Monday, June 7, 2010

A Pedigree Fit For a Queen

Thoroughbred breeder Gustav Schickedanz is a risk taker. And for good reason. How else would the 81-year-old horse enthusiast from Germany have produced more than 40 stakes winners from a small program of mainly breeding homebreds to homebreds?

This is the formula Schickedanz used to produce his 2003 Queen’s Plate winner and Horse of the Year Wando, along with his sire and dam, Langfuhr, and Kathie’s Colleen. Schickedanz has twice won the Queen’s Plate with homebreds (the first being Woodcarver in 1999), but it has been seven years since he tasted victory in Canada’s most important classic, and Schickedanz is hungry for more. That’s why when planning the mating for his 2010 Queen’s Plate contender Artic Fern, Schickedanz took no chances.

Schickedanz loves to win the Plate, and each successful attempt or near miss seems to only fuel the fire. So when Artic Fern, highly touted by trainer Mike Keogh prior to his first start, finished an impressive second in his career debut, Schickedanz began making plans. Those plans were confirmed June 5 when Artic Fern cruised to victory over 1 1/16 miles on the Woodbine Polytrack, toying with a highly-regarded field that included multiple Sovereign Award winner True Metropolitan and the up and coming Good General. Artic Fern notched his third consecutive victory as the only three-year-old in the allowance contest, punching his ticket to the Plate and indicating his chances at serving Schickedanz his third Plate win in 11 years.

The pedigree plan behind Artic Fern was a simple one: to produce a Plate horse. One need only look at the dark bay’s sire and dam to see the pattern. Artic Fern is a genetic mixture of Schickedanz’s two Plate winners, Woodcarver and Wando, and he seems to have reaped the best of both champions.

Artic Fern is by Langfuhr, the sire of Wando, and out of Wood Fern, a full sister to Woodcarver. Langfuhr, who finished fifth in the 1995 Plate, is out of Sweet Briar Too, another Schickedanz homebred who also produced stakes winners Princess Ruckus and Wonneberg. Sweet Briar Too and her dam, Prima Babu Gum, are both still owned by Schickedanz, and are living out their lives as retired broodmares at his Long Leaf Plantation in South Carolina. Langfuhr is by Danzig, and is the product of a no guarantee season purchased at auction by Schickedanz at the height of Danzig’s prime.

Wood Fern is one of two full sisters to Woodcarver that Schickedanz has retained for his broodmare band. The other is Forest Flute, the dam of 2009 multiple stakes winner Woodsmoke. Retired early this year, Woodsmoke has joined the Schickedanz broodmare band in foal to More Than Ready.

Artic Fern is the second foal from Wood Fern. Her first foal, Longlasting, races in Maryland. Wood Fern’s current two-year-old, interestingly enough, is a Wando colt named Sharpshot. Hypothetically, should Artic Fern taste victory in the Plate, Sharpshot would be by a Schickedanz Plate winner, out of a full sister to a Schickedanz plate winner, and a three-quarter brother to a Schickedanz Plate winner. Whoa. We can dream, right?

Sharpshot as a foal with Wood Fern.

It is also worth noting that Artic Fern is a result of the same Langfuhr/Woodman nick that has produced Wando and two other stakes winners. Woodman mares have provided the most prolific nick for Langfuhr, with 17 winners from 22 starters for earnings of almost $4 million.

For the record, Artic Fern’s name is a combination of Wood Fern and Briartic, the sire of Sweet Briar Too.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I worked for Gus Schickedanz for four years, and as you can well imagine, I think he’s awesome. Having spent a lifetime with horses and having made his fortune as a homebuilder, Gus has a rare combination of horsemanship and compassion that allows him to understand his horses and provide them with the greatest of care, sparing them no necessity. I want nothing more come July 4 than to see him win his third Plate.

Below are more foal photos of Artic Fern (I was lucky enough to help deliver him). Enjoy!


  1. Thanks for the pics of the foal. Enjoyed seeing them.

  2. Awesome stuff.. im a huge fan of Artic fern. sorry for your dissapointment this week. hopefully he makes it back like Southdale has.