Houston’s Story: Breeding a Top Athlete

by Peggy Ingles


©Ron Abrams
Daniel Clasing aboard the Maryland-bred Houston at the 2013 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event

Three-day event riders around the globe know of the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event as one of the top four-star competitions in the world. Competing at this prestigious event is often the goal of many budding event riders and very few make it to the top. There are many aspects that go into being able to compete at the four-star level, but most important, one needs the right horse.

At this year’s Rolex, Maryland’s own Daniel Clasing rode a horse with deep roots in Maryland going back to four generations of world-class athletes. To start with, the Thoroughbred/Anglo-Arabian gelding named Houston has the legendary Reputed Testamony as his sire and the very well-bred Amnesty as his dam. But that is not the end of this story as the pair has a wealth of Maryland connections.

Houston’s breeder is the well-known Ann McKay, whose breeding goals have always been to create an all-around athlete with a cooperative disposition. At her Monkton farm, Ann has bred any number of event horses, along with hunters, dressage horses and show ponies before retiring and moving to Virginia to stay with her daughter, Chris Donovan, who is the current president of the Maryland Combined Training Association.

Dan Clasing himself was raised in Baltimore County and participated in both Elkridge-Harford and Green Spring Valley Pony Clubs. Houston is the second horse Dan has competed through the Advanced level. He currently bases his training business at Ann’s old place, now called Yardley Hill Farm.

What makes Houston such a great athlete? Most horsemen would agree that the answer lies in his pedigree. “Ann’s breeding program started with top-notch horses. They have the physical and mental abilities to do whatever technical things you ask them to do,” Dan explained.

The Thoroughbred Reputed Testimony, Houston's sire, was bred by Bonita Farm in Darlington.

Start with a Top Sire
Houston’s lineage goes back several generations to top Maryland horses starting with his sire, the Thoroughbred Reputed Testamony, who was bred and raised at Bonita Farm in Darlington by the Boniface family. Reputed Testamony raced until he was six, starting 55 times at distances greater than a mile and placing first through third in 26 of those races. He ultimately won three stakes races–the $200,000 Maryland Million Budweiser Classic, the $100,000 Jennings Handicap and the Flintlock Stakes–earning $461,889.

Reputed Testamony stood at U.S. Eventing Olympic gold medalist Denny Emerson’s Tamarack Hill Farm in Vermont, a mecca for event enthusiasts. The stallion was valued for his soundness and quiet temperament and, before his death in 2008, had sired more than a few winners in hunters, jumpers and eventing. Some his well-known get are Bold Testamony, The Patriot, Remeta’s Testamony, Final Testamony, Top Shelf and Irrefutable.

Houston’s grandsire, Reputed Testamony’s sire, is famous in Maryland as the 1983 Preakness winner Deputed Testamony, who died at age 32 last September after having spent his entire life at Bonita Farm. He is the last Maryland-bred to win the Preakness, and still holds a track record set a year later in the City of Baltimore Handicap. Bred and raced by Bonita Farm and Francis P. Sears, he was trained by J. William Boniface his entire career.

Deputed Testamony raced 20 times, with 11 wins and earnings of $674,329. His wins included the Play The Palace Stakes, Preakness Stakes-G1, Haskell Invitational Handicap-G1, Federico Tesio Stakes, Governors Cup Handicap-G3, Keystone Stakes and City of Baltimore Handicap. He was also a two-time track record setter-–one mile at Meadowlands (1:36 1/5) at age two, and the 1-1/16-mile record at Pimlico (1:40 4/5), set when he was four.

His record in the breeding shed is impressive as he is the sire of 17 stakes winners, 12 stakes-placed and 244 winners of $18.5 million. This includes 11 winners of Maryland Million races. He was also a successful broodmare sire with seven stakes winners and 84 winners of $5,691,620.

Houston’s great grandsire, Deputed Testamony’s sire Traffic Cop, also stood at Bonita Farm until his death in 1986. Traffic Cop won nine of 33 starts, including two stakes, and earned $130,195. He also sired five stakes winners. Deputed Testamony’s dam, Proof Requested, won one of four races and earned $1,797. Deputed Testamony was easily the leading offspring of both his sire and dam. After Deputed Testamony retired, the Bonifaces bought a larger farm thanks to their homebred’s winnings.

Reputed Testamony’s dam Remnant was a Maryland-bred daughter of the Thoroughbred Val De L’Orne, winner of the French Derby in 1975.

Houston as a foal

©Patti Schlough
Houston's dam Amnesty, an Anglo-Arabian bred by Ann McKay of Monkton

Add a Well-Bred Dam
Houston’s dam Amnesty is the result of three generations of Anglo-Arabian breeding through Ann’s breeding program. Shown lightly and used mostly as a broodmare, Amnesty was a little short of neck and leg. The choice of Reputed Testamony as a stud was designed to correct those conformational characteristics.

Amnesty today, at the age of 19, is an integral part of an equine-assisted therapy program in Pennsylvania. She is valued for her innate sense of a person’s needs and her quiet, calming and patient demeanor.

Amnesty’s sire is the Anglo-Arabian Quartermaster. This gorgeous dark bay evented under Denny Emerson very successfully and is the sire of several winning eventers, a few of which are full siblings to Amnesty. His get and grandget are still competing across the nation at every level, although he died in 2006.

Quartermaster’s sire was the Maryland-bred Thoroughbred Yankee Lad, who lived his entire life in Maryland. He was bred by Howard County’s James L. Skinner, the last foal of an Argentinean mare, and sired by Rejected, a stakes-winner of $544,500. Yankee Lad was an excellent racehorse; winning stakes races at the age of two, three and four. He ran fourth in the 1968 Preakness and set a track record for 1-1/16 mile at Laurel in the Monumental Handicap.

Yankee Lad was retired to stud after racing, first standing at Linky Smith’s Fountain Green Farm in Harford County, then at the University of Maryland until his death in 1986 (read more about UMD’s

breeding program in this issue!). As a stallion, he is best known as the sire of the Olympic Gold Medal show jumper Touch of Class. “At the time we chose him to breed to, no one knew he would be siring these incredible jumping horses,” said Ann adding, “We just knew he was a nice stallion.”

Quartermaster’s dam was the beautiful Anglo-Arabian Jane Morgenroth, sired by the Arabian Sunset Enzio, whose sire was the famous Arabian stallion, Aazrak. Aazrak and later Enzio founded a dynasty of Arabian-bred horses thanks to Ann’s breeding program, the impact of which is still felt today. Aazrak was featured as The Equiery’s 2007 Maryland Stallion of Distinction. To read more about his talented get, go to the Archives page on equiery.com.


©Leslie Bertram
Maryland breeder Ann McKay

Jane’s dam was the Thoroughbred Paul’s Dream who never raced but produced some high-quality Anglos for Ann in the mare’s later years. Jane, who was named for a dear friend, is considered by Ann to be the best horse and best producer she ever bred. Jane was also a 3/4 sister to the international jumper Crack The Sky, also bred by Ann and sold to the Swedish show jumping team.

Amnesty’s dam was the Anglo-Arabian Quest, a big-bodied bay mare that competed a little and consistently produced horses that excelled in the Olympic disciplines. The Anglo-Arabian Gadd John Dee sired Quest. Aazrak sired Gadd John Dee. Quest’s dam was the Thoroughbred mare Reregret, a broodmare given to Ann, who left an indelible mark on the Anglo-Arabians bred there.

Gadd John Dee was owned by Ann’s daughter Chris and was a very successful eventer on both coasts and sired more than a few competitive event and endurance horses. He was named for the popular Maryland-based veterinarian John D. Gadd.

Gadd John Dee’s dam was Debbie’s Pride, a Thoroughbred with a modest racing record who was also given to Ann and only produced that one foal for her, a horse so outstanding “She owed me nothing after that,” Ann said.


©Holly Erdely
Dan and Houston in dressage warm-up at this year's Rolex Kentucky CCI****

Mix in a Young Rider With Four-Star Dreams
Dan started riding with Ann at an early age on a half-Arabian pony named Whimsical that he purchased from her. Through pony club and Ann, Dan found his passion in eventing and graduated pony club with a C2 rating. His first Preliminary horse was Yardley, who was by the Holsteiner Carlos out of Ann’s Anglo-Arabian mare Jane Morgenroth. With Yardley, Dan eventually completed his first Advanced level horse trials.

Dan bought Houston as a foal, knowing of his promising pedigree and that his predicted size would be suitable for the tall rider. Dan was familiar with the foal’s dam and knowing where the sire was standing, figured that Houston would be just the ticket for an upper-level eventer.

He broke Houston as a two-year-old, and then turned him back out to pasture for a bit more growing time. As a three-year-old, he took him to Olympian Phillip Dutton to assess. Phillip suggested turning him out again to allow him to grow up mentally and physically. At the age of four, Houston started consistent training.

Houston’s easy-going temperament and natural ability made training uneventful in the lower levels, but as they moved up into Preliminary and Intermediate, they hit a plateau. “Houston’s lack of physical strength and maturity really started to show, although he was six or seven by then,” Dan said. “By the fall of his eighth year, when we did the two-star at Fair Hill, he was much stronger,” Dan added. Dan and Houston finished eighth at that first CCI** and competed again at the Fair Hill International at the CCI*** level in 2011 and 2012.

This year, after some prep events early in the spring, Dan and Houston made their way to Lexington, Kentucky where they finished an impressive 21st at their first four-star event. The pair achieved a double clear on the challenging cross-country course, a feat that more experienced horses and riders failed to do.

So what is next for Houston? “In a perfect world, we would go to Burghley and other venues to grab some four-star glory, but that isn’t the most practical plan,” said Dan. “I’ll probably save my money, keep taking jumping and dressage lessons, then go back to Kentucky and try to get a better result,” he explained.

 

©TheEqueiry2013