Unlike stallions, who produce their sperm ‘on the run’, mares are born with all their eggs on board. In many cases, the quality of the sperm of old stallions can diminish, however a mare’s ova are not affected by the age of the mare.
— Jane Henning / ANZ Bloodstock News

Jane Henning writes for ANZ Bloodstock News that Denman’s fifth straight win in the Group One Golden Rose on the weekend has brought his breeding further into the spotlight.

While the fact that he is by the up and coming sire Lonhro hasn’t escaped anyone, that he is out of the Vain mare, Peach, is our point of interest here. Peach, now an 18 year old, missed for the first time in her breeding career when served on the foaling heat last season on 12th December.

Denman was the eleventh of thirteen consecutive foals produced by this gal. The last is a yearling full brother to Denman.

Many buyers are prejudiced against buying old broodmares, believing that their progeny are somehow genetically lower in quality than their earlier siblings.

Unlike stallions, who produce their sperm ‘on the run’, mares are born with all their eggs on board. In many cases, the quality of the sperm of old stallions can diminish, however a mare’s ova are not affected by the age of the mare.

What can be misleading is that in the case of a mare whose uterus is compromised by age (blood supply to the placenta, cysts etc), the foal may not be properly nourished in the womb. This will be evident by the condition of the foal at birth. Therefore, if an older mare gives birth to a healthy looking foal, it is pretty safe to say that it will have just the same genetic chances as its older siblings.

Another aspect which has turned breeders off older mares is the statistic that the majority of stakes winners come from younger mares. While that is true, what needs to be considered on this point is that this is proportionate with the lower number of old mares still regularly producing!

The reasons for this are that many are culled from the breeding barn if not producing commercial stock. The remaining older mares usually have black type progeny or impeccable bloodlines deeming them worthy of further investment.

Over the years, 16 year old – plus mares (up to 23) have produced the likes of Man O’War, St. Simon, Stockwell, Native Dancer, Nearco, Damascus, Buckpasser, Halo, His Majesty (dam sire of Danehill), Klairon, Irish River, Alibhai, Bernborough and more recently Royal Academy, Bellotto, King’s Best, Geiger Counter, Soviet Lad, Street Cry, Xaar, Piccolo, Commands, Octagonal, Pins, Bianconi, Clangalang and Twining.

The benefit in buying a mare older than 13 years is that they are cheaper based on the above misconceptions. A fertile, healthy old dame can certainly be worth the punt!