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Celine Takes Center Stage At Morgan Breeder Sweepstakes

by Diana Davidson


Friday night August 29, 2003, marked the date of the 13th annual edition of the $70,000 Morgan Breeder Sweepstakes. The event was held again this year at the Jubilee Regional Morgan Horse Show. The evening's festivities were once again located in the warm-up ring across from the coliseum at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The evening started off with a party including hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar at the near end and along one side of the ring.

Spectators then headed for the bleachers that were set up alongside and at the far end of the ring with a special group of seats at the near end of the ring for Breeder Sweepstakes stallion owners. The actual show ring area was the center attraction with a standing room only crowd viewing the competition on a lovely late summer evening.

This year's competition marked the third edition featuring the expanded program which included 37 stallions nominated for this years competition. This expansion was intended to open up and enlarge the program, and an outstanding group of 27 weanlings did participate. However, the 27 foals were sired by just 11 of the 37 nominated stallions with four stallions, Ultra's Special Agent, Stonecroft Byzantine, JDS Legal Enforcer and Aljak's Double Whammy dominating the field siring 19 of the 27 entries.

The competition was called to the ring with each the 27 entries brought into the ring one at a time to show before judges Cliff Swanson, Joyce Swanson, Roberta Brown, Dwayne Knowles and Terry Jones Brennan. Each judge scored each weanling using a point system from zero to 100. The high and low score for each foal was dropped and the remaining three were added to arrive at the first round score. Ten minutes after the first round was completed, the top ten scoring weanlings were announced. The finalists then came back into the ring as a group. Places six thru ten were then pinned in reverse order with each receiving $2,000, a ribbon, Radon sheet, medallion and trophy.

In spite of the domination in numbers by a few stallions, the top five foals were sired by five different stallions. Interestingly, four of the stallions - Aljak's Double Whammy, Stonecroft Masquerade, Three Wishes and Ultra's Special Agent - had each sired at least one previous Breeder Sweepstakes Champion. Soon it would be know that the fifth sire, Stonecroft Byzantine, would join the elite group.

The top five were then left to compete for second round scores. At this point the first round scores were dropped and only the second round scores were used to pin the top five. The five finalists were all judged individually and as a group. The judges were able to compare the entries and position them as they pleased. This gave the judges and the crowd a chance to really compare the entries. When all of the final scoring had been finished the top five placings were announced in descending order.

Earning $4,000 as the fifth place finisher was Bears Farizana. The filly sired by Aljak's Double Whammy was the first of an incredible trio of top five finishers bred by Michael Bearman and presented by Michael Slomkowski. She was followed by the crowd-pleasing Bears Tiberius, who may have been the youngest in the group, but he certainly showed big. Trainer Michael Slomkowski and breeder Michael Bearman collected $5,500 with this promising Three Wishes son.

The third place award of $8,000 went to Lake Holiday Farm with their entertaining chestnut filly with the world championship heritage. The filly called "Alice" is sired by Stonecroft Masquerade and out of Rum Brook Veronica. She was shown by Whitney Bodnar to the third place finish after commanding the top score in the opening round of competition.

This left only two entries remaining center stage and the large crowd as well as the trainers of the two finalists sensed the excitement at hand. When the announcement of the reserve champion was made, Michael Slomkowski and Michael Bearman added the $12,000 check to their other two top five awards. It was Bears It All, a colt sired by Ultra's Special Agent and out of Lookaway's Krystal, who proudly posed as the 2003 Breeder Sweepstakes Reserve Champion.

The champion stood alone as the diva of the evening Raintree Celine, named after the diva herself Celine Dion, took center stage. The expressive chestnut filly dressed in white is the pride of breeders Max and Barb Rudicel. Barb Rudicel was greeted by her winning filly sired by Stonecroft Byzantine in the winner's circle for the grand prize presentation. Trainer John Hufferd was on the winning lead of yet another Breeder Sweepstakes Champion as they collected $25,000 along with 10% to John Hufferd as the winning trainer and 10% to Heidi Kunkel as the nominator of the winning sire.

In its thirteen years the Morgan Breeder Sweepstakes has awarded approximately $1,000,000 in prize money to the owners, breeders and trainers of foals competing. However, this program is not just about beautiful babies, it is where winning show careers are started. It helps to encourage Morgan breeders, big and small, to breed for outstanding foals that go on to greater heights.

The Morgan Breeder Sweepstakes is a great start toward a lifetime of winning. Alumni of the Sweepstakes who have trotted down victory lane in 2003 at shows around the country have included such top entries as; Aljaks Miss La Dee Da, Briar Oaks Frisky Byzness, Cabot French Pepper, CRS Executive, FCF Coeur De Lion, Gaits Of Gold, Gradell's Dresden Doll, MEM Bailamos, On Line, PAF In Control, SpringMill Sequel, Tara's War Eagle, Treble’s Legal Tender, and many more.

The Morgan Breeder Sweepstakes continues to be a great marketing tool for the Morgan industry. It benefits not only stallion owners, but mare owners and perspective owners as well. Stallion owners contribute to the prize fund and in turn their stallion’s get are eligible to compete. The mare owner simply pays the regular stud fee to these stallions and the resulting foal is eligible to compete in the Sweepstakes. Owners of Sweepstakes nominated stallions gain through increased breedings to their stallions. Mare owners gain in the earnings potential as well as marketability of the foal. In 2004 the Morgan Breeder Sweepstakes will return to the east coast to be held at the New England Regional Morgan Horse Show.

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