Kentucky Derby winner shows ‘art form’ of breeding

Rick Nichols, manager of Shadwell Farm in Kentucky, the US arm of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid’s breeding operation, is quick to salute the blue-collar origins of Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome.
Exercise rider Willie Delgado takes California Chrome over the track in preparation for the 139th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 15, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. Rick Nichols, manager of Shadwell Farm in Kentucky, the US arm of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid’s breeding operation, is quick to salute the blue-collar origins of the Kentucky Derby winner. Patrick Smith / Getty Images
Exercise rider Willie Delgado takes California Chrome over the track in preparation for the 139th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 15, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. Rick Nichols, manager of Shadwell Farm in Kentucky, the US arm of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid’s breeding operation, is quick to salute the blue-collar origins of the Kentucky Derby winner. Patrick Smith / Getty Images

Rick Nichols is the manager of Shadwell Farm in Kentucky, the US arm of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid’s breeding operation that produced Invasor, the 2007 Dubai World Cup winner.

Nichols was quick to salute the blue-collar origins of Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, who hails from decidedly humble beginnings, especially when compared to many thoroughbred operations today.

“I am sure there are breeders who find California Chrome’s Derby win depressing only because of jealousy,” he said.

“I think it is a tremendous boost for not only breeding in the US, but for breeders everywhere. It shows, no matter what horse you have, you still have a shot. This is what the horse business is all about. Horses, unlike people, show no class discrimination.

“A good horse can come to you whether you are very rich, or if you are working hard just to keep your head above water. Having a lot of money only increases your chances of having a good horse, but it does not guarantee it.

“I think serious breeders respect what California Chrome has done so far. I know Sheikh Hamdan does.”

Shadwell Farm has had great breeding success during the last 29 years, including Sakhee, the 2001 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner, who was produced by Shadwell’s Bahri and Thawakib.

“There’s a particular art form to breeding success. Sheikh Hamdan approves every mating for every mare he owns,” Nichols said.

“Sometimes, he is very adamant about who a mare should be breed to. It comes from experience and maybe even a gut feeling. There is a science to it, because you can study the pedigrees and which ones cross the best with other pedigrees, like which sire has produced the most good race horses when crossed with mares who have a particular sire.

“There is so much that goes into a horse from the time you are scribbling notes on a piece of paper for mating plans until he [or she] walks into the winner’s circle of a major race.

“So many people play a role in his success. One minor mistake along the way can change them from a good horse to an also-ran.

“In general, most Americans will always root for the underdog. Most Americans see it as a channel in which to dream, meaning it gives everyone hope that someday, they may also catch lightning in a bottle.”

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Published: May 16, 2014 04:00 AM

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