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West River Reaches Sixth Generation

Published: April 13, 2021 11:45 am ET

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One of Canada's longest running breeding operations, West River Stock Farm in Antigonish, N.S. recently celebrated its sixth generation of a bloodline with its most recent foal arrival.

The story starts some 60-plus years ago with a mare by the name of Arlene Braden that Ed Haley purchased in Ohio. According to Haley's daughter and current West River owner and operator Clare MacDonald, one of Arlene Braden's foals helped keep that bloodline alive with some on-track accomplishments that don't sparkle on paper in this day and age -- a mark of 2:04.4 and $21,000 in purses -- but definitely proved successful at the time.

"He raced two foals off [Arlene Braden] but there was a mare named West River Kelsa," MacDonald told Trot Insider. "She was the top mare of her time and, ironically, it was the last year of our stakes program because it was a burgeoning program and just building in numbers...they didn't separate colts and fillies. So she raced the colts predominantly, but she was the best of the fillies. She went on to be a really good aged mare...she had a mark of 2:04.4, free-legged, and at the time that put her right in the open class."

A pre-teen MacDonald was gifted West River Kelsa by her father, and Clare took some of her early qualifying drives on the pacing mare when she turned 16 and applied for her license. As MacDonald started her on-track career, West River Kelsa was nearing the end of hers and the decision was made to retire her to the broodmare ranks.

West River Kelsa went on to produce the unraced West River Isobel, who in turn foaled West River Rosie. Rosie's second foal, by Brandons Cowboy, was the accomplished West River Ambyr -- a multiple stakes winning pacing mare that MacDonald retired to the broodmare ranks after making 120 starts, amassing a record of 21-27-24 and banked $112,494 without leaving the Maritimes.

Those five generations of the family turned to six last Tuesday (April 6) with the arrival of another filly, the first foal of West River Ambyr, sired by Arthur Blue Chip.

MacDonald was quick to point out that her farm's prolific filly production hasn't gone unnoticed.

“We all joke here in the family that [for] probably the last 10 years or more, we’ve been the West River Filly Farm," laughed MacDonald, "because we never seemed to have a colt; everything seems to have fillies. Rosie’s had six fillies. That’s just ridiculous!"

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