- Created on Monday, 18 July 2011
- Written by Mark Thompson
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Five of the top 10 and 13 of the top 20 all-time cutting stallions, based on earnings of foals through 2010, are deceased but two of those 13 – Smart Little Lena and CD Olena – appear poised to continue long and successful careers as breeders despite dying last year. All-time top reining sire Hollywood Dun It also still produces a few foals each year, despite the fact that he passed away at age 22 in 2005.
Smart Little Lena, who died in November of 2010 at 31, continues to rank as cutting’s No. 2 all-time sire based on foal earnings through 2010, according to Equi-Stat records. CD Olena died at 19 in 2010. He ranks No. 10 on the same list. While those two deaths will certainly impact future top sire statistics, both horses left behind an extensive supply of stored semen. They also both figure to continue producing foals many more years.
“We have a lot of semen and there are people breeding to Smart Little Lena. We feel like the semen is pretty valuable,” said Mike Kelly, manager of the Smart Little Lena Syndicate. It has continued gradually disbanding since the stallion’s 2010 death.
At this point, Smart Little Lena is no longer “promoted” as a breeding stallion, but he left behind a large supply of semen, plus a few clones. His legacy will certainly continue.
Each of more than 50 Smart Little Lena Syndicate shareholders, who are not associated with the stallion’s clone owners, are entitled to 42 straws of semen. Each straw could produce eight foals, Kelly said. There is one fairly significant glitch, he added. At this point, Smart Little Lena semen is only available for use through a more expensive but also reliable single-cell injection method.
“We ran out of the regular semen and we had to go to single-sperm injection,” Kelly said. “We quit advertising, especially when we started shutting the syndicate down. There are some shareholders that have frozen semen that are promoting selling his semen.”
At this point, Smart Little Lena semen is sometimes available at a fraction of its prior price. The catch is purchasers must also arrange and pay for single-cell injections, too.
“You have to go to Colorado State University or Texas A&M University or a couple of places in Weatherford, Texas, that will do the single-sperm injection. It’s not cheap,” Kelly said. “It ranges anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000.”
Some Smart Little Lena shareholders are still breeding their own mares with his semen. Some are selling it and some are holding on to it for the future, when prices for single-sperm injections might decrease and the demand might increase.
“As far as I know, there’s no expiration date on it,” Kelly said. “As long as it’s frozen and kept properly, then you can keep it forever.”
With a supply already limited to stored semen, due to complications associated with his advanced age, Smart Little Lena still ranked sixth among all cutting sires based on the combined money earned by all his foals in 2010, according to Equi-Stat records. Cutting horses sired by CD Olena ranked seventh in 2010 earnings. CD Olena also appeared to be just reaching his prime as a top cutting sire when he died at age 19 in August of 2010.
Bar H Ranche, and it’s Tennessee-based owner Bobby Pidgeon, had leased CD Olena, seemingly in great health at the time, to veterinarian Dr. David Hartman, Whitesboro, Texas, during early 2010. Hartman bought a lease extending through 2013 and stood the stallion at Hartman Equine Reproduction Center in Whitesboro, Texas, last year.
The good news is CD Olena’s final handlers stored a large supply of his semen before the stallion died and it’s still available. “We do have a substantial supply of his semen and we will continue to breed him,” Hartman said. Asked about CD Olena in May, a Hartman employee said, “We have shipped out quite a few doses this year already.”
The news was not as good during October of 2001 when Bob Acre Doc, still ranked No. 12 among cutting’s all-time sires, died at age 20. His death followed his first and only breeding season for Slate River Ranch owner Glade Knight in Weatherford, Texas.
Bob Acre Doc, the first marquee stallion purchased by Slate River Ranch, produced his top-earning all-time foal, 2002 stallion Autumn Acre (Bob Acre Doc x Autumn White x Smart Little Lena), a career earner of $290,236 as a cutter, during his only breeding season at Slate River Ranch. Bob Acre Doc, a career earner of more than $418,926, appeared poised to make an even bigger name for himself as a sire the next several years.
“Bob’s death was very untimely,” Knight said. “I though he was a great sire that didn’t have quite the opportunity at breeding to some of the great mares. What John [Mitchell, Slate River Ranch’s manager then and through late 2010] and I had intended to do was finish off some of his commitments. Then we were going to shut him down [to outside horses] and breed exclusively to our mares at the ranch.”
“Then, he passed on,” Knight said. “We didn’t collect. We didn’t save any of his semen. Susan [Bob Acre Doc’s prior owner, Suzan Cardwell, Houston, Texas] had some. She did have a couple of straws. Not a major amount.”
Bob Acre Doc sired a few more foals after his death, through 2004, according to American Quarter Horse Association records, but none were big cutting winners.
“The first real superstar I had was Bob Acre Doc,” said Knight, whose Slate River Ranch ranked as cutting’s leading owner and breeder of horses last year. “It was pretty devastating [when Bob Acre Doc suddenly died]. We did breed as many as we could to him that one year. We didn’t anticipate losing him.”
Asked if he considered storing Bob Acre Doc semen in 2001, Knight said, “We didn’t really think about it. We just thought we’d have him. There was adequate technology to have done it at that point. We just anticipated having him as a nice stud for our ranch and our mares, but we never stored any of his semen.”
While Knight said he’s not opposed to stallions continuing to breed after their death, he added in his opinion, once they pass on, it’s time for other stallions to replace them.
“I think there are so many absolutely wonderful stallions that are out there,” Knight said. “Everybody is looking for the next one. I don’t know how successful it will be hanging on to a Bob Acre Doc or a Smart Little Lena. Personally, I think you have a good longevity of your studs and they prove themselves, then that will pass on.”
When a stallion dies, Knight said it’s usually just time for another one to replace him.
“That’s kind of my feeling, but it might go against the trend in the industry,” Knight said. “There’s generally a feeling that it [a unique sire] is irreplaceable. I think there’s some mystique there. If you have a great cross that has really worked, you might go back. We [Slate River Ranch] tried to reproduce that [with a few doses of Bob Acre Doc semen secured from his prior owner] and were not successful. We were not lucky enough to get any of our mares in foal.”
National Reining Horse Association Hall of Fame trainer and rider Tim McQuay, Tioga, Texas, has enjoyed considerable success riding offspring sired by his favorite horse, top all-time reining sire Hollywood Dun It.
Hollywood Dun It (Hollywood Jac 86 x Blossom Berry x Dun Berry) died in 2005, but he’s continued to produce a few foals each year since then while becoming the first reining stallion to sire earners of more than $6 million.
Testicular cancer affected Hollywood Dun It late in his breeding career and most of his foals were bred using stored semen the last two years of his life, McQuay said.
McQuay and and his wife, Colleen, and their longtime ownership partner with Hollywood Dun It, Jennifer Easton, St. Mary’s Point, Minn., prepared for the inevitable and remain glad they did. Hollywood Dun It continues to produce a few foals each year for the McQuay and the Easton families. Between the two ownership groups, they’ve “probably got enough left for 150 breedings,” McQuay said
“We were real fortunate with him that his semen was strong,” McQuay said. He also sees no reason not to continue riding and promoting Hollywood Dun It foals, at least on a limited basis. McQuay occasionally still sells a Hollywood Dun It breeding and uses the rest of his allotment on three of his own mares that cross well with the deceased stallion.
“The one I took to the World Games last year [Hollywoodstinseltown, a 2004 stallion (Hollywood Dun It x Miss Tinseltown x Great Red Pine)], he was from frozen semen. He’s done a lot [earning $178,156 so far]. We’ve also got a 3-year-old this year that’s a great prospect. It feels kind of funny [when McQuay rides a foal sired by Hollywood Dun It after his death], but I’ll have Hollywood Dun Its the rest of my riding life.”