by Lauren Lee
Like a crisp Oxford shirt or a little black dress, Cantab Hall has stayed in style far longer than the stallion fashion cycle typically dictates— and for good reason.
With his hallmarks of longevity, consistency, soundness and, yes, the production of great-gaited trotting champions well into his second decade, Cantab Hall will be welcomed into the Living Horse Hall of Fame, as a sire, on July 1.
The fact that Cantab Hall’s offspring, among them eight millionaires and countless champions—including stallions Father Patrick, Explosive Matter, and Uncle Peter, and decorated trotting mares Wild Honey, Lifetime Pursuit, and Tamla Celeber S—would long be known for their exceptional gait is no surprise to Jim Simpson, president and CEO of Hanover Shoe Farms.
Long before Simpson admired Cantab Hall as a prized member of the Hanover stallion roster, he marveled at the trotter’s on-track presence.
“He never made a break in a race, ever. Every trotter runs sometime,” he said. “That’s impressive. That’s what we’re looking for. I thought he was one of the best-gaited trotters I had ever seen. He raced in a pretty tough year, with pretty good trotters out there. That’s saying something, with Windsong’s Legacy and Tom Ridge.”
Cantab Hall’s trainer throughout his racing career, Ron Gurfein, identified that same greatness even earlier.
“He was the only perfect yearling I ever bought, that’s good for starters,” said the 2006 Hall of Fame inductee.
“In other words, somebody asked me how I pick yearlings and I rate them on a scale of 10 points for how they look on the floor, 10 points for how they are in the field, and 10 points for their pedigree. So, he was the only perfect yearling I’ve ever seen. He was a very, very easy horse to train; he just did everything right. He was undefeated as a 2-year-old. I don’t think he ever made a break in his life, in a race or otherwise.”
His ease on the track dovetailed nicely into the stallion barn, beginning with a very breezy negotiation that landed the stud prospect in Hanover’s barn.
“I do remember the day we syndicated him with George Segal (Brittany Farms) and Frankie Antonacci (Lindy Farms),” Simpson said. “We had a nice lunch and the syndication was completed before lunch. I mean, with George and Frankie both, when you sit down with them, they know what they want and I knew what I wanted and we got it done.”
Originally, the group decided on 60 shares with each shareholder owning at least two bookings. However, as demand increased, they had to switch him to 120 shares to accommodate all those who were interested.
As a stallion, Cantab Hall led all trotting sires in earnings for three consecutive years (2012-2014), and was the runner-up in 2016 and 2017. He has sired winners of more than $75 million to date, with 216 $100,000 winners and 146 in 1:55.
According to Gurfein, the next frontier in Cantab Hall’s legacy may well come from many of his great mares, who are just beginning their broodmare careers. Already, he has sired the dams of winners of just under $16 million to date, with two heralded millionaires, Southwind Frank and Ariana G, and many more to follow.
“He’s had some wonderful fillies and it seems like those wonderful fillies, with their great gaits, are going to prove to be fabulous broodmares because they cross so well with Muscle Hill, as we see with Manchego,” Gurfein said.
Almost 15 years later, his demand as a stallion has never quieted; he still serviced a very full book this year.
“He’s breeding all the mares we want to breed to him and that’s impressive this late in the game,” said Simpson. “The breeding business is tough. It’s like we’re in the fashion business and they go in and out of fashion pretty quick; he never has.”
Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter is chief among those who have returned to Cantab Hall time and again over the years with great success, namely with four of the sire’s eight millionaire offspring— Father Patrick, Wild Honey, Lifetime Pursuit, and Pastor Stephen.
“I think I have probably 60 to 70 percent of the better ones,” he said with a laugh. “One thing about them, they’ve always been very good-gaited horses. He, himself, had a fantastic gait and he passed it to his offspring, too.
“They’ve been really good horses to work with like that, gait-wise, being very easy for the trainers, actually. I have nothing but good things to say about Cantab Hall. He’s just been a tremendous sire. I’ve had so many good ones out of him. And when it comes to the Hall of Fame— absolutely. He’s been a fantastic sire.”
There would be no argument on that front from Simpson.
“The Hall of Fame (honor) is special, because the horse is getting the recognition he deserves, on and off the track,” he said. “He is what we look for when we put a horse in stud.”
Lauren Lee is a freelance writer living in Ontario. To comment on this story, email us at email@example.com.