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Book Review

Stud: Adventures in Breeding
by Kevin Conley
from Bloomsbury Pub. Plc., 288 pages hardcover

"The Kentucky Derby is often called the most exciting two minutes in sports; Storm Cat is probably its most expensive thirty seconds." So writes Kevin Conley in his new book Stud: Adventures in Breeding. He takes an in-depth look at the world of horse breeding, from the big-name Thoroughbred farms in Kentucky to more modest operations in California and New Mexico to the "artificial" ways of the Standardbred, and ultimately to harem stallions in the wild. He takes the reader on a tour from Kentucky to Kazahstan and points in between, exploring the history of horse breeding and the history of horse domestication.

Fans of Thoroughbred racing will not be disappointed. Conley visits Overbrook Farm, home of Storm Cat and many of his sons including then-first-year sire Cat Thief. "If you want to meet the farm's entire staff in the next forty seconds, just light a cigarette near Storm Cat's stall." In contrast to Overbrook, he also visits Harris Ranch in Coalinga, California, where 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow's sire Cee's Tizzy resides. Back in Kentucky, the scene changes to Rood and Riddle veterinary hospital where Conley describes in great detail the neurological surgery underwent by Seattle Slew which, at the time, saved his life and his stallion career. He also spent some time discussing mare reproductive loss syndrome, which resulted in severe losses in revenue for many farms a year ago.

Using the sireline of Cat Thief, Conley gives the reader a brief history lesson on the Thoroughbred. Starting with the Darley Arabian, he gives brief descriptions of each stallion on that line, including such luminaries as Eclipse, Phalaris, Nearco, and ultimately Northern Dancer, Storm Bird, and Storm Cat. He also includes quick biographies of some of the important people connected with those stallions such as Lord Derby, Federico Tesio, Charles Taylor, and finally W.T. Young of Overbrook.

He pays a visit to Hanover Shoe Farms in Pennsylvania, America's most successful Standardbred breeding farm. Unlike Thoroughbreds, where "natural cover" is required (which, as he demonstrates, is anything but natural), Standardbreds are artificially inseminated, avoiding such complications as venereal disease and injury to horses or handlers. At Hanover the stallions mate with an artificial vagina and then 55-cc shipments of semen in plastic syringes are shipped worldwide by FedEx.

In the final chapter, Conley visits a thousand-acre preserve and veterinary facility owned by the University of Pennsylvania, where horses are allowed to live as they once did in the wild, without human interaction. Here, the reader learns about harem stallions and the sexual behaviors of "wild" horses, a sharp contrast to the breeding farms described throughout the rest of the book.

The book goes well beyond the expected and overly recycled discussions of the big money breeding business or the equine reproductive act. Instead, Conley takes full advantage of his witty writing style and sense of humor to give the reader a thorough yet entertaining look at horses and the people who surround them. The book is a fast-paced read and is recommended to all fans of the horse, especially racing fans.

Stud has a list price of $24.95 and is available from Amazon.com for $17.47.

Rating:     4/5

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