Hi there,

Welcome to issue #4 of Insider Access.

Released every 2 weeks, Insider Access showcases insider rumors and commentary in the worldwide harness racing industry.

Each issue includes an exclusive Stallion review not available anywhere else - this week we review Shadow Play.

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The below notes are the express opinions of columnist Steve Wolf and do not represent the opinions of Harnesslink.

Too many world records to deal with

When Sebastian K tied the world record for older horses in 1:50.1, it was truly an amazing effort. First start out of the box after eight months, first time American soil, wore no horse shoes, never whipped, never kicked or “nudged”, hung to dry and just kept trotting on. His time was still slower than Enough Talk’s 1:49.3 effort.

It’s one thing to have records for half mile, five-eighths and mile tracks. One has four turns, one has three turns and one has two turns, and, of course, Colonial Downs races from a chute so I guess it has really just one turn.

But a record for geldings over horses? Come on now. I know in the past in order to grab more headlines they allowed records to be broken down to age, gender, trot or pace, but forget about gelding records. They are a horse, same as a stallion, only difference is that one can bred and one cannot, thus the track records need only reflect the time of the race, not if the animal is altered or not. Or else go back in time and figure out all the records for ridglings too and then spayed mares, horses with white feet, etc.

If any older horse (age 4 or up) can tie or break Enough Talk’s 1:49.3 record, then they should rightly become the world record holder. We really need to take out all the other nonsense records.

Jack Darling fund raising for national TV race broadcasts

The kudos have got rightly out to Jack Darling for stepping forward and personally spearheading the movement that has raised more than $100,000 for broadcasting some of our top races nationally but we cannot end it there. We need to think of down the road like next year and the next three years and the next five years.

We need a non-partisan committee formed, and not with the USTA or Standardbred Canada, but a private one of some (but not too many) of our industry experts in this field who can take what Jack Darling has started and run (trot or pace) with it.

Jeff Gural, Myron Bell and others have preached about taking a percentage of purse money (1%, 2%, 3%...I think 5%) before it is raced for and deposit it right into a special account for national marketing and broadcasting of our premier races and developing a series of events over a set number of weeks, etc.

This would be the best way to hopefully create new interest in our sport both from participation in increasing ownership and pari-mutuel wagering. We are decades behind in getting this done but it is never too late to get started. And the percentage will never really be missed as it is taken out before you get your check. Do this in every single race and before you know it we would have the money to help promote our industry and help get it to grow and prosper.

Please, no talking after the post parade

It’s a rule that has been in harness racing for a long time. Drivers are not to talk with one another after the post parade while on the track. It just implies of possible collusion to the betting public. In most cases it just two drivers shootings the breeze before a race, but it is still wrong, especially when they are seen doing so by thousands of people who have wagered tens of thousands of dollars on the upcoming race.

But there they were, Yannick Gingras and Corey Callahan, yacking it up in the backstretch before the $175,000 final of the Cutler Memorial, cameraman focused right in on them chatting away before they had to get behind the starting gate. Maybe they got away with it, maybe they won’t, but it was wrong guys and you both should know better. We need to paint a perfect picture of integrity at all times and this was not one of them. I believe that both Gringras and Callahan are beyond reproach but it did not look good at all on Saturday night.

By Steve Wolf

Well under the radar in New Zealand and Australia – Big Jim

Every season at this time of the year when the stats come out for the latest breeding season, there are always one or two stallions whose numbers cause you to shake your head with disbelief.

The one that has me completely baffled from the latest stats released is the lack of interest in the brilliant Western Ideal stallion, Big Jim. In the last breeding season he served just 46 mares in New Zealand and 23 in Australia. When you look at his speed pedigree and racetrack performance this is hard to fathom. His pedigree is full of speed, speed and more speed.

His sire Western Ideal is a noted speed sire and is a proven sire and sire of sires in Australasia. His first crop of ten foals via frozen semen raced as three year olds in New Zealand this season and produced such quality individuals as Raksdeal, Western Power, Jango Fett and Gentle Western. His son American Ideal is an established sire world-wide and served another huge book in Australasia in the season just concluded so it can't be any doubts about Western Ideal that is holding Big Jim back.

The maternal pedigree of Big Jim would not be considered "blue blood" but the first three dams all have one thing in common, Speed. His third dam is Sea Pine $114,077 and went 1:56.2 back in the seventies when that meant something. The grand-dam Cool Pink $149,295 went quicker again with a time of 1:54.2 while the dam of Big Jim, Bold Pink $216,852 was the quickest of them all with a mark of 1:51.3. The fact that Bold Pink was a member of the prized Hanover Shoe Farm broodmare band is a good indication of her quality. So the pedigree of Big Jim is one of extreme speed and he brought that to the track himself in large doses.

He faced the starter just ten times at two for six wins and three places for $834,080 in stakes. His best wins were undoubtedly in the $600,000 Breeders Crown Final in 1:50.4 and in the $709,000 Governors Cup Final in a then world record time of 1:49.1. He was crowned the two year old colt pacer of the year. Back at three, he raced just ten times for four wins and four places for $710,500 in stakes. He won the $400,000 New Jersey Classic Final in 1:51 before finishing a great second in the $1,000,000 Meadowlands Pace, beaten a neck in 1:48.2 and a great third in the $1,500,000 North American Cup, coming from well back with a last quarter in 26.1. He retired to stud with a career record of 20 Starts for 10 wins, 3 seconds, 4 thirds for stakes totaling $1,544,580.

And to cap it all off, Big Jim is a lovely individual in the flesh, a real looker. So despite having all the credentials to make it as a sire, Big Jim has had a stop-start beginning to his siring career. He did serve 110 mares in his first year in Canada, dropping to 65 in year two. His first Australasian season netted him 76 mares in New Zealand and 53 in Australia before this seasons poor numbers stated above.

With his pedigree of extreme speed coupled with his brilliant performances at two, Big Jim has all the attributes breeders look for in a new stallion. Yet for reasons I struggle to understand, he was virtually ignored last year. Time will tell of course if breeders made the right call but it shouldn't surprise anyone if his colts and fillies make a real impact on the breed down under in years to come.

Sulky Sam

Stallion Review - Shadow Play

Artistic Fella
Shadow Play

With the North American harness racing breeding season in full swing we continue with A stallion review series and today we have produced an in depth review for the Canadian stallion Shadow Play.

All statistics shown are as at the 18th of May 2014.

Enjoy the read.


By a son of the great Western Hanover in The Panderosa who has been long established in North America as an elite sire with his stock having earned over $99,000,000 to date from just the 11 crops old enough to race. Shadow Play (1:47.4m) is his fastest son to date and his second richest behind Ponder ($1,686,134).

The dam of Shadow Play is the speedy Matts Scooter mare Matts Filly p2 1:55.3. From ten foals (3yo and older) she has only left one other winner of note and that is the full brother to Matts Filly in Red Shadow 1:52s ($107,650). A Western Hanover daughter though has produced the talented Eagle Way 1:52.3f ($601,937).

The second dam is the Warm Breeze mare Breezes Girl p3,1:57 who from six foals left two $100,000 winners in Itssilentbutdeadly 1:52h ($155,794) and Matts Got It 1:51m ($143,014).

The third dam is the unraced Oil Burner mare Bit Player who besides Breezes Girl left Play The Dice 1:53 ($213,540). Bit Player is also the great grand-dam of Rock N Roll Star 1:50f ($758,534) and Born To Rockn Roll 1:50f ($237,374) both by The Panderosa.

So there is really very little to recommend Shadow Play in his pedigree as is confirmed by his yearling sale price of just $16,000. This seems to be the new norm these days and breeders should see this as a plus not a minus whenever assessing any new stallion into today’s market.


Raced three seasons from two through to four years of age with very contrasting results. His two year old record was not that good and that is being polite for a stallion. He faced the starter 13 times for 3 wins and 6 placings for just $31,151 in stakes. He did compete at the elite level as a two-year-old though. His best winning time was 1:57.2s but he was placed a lot quicker in 1:51.3 in the Metro Final finishing nine and three quarter lengths back in 6th place behind Somebeachsomewhere who went a 2yo world record 1:49.3 in that race.

Shadow Plays three-year-record is completely the opposite of his two year old record with a string of outstanding performances throughout that year. He faced the starter 25 times for 14 wins and 4 placings winning $1,177,421 and taking a record of 1:48.2f in the process.

Among his best wins were The Little Brown Jug, heat and final in a two-heat world record 1:50h and 1:50.1h closely followed by wins in the $400,000 Adios elimination (1:48.4f) and final (1:50.1f), the $300,000 American National in 1:49.3 and the $275,000 Windy City Pace in 1:50.4h while he had close seconds to Somebeachsomewhere in both the Breeders Crown Final and the Messenger Stakes.

As good a season as it was he was widely regarded as only the third best colt of his year behind Somebeachsomewhere 1:46.4 and Art Official 1:47.

He returned to the track at four and was again competitive at the highest level racing eleven times for 3 wins and 4 placings for a further $351,250 in stake money and taking a life mark of 1:47.4 in the $328,750 US Pacing Championship at the Meadowlands. It is interesting to note that Shadow Play started from the outside post of 7 that day and beat some of the greatest pacers of all time. They included Mister Big ($4,143,492), Art Official ($2,085,185), Bettor Sweet ($2,816,687), Won The West ($3,977,956), Shark Gesture ($2,890,594) and Mecedes ($1,162,630). The combined earnings of that field today is a mind blowing $18,636,366 and that is an average of $2,662,238 per horse.

US Pacing Championship

All up Shadow Play faced the starter 49 times for 20 wins and 14 placings for stakes of $1,559,822. His best time at three was 1:48.4 while his lifetime mark of 1:47.4 was taken at four.


Shadow Play has stood at Winbak Farm in Canada since going to stud. He served books of 163 mares in 2010 (109 foals), 152 in 2011 (75 foals), 89 in 2012(54 foals) and 118 in 2013.

His stock were well received at the yearling sales with one Arthur Blue Chip making $135,000. His sales average overall was a modest $16,000 but was dragged down by the large number sold and the state of the Canadian Industry.

They raced in North America as two year olds in the 2013 season and what a statement they made. He was the leading sire of two year olds in Canada and sixth in North America with stake earnings of $1,750,821. His winners were headed by the aforementioned Arthur Blue Chip 1:51.2s ($400,120) who was ably assisted by the likes of Lady Shadow 1:54.4f ($196,700), Performing Art 1:52s ($190,350), Neferiti Bluechip 1:54s ($131,400), Yoselin Seelster 1:54.2s ($109,432) and Alibi Seelster 1:52.3 ($123,250).

Even though he had such a great debut season, his stud fee was kept at $4,000 for the 2014 season which is an accurate account of the state of the Canadian breeding industry at this time.


Stood at Alabar and was well received in Australia with his first three crops numbering 91, 76 and 70 which gives him every opportunity to shine. It was a bit surprising to see him get the initial support he did as sons of the The Panderosa already available to Australian breeders such as Metropolitan and Ponder have been very average performers to date. I do not believe he would have got very good mares at Alabar that year as the competition was enormous that year. The good mares would have been sent to Art Major, Courage Under Fire, Mach Three and he also had to compete with Art Official, Mister Big etc.

As a result of his outstanding performance in 2013 in Canada he has bred a staggering 375 mares in the current season. In New Zealand he served 80 and in Australia he served 295.

Shadow Play's oldest are two year olds in the present season and he is currently 14th on the two-year-old sires list in Australia. With the recent running of the two $300,000 APG Finals now is the time for the sires to step up to the plate and show what they can produce.

Compared to his North American record Shadow Play is off to a very slow start as a two year old sire in Australia. To date he has only produced 8 winners from those 91 foals.


His biggest problem in the New Zealand market is the poor performance of the only other son of The Panderosa to stand in New Zealand in P Forty Seven. He stood at Nevele R and despite all their help he failed miserably as a sire. Hence Shadow Play only served small books of mares in his initial seasons with his first two foal crops numbering just 19 and 11.

His oldest in New Zealand are two this season and he has had just the three qualifiers to date. Several have been to official trials and workouts and have created a favorable impression. Two of his official qualifiers are from Christian Cullen mares and the other one is from a Presidential Ball mare.


In North America he has left very mature strong looking individuals and they have performed like they look. Has several fillies amongst his leading stake earners so that is a big plus. Service fee in both hemispheres is $4,000 which is great after the season he has had in North America and means you don't have to rob the bank to pay the stud account. That service fee has allowed him breed a staggering 375 mares in the current season Down Under serving 80 in New Zealand and 295 in Australia. When that crop gets to the race track it should make some real impact.


In Australia and New Zealand, he is off to a slow start with only 8 winners to date. It is still too early to make a judgement call. However if they don't front up as early three year olds next season, Shadow Play may struggle for numbers in the 2014/2015 season.


The surprise package in North America in 2013. His first crop did exceptionally well especially since they looked physically like time would be their best friend. In the southern hemisphere they are yet to perform as the Canadian progeny have. They will need to start performing soon or at least in the spring as three year olds or breeders are just as likely to desert him as quickly as they flooded to him.


6 out of 10

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