Cran recently featured in the NZ Standardbred Breeders' Association's Breeding Matters magazine.
He gives a full run down on what he looks for in a yearling and how racetrack stars Krug, Bit Of A Legend, Bettor Joy and Smiling Shard caught his eye.

As each new year comes so does Cran Dalgety’s search for his next racetrack star and there is only one place he looks. 

Dalgety admits he does not just study the catalogue for the NZB Standardbred National Yearling Sales each year, he starts sleeping with it when the calendar turns to January.

The establishment of NZB Standardbred and its ability to offer a high-quality product, combined with the trainer’s excellent record of selecting quality racehorses from the sale ring means there is nowhere else Dalgety will go to look for his next equine star.

“The quality is there in terms of the pedigrees and the horse constitution and we can go to the sales knowing we will come home with excellent stock.”

“There are plenty of variables and we don’t always walk away with what we thought we might be getting but every trainer is the same.”

“But the standard of horse available means we can go there with a bit of confidence that we will be bringing home some very nice horses.”

It may sound simple, but of course, a lot of study and many judgement calls that go into Dalgety going home from the Karaka and Christchurch sales with the horses he wants.

Like any trainer, he has his own set of rules that a yearling must be tested against.

The catalogue provides the starting point.

A yearling’s pedigree page must stack up for the horse to be headed to Kentuckiana Lodge. 

“We work on a bit of the Bart Cummings theory that you are better to buy an ugly one with a good pedigree than a flash one with a poor pedigree,” Dalgety said. 

A yearling’s skeletal and muscular confirmation is arguably the most talked-about aspect of a yearling on sales day.

And deservedly so as the correct and powerful types with pedigrees to back up their looks get knocked down for the highest prices. 

Naturally, Dalgety is looking for the perfect specimen in that regard, like so many other trainers.

One aspect of a horse’s confirmation that Dalgety puts a strong amount of stock in is constitution.

That part of physically assessing a yearling does not get as much airtime but is vitally important according to the trainer.

And thankfully he will be bidding in a place in the world where the country’s green pastures and rolling countryside mean few horses miss out on the chance to develop into strong and capable racehorses.

“Constitution is very important, in terms of a horse’s nutritional background,” Dalgety said. 

“A yearling needs to present like it has had every opportunity in the world.”

“It can’t have taken a backwards step in its life because if you start on the back foot you will never catch up.

“We are asking these animals to do some powerful things and they need to be able to stand up to them.

“The good thing for us is there are plenty that measure up.”

”Temperament is another aspect that Dalgety assesses before deciding whether a yearling makes his buying list.

Krug passed that test with flying colours in 2019 and was knocked down to Dalgety for $155,000 from the Smolenski Stables draft.

“His top two inches were 12 months ahead of anything else.”

“He had a wonderful temperament that was going to stand him in good stead.”

Millionaire pacer Smiling Shard fitted into the same category.

“He just had an incredible attitude, he was almost human,” Dalgety said. “I have never had a horse like him, he tried his guts out.”  

“He was up and going in the Young Guns as a two-year-old and he was still going strong in the Hunter Cup and the Interdominions.”

Size also matters, which is clear considering Bit Of A Legend and Smiling Shard were not exactly towering types.

Dalgety, like so many trainers, looks for early running types and his success rate of producing two-year-olds suggests he does a pretty good job.

Former leading filly and now top class North American mare Bettor Joy is an example of that.

“She was a compact sort of filly and one that we thought would get up and running pretty early.”

“She ticked all the boxes, really.”

Though Dalgety clearly has a strong set of rules to separate his purchases from the pack, rules are meant to be broken.

That was the case when he bought star two-time group 1 Breeders Crown winner Bit Of A Legend. 

“We are all trying to find the rule book for buying yearlings, but it doesn’t exist.”

“I had had a lot of success with the family and that was what drew me to Bit Of A Legend more than anything else.

“He wasn’t your typical standout yearling. To be honest, halfway through breaking him in we would have liked to have sent him back.

“But it wasn’t long until he was away and he went on to win two and a half million dollars.”

Dalgety hopes his assessment of his six 2020 purchases is backed up by their efforts on the track.

It is a case of so far, so good.

Casino Prince, a Bettor’s Delight colt from American Ideal mare Super Deal, got the Kentuckiana Lodge Class of 2020 off to a perfect start when winning the first two-year-old race of this season at Alexandra Park in January.

“He is in the well above average category,” Dalgety said. 

“He is built like a bull, he is made to be a racehorse.”

“He has a great constitution and we actually have a good problem with him in that he takes a little bit more work than usual to get him fit and ready.”

Dalgety also stepped fillies Misti Gaynor and Chevrons Bypass out in the first fillies events this season.

Misti Gaynor, a Sweet Lou Filly from Cyzani, impressed with her runner-up effort behind Artisan. 

Chevrons Bypass, a Captaintreacherous filly from Bettor’s Delight mare Capture My Heart, ran fifth after a tough trip sitting parked throughout. 

Dalgety is not far away from stepping out Republican Party at the races.

The standout colt by Bettor’s Delight from the American Ideal mare Democrat Party has impressed in two trial efforts.

Dalgety has also had Ajira, a Bettor’s Delight colt from Christian Cullen mare Allura, at the trials. 

The trainer will be ringside at Karaka and Christchurch as he seeks out his next version of Krug, Smiling Shard or Bit Of A Legend. 

The trainer will be buying for his long-time clients as well as holding shares for syndication.

“The countdown to the sales has well and truly begun” 

“We have been up north and all over Canterbury and we have seen plenty that we have liked.”

“It will be down to Southland next and then we will have a pretty good picture of what we are after.”

“I will be buying for our existing clients but we are getting enquiries from people all the time.”

“They can be looking for a good slice in a horse or right down to owning a couple of hairs in its tail.”

“Syndicates are certainly a big factor these days and we make a point of trying to accommodate anyone regardless of their budget.”

by Jonny Turner

Read the entire Breeding Matters magazine here: