West Otago’s Arden Lodge is keen to put the last harness racing breeding season behind them.
“We had a bad year. We had seven foals that didn’t make it for seven different reasons. You definitely get some highs and lows in this business, and you just have to learn to ride out the lows,” said John Stiven.
As a result of the challenges, Arden Lodge is offering just four yearlings at next month’s NZB Standardbred National Yearling Sale in Christchurch.
The number may be small, but Stiven is excited by the quality of stock, and so is NZB’s Cam Bray.
“Cam did an inspection the other day and said it was a small but quality draft.”
John and Judy Stiven with their Arden Lodge operation are one of the biggest Standardbred breeders south of the Waitaki with fifteen mares on the books.
Based in Tapanui, this small town has produced two prominent harness names in the last four decades – Stiven and Lischner.
John Lischner was the town’s butcher and a small time trainer. He became New Zealand’s leading trainer in 1997 and 1999 when later based in Canterbury.
John Stiven’s parents Doug and Noreen operated a milk run in Tapanui and started breeding from their first mare Stormy Star (Stormyway) in 1969.
In 1974 they registered the name ‘Arden’ (a name that John believes came from the television series Doctor Findlay’s Casebook). Doug passed away in 2001 and John helped his mother to continue the Arden operation, doing the hands on work and also in an advisory capacity. Noreen passed away in 2012.
John began his working life as a carpenter and worked at local sawmills. In 2005 he formed Deloraine Timber, a business that takes timber orders and manages the product from the sawmill to the client.
The Arden name has been around for a long time now and millionaire pacer Arden Rooney (Bettor’s Delight) has been the brand’s biggest flagship.
“He went to the Sales and didn’t attract a bid. Grant Payne was happy to take him for us and he went on to win a New Zealand Cup. We’ve had a lot of success with horses that haven’t sold at the Sales.
After winning twenty one races Arden Rooney is now an ambassador for the HERO programme in Victoria.
“He’s been taught to do quite a few tricks so he’s a bit of a legend off the track as well.”
Back to the present, and Arden Lodge’s draft for the Sales.
“Our four yearlings are by new stallions and that has been done on purpose.”
The first yearling to sell is a colt by trotting stallion En Solitaire out of the Sundon mare Surfin Sunsation.
Surfin Sunsation has left two foals of racing age including She Aint No Angel (Love You) which has won two races for Brad Williamson. Her other foal, filly Celtic Arden (What The Hill), has had one start as a two year old for Robert and Jenna Dunn.
Stiven says he’s happy the Surfin Sunsation colt will sell after Lex William’s En Solitaire colt. “The one’s that miss out on him will be wanting to go for this one. I like the length of him, and he’ll have a heck of a stride for that reason. The buyers seem to like trotters long in the body. He’s an early foal, the first to be born at Macca Lodge last season. He’s a corker.”
Stiven points out that the colt has a lot on his pedigree page.
“His mother is a three quarter sister to Allegro Agitato, and he’s very closely related to Con Grazia Love (Love You) which won the Trotting Oaks and finished fourth in the New Zealand Trotting Derby. This colt is also closely related to Midnight Dash (Muscle Hill) who’s doing a good job. En Solitaire has the Ready Cash – Love You cross and is from one the best families in France and it sounds like those that have his oldest crop in New Zealand are pretty happy.”
The Stiven’s first pacing lot at the Sales is a Downbytheseaside filly out of Ardenart (Artsplace).
Of the mare’s five foals to race, four have been winners including Liberal Arden (Sir Lincoln) eight wins, Designer Arden (Rocknroll Hanover) three wins, Rockahula Arden (Rocknroll Hanover) one win, and Stellar Arden (Better’s Delight) two wins.
Stiven says the Downbytheseaside filly is not overly big, but that she’s got a two year old look about her. “I think she’s thrown more to Artsplace than Downbytheseaside. She’s a nice compact filly that someone will have some fun with.”
The yearling John and Judy are most excited about is their Captaintreacherous colt out of Arden’s Choice (Panspacificflight).
“He’s our top lot. He’s the first colt out of the mare. Captaintreacherous is just the hottest thing on the planet. This colt is going to attract a lot of interest. He’s a real athletic looking horse and I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t sell well. We’re really excited to be taking him to the Sales.”
Arden’s Choice won seven races including the Group One Caduceus Club Classic. She ran second in the Group One Two Year Old Diamond and second in the Group Two Ladyship Stakes. She took out third placings in the Auckland Cup, the New Zealand Oaks, the New Zealand Sires Stakes for Two Year Olds, the Northern Oaks and the Queen of Hearts.
Their final lot is a Captaintreacherous filly out of Real Wings (Badlands Hanover) named Worldly Arden.
“She’s a bigger Captaintreacherous. There are only four fillies by ‘Captain’ selling in Christchurch and she’s the last one to sell. I’m sure buyers will have good look at her during the couple of days she’s there. She’s got good residual value for later on. We all know how good this family is.”
Real Wings has left Arden’s Reality (Somebeachsomewhere) the winner of seven races which includes the Group Three Winter Championship at Menangle, Arden Velocity (Bettor’s Delight) and Real Eagle (American Ideal).
This family was developed by the late Dan Cummings of Tuapeka Lodge.
“I used to go to the SBSR meetings with Dan. We’d talk about all sorts of things on the way there and the way back and he mentioned one day that he was scaling back and that he had eleven mares he was going to offer for sale. I said to him that I won’t mind seeing the list before you spread it too wide. I asked for Wave Runner (Live Or Die) but she was taken by the syndicate that raced her. Instead of buying her I ended up buying three others.”
Looking beyond this year’s upcoming Sale, the Stivens are excited about their next crop of yearlings, particularly those by Tall Dark Stranger.
“We were lucky enough to get four mares in foal to Tall Dark Stranger. Venus Serena (Mach Three) and Arden’s Rose (Somebeachsomewhere) both have fillies. We also have colts out of Rocknroll Arden and Arden’s Choice. They are just outstanding looking animals.”
Tall Dark Stranger filly out of Arden's Rose (Somebeachsomewhere)
They have a Captaintreacherous filly out of Southwind Arden (Bettor’s Delight), and two of their mares have colts by Downbytheseaside.
“They’re calling him Seasational in America and I see his book is full and closed in the States. I think he’s going to be kicking some pretty big goals in the next few years. His fee has gone up to $17,500 US and I’m pretty excited about him.”
As John rightly points out New Zealand breeders have access to the best North American bloodlines.
“What used to happen is with stallions like Captaintreacherous and Downbytheseaside you had to wait until someone brought out a son to stand here but these days we have access to the best ones straight off the track. It’ll be a fair bet that Bulldog Hanover will be available here this coming season.”
Looking into the future John admits at some point they’ll have to scale back.
“It’s making sure that we do what is right for us. We’ve managed to find nice homes for some of our mares with people who are starting out. We’ve kept a few fillies on purpose, and we’ve got a couple of young ones that are racing at the moment that’ll end up being broodmares.”
He envisages his future mare numbers being between eight and ten.
“You need more than what you think to produce. Dan always said ‘you’ve got to have twelve to get eight to the Sales.’ You may want to keep a filly and things can go wrong so before you know it, you’re down on numbers. The national average of what’s bred to live foals, is about sixty six percent.”
John has always been one of the driving forces behind the South’s very successful breeding banner Southern Bred Southern Reared. Over the two decades it’s been in operation, the SBSR brand has consistently had Sales toppers.
“As a group we’ve got a few yearlings that are going to be sought after in Christchurch. I think because we’ve worked together everyone got a little bit better at how they bred and prepare for sale. The buyer tour is full again.”
And looking into the future, foals on the ground for next year’s Sale include fillies by Captaintreacherous, Tall Dark Stranger and Capt Midnight, and colts by Tall Dark Stranger (2), Downbytheseaside (2), Lazarus and Father Patrick.
Capt Midnight filly out of Countess of Arden (Net 10 EOM)
Lazarus colt out of Raindowne (Life Sign)
Downbytheseaside colt out of L'oiseau de Nuit
Tricky Woman has been served by Tall Dark Stranger, Southwind Arden by Stay Hungry, Rocknroll Arden by Captaintreacherous, Venus Serena by Tall Dark Stranger, Arden’s Darlin by Always B Miki, Arden’s Choice by Captaintreacherous, Arden’s Rose by Vincent, Countess Of Arden by Always B Miki, Tuapeka Art by Downbytheseaside, L’oiseau De Nuit by Sweet Lou, Raindowne by Vincent, Ardenart by Lazarus, Surfin Sunsation by Zenith Stride, Tosca’s Arden by Downbytheseaside and Arden’s Treasure by Sweet Lou.
So despite a tough 2021 breeding season the Stivens and Arden Lodge have plenty of new opportunities on the horizon.
To view the Arden Lodge draft at this year,s sales click here.
by Bruce Stewart for Harnesslink