Trotting stallion Love You has his name plastered beside trotting results all over New Zealand, but his path to siring stardom may not be well known to the average punter.

While breeding buffs could rattle off his life story and his pedigree, those who like to have a dollar each-way are less likely to have been filled in on how the sire has risen to be New Zealand's leading trotting stallion.

Part of the reasoning behind that is very simple - the horse has never set foot in the country.

Love You stands at stud in the Nonant-le-Pin region in France, two hours west of Paris.


There, the best French mares, as well as others from all over Europe, are transported to be served by him. New Zealand breeders also get their chance to cross his sought after genes with their mares via transported frozen semen.

What the average punter may also not know is the stallion has been ranked the world's leading trotting sire by earnings on three occasions and his path to those lofty heights is a case of creating success in the most competitive of environments. That is according to Aucklander Dave Sanders, who is both a diehard fan of international trotting and the New Zealand representative that handles Love You's frozen semen bookings, through Australasian breeding operation, Haras des Trotteurs.

"We have no idea how competitive it is. They have a racing programme which takes them from the age of 2 until they are 10. It is a wonderful programme."

"Fifty per cent are qualified by the end of their 2-year-old year and 95 per cent have qualified at 3, but they do not race them hard."

Love You started poking his head out above the sea of good French trotters by winning 22 of his 59 French starts. After retiring to stud, the stallion has gone on to produce a multitude of winners, including many which have outdone his own racetrack record.

"In France they have a breeding programme which breeds about 12,000 foals a year. I think people sort of have to realise the environment that he excelled in is slightly different to what we have here."

There are over 520 registered trotting sires in France and they are all restricted to serving 100 mares per breeding season. That is a fair way behind Sundon's biggest book of 230 mares or pacing sire Bettor's Delight's whopping 345 book from 2007.

The mares which get served by French stallions have to be registered with the French racing authority and must be of a high standard.

"You can't just rock up with any mare. If they don't produce a qualifier in their first four foals they are deregistered."

All of these factors add up to an extremely competitive French breeding and racing scene that produces what Sanders argues is the world's premium trotting genetics.

The proof of that in New Zealand is backed up by the strong impact Love You has had on trotting statistics here.

The sire was this season's leading sire of trotters on both money won and race wins, despite having nearly half the starters of his nearest rival, the late siring great, Sundon.

So highly regarded is Sundon, who died in 2015 after revolutionising the trotting breed in New Zealand, few would dare compare him with any other sire.

However, many see Love You as the best horse to complement Sundon, by crossing him with their mares. The cross has produced Love You's four best New Zealand earners in Monbet, Enghien, Habibti and Habibti Ivy and Sanders believes there are two main reasons why. Obviously crossing two premium sire lines will help get success, but the calm and placid nature of the Love You influence helps tame the fiery and temperamental traits from the talented Sundon breed.

"The French horses are very, very sensible which I think is why Love You works so well with Sundon."

While New Zealand breeders who have bred to Love You wait to see if they have the next Monbet or Enghien on their hands, they would be well advised to keep a watchful eye over their horse.

So sought after was Love You's 13 race winning daughter and Italian Trotting Derby champion, Unicka, she was kidnapped from her stable in Tuscany in March and still has not been found.Otago Daily Times