Which genetics are considered to be among the best in the world by today’s competition standards?
Four pre-eminent stallions that immediately come to mind are Diamant de Semilly, Cornet Obolensky, Baloubet du Rouet, and Casall. All four stallions had brilliant competition careers themselves, and successfully transitioned into sires of Olympic-level performers. Three of the studbooks they represent were also most represented in the Rio start list: the KWPN (Dutch Warmblood) led the way with 17 entries, followed by BWP (Belgian Warmblood) with 12, and SF (Selle Français) with 10 – a significant illustration that German breeders are now being given a run for their money in the showjumping arena!
Baloubet du Rouet
(1989, by Galoubet A) comes first in birth order and was the chestnut SF stallion who wowed audiences under the saddle of Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa: two Olympic Games (2000 and 2004, team and individual medals), historic back-to-back World Cup finals (1998, 1999, 2000), as well as numerous grand prix wins. Baloubet’s jumping career spanned nearly a decade, starting in 1996 with victory in the seven-year-old French national championship with Rodrigo’s father, Nelson Pessoa. Although his first generation of foals was born in 1999, it was only when he retired from competition in 2006 that he was available full-time as a sire.
From an impressive paternal line of showjumpers, Baloubet is a son of Galoubet A (by the legendary Almé), and is approved as a sire by virtually every Warmblood sport horse studbook. Baloubet also appears in the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH) sire rankings (#9), but deserves additional recognition for the fact that his son, Balou du Rouet (1999) is ranked seventh. Baloubet sired five Rio 2016-selected jumpers: Arrayan (ESP); Sydney Une Prince (FRA – team gold); Palloubet d’Halong (QAT); Bonne Chance CW (SUI); and Bonzai (SWE). He grandsired no fewer than eight via his approved son Balou du Rouet: Bisquet Balou C (BEL); Showgirl (CAN); Brilliant du Rouet (COL); First Class van Eeckelghem (GER); Brooklyn (GER); Bianca (SUI); and Babalou 41 (USA).
Diamant de Semilly
(1991, by Le Tot de Semilly) was a member of the historic World Championship gold-medal-winning French team comprising four SF stallions in 2002 Jerez de la Frontera. Also descended from renowned jumping bloodlines, Diamant grew up on the Levallois family farm in Normandy. Bottle-fed as a foal following the death of his dam, he competed throughout his distinguished career with Eric Levallois, who listed his qualities as sensitive, intelligent, huge scope, wonderful balance, supple, powerful, agile … and could be ridden by a child of five!
Diamant is currently #1 in the WBFSH sire rankings, as well as best sire of jumping winners in France, best sire of young French showjumpers, and best French dam’s sire – an impeccable pedigree in every respect and a list of successful offspring too numerous to mention, including six Rio 2016 nominations: Rock’n Roll Semilly (BRA); Prunells d’Ariel (ESP); Utamaro d’Ecaussines (GBR); Tintin de la Pomme (JPN); Quickly de Kreisker (MAR); and Emerald (NED).
(1999, by Caretino) finished sixth individually at the London 2012 Olympic Games with Sweden’s Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and fourth at the Caen 2014 World Equestrian Games. Seemingly destined to finish just off the podium, he qualified for three World Cup Finals (2011, 2012, 2013) and recorded an impressive array of wins at five-star CSI grand prix. His success as a sire, given that he was only retired from top-level competition at the end of 2016, puts him in a meteoric fourth place in the WBFSH rankings (and likely to rise), and was a very young dad to also have three in or nominated for Rio 2016: Casello (GER); Casallo Z (ITA); and The Toymaker (QAT).
(1999, by Clinton) – the great grey wonder – competed for the German team at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong after skyrocketing to success at the German federal championship. However, his name has become even more remarkable for his prepotency in breeding and the quite extraordinary approval of several sons from his very first crop of foals. Some would say his breeding career to date has been unparalleled, and it’s still early days. In Rio 2016 alone, his eight selected sons and daughters outnumbered those of any other sire. They were Cornet du Lys (ARG); AD Cornetto K (BRA); Cornet d’Amour (GER); Cornado NRW (GER); Cornet 36 (JPN); Clooney (SUI); Corbinian (SUI); and Cortani (TUR).
By the end of 2016, auction statistics across the world also showed that Cornet Obolensky ranked highest among ‘bankable’ stallions for offspring sold as well as average and highest prices.
The dressage entry list for Rio 2016 was an illustration that while you can’t breed a jumper from dressage bloodlines, you can breed a dressage horse from jumping lines. Germany’s team gold medallist, the KWPN Cosmo (Van Gogh), proved this hypothesis. But assessing dressage lines from a purist standpoint, the following stand out:
(1995, by Ferro) It would be remiss not to include Negro/ex Novabor as a dressage sire in this top-three list, even though his own competition performances halted at Intermediaire II and his stratospheric rise to ninth place in the WBFSH ranking list is founded on one brilliant son – the record-breaking Valegro. Team and individual gold medallist in London 2012, individual gold in Rio 2016 with Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin, this great sporting ambassador, who has transformed dressage during his career and won the hearts of many adoring fans around the world, retired from competition at the end of 2016, but his bloodline and dressage quality will perhaps live on through full-brother Lelegro, born in 2016, so watch this space.
(1993, by Donnerhall) may not have won Olympic gold, but he has become the benchmark by which dressage breeding superlatives are measured for the Hanoverian ‘D’ line. Vice champion of his own performance test and winner of numerous dressage titles, De Niro’s list of breeding achievements is endless, producing descendants that have themselves become stars of gradings and licensings, champion stallions and mares, as well as young-horse champions of the world. Even as a grandsire, De Niro’s name is indelibly linked to quality and his Olympic success has come through his offspring, six in London 2012 and nine selected for Rio 2016: Du Soleil (AUS); Dicaprio (BRA); Delgado (ESP); Die Callas (GBR); Super Nova II (GBR); Dablino FRH and Desperados FRH (team gold for Germany); Voice (NED); Danilo (USA)… plus one grandson, Zaire BB (GER), as well as being the dam’s sire of Hotline (DEN). An exceptional achievement and well deserved #1 on the WBFSH dressage world ranking.
(1993, by Sandro Song) Skipping over the deceased Gribaldi who had eight Rio 2016 offspring and is WBFSH ranked #2, Sandro Hit is ranked #3, had six Olympic representatives, and has become a foundation stallion of modern times for Oldenburg. An illustrious young-horse career – winning the Six-year-old Dressage World Championship in 1999, he was named the best young stallion of 2000 in Germany. Like De Niro, Sandro Hit’s unique breeding career includes no fewer than 11 federal champions to date, dressage young horse world championship medallists, licensing winners, and his eldest progeny are now successful at grand prix and World Cup level.
Up until a few years ago, breeding eventing horses was viewed as more ‘coincidental’ rather than a well-defined, selective strategy. However, changing competition formats have equalized the three phases to the point where riding a speed merchant no longer guarantees victory. Old competition formats favoured off-the-track steeplechasing Thoroughbreds and while it would be true to say that eventing breeders and riders are still looking for ‘blood,’ it’s the injection of Warmblood that can make the difference between a one-star and a five-star sport horse. In fact, looking at the WBFSH top-10 eventing horses for 2016, there are three Thoroughbreds, all deceased, among a cross-section of showjumping bloodlines. Also, compared to dressage and showjumping, the incidences of one sire being represented by more than one Olympic competitor is rare.
(2000, by Phantomic xx) may only be ranked #195 on the WBFSH year-end eventing sire list, but the fact that he himself competed in Rio 2016 (eighth individually), is sufficient to vault him into the mix as a modern-day eventing sire, especially as few of the previous 194 horses were competitive eventers themselves and/or are now deceased. Now retired from competition, Chilli, a TB/Trakehner cross, was also the first stallion ever to win the world’s most elite eventing competition, Badminton Horse Trials, and also individual world championship bronze in 2014. His Thoroughbred factor (62.89%) sees Northern Dancer xx, the most successful Thoroughbred stallion of the 20th century, in his third paternal generation. His dam’s sire, the very powerful Kolibri, has been a successful cross-discipline producer and earned a reputation as an influential jumper maker.
(1997, by Hand In Glove xx) also represents showjumping bloodlines and has, so far, produced over 30 CSI and CCI winners. He was the ‘Sires of the World’ champion in 2007 and an Olympic show jumping finalist in 2008. A Selle Français with 82.23% Thoroughbred blood, his star is still on the rise, especially as he sired one of double-Olympic champion Michael Jung’s selected entries for Rio 2016, Fischertakinou, a brilliant 10-year-old who has yet to achieve his full potential. Jaguar Mail is currently ranked fourth in the world as an eventing sire, but could rise to the top by the end of 2017.
(1997, by Contender), with no fewer than 29 FEI-level eventers ranked by the WBFSH, this Holsteiner sire deserves his #1 ranking – yet he won his stallion performance test in jumping and was a show jumping prize-money millionaire by the age of 14. Contendro’s sons and daughters (including Mark Todd’s NZB Campino) have also excelled: champion stallions and mares, 86 licensed sons, 98 state-premium daughters, and record-breaking prices for his foals sold at auction. Contendro might appear to be almost an over-achiever for eventing, especially when one considers that over 40 of his offspring compete successfully in advanced-level dressage and he ranks #21 in the world as a show jumping sire! Perhaps the ultimate equine triathlete?
Of course, while these stallions may represent world-class, modern bloodlines, today’s breeders never discount the mare (and her own sire and performance results)
in any breeding equation. In fact, every breeder will gladly admit, even after considering all the variables, that whether they use a world-class sire or choose to invest their money in a ‘young gun’ stallion, there is never any guarantee that the resulting offspring will achieve the desired potential. That’s just the nature of sport horse breeding.