02/22/2013 1:08PM

Ontario: Old Forester leads 2012 general sires


Old Forester was the epitome of a hard-knocking performer during his four-year career on the racetrack, and he has transferred that trait to his offspring since retiring to stand at John Carey’s T.C. Westmeath Stud in Ontario in 2007.

The 12-year-old son of Forestry was the leading Ontario general sire in 2012 with $2,957,285 in earnings from 53 winners, some $167,000 ahead of runner-up Niigon, who died in October. He also finished tied with Milwaukee Brew for most stakes wins, with six, among Ontario sires for the year.

Those figures reaffirmed Old Forester’s position as one of Ontario’s most productive and consistent sires since his first crop started racing in 2010.

That year, Old Forester’s progeny earned $1.045 million, easily the highest total for an Ontario freshman sire since 2001 and also the most earnings by a juvenile sire in Ontario this century. In the two years following that auspicious debut, Old Forester has become a stalwart stallion for Carey, who also stands Bold N Flashy, War Cry, and Exhi at T.C. Westmeath in Shelburne.

“He’s done more than we anticipated, really,” Carey said. “He was leading freshman the first year and leading juvenile sire that first year. His progeny earnings of [$1,045,669] was with just 2-year-olds, and that’s unknown in Canada.”

In 2011, Old Forester finished second on Ontario’s general sire list behind Perfect Soul, who was represented by Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Perfect Shirl. Old Forester’s leading runner that year, the gelding Jenna’s Wabbit, also topped his progeny earnings list in 2012 and is his best performer.

Jenna’s Wabbit kicked off his 3-year-old campaign in 2012 with three consecutive stakes wins at Woodbine – on turf in the Bold Ruckus and on Polytrack in the Achievement and Deputy Minister – and subsequently placed in the Vice Regent and Overskate. The gelding, who is co-owned, bred, and trained by Ralph Biamonte, has won six times from 11 starts, with five stakes victories and $494,402 in earnings.

Three other horses by Old Forester won stakes races in Canada in 2012: juvenile colt Honorable Guest, who captured the Frost King Stakes; Royal Egbert, a gelding from Old Forester’s first crop who captured the Shepperton Stakes; and Tree Pose, a first-crop filly who took the Queen of Fort Erie Cup. Tree Pose is Old Forester’s only stakes winner on dirt, not surprising considering Woodbine’s dominance of the Ontario racing calendar and its Polytrack main track.

Through his first three crops of racing age numbering 158 foals, Old Forester has sired seven stakes winners, a good 4.4 percent strike rate. Jenna’s Wabbit, Tree Pose, and Citius – a gelding from his first crop – have each won stakes races in multiple years.

Old Forester was bred in Kentucky by Robert Benjamin Berger and purchased by Live Oak Plantation for $310,000 at the 2002 Keeneland September yearling sale. After placing in his first two starts, both on dirt for trainer Bill Mott, Old Forester won his first time out on turf during summer 2004 and remained on that surface for the duration of his career. He picked up his first stakes win in the Santa Claus Stakes at Calder in 2004 and in 2005 took the Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream, setting a course record of 1:38.20 for 1 1/16 miles.

Strong runner-up efforts in a trio of graded stakes during 2005-06 led to Old Forester tallying his only graded stakes win in the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger Stakes at the Meadowlands in September 2006, the second-to-last start of his career. He retired with 6 wins, 11 seconds, and 2 thirds in 22 starts and earnings of $462,632. Eight of his 11 second-place finishes came by a length or less, four of them in stakes races.

Old Forester’s race record coupled with his pedigree helped the stallion receive interest from Ontario breeders from the outset. He is out of the multiple-stakes-winning Irish River mare Halo River and from the family of English champion filly Forest Flower and multiple Grade 1 winner High Yield. He has a 5x5 cross of Bold Ruler on his sire’s side and a 4x5 sire-to-dam cross of Northern Dancer.

Old Forester has had success with Bold Executive mares at this relatively early stage of his career, but, according to Carey, the stallion “crosses with just about any pedigree you can put to him”

“He’s very versatile sire that way,” Carey said. “Even now, I’ve looked up the [nicking patterns], and he crosses with a lot of different pedigrees.”

Old Forester covered about 90 mares in 2012, but Carey said that his book could be smaller this year due to ongoing uncertainty about the health of Ontario’s racing and breeding sectors following the government’s elimination of its slots-at-racetracks program. Old Forester’s fee for 2013 is $7,500 in Canadian currency.