As he prepared last week for the ultimate triumph of his remarkable career, a third victory in Europe's premier trotting event, the Prix d'Amérique, the great French trotter Jamin stepped into a small hole near his Paris training track and injured a tendon in his right hind leg. His owner, Mme. Leon Olry-Roederer, immediately withdrew him from the race and shortly thereafter announced that he has been sold to a syndicate of Americans for $800,000. Jamin will come to this country next year to stand at stud at Walnut Hall Farm in Donerail, Ky.
At the end of his racing career, Jamin begins another which may have an immense effect on U.S. trotting bloodlines.
Before he came here two years ago, Jamin was acknowledged to be Europe's finest trotter, having beaten all available competitors, often conceding handicaps of as much as 50 meters. Then, at Roosevelt Raceway's first International Trot on August 1, 1959, he relentlessly wore down and finally overwhelmed the best of the U.S. and six other countries. In subsequent appearances here he set a time trial record, won other races and vastly impressed nearly all trotting experts with his powerful gait, perfect manners and seemingly limitless endurance. At Du Quoin, Ill., before a Hambletonian Day crowd of 25,000, he went out on the track with only the urging of a prompter galloping behind him and trotted a mile in 1:58 4/5. Throughout this magnificent effort, Jamin's driver, Jean Riaud, sat immobile in the sulky, occasionally clucking to his horse but never using the whip.
Jamin's sale as announced in Paris—to syndicate head Stanley Tananbaum of Yonkers Raceway for a lump sum of $800,000—nevertheless raises some interesting questions. U.S. trotting breeders regard Jamin as an eminently worthy addition to the ranks of stallions. Two years ago, at the height of his fame, a group of breeders offered Mme. Roederer $300,000 for her horse. She asked half a million and they refused to pay it. Last October, after Jamin lost a few races in Europe, Mme. Roederer's asking price had come down to $40,000 a year for a five-year lease on Jamin's services at stud. Again, the Americans felt the price was too high. Now, many of our foremost breeders regard the announced $800,000 figure with skepticism or stupefaction.
A three-year wait
To begin with, any horse is as much of a gamble as a sire as he is on the race track. He must prove himself through his first crop of offspring, and it is three years after he goes into service before that first crop gets to the races. Even at the announced starting stud fee of $1,500 (extremely high for a new stallion), it appears nearly impossible for Jamin ever to earn $800,000. In harness racing, the owner of a mare bred to a stallion pays the service fee when a live foal results. A good stallion will be bred to about 50 mares in one season, and from this will come about 35 live foals. Assuming that Jamin proves himself with his very first crop and even that his fee is then increased to $5,000, the probabilities argue against the $800,000 figure, especially since Jamin is going into stud at the comparatively late age of 8. Jamin is of course a complete outcross to U.S. bloodlines and as such alone is useful in improving the stock. But much of what he has to offer is of relatively little value in this country. His unusual size (more than 16 hands) is impressive, but if he passes this along to his offspring, they will be handicapped on the half-mile tracks in the U.S. A big trotter has more difficulty negotiating the tight turns than a smaller, compact animal. Our breeding here has for years emphasized early speed over short distances—that is, speed early in the life of the horse and over a mile. Jamin's best efforts came relatively late in his racing career, and his superb stamina, which was so important in the longer European events, is not nearly so useful a trait in the U.S. Finally, Jamin's second dam (one of his grandmothers) was Gladys, a Thoroughbred. It is entirely possible that some of his sons and daughters will show far more aptitude and inclination for running than for trotting.
For all of these reasons, such outstanding U.S. breeders as Lawrence Sheppard, Norman Woolworth, Dave Johnston, Delvin Miller and Willis Nichols were not interested in paying Mme. Roederer's price for Jamin. Tananbaum has announced that his "syndicate" is composed of himself and his two brothers, none of whom has experience as a breeder.
Despite all this, Jamin will be a welcome addition to the American scene. Hopefully he will overcome his handicaps as a sire as he overcame his handicaps as a competitor—and he was a marvelous competitor.