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Hancock ad aims to ignite book size debate

ARTHUR B. Hancock III, the breeder of Sunday Silence and son of the legendary Bull Hancock, has called for an industry debate about whether the use of large books for stallions ultimately affects the quality of the horses they produce.

He was speaking in the wake of  an extraordinary advert he placed in a thoroughbred newsletter which was headlined: 'What Bull Hancock Really Thought', in response to the fact that his famous father, who developed Claiborne Farm into America's leading stud, is often quoted in promotional material for stallions.

In the advert, Hancock recalled aconversation he had with his father in 1969 about why he had not sent more mares to Bold Ruler, whose stud fee at the time was $100,000 for a book of 38 mares.

'Bull' Hancock's answer was: "Because, son, over-breeding a stallion compromises the quality of the offspring. It has been tried with stallions who got a couple of stakes winners in their first crops and were never heard of again."

Hancock said his father believed too many coverings "diminished semen vitality and was not conducive to producing the soundest and most robust offspring....He said that a stallion should make around 100 covers a year.

"In the early 70s before the days of palpation (physically checking a marefor pregnancy) and ultrasound, that was about 40 mares at 2.5 covers per mare. Today that would be about 75 mares at 1.3 covers per mare."

Even allowing for today's advanced veterinary techniques today's popular stallions would easily exceed 'Bull' Hancock's recommendation, with some covering over 170 mares a year.

Asked why he placed the advert, Hancock said yesterday: "If people want to know what my father said then they should flip a coin and know everything he said - that's the reason I ran it. The great broadcaster Paul harvey had a catchphrase - 'Know the rest of the story'. It's like that."

Arthur Hancock said he could recall a noticeable decline in the crops of one well-known stallion he stood. "If you overcover them, after two or three more crops their foals just fall away , they become weedy. A number of very knowledgeable horsemen have told they they have experienced this also. They stop producing what I would all the heavy hitters.

"This is something the industry needs to debate. You risk saturating the breed with bad horses."

Hancock said his advert was directed at stallion owners in general and not just Coolmore Stud which has linked qualities identified by Bull Hancock to their own own horses when promoting them.  "I love John Magnier – I went to his wedding.

"I don't want this to come across in a personal way andit is not directed at one farm. I see my father quoted often and I juist feel if you are going to print what he said - print everything he said. I am speaking simply about the problem, of overbreeding.  The whole things is bad for the industry."





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