Unlimited access >

Responsibility for Soundness

Hamelback: Issues of Unsoundness Also Start at Farms - BloodHorse

Watched his speech on Youtube and found the article on Bloodhorse
I have a strong feeling that his opinions are frowned upon by many in the industry but feel they are desperately needed.

IMHO It starts with breeding decisions and management of the youngsters. Unfortunately I think as long as we have stallions being purchased by studs for $70 million who have repetitive soundness issues and/or 5 starts under their belt, mares with valuable female lines who never see the track, elective surgeries to make the not-perfect horse; perfect, Over conditioning of youngsters for the sales ring, etc; none of this is ever going to get better. Too much focus on the sales arena and not enough focus on the long term viability of the product being produced.

Look at a stallion like Hoppertunity for instance. 34 starts and $4.7 million in earnings.
A Record Like this and he stands for 5k in Pennsylvania because none of the blue bloods wanted him,
At 3: 1st Clark H.(G1), Rebel S.(G2); 2nd Santa Anita Derby(G1)
At 4: 1st San Pasqual S.(G2); 2nd Gold Cup at Santa Anita(G1), Awesome Again S.(G1), Clark H. (G1), Fayette S. (G2); 3rd Stephen Foster H. (G1), San Antonio S.(G2)
At 5: 1st Jockey Club Gold Cup(G1), San Antonio S.(G2); 3rd Dubai World Cup(UAE-G1), San Pasqual S.(G2)
At 6: 1st San Antonio S.(G2); 2nd Comma To The Top S.; 3rd Clark H.(G1)
At 7: 1st Brooklyn Invitational S.(G2), Tokyo City Cup(G3); 2nd Cougar II H.(G3)


I agree with this bit of your post, but your choice of Hoppertunity to illustrate the problem was ill-considered.

A horse doesn’t need to stand in KY to succeed, and Hoppertunity stands at a top stallion station in MD (not PA). His first two crops totaled 156 foals–probably many more than he’d have had standing in KY–and more than enough to get him off to a good start.

Unfortunately his results so far have been underwhelming. He has 31% starters from foals of racing age, 13% winners, and 1 blacktype winner. His average earnings per starter is $22,000 which means that pretty much everyone who has bred to him thusfar is losing money. His offspring may turn out to be as sound as he was, but if they don’t get to the races in the first place, it won’t matter.


A lot off a stallions reputation as a sire depends on the quality of the mares brought to him. With a low stud fee, he gets mares of lesser ability. It would behoove a breeder to restrict his book to mares with a proven record, but this cuts the number of stud fees and that is loss $.



and actually, Laurie B, Hoppertunity entered stud in 2019… in Pennsylvania. He wasn’t moved to Maryland until after the consolidation to Maryland in mid to late 2020. The majority of what we are seeing from his early runners were bred in PA.
I have looked through the broodmare data for a lot of the dams of his foals. They are/were typically PA based mares that typically last raced at PARX/Penn National or similar and were just hard knocking claiming horses. I have yet to find one mare bred to him that was “special”. But I am not entirely through the list yet.

Again, I firmly believe that a stallion is only as good as the mares offered to him. He entered stud in PA for a miniscule fee despite his prolonged and successful career.
He has covered 300 mares in his first three seasons, I am sure all of them are not duds. But we have to take into account that he has stood at a relatively bargain price in an area that often offers less quality than lets say the Kentucky based stallions are getting.
Send the boy some quality mares and give him a chance.

Add some spice to the fire; he is quite the looker himself. Clean legged and sound, just as his advertisement states.
Hoppertunity – Northview Stallions


With a high stud fee, or a restricted book, he gets no mares (except those owned by the farm). How does that help him?

The horse has had two, reasonably full, books. That gives him a chance to show what he can do. Hopefully his offspring will be successful in state-bred company.


He sure is handsome!

1 Like

Great idea. Since you’ve made it sound so easy, why don’t you buy some quality mares and get that started?


As we were discussing—

At least they are responsibly retiring him from racing instead of dropping lower in the claiming ranks.

Some of these hard-knocking horses end up making great sporthorse sires, even if they don’t establish a legacy of siring crops full of G1 winners.

For those who like a horse with a lot of blood, it could be worth keeping an eye on the offspring. Spectacular Bid was one who was a huge disappointment as a sire of racehorses, but his get and their descendants became quite popular among the sporthorse crowd. Another longtime favorite of a lot of people on COTH was Say Florida Sandy, a NY-bred who won 33 of 98 starts lifetime, many of them stakes. He won over $2 million and retired sound.


He’s a G1 winner of 1.5M with a good pedigree. His stallion deal will be much more lucrative than running in claiming races.


@snaffle1987 Playing devil’s advocate:

Why hasn’t Hoppertunity achieved the success of Jump Start or Not for Love’s first two crops with the same mare population?

I am Hoppertunity’s biggest fan. Fun fact: I have typed his name so many times on my phone over the years that my autocorrect changes “opportunity” to his name. :woman_facepalming: It’s still early in his breeding career. But I’m not sure he is the hill you want to die on.

The thoroughbred breeding industry isn’t perfect- not by a landslide. But there are reasons things are done the way they are done. The main reason why a money: no, not greed. I mean being able to pay your bills. No amount of yelling at the wind will change the economic situation.


I found this interesting:

Up until now, however, data provided by TJC does not indicate an increase in unsoundness strictly related to breeding decisions. Foals continue to start at the rate they once did on a percentage basis. Foal crops from 2008-17 have a marginally higher start rate (almost 74%) compared to those from a decade earlier (just over 71%). The percentage of foals racing at age 5 and up is 32% for foal crops from 2008-17, also just above those from prior decades.

I don’t disagree with anything in the article, but I also think everyone in the industry needs to stop pointing fingers trying to place blame on someone other than themselves. There are 1,001 things that can happen to racehorses that predispose them to soundness issues and breakdowns and everyone is guilty of knowingly or unknowingly contributing to at least a few handful of them at one point or another.

No, it’s not good for the breed when buyers only want offspring from the same 5 stallions. But also, it’s not good for the breed if the annual foal crop drops to 1000 because no one else can afford to breed except for royalty.

I’d really like to see data on corrective surgeries and breakdowns, too, because while you may see a relationship, I suspect you would also see there are just as many or more breakdowns in horses who never had any sort of surgical intervention.

Anyway, those are just my thoughts after reading the article.


Laurie, you are ever so accurate!


Of course, and that makes the choice even more logical.

1 Like

Yes to the part I bolded ^^^. I have been wanting to see the JC step up and do something about this issue. My idea isn’t much, but it’s this:

  • Keep records of when and why the horse retired.
  • If the horse retired due to injury, an asterisk with short info (*retired racing injury) or (*RRI) would be automatically put by the name and more info on the injury could be obtained from the JC website.
  • If the horse retired sound, the name stays the same.

Over time, breeding lines will start showing up where some lines have more * than others. Owners who want to have their investment in a horse not include devastating losses due to injury, may pay attention and the “injury lines” may become less popular?

One would hope… But that’s just me.


Doubt you are alone in those ideas.

On the dark side, I read RD has his license back in some jurisdictions.

I don’t quite understand why you feel the need to be so snarky and rude. You can’t deny that my opinions on this subject do offer some weight in the discussion. Maybe Hoppertunity is in-fact a dud. A bit early to tell to be honest. I am just using him as an example of a war horse who maintained success at the upper echelon of the racing + retired sound and clean legged and yet he was only welcomed into a regional market for a measly stud fee. Excellent for the breeders looking to affordably breed to such a horse. You clearly can’t see I am using Hoppertunity strictly as an example


Texarkana, I was using Hoppertunity strictly as an example. I am not saying he should be successful with said population of mares. I am only indicating that he raced for many years, 34 starts, 4.7 million in earnings and the best stud deal this country could offer him was a regional market for cheap. I am not here to debate his success thus far or projected success.

Also, Not for Love entered stud in Maryland in 1996. Far cry from the current state of “mare populations” and TB breeding in Maryland, or the northeast/mid-atlantic for that matter.

And Jump Start actually entered stud in KY, first and was moved out of KY to PA 7 years later before being exported. A lot of his highest earners are from his time in KY. If you look at the dams of some of his highest earners, they are far from mares pulled out of the claiming ranks at Parx. Stakes runners and winners, multiple black-type producers.

This thread is about soundness and breeding for soundness. MY point in Hoppertunity is we have a highly successful horse who ran for 34 starts and earned 4.7 million and the industry is unwilling to set him up for success because he isn’t “sales boutique” for the market.

Sure, a lot of questions still. But it thinks if we look back on the last 5-10 years of discussion on the topic; there has been a lot of weight on training, age of training, previous injuries, amount of races, age,… when considering soundness and/or breakdowns. There has been little, if any, push to identify gaps in the breeding market. So because of that; I think the article is a great place to start. Especially considering the opinions within said-article are coming from someone who was once at the helm of a large breeding establishment.

Might be very hard to create investigations on specific genetic lines but I do think there needs to be more focus on inbreeding. We are narrowing the gene pool immensely . Might be imperative to be documenting and investigating each injury and start looking back in a horse’s history to understand potential trend lines. Again; would take time and $$ to do but if they truly want to better the long term viability of the breed and its sustainability; there needs to be more focus on soundness and quality of life.

1 Like