Avalyn Hunter Pedigree Analyst
Thursday Sept 13, 2007 at 10 a.m. (ET)
A 1964 photograph titled “Dawning of a Love Affair” shows a blonde little girl not yet three years old trying to climb a fence into a Kentucky pasture full of broodmares. Now in her mid-forties, author Avalyn Hunter still hasn’t gotten over her love affair with the Thoroughbred – and doesn’t really want to.
A racing fan since Secretariat’s record-breaking Triple Crown campaign in 1973, Hunter began studying pedigrees at age fifteen, beginning with Sir Charles Leicester’s classic work Bloodstock Breeding, which detailed the pedigrees of winners of the Derby Stakes during the first half of the twentieth century.
Twenty-five years later, Sir Charles’ book served as a model and inspiration for Hunter’s first book, American Classic Pedigrees 1914-2002. Covering the race records, antecedents, and descendants of the winners of the American Triple Crown races plus the Kentucky Oaks and Coaching Club American Oaks for fillies, the massive work took some two years to write and was released in May 2003.
Since the release of American Classic Pedigrees, Hunter has continued to write extensively about Thoroughbred pedigrees and racing history in trade publications. Her second book, a biography of the great sire Northern Dancer, is titled The Kingmaker: How Northern Dancer Founded a Racing Dynasty and was released in April 2006. She has hopes of eventually writing a novel and is the author of the short fiction pieces “The Passing of the Torch” and “The Foundation,” both of which were award winners in the Thoroughbred Times Biennial Fiction Contest.
A former Air Force officer, Hunter is a graduate of Vanderbilt University (B.A, psychology) and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (M.A., clinical psychology) and has worked as a mental health professional since 1993. She lives in Florida with her husband and two children.
Avalyn has also recently added to her busy routine the role of regular contributor to BloodHorseNOW.com, where she has so far presented pedigree profiles of La Traviata, Put It Back, and Saoirse Abu for the exclusive enjoyment of subscribers to The Blood-Horse magazine.
Now, on the eve of her newest release, Gold Rush: How Mr. Prospector Became Racing's Billion-Dollar Sire, Avalyn joins us this Thursday at 10 a.m. (ET) for an informative discussion of the impact of Mr. Prospector on the breed.
How did you get interested in studying pedigrees?
To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure how I got the pedigree bug. I can remember reading C. W. Anderson’s book The Smashers and watching Secretariat’s Triple Crown run when I was about twelve (yes, I know I’m dating myself), and curiosity took over from there. I was starting to fill notebooks with stuff about Thoroughbred bloodlines by the time I was fifteen or so.
Most high-priced yearlings don't turn out to be good runners. Why do you think that is?
It’s mostly a matter of numbers. Even among the best-bred, most athletically built youngsters, the majority of them are going to be failures on the racecourse – that’s just the nature of the game. There simply isn’t any exact science to choosing yearlings. Which is good news for those of us who don’t have bottomless pockets; there’s always the chance of coming up with a John Henry, a Seattle Slew, or a Spectacular Bid even if you don’t have great wealth.
To read the complete transcript of this chat, along with many others, check out Best of Talkiní Horses.
Best of Talkin’ Horses features provocative “chats” with some of Thoroughbred racing’s most prominent names. Adapted from “Talkin’ Horses,” the popular weekly online chat series hosted by Bloodhorse.com, this edited collection provides additional insights by Ron Mitchell, editor and moderator of “Talkin’ Horses."
Editor's Note: BloodHorse.com moderators retain editorial control over Talkin' Horses discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests; guests may decline to answer questions. Opinions expressed by guests of Talkin' Horses are those of the guest and do not represent the opinions of Blood-Horse Publications, its employees, associates, or affiliated organizations. Guests, dates, and times of Talkin' Horses discussions are subject to change.