are both descend from Nimble Folly. Skimble, an attractive chestnut daughter of Lyphard and Nimble Folly, is a Grade 2 stakes winner and is the dam of Skimming. The first foal of Skimble's half-sister, Nimble Feet, is a stakes-winning mare named Souplesse, who is the dam of Comfy.

"Souplesse is a lovely mare herself," O'Rourke said, "but her first three foals were disappointing. She had all the credentials to be a top-class mare but was not getting the job done. Then she came up with a lovely looking colt by Lear Fan." That is Comfy.

O'Rourke said, "She's a mare who could have been on the cull list, but luckily she was from that family [Nimble Folly's], and she has come right for us." Since producing Comfy, Souplesse has foaled a pair of good-looking fillies by Distant View, one of the two stallions standing at Juddmonte in Lexington.

As the good fortune with Souplesse suggests and O'Rourke said, "There's a certain amount of science and a certain amount of luck in breeding good horses."

The program at Juddmonte is quiet and sensible, with a view toward breeding for the classics. In keeping with this practical ethos, O'Rourke said, "We are never told 'only keep 10 fillies or something.' One year we had 15 fillies off the track that we kept, all by good sires, with good physiques, and good racing performances. The next year we had only four."

One of the keepers from last year was Honest Lady, a Grade 1 winner by Seattle Slew, and in a year or so, another daughter of Seattle Slew, Flute, should join her dam at Juddmonte. Rougeur, a handsome chestnut daughter of Blushing Groom, is the dam of Flute and is one of the top mares at Juddmonte.

Whereas Flute is made in a lean, athletic shape with considerable influence from her sire, Rougeur is very like her sire, Blushing Groom. A dappled chestnut with four white socks, Rougeur has quality and plenty of bone. She has a lovely head and outstanding balance and is not overly large.

Her 2-year-old, a filly by Miswaki, is named Rouwaki, and Rougeur has a chestnut yearling filly by Irish River. The mare foaled a chestnut filly by Diesis this year, and she is back in foal to Chester House, last year's winner of the Arlington Million.