Quarter Horse Stallion First Down Mr Jess brings speed and size to South Dakota
Tom Anderberg has never stolen a horse, but when he brought First Down Mr Jess home, he was accused of it.
The stallion that’s an own son of $25 million sire Feature Mr Jess, with a speed index of 98 brought just $20,000 at the 2015 Heritage Place Winter Mixed Sale in Oklahoma City.
“They called me up and said I stole their horse. I said, ‘What do you mean, I stole your horse? It was a public auction.’ They said, ‘They told me he’d bring $40-60,000. You stole him.’”
While the whole transaction was legal, following the sale guidelines, Anderberg said he got calls for two years after the sale from people claiming breeding shares that weren’t disclosed, but nothing ever came of the claims.
Anderberg went to the sale with the big Quarter Horse stallion in mind. When Anderberg saw him in the catalog he thought he’d be the perfect outcross for the smaller-framed, cowy mares that most breeders in the area have developed. At 15.3 hands, with a nice shoulder, clean head and $180,000 winnings on the track, including Grade 1 Stakes, the stud brings speed, size, color and strong conformation to his get. The stud is registered as brown, but is “black as a coal shovel,” according to Anderberg.
As Anderberg watched the sale, seeing the half-siblings of First Down Mr Jess sell for $40-100,000, he didn’t think he’d be bringing the stallion home.
The relatively cheap price tag is inexplicable. Anderberg speculates that it may have been because he sold late in the sale. First Down Mr Jess had blown a stifle sometime around his three-year-old year, after winning four of five outs his two-year-old year. The stallion was trained by Ruidoso Hall of Fame trainer Dwayne “Sleepy” Gilbreath, and a lot of what Anderberg knows of the horse came from him.
When Gilbreath was training the horse, Gilbreath had to communicate through the owner’s daughter, because the owner himself didn’t speak English. First Down Mr Jess has a lot of offspring on the ground in Mexico, and in Oklahoma, where he stood for a year at the Lazy E.
While the 2006 stallion has seven crops of foals that have reached racing age, with verified earnings of about $980,000, Anderberg said a sizeable chunk of his offspring’s earnings were misattributed or never reported.
“A lot of people who had those first colts ran them in barrel races, but instead of using his registered name, called him various things. We traced it down and can’t verify it all, but one horse we know of won about $80,000 and we could only verify about $20-30,000.”
They were able to connect some of those dots because the people who had his offspring that were performing well were calling to breed mares back to him.
Anderberg said he also knows of a lot of Mexican match race earnings that were never reported, which would put First Down Mr Jess well past the million-dollar sire mark.
Ty Hendrix, general manager for High Plains Genetics, where First Down Mr Jess stands now, said the stud is a type and pedigree that is a little unusual in this part of the country, but that it’s a good thing.
“He’s a lot of racehorse,” Hendrix said. “He’s just a different style for around here.”
South Dakota was a different style for the Southern horse, too. “He moved from Louisiana to South Dakota in January. He was uncertain what all the white stuff on the ground was and why he was so cold,” Hendrix said. First Down Mr Jess also had white line disease, which required dedicated treatment for an extended period of time. “That speaks to his disposition,” Hendrix said. “He was never bad when we did all the soaks and different treatments we did. He wants to please and is smart enough to know when you’re helping.”
Hendrix has worked with First Down Mr Jess’s offspring as newborns, up to two-year-olds and sees the same mind and quiet disposition in them. “He’s consistently siring structurally sound and good-minded colts,” he said.
The first crop of colts First Down Mr Jess sired in South Dakota is just now getting to futurity age, so Hendrix and Anderberg are looking forward to seeing what this racehorse adds to the arena.
The stud is registered as brown, but has thrown buckskins, grays and paints.
“He’s bred some of all different kinds of mares,” Hendrix said. “The majority of his offspring on record are racehorses, but since he’s moved to South Dakota he’s bred more performance and cow-bred mares. He adds a nice shoulder, a little more size, but keeps them thick and really good-headed. A lot of what he’s bred go directly to the track, but they have the disposition and are the right kind to learn whatever you show them.”
First Down Mr Jess has been nominated to the 5-State Breeders Futurity, and they are working on getting him nominated to other barrel futurities. Hendrix said to check the High Plains Genetics website for updates on futurity nominations.
Anderberg has always had an eye for good horses, and has always had stud horses. He had an own son of Easy Jet, an own son of Merridoc and two own sons of Victory Stride and Lea Lero, the dam of Dr Kirk. While some have been Quarter Horses and some Thoroughbreds, Anderberg said, “I just like good horses. Something you can do anything on. And something a cowboy can afford to breed to.”
Anderberg’s affinity for horses started young. “My grandfather, Harry Thomas, had the champion cutting horse of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota all in the same year, way back when. I used to lead the youth in South Dakota in showing horses, riding cutting horses, halter horses, reining horses.
“When I was an eighth grader I missed a lead in a reining pattern. I looked right at the judge. I knew he seen me and I still won it. That didn’t seem fair to me, so I started running horses.
“I had an old stud horse called Mooney Mark. I bought him for $286. He was five or six times bred Three Bars. I won third in a Western pleasure class on a Friday out of 54 head. I loaded him up and went to Belle Fourche on Saturday for a race and won, went back Sunday and won again.”
Anderberg said not a day went by that he wasn’t horseback, no matter how cold it got. He rode on the ranch when he was growing up, put up hay with horses, rodeoed, and rode a few match races, though he quickly outgrew his jockey phase.
“The first stitches in my head were in Timber Lake. I rode in a little match race. I was winning by quite a ways, but she didn’t make the turn. We hit the fence and I landed on a gravel road.”
Tom’s dad owned the livestock auction in Miller and Tom owned the livestock markets in Gettysburg and Mobridge. Now Tom’s sons, Tigh and Jason, own Mobridge Livestock with Casey Perman.
Tom and his wife, Wendy, have been married for 47 years. They have four sons, Tigh, Jason, Clayton and Travis, and one daughter, Summer Kosel. Clayton owns the Oak Keg in Mobridge and helps out at the livestock market, and Travis owns the drug store and several other businesses in Miller. Summer operates Smoking Guns Rodeo with her husband, Kevin, and barrel races. She won the OE Bonus Race Finals in Lincoln, Nebraska, in June against 1,700 other barrel racers. Tom has one son from a previous marriage, Chad Maxwell, who is in investments in California.
A few years ago Tom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, “So now I consign cattle, sit on the auction block and direct traffic,” he said.
Anderberg still has some broodmares, and he’s bred some of them to First Down Mr Jess. He’s looking forward to seeing what some of his 22 grandkids do with them in the barrels, poles and roping arena.