Apparently it's a Clone-Free NCHA Futurity

Phil Rapp, with Playboys Ruby Too (at left) and Whats On Tap, the 3-year-old clones of standout cutting mares Playboys Ruby and Tap O Lena.

The trainer of the last clone entered in the 2009 National Cutting Horse Association Futurity said on Nov. 9 that it’s unlikely the mare will compete at the Nov. 21-Dec. 13 event.

“Most likely, that mare will not show at the Futurity,” said Phil Rapp, Weatherford, Texas, cutting’s all-time leading money earner as a rider and one of the industry’s leading owners and breeders. Rapp was referring to Playboys Ruby Too, a clone of Playboys Ruby.

“She’s got some lameness issues that we’re dealing with and it’s most likely that she will not compete,” Rapp explained.

Asked if she might compete as a cutter next year, Rapp said, “That is to be determined, by the severity of the lameness and how she responds to the medication, the time off and how she comes back.”

Waco Bend Ranch, Graham, Texas, owns Playboys Ruby Too and Rapp considered this horse the stronger of two 3-year-old clones he was training for possible 2009 NCHA Futurity competition. The other clone is Whats On Tap, a clone of Tap O Lena, Phil and Mary Ann Rapp’s all-time top earning cutting horse with $502,145. The Rapps own Whats On Tap and Phil Rapp explained that this mare did not progress as a cutter and definitely will not compete in the limited-age cutting pen.

Tap O Lena (Doc O’Lena x Tapeppyoka Peppy x Doc’s Oak) is a 1990 mare. Playboys Ruby (Freckles Playboy x Lenachick x Doc O’Lena) is a 1987 mare and the second-leading all-time producer of cutting horse earners. She won $268,441 during her impressive cutting career and, according to Equi-Stat, has produced 12 offspring that have won $1,593,500, topped by Jack Ruby (DNA) ($257,121; Little Janey Lena ($234,855); Playin CDs ($233,931; and Ruby Tuesday DNA ($218,916).

Rapp had been pleased with the progress shown by Playboys Ruby Too. In fact, until recently, it appeared likely this mare would compete at the 2009 NCHA Futurity, possibly with Waco Bend Ranch manager Ray Baldwin as her rider. Although she was the stronger of the two clones, Playboys Ruby Too never ranked near the top of Rapp’s 2009 NCHA Futurity prospects list.

“She [Playboys Ruby Too] is a cutting horse,” Rapp said. “She cuts, but we need more than a cutting horse [to make it worthwhile for her to compete]. This mare is a twin to a fantastic mare that we had, so she needs to do better than turn both ways.”

Based on his experience with Playboys Ruby Too and Whats On Tap, Rapp expressed his doubts that clones of the older great cutting horses are likely to compete on the same level as the originals. His opinion is based on the “God-given differences" in individual horses and the reality that older horses cut to their success in a different competitive day.

“They are average,” he said, describing Playboys Ruby Too and Whats On Tap. “Anybody that asks me about cloning now, I’d say, ‘Please clone for reproduction, not performance.’ I just don't think the clone can be expected to match the original, as far as performance goes.

“Now, I might be proven wrong and I hope I am,” he added. “I know Boyd Rice is riding a clone [2-year-old clone of Jae Bar Fletch] and he just might win the [NCHA] Futurity. But from what I’ve seen so far with the clones I’ve ridden, they’re going to have to convince me that these clones are going to perform in the contemporary cutting pen.”

That being said, Rapp does believe cloning could serve as an important breeding tool. The genetics, he explained, are an irreplaceable commodity and cloning is a potentially valuable way to carry those gifts forward. He and Mary Ann are anticipating the spring 2010 arrival of an embryo transfer foal by Autumn Acre and out of Playboys Ruby Too. Once he starts riding that foal, Rapp said, he’ll be in a position to express an opinion as to whether or not cloning is a viable option for cutting horse breeders.

“When I see and train that foal, about four years from now I’ll have a better idea,” Rapp said. “Right now, it’s too early.”

Smart Little Lena Syndicate shareholders voted last year not to train any of the five now 3-year-old clones of the 1982-1983 Triple Crown-winning stallion not to compete as cutters. It has investigated the possibility of using them as breeders.

Of course, there are other clones in training and there are also other opinions.

A Doc’s Serendipity clone (Doc Bar x Biltoft’s Poco x Bar Mix) had been entered in the 2009 NCHA Futurity, too, but she was pulled because of a problem with her sight. Based on his experience with this clone, David Brown, Gainesville, Texas,  said it is possible for a clone to compete well. Brown owned Doc’s Serendipity when the late 1974 mare finished as 1977 NCHA Futurity Open Reserve Champion.

Brown purchased his Doc’s Serendipity clone as a yearling at the 2007 NCHA Futurity Sale for $14,000. He described her as “a super horse and very talented.” Brown initiated the clone’s training and had Texas trainer Jaime Beamer work with her on cows as a 3-year-old, but then decided the mare would not be able to overcome an ocular problem.

“She’s got a spot on her eye about the size of your index fingernail,” Brown said. “She kept losing cows on that side and I stopped [training her]. I think she could have been a [NCHA Futurity] finalist horse without that, but I’d just hate to get her beat. There’s no sense putting her in a position that she can’t help.”

The Doc’s Serendipity clone has already produced a High Brow Cat foal. She’ll produce another one, by Metallic Cat, next year, Brown said. While optimistic she’ll perform well as a breeder, Brown said if not for the eye problem, she could have competed well, too. He disagrees with the theory that clones are not suited to compete.

“In this case, I don’t think that’s true,” Brown said. “This is a nice filly. I feel bad about it [not competing, because of her eye], but I still feel like I’m lucky to have her.”

He knows of two 2-year-old cloned cutting prospects that have shown strong early potential and might compete at the 2010 NCHA Futurity in Fort Worth, Brown said.

It is impossible to register a cloned horse at this point, but the NCHA went on record last year in stating that there is no reason a clone cannot compete at an NCHA show, including the NCHA Futurity. So far, no cloned horses have competed at an aged event cutting.