2022 has been a very exciting year for us filled with ups, downs, and pivots. We bought the new farm in Kentucky this summer, Dyana retired from racing, we began the process for establishing Mareworthy Charities as a 501c3 organization, and we added three more mares, two donkeys, and one deaf puppy to the family.
With all the changes in 2022, we are even more excited for the future of Mareworthy and our little farm. Our experience breeding and racing Dyana taught us a lot, and now we get to take the lessons we've learned and build an even more exciting future. We look forward to remaining transparent about our experiences, and we will always keep equine welfare and education at the forefront of every decision we make.
Abraham Lincoln famously said, "The best way to predict your future is to create it," and that is exactly what we intend to do. We are dedicated to fulfilling our mission of ensuring all retired Thoroughbred broodmares and warhorse mares are protected from suffering and cruelty. Sean and I put a lot of research and thought into our decision to breed again next year, and we decided it was the right decision as part of our mission as ambassadors for Thoroughbred mares and the future we are creating for Mareworthy Charities.
How many mares should we breed in 2023?
With the purchase of Abastada and Empress Luciana at the Keeneland November sale and Dyana's retirement from racing, our broodmare options went from a single mare - Lady Macjazz - to four eligible broodmares. That meant the first decision we had to make was whether we are going to breed one or all four.
We had already decided that if we are going to breed we need to breed at least two mares in a year so the foals are able to socialize especially during the second and third months of their life. Those months are considered the primary period of socialization and also the time it is most risky to try and introduce them to adult horses who are not their mother. We raised Dyana as a single foal, but we were very conscious of safe socialization and know it will be much more natural to have at least two weanlings at the same time.
After confirming we wanted to breed at least two mares we had to discuss breeding more than two. Although highly tempting to breed all four mares, we ultimately decided limiting our 2023 breeding plans to two mares is the right decision for several reasons. The financial impacts of four stud fees, veterinary care for four pregnant mares, and care of four foals was a primary reason for only breeding two mares next year, but we also only want to limit overall risks by only breeding the most viable pairings and healthiest horses.
Who are we NOT breeding next year?
Once we confirmed we would only breed two mares in 2023, we had to determine which two we would choose. In all honesty, we had a good case for breeding each of them, so the decision was made by going through a process of pros and cons for each mare and ultimately eliminating Lady Macjazz (Freja) and Abastada (Aba).
I wrestled a lot with the decision to omit Freja from the breeding plans next year. As you may already know, she experienced a scary dystocia (difficult foaling) in April of this year and we were not able to save her colt by Include. With Freja being the foundation of our herd and my heart horse, I vowed that day that I would not breed her again because I was extra terrified of losing her after that experience.
She did not have any ongoing complications that put her at higher risk of having another similar situation in the future which we confirmed with a recent breeding soundness exam with our veterinarian, so knowing that she is healthy and seeing the quality of her first foal (Lady Dyanaformer), I put Freja back on the list of possibilities for next year with a couple precautions. If I were to breed her, it would be to a smaller stallion and she would go to the clinic close to her due date to foal with medical supervision at the ready.
The tug to breed her grew stronger when I saw Divisidero (standing at Airdrie Stud) because he is a WONDERFUL option for her both on paper and physically, but at the end of the day I decided to skip breeding Freja because of her history and knowing I would never be able to forgive myself if something happens to her after my initial instincts told me to not put her in that situation again no matter how much I think she has the potential to produce the next Kentucky Derby or Kentucky Oaks winner.
Abastada has been a wonderful addition to our herd, and we have lots of options for her future. Even though we are not breeding her in 2023, we are still considering her for a foal in future years if she does not get snatched away to a different forever home before that. She is a very sweet conformationally correct mare, and she already had seven foals. Knowing that Dyana and Luci are both maidens who have never raised a foal before, Aba was a very tempting option as a proven dam who we know we can count on to not need broodmare "training".
The primary reason we ultimately decided to skip breeding her next year is that we knew we really wanted to breed Lady Dyanaformer (see below) and our other remaining option, Empress Luciana, presents a stronger possibility for producing a successful racehorse.
Aba's foals have done okay at the track, but she hasn't had any big standouts even with a very strong 2nd dam in her pedigree. The part that keeps us hopeful for possibly breeding her in the future is that she has two foals who are still actively racing and another - her 2021 colt by Uncle Mo - who might start racing in 2023. If Peaceful Street, Star Pose, and Aba's 2021 colt by Uncle Mo have an exceptional year at the races in 2023, then it will better support a decision to breed her in 2024. But already having five foals of racing age without any major standouts is a stronger indicator that the right decision is to skip breeding her just for the sake of breeding her with our fingers crossed and focus on getting her back into training as a riding horse while we wait to see how her foals race in 2023.
Who we ARE breeding
If you've been keeping up, then you already figured out that by process of elimination the two mares we are breeding next year are Lady Dyanaformer (Dyana) and Empress Luciana (Luci), so let's walk through the process that confirmed them as viable options.
I spent countless hours researching all the open (not pregnant) mares in the Keeneland November sale this year, and I even bought my first iPad so that I could utilize the sales app to keep all my notes organized. My goals for the sale were to keep an eye on the older mares age 16 or older, look for broodmares eligible for the new broodmare division at the Retired Racehorse Project Makeover next year, and hope to find a broodmare prospect who might slip through the cracks and end up in my very small budget.
Luci stepped into the pavilion at Keeneland, and she caught my eye before I even looked at my notes. Then I looked at my notes and saw she was on my short list, so my interest grew. I kept watching her in the walking rings before she went into the sales ring, and I had decided that if no one else bid on her I'd work up the nerve to throw my hand up for the first time at a Thoroughbred auction. As she stood in front of the sales podium with the auctioneer doing his best to generate interest, no one was bidding and that made me extra nervous to get it started. But then I trusted my gut, threw up my hand, and waited to see who would outbid me, but no one did - I had just purchased a horse, and I was still standing.
I re-read Luci's catalog page several times to reassure myself I made a good decision, and then I walked to her barn to meet her in person. Yes, I experienced mild buyer's remorse in the first couple days, but I continue to get more and more excited about Luci's future as a broodmare. Why am I so excited?
Luci is from a young female family meaning all her dam's (Nero's Pleasure) foals are either still racing or only recently retired from racing. This means there are several opportunities for updates to the catalog page as her foals keep racing and start having foals of their own. Case in point is Luci's half sister (same dam) Finest Work (by Outwork). On the catalog, Finest Work is reported as having career earnings of $168,800, but as of today (12/15/2022) her updated earnings are $320,150. The other exciting part of Luci's family is that her dam only has three foals but all three are winners, and Nero's Pleasure's dam, While Rome Burns, is the dam of eight winners including Graded Stakes winners.
Pedigrees are obviously important, but what makes me even more excited about Luci is interacting with her every day. She's a very kind mare who loves to snuggle, and she's curious. Those are qualities that will help make her a good mother, but they also will make her more trainable which means she will have options as a riding horse - especially since she's only 5 years old and is close to 17 hands tall.
Last, but certainly not least, we will be breeding Lady Dyanaformer in 2023. This was the easiest decision because ever since the day she was born I dreamt of possibly breeding her someday. Not only is she arguably the horse with the strongest conformation in our barn, but she also was competitive in her short racing career. Having a front row seat to every moment of her life means we have been able to nitpick every part of her on a regular basis, and I still feel as excited today about the prospect of seeing her first foal as the day she was born. Additionally, I put so much thought and research into my decision to breed Freja to Vertiformer back in 2017, and that makes it extra exciting to see how I can continue to improve this bloodline with Dyana's foal as the next generation.
I got Freja for only $900 in 2014 from a listing on Dreamhorse.com, and I definitely did not have any plans to breed her and get into racing back then. Freja was only supposed to be my Dressage competition horse. Freja sold in the 2013 Keenland November sale for only $1,000 (the same amount I paid for Luci and Aba this year). She was purchased as a sporthorse prospect, and she only ended up for sale because her prior owner needed to downsize her herd. So, as fate would have it, the mare who was passed over as not being desirable enough to become a Thoroughbred broodmare made her way to me. My $900 heart horse gave us a racehorse who earned an average of $9,976 per race and never finished worse than third, and now that beautiful filly gives me hope as a broodmare.
Which stallions did we pick?
I know this is the real reason to popped in to read this post, so let's get to it. I take stallion selection very seriously. We don't have the means to hope for lucky outcomes, so I really need to spend the time researching every pedigree, seeing the stallions in person, and trusting my gut to ensure we select the pairing with the highest probability of success as a racehorse. That deserves a clarification about breeding for the sales vs breeding to race. When breeding with the intent of selling the foal as a weanling or yearling you need to pick stallions that are commercially popular and in vogue, but since we are breeding to race the foal ourselves, I am more focused on selecting a sire who has proven he produces horses who can run and cross well with the pedigree of our mares.
This research means looking at lots of statistics and information from multiple sources (I included some of them at the bottom of this post). Thankfully, I'm an Excel fanatic; the spreadsheet images below are only the tip of the iceberg for the data I track and consider.
Outwork x Empress Luciana
We chose Outwork (stands at WinStar) as the right match for Luci for several reasons, but most glaring is the fact that Luci's half sister (same dam), Finest Work, is by Outwork. Remember I mentioned Finest Work is the mare who has earned $320,150 in her racing career? By breeding Luci to Outwork we will have a 3/4 sibling to Finest Work, and the nicks - specific affinities of stallions of one male line for mares from other sire lines - are also very strong for a mating of Outwork and Luci. Some of the other reasons we love Outwork for Luci:
Paynter x Lady Dyanaformer
Reasons we chose Paynter (stands at WinStar) for Dyana:
With all that in mind paired with the number of friends who have told me how much they love their foals by Paynter, he became the obvious choice for Dyana's first foal.
Now I just need to be patient because we're still more than a year away from welcoming Luci's and Dyana's first foals, and we are at least 3.5 years away from seeing them in their first races. But the good news is that means there is plenty of time to share the full journey with you, and I also plan to get both Dyana and Luci into the show rings in 2023 to help keep them fit during their pregnancies which means there will be plenty of other updates as we prepare for shows.
Resources I use to research Thoroughbred stallions for breeding
Here is my list with a short explanation for each:
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Mareworthy Charities is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its tax identification number is 88-4420958
Kyle Rothfus (aka Kyle the OTTB Mare Guy)