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Alan Porter: Pedigree Analyst

Thursday, Jan. 10, 2007

Alan Porter has been professionally involved with Thoroughbreds for nearly 35 years. He has authored racing and breeding analyses for three decades, and has been planning matings for a quarter century. Porter, along with pedigree authority Byron Rogers, recently launched TrueNicks, a pedigree analysis program developed in conjunction with Blood-Horse Publications,

Over the years, Porter has written regular columns for Daily Racing Form, Thoroughbred Daily News, Pacemaker, The Australian Bloodhorse Review,, and Owner-Breeder International, as well as contributing to numerous other publications in Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and North America. A speaker at numerous seminars and conferences around the world, Porter has also provided pedigree commentary on camera for Fox Sports Network and for New York Times Television.

In addition, he has consulted on breedings that have resulted in more than 100 stakes winners to date. They include three Eclipse Award winners in North America, as well as other champions and classic winners in Canada, Ireland, Germany, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates, and group and grade I winners in at least 12 different countries. He currently advises leading breeders and owners in the U.S., Europe, and Australia.

Lexington, KY:
TrueNicks looks an interesting product but at $20 it is expensive. What are the plans for other products? Are you allowing stallion owners to put up their stallions allowing users free access?

The $20 price for a singleTrueNick mating is comparable with other competing products, for a report which is more accurate and which gives more information. We will be introducing some other products that will make it possible to plan matings for a mare at a lower per nick cost, and some forms of reduced costs for bulk use. We have several stallion farms that are subscribing to allow users to run matings to their stallions at no cost, and these will be on line soon. It's also worth bearing in mind that compared to the cost of breeding and raising a horse, running a group of TrueNick ratings is still a very percentage of the whole, to gain some very important information.

South Bend, IN:
Hi Alan, What is your opinion on matching body types with your nicks.

I think the general principal of avoiding breeding radically dissimilar types is a good one. I suspect in general, nicks which consistently produce good runners, tend to utilize horses which have similar general proportions, although there are obviously going to be exceptions.

Montreal, Quebec:
Hello, What is your opinion of the sire Spanish Steps? Have you seen any of his first yearlings? Thank you.

I don't recall having seen many of his yearlings. I think he is quite an interesting horse. He's an unraced brother to Unbridled's Song, and we have had a similar circumstance in Fairy King, who was injured in his only start, but was a brother to Sadler's Wells, and who came through to be a very good sire. I do know that he has been well-supported by his connections, and if he does hit with a good winner or two early, is a horse who could have a lot of upside.

New York, NY:
Based on the obvious move to synthetic tracks from classic dirt courses, would you advise a breeder to look more to grass sires that seem to be working on synthetics as well as turf as opposed to sires that up till now have been known for speed on dirt?

I think this something which has to be approached very carefully. One of the problems is that several of the synthetic tracks also appear to be very different from each other. It does seem that some of them favor horses with a typical grass style - that is horses which can quicken - as opposed to some of the dirt surfaces which more favor the horse which slows down least. I think the situation does play towards horses which one might describe as "have the ability to sire good turf horses" rather than those which are "turf sires." I've been keeping an eye on horses which have shown the ability to run, or sire good runners on both surfaces, examples which come to mind including Giant's Causeway, Johannesburg, More Than Ready and Langfuhr. A lot is really going to depend on where a horse is going to race, for example the East Coast looks as if it is going to stay predominantly dirt for the moment. Of course if you are breeding to sell, you have less say in where the horse is going to end up.

Tampa, FL:
How many generations back do you look when making a breeding decision?

That can vary quite a lot. Broadly speaking, I look for a sire line/broodmare sire line cross that is a positive; and then some inbreeding or linebreeding patterns which are complimentary (in this case, I'm calling inbreeding having common ancestors within four generations, and linebreeding having common ancestors at five or six generations).. I think that it's often possible to attribute success to multiple common ancestors deep in the pedigree, but as far as planning matings is concerned you need some positives closer up. So as far as the pedigree pattern aspect of planning a mating is concerned, I would say I generally work with the first six generations, but with an awareness of what is further back in the pedigree.

Reno, NV:
I am looking for an information source that deals with breeding of off track (mud or sloppy track) runners.

That is really something which is a little outside my area of expertise. I imagine that this isn't a question of trying to breed a horse which will be a particularly good runner in wet conditions, but trying to select them from a handicapping perspective. I believe the Daily Racing Form has some tools for that.

Woodbridge, VA:
Successful racehorses with questionable pedigrees (I offer Congaree as an example), are often only fair or even poor at stud. Do you usually find this to be true?

I think that it is a fair comment that in general the most successful stallions come from the ranks of horses with stronger pedigrees, and that brilliant runners with uncommercial pedigrees find it harder to become consistently successful sires - although there are exceptions to every "rule."

Hi Alan, hope you had a good Christmas and New Year. Gun to the head in order who will be the top 3 freshmen sires by the end of 2008?

Thanks. I'll go for Lion Heart, Speightstown and Smarty Jones. Longer term, Strong Hope should have a shot, and of the less expensive horses, Chapel Royal and Cuvee are two obvious ones to select to make an impact early.

Cedar Rapids, IA:
Mr. Porter, Thank you so much for taking our questions today. I loved Hard Spun and look forward to seeing his babies running in the future. Since he was so good on Polytrack, do you think he'll attract mares with grass pedigrees? He seems so versatile. What mares do you think would be a good cross with him? Thanks again!

Hard Spun's pedigree - Danzig over Turkoman - gives him a very good shot to get runners which will be effective on the turf, and as a son of Danzig, I wouldn't be surprised to see European breeders and buyers attracted to him. I imagine Darley may well breed some to run in Europe. He's going to be a natural for Mr. Prospector line mares, and given that Point Given - also out of a Turkoman mare - has been exceptionally good with Seattle Slew, that line is worth considering.

Mt. Airy, MD:
I bred and raised a filly named Starleena, broodmare Clever Rache, sire Malibu Moon. My question is she did fairly well as a racehorse do you think she has the goods to be a good broodmare.

Starleena did earn some black-type of her own with a stakes placing. With the market moving more towards valuing the racetrack performance of the mare, that would give her some commercial value. Malibu Moon is a well-bred horse, and out of a very good race mare, so I don't see why he wouldn't become a good broodmare sire.

Eddyville, KY:
Who do you think has the best pedigree fit for the Triple Crown trail?

It's very early to have a look at this, as I suspect that there are a lot of horses which are way under the radar which are going to make their presence felt. If he comes back healthy though, Majestic Warrior has a very good pedigree in terms of classic ability with some speed.

Friendship, AR:
What current nick do you think is the most prepotent? I feel myself its Gone West with Deputy Minister. I'm a huge fan of French Deputy as a broodmare sire. What is your opinion of Forest Camp, as I know he is no French Deputy but do you think he may have some sort of success as a future broodmare sire?

Gone West sons have done well with Deputy Minister line mares, and the version with Silver Deputy mares is interesting, giving inbreeding to Mr. Prospector. Other crosses which seem to have very good strike rates, and which come to mind quickly including Unbridled's Song with Storm Cat mares; A.P. Indy with mares by Mr. Prospector and sons; and Gulch with Storm Bird mares.

Springfield, PA:
Alan, What is your opinion on Smarty Jones is he going to produce any champions, how well do you think his 2yo will do at auctions this year?

I think it is very hard to predict stallion success. I suspect it really comes down to how closely some key gene groups are link, which might mean they would get passed down more consistently than if they are scattered through the genome. Otherwise it would be hard to figure examples like Devil's Bag - a Champion - and his brother Saint Ballado - just a solid racehorse - where Saint Ballado turned out to be the better sire, despite starting cheaply in Florida. As far as Smarty Jones is concerned, he was sufficiently precocious, very fast, very game and could carry his speed. He's by a good stallion, from a branch of the La Troienne family, and is free to cross back over Northern Dancer and Seattle Slew - the two major sire lines other than his own - which is going to give him a shot. To a degree his success in the two-year-old in training sales will depend the degree to which pinhookers have purchased them. I would imagine in general terms it should be popular.

Murfreesboro, TN:
Why were Horses more sound 50 years ago? How was their speed?

I wouldn't accept that horses were necessarily more sound 50 years ago. I think the average horse is running much faster than 50 years ago, which means that races are much more intense. When Citation was running, he could race a matter of days before a Triple Crown event because he was so much better than the opposition; it was basically a paid workout. Also, the top horses - especially older horses - all tended to run much more frequently, so there programs were set to performer quite well over an extended period of time, rather than peaking for one or two select tests. In fact in the Stymie, Assault, Gallorette, era they'd be running against each other every week or two. These days they would have to back up against fresh horses. It's the same reason that you see joggers run 5k races every weekend but Olympic athletes race infrequently and hardly ever face each other outside of championships. As far as speed goes, times haven't improve a tremendous amount - Dr. Fager's world record for a mile on dirt still stands (Najran tied it) from 1968. What I believe has happened is that while the best horses have probably reached something near the limits of improvement, the average horses is getting faster and faster, so the gap between the best and the rest is diminishing. This has all sorts of knock on effects for racing, training, breeding and the commercial market.

Austin, TX:
Whom do you see as the leading grass sire in Europe after Sadler's Wells passes on soon? And how do you compare Sadler's Wells to Northern Dancer in terms of producing winning graded grass runners?

In terms of total dominance in a region and consistent success in getting horses over the European classic distance of 1 1/2 miles, one would have to give the edge to Sadler's Wells. Of course, it is a little different situation in some ways, as many good Northern Dancer's stayed in the U.S., whereas nearly all the best Sadler's Wells at least started their careers in Europe.

As regards successors to Sadler's Wells, he seems to have sired two of his own in Galileo - who has had two brilliant two-year-olds in his first two crops, despite being a mile and a half horse - and Montjeu - who can also get top two-year-olds who train on. The German-bred horse, Monsun is a very good stallion indeed, and crosses well with Northern Dancer. Dansili looks very good, and Pivotal and Danehill Dancer are two other extremely good proven horses, although more speed sires.

Arnold, MO:
Mr. Porter, Have you heard anything through your grapevine that might give us a hint as to the type of mares are being booked to the new stallions for this year? If so, what does your crystal ball tell you about their chances for a successful first foal crop?

These days, first year horses which have commercial appeal, pedigree, speed and looks, almost always fill extremely fast. They will virtually always get better books of mares than stallions in their price-range would have a few years ago. For example, a $15,000 first year horse who is commercially appealing will probably attract mares which might otherwise visit a $25,000 proven horse. In fact it's surprising just how hard it is to get mares into hot young horses at $10,000-$15,000.

Belmont, NY:
Thanks for stopping by. I am sure this will be a common question. How does one become a pedigree analyst for a Racing stable? Are there any current degrees or certifications one can obtain?

That's a tough question. I rather stumbled into it (see "In the Beginning" at I don't know of any formula qualifications directly related to pedigree research. If I was going to structure something from a career path, I would think of starting with one of the equine studies college courses; getting as much practical experience at a hands on level; then looking to intern in a research oriented role with one of the information supplies (such as The Jockey-Club or BRIS) or in the research department of a magazine; or in the research department of a bloodstock agency. This gives a combination of experience and contacts. Good luck!

Mt. Gretna, PA:
Hi Alan, What are your thoughts or ideas regarding tracking horses past performance on synthetic surfaces and at some point using accumulated generational data as a potential trait or nick for future matings?

I think it's going to be worth keeping a track on this, but as I said in reply to one of the other questions, things get really complicated by the fact that there is also a big difference in the various artificial surfaces. It's going to take some time before we have data on this going back more than a generation or two.

Kenbridge, VA:
Do you consider potential soundness when giving advice? Do you consider the long term best interests of the breed? Please name some horses that were bred on your advice. Do you think hereditary is involved in the bone chips and fractures that seem to occur frequently? What lines are free of hereditary bleeeding by Australian rules?

Soundness is one of many considerations to factor into a mating. Unfortunately, there often seems to be a tradeoff between soundness and brilliance. It is pretty difficult to take into account the long-term interests of the breed - even assuming that I would necessarily know that! - as one is generally trying to maximize the individual mating for the breeder, especially when that involves breeding for sales. I can't name some of the major winners with which I have been involved, as some clients prefer to keep that information confidential. In addition, over the years its been hard to keep track of them running all around the world. I have been fortunate enough to be involved in three Eclipse Award winners, including Rubiano and Paradise Creek; in Australia, I was involved in the matings which produced Melbourne Cup winner Vintage Crop (Irish-bred) and Golden Slipper winner Polar Success, so hit both of their top races. There was a Japanese horse called Taiki Shuttle who was also a grade one winner in France, and I was involved in planning the mating, planning the mating for his dam (a stakes winner) and purchasing the granddam. I also work with Eugene Melnyk's team for all his homebreds, and that program has produced some very nice horses in a limited period of time, including Sealy Hill (who was bought in utero) and Indian Vale. A couple of current ones by stallions which weren't standing for a fortune are the very good turf filly J'Ray and Control System, a very smart sprint filly who is by the relatively inexpensive Maryland sire, Lion Hearted out of a mare who was bought at a riding horse sale.

With regard to bone chips and fractures, I would think that there would have to be a degree of heritability in the tendency for some skeletal problems - I believe one of the problems with the cross of Buckpasser on Bold Ruler mares, which was tried with very high quality stock, and looked like a good one on pedigree, was that it resulted in a lot of unsoundness, particularly knees. Oddly enough, when far enough back in a pedigree, and combined with sound sources, Tom Fool (Buckpasser's sire) and Bold Ruler are potent pairing. With regard to bleeding, I wouldn't know which lines have a tendency not to bleed.

Mesa, AZ:
The Breeder's Cup has finally added a 12 furlong main track race. Whom do you think will be the dominant sire or broodmare sire line for this event?

That's a hard one, as in the U.S. now, a horse who gets 12 furlongs is probably an "accident" rather than being deliberately bred to stay. There will probably be some Europeans who try and make the switch, especially when the main track is a synthetic one. Of the U.S. sire lines, A.P. Indy, Thunder Gulch and Dynaformer are commercial sires which come to mind as horses consistently likely to get runners who could stay that trip, another Belmont winner, Lemon Drop Kid, would fit the bill; Giant's Causeway could get 12 furlong runners out of mares with some stamina. We might see quite a lot of European or South American influence in some of the pedigrees.

Boston, MA:
Hi Alan. Who do you rate as the top 3 stallions in the USA standing from $10,000 to $15,000? There are some very solid horses in that range that people seem to ignore, they get very solid runners that are sound but yet they struggle to get the quality of mare that a big unsound son of, say, Unbridled Song gets. Can you ever see this trend changing? Do you feel many mares are over bred (people paying way too much on a service fee for many mares)?

The problem that proven $10,000 to $15,000 stallions have (in Kentucky at least) is that they are generally far less commercial than first year stallions in that range, so the sales breeder doesn't have a lot of choice. As far as some horse in that price range who are very appealing as solid runner sires, in alphabetical order, I would include Alphabet Soup (FL), Benchmark (CA), Freud (NY), Kafwain (KY) looks promising off his first crop, Northern Afleet (KY), has post-Afleet Alex crops to run soon, Real Quiet (PA) can get "the big horse", Trippi (FL), a standout in his region, Victory Gallop (KY), all at $10,000; Belong to Me (KY), Bertrando (CA), Pure Prize (KY) at $12,000; and City Zip (KY), E Dubai (KY), Holy Bull (KY), Mutakddim (KY), Petionville (KY) and Point Given (KY), new to this range, and had Canada's Horse of the Year for 2007.

Wynnewood, PA:
Thanks for taking our questions. Many, including yourself, often attribute a runner's success to some specific elements, or "patterns" within its pedigree. The problem, as I see it, is that such is expressed with relative certainty. Would appreciate hearing your views on this issue.

That's a good point. Overall, you can never say with absolute certainty from whence came the specific genes which make a horse an outstanding performer. It is also true that whatever nick, inbreeding or other pedigree pattern is present, it will very probably also be present in a number of moderate performers. As far as that is concerned, we have to be aware that probably 75% of the breed would run a mile within a couple of seconds of each other, so you are dealing with some pretty small margins with differentiate the "best and the rest." All of that said, having studied pedigrees for what is now going on 35 years, 30+ of that in some form of professional capacity, I feel that it is possible to have some conception of the types of patterns (both in general terms, and with regard to specific horses) which increase the chances of them becoming a stakes performer. I do generally try and qualify these by using terms such as "very probably" but I think that by and large, one can look at a pedigree, and get a reasonable idea why it might work or have worked better than random opportunity.

Doylestown, PA:
To begin the study of equine pedigrees, what would you suggest as a course of action: what books, sources of reference, etc.?

It's hard to set forth a structured plan, but I would do as much looking at pedigrees as possible, perhaps purchasing one of the commercial pedigree programs which give the ability to print out of five or more generation pedigrees. I'd also try and read up on the history of the breed so that names in pedigrees take on some kind of meaning. With regard to pedigree theory the Russell Meerdink Company is one place where there are quite a lot of books covering this ( Great Thoroughbred Sires of the World (which I think is available through The Blood-Horse, gives an enormous amount of background on stallions of the last 100 years or so). There are as many theories as there are writers, so I would read these with a critical eye. If you are ever in Lexington, the library at Keeneland has some very good books on breeding and historical racing, and the librarians would be able to direct you towards those (examples would include the original 'Great Breeders and Their Methods' by Abram Hewitt; 'Sire Lines' by the same author).

Midland, TX:
Alan, I am considering sending my Afternoon Deelites mare to Scat Daddy. Do you like the nick, or would you suggest another sire. Many thanks for your comments and for taking our questions.

I very much like the idea of trying Scat Daddy over an Afternoon Deelites mare. In general terms Storm Cat has done well with Private Account (the grandsire of Afternoon Deelites), including a stakes winner by Hennessy (the grandsire of Scat Daddy). Afternoon Deelites is particularly interesting as he is out of a mare by Medaille d'Or (Champion Two-Year-Old in Canada), who was by Secretariat out of Northern Dancer's most important daughter, Fanfreluche, so is a reverse cross to Storm Cat (by a son of Northern Dancer out of a Secretariat mare). There are some other positives in the background too. Storm Cat's successful freshman son, Van Nistelrooy, has a graded winner with Medaille d'Or in the pedigree, and Forest Wildcat sired grade one winner D'Wildcat out of a mare by D'Accord, a brother to Medaille d'Or.

Davis, CA:
Mr. Porter, I have always appreciated the opportunity to read your pedigree work, and routinely use it when planning my matings. My question concerns the successful California based stallion Unusual Heat. I am considering to sell one of my two Cal-Breds by Unusual Heat at auction in Europe, as I feel Unusual Heat has an improving reputation internationally as a sire. To my knowledge, this has never been done before. Do you think feel the novelty and rarity of this will be of significant interest to European buyers (assuming good pedigree and conformation), or do you feel I will get lost among all the excellent turf pedigrees for sale in Europe? Many thanks in advance.

This could be a tough proposition unless this is an outstanding physical specimen. European's are usually fairly insular, and very, very few trainers, and relatively few agents are going to know much about Unusual Heat. If you had an exceptional individual and could get enough people to view, you might have some shot. I would think, however, with the costs involved it is a big risk. You also lose the any benefit of the Cal-bred status.

Pittsburgh, PA:
The 2 top lines we repeatedly hear about are those of Northern Dancer & Mr. Prospector. The immediate common link there is Native Dancer, who only lived to sire 13 "smallish" crops, and in Maryland missed out on some excellent Kentucky mare matings. Yet, last year 19 of the 20 Derby starters traced back a minimum of once to him. Can we conclude that Native Dancer was the most influential American stallion since 1950? Additionally, if one looks at his racing performance, one might arguably judge him as the all-around most accomplished "modern" American Thoroughbred, period?

I think, given that he is sire of Raise a Native (in turn sire of Mr. Prospector) and broodmare sire of Northern Dancer, it would be hard to overstate Native Dancer's impact on the modern Thoroughbred.

Lexington, KY:
Can you give a brief synopsis of the importance of Buckpasser and his bloodline.

The most important contribution of Buckpasser to the breed is that he became broodmare sire of several notable stallions, among them Seeking the Gold, Private Account, Woodman, Miswaki, El Gran Senor, Slew o' Gold, Mining and Believe It, as well as sire of the second dam of A.P. Indy and Summer Squall. From a pedigree standpoint, he is particularly interesting as he is out of the mare, Busanda. Apart from being a top-class runner in her own right, she was one of a legion of notable horses by War Admiral out of daughters of La Troienne, and was three-parts-sister to Striking, Busher (both in the dam of Seattle Slew) and Mr. Busher. This means that Buckpasser has become a very important avenue for multiplying the La Troienne strain (note that the dams of Private Account, Woodman, El Gran Senor and Mining were all inbred to La Troienne).

Nicholasville, KY:
Favorite Trick exhibited such talent at two, then tailed off some as a 3yo Why do you think his offspring didn't do much on the track? Phone Trick was a good sire, maybe not outstanding, but he did have some big runners besides Favorite Trick.

I think there are a number of possible reasons, among which might include a somewhat unfashionable distaff side, and the fact that he didn't get the most prepossesing individuals. I think he was a stallion breeders were always somewhat wary of for those and one a variety of other reasons. In general terms, I've come to the conclusion that it is extremely hard to predict stallion success (apart from those who sire a lot of really disastrous soundness problems), as it probably comes down to how closely certain important genes are clustered and consistently passed on (which might mean that those traits are conveyed more consistently than if they were widely scattered throughout the genome). This might explain why brothers such as Devil's Bag and Saint Ballado can see the lesser performer on the track come through, even beginning with far less opportunity.

Toronto, Canada:
Hi Alan. I was just wondering with all the success you have had in consulting on breeding over 100 stakes winners, has it ever crossed your mind to start your own breeding program?

I have owned runners in the U.S. and broodmares in England and the U.S., and have owned fillies, which I have had covered and sold in foal, or resold as broodmare prospects, several of which have gone on to produce stakes winners. I currently have part of three or four mares, including one which won a race for me. The main hurdle is to me having a breeding program is that when you are working from limited resources and say just have one or two mares, it's easy lose a lot of money in a very short time - personally I don't have the resources to buy, board and breed what I would consider a commercial number of mares, so that stops me doing it at more than a hobby level.

Revere MA:
Hi Alan. Thanks for taking my question. I have always been fascinated with A.P. Indy. From his beginning in the sales ring, through his racing years, and now as a stallion, he's passed every test with flying colors. What do you think his impact on the breed will be?

I think that A.P. Indy has as much chance as any current sire to have a lasting impact. He has two very good younger proven sons in Pulpit and Malibu Moon, and several other sons such as Bernardini in the pipeline. He is going to also start appearing as a broodmare sire of sires (Bluegrass Cat, Any Given Saturday). It is going to be interesting as sires and dams bred on the A.P. Indy/Mr. Prospector cross receed into pedigrees and are duplicated.

San Jose, CA:
Congrats on bringing your new service online. From what I have read, it seems it will be a very useful tool for the breeding industry. I have a mare by Bold Badgett by Damascus. What sirelines work best with Bold Badgett/Damascus according to TrueNicks? Next, what is the charge for stallions to be nominated so users of the service can receive TrueNick ratings much like the Werk service does today?

Thank you. There have been limited opportunities for Bold Badgett line mares, but I see that he has three stakes winners by the Gone West horse, Perfect Mandate, and that the other two stakes winners out of Bold Badgett line mares are both by stallions, who like Perfect Mandate are bred on a Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer cross. Bold Badgett is a son of Damascus, and a brother to Desert Wine, so some the crosses which worked for Desert Wine should be good. He's also half-brother to Menifee, who is a son of Storm Cat, himself a good cross for Damascus. The rates for stallions who wish to enroll to use TrueNicks or to let breeders obtain complimentary ratings are $795 per stallion for a roster of 1-4 stallions; $750 per stallion for a roster of 5-14 stallions; and $695 per stallion for a roster of 15 or more stallions.

Lethbridge, AB:
Why do we not see as much line-breeding in Thoroughbreds as we do in other species such as dogs and cattle? I know line-breeding in thought to build "type" and out-crossing can produce a crap-shoot of traits...has type already been set enough in Thoroughbreds so that this is not a consideration for most breeders?

I think there are two factors, one to do with the difference between a performance animal and a show or produce animal, and the other, an interlinked commercial aspect.

Very close inbreeding in the racehorse can produce good results (the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner, Coronation V, was by a son of Tourbillon out of a mare by Tourbillon). However, inbreeding very closely is likely to emphasize recessive faults as well as good qualities, and I think that few breeders would want to bear the emotional and financial cost of the dramatic culling that would be needed for such a program. Also when you are breeding for physical type or production yield you are dealing with a much narrower set of phenotypical (what you can see) characteristics than the complex interaction of factors which make a runner. For example, many Thoroughbreds which would win a conformation show are mediocre runners, and yet time after time horses who did not sell well due to conformation flaws meet with success as runners. Incidentally the Thoroughbred is still pretty hetrozygous compared with most closed breeds - they would be much more physically different than a group show dogs from one breed. I don't know whether it is still so, but back at the turn of the last century, Thoroughbreds had varying number of lumbar vertebrae.

Rising Sun, MD:
Why are the terms "half-brother" and "half-sister" only applied to offspring of the same mare but not the same stallion. Genetically, the progeny of a stallion should still be half-siblings. This terminology has confused me for some time and I thank you for any clarification you can supply.

This confused me initially. It's relatively simple in that stallions often have several hundred foals, so being a half-brother (by the same stallion) doesn't really tell you much about a horse.

Louisville, KY:
Alan, do you think a Thoroughbred's traits come more from the sire's side, the dam's side, or does it vary? I saw a horse named Denis of Cork break his maiden recently and though he is out of Harlan's Holiday he was the spitting image of his dam sire, Unbridled, as he rolled through the lane, down to the blaze on his nose. Thanks!

Genetically, in theory a horse potentially gets 50% of his genes from each parent. That said, there are definitely horses whose phenotype (physical aspect that you see) appears to come much more from one side than the other. A horse like Point Given is far more reminiscent of his broodmare sire, Turkoman, than his sire, Thunder Gulch, and he seems to like the Seattle Slew line, which is far better for Turkoman than Thunder Gulch. Of course where the 50/50 scenario is genetics 101 there are a lot of more complex things going on such as dominant genes or gene groupings; sex-link inheritance (where genes are only on the x or y chromosome), or sex-linked expression (where the same gene or gene group behaves in a different way whether it is inherited through the sire or dam).

Lexington, KY:
Other than the fact that TrueNicks are computed on a daily basis, is there any difference between your ratings and Jack Werk's?

While conceptually both systems consider the same aspect of pedigree evaluation, there are numerous differences between the two systems, both in calculation and presentation. The TrueNick rating considers all known stakes winners bred on a cross, and all known starters, and compares the success of a sire or sire line with the mares presented to it to the success of that specific sire or group of sires when bred to all other mares, and the success of that specific group or mares when bred to all other stallions. Thus it really is a mating calculated on true opportunity. If I understand correctly, the Werk rating is calculated on the basis of degree of representation within a database of unrestricted stakes winners, but doesn't consider actual attempts at a mating in the real world. The Werk rating has served to demonstrate that there is a correlation between sire line/broodmare sire line affinity and racing success, but without access to a comprehensive "all foal" data base, it does not have the opportunity to determine true success/opportunity. Without knowing the numbers of starters bred on a cross, it becomes impossible to accurately evalute a nick which has been tried far more often than it's frequency in the population would suggest, such as the Kingmambo/Sadler's Wells cross.

To the best of our knowledge, TrueNicks is the only commercially accessible pedigree rating system which has access to such a comprehensive database, and while at the moment we only examine one aspect of the pedigree - the sire line/broodmare sire line cross - studies of over 100,000 foals has demostrated that this is a vitally important aspect.

Incidentally, we should overlook the importance of being updated daily. A few weeks ago, one weekend produced two new stakes winners by sons of Storm Cat out of mares by Unbridled's Song, where there had previously been none. If I was contemplating a mating involving and Unbridled's Song mare, this is something that I would like to have as soon as possible.

In terms of presentation, in addition to giving a five generation pedigree, and listing inbreeding and dosage figures, the TrueNick page gives the TrueNick letter rating and variant (the stakes winner to expectation rate) and most importantly, and uniquely, a list of the top five winners bred on the cross, combined with level of stakes achievement (if any) along with their sire and broodmare sire. Despite sometimes having to examine hundreds of thousands of records, the TrueNick rating is and the accompanying information is delivered in seconds. We should also note that there are some more exciting enhancements planned in the near future.

Lexington, KY:
Most pedigree nerds know about the Bend Or / Macaroni, Phalaris / Chaucer, and Nasrullah / Princequillo "nicks." Are there any other combinations as potent as these three were, in your opinion? Any modern combinations that breeders should be on the lookout for?

I think these days - due to the compression of the breed - it is hard for a nick to be as dominant. To have the huge impact that the above nicks had, you need for one specific nick to produce several top class sires or producers. It's possible that something like the A.P. Indy/Mr. Prospector cross or Storm Cat/Mr. Prospector cross could have enough quality individuals that they can be duplicated in pedigrees of the future.

Vancouver, BC:
As a newcomer to the breeding end of business it is overwhelming to read some of the breeding publications that speak of certain crosses that produce physical infirmities. how is this data collected and where is it stored how do we access it.

Unfortunately nearly all of these information is anecdotal, and that often base on some isolated individual experiences. So at the moment, other than listening to knowledge observers it is hard to get a handle on such things. There was a recent study on % of starters and number of starts for specific stallions, but that tended to mostly demonstrate that the offspring of the more expensive stallions run less, which is mainly down to commercial factors (they tend to retire to stud once they have established a value, or to not run in less they are competitive at a relatively high level).

Lexington, KY:
Based on the pedigree of Maimonides, do you think he has distance limitation? If so, how far can he run?

With this type of question you always have to consider the individual, and at the moment Maimonides seems to have been trained to exploit his speed (he put in a suicidal :21.2 second quarter in the Hopeful). So he might need a process of re-education (which may well have happened through the winter). On pedigree, however, he would seem to have as much of a shot of staying ten furlongs as most fashionably-bred U.S. Thoroughbreds (I suspect that for the first Saturday in May one doesn't neccessarily need a true ten furlong horse, rather a mature, fast mile/8 1/2 furlong type whch can carrying its speed). Maimonides sire, Vindication, won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at nine furlongs, and he is by Seattle Slew, a Belmont Stakes winner, out of a mare by Strawberry Road, a horse who had no trouble with 12 furlongs. Maimonides dam is by Silver Deputy, a horse who is generally a speed influence, but who has got stamina when bred to staying mares. She has also produced Silver Tornado (by Maria's Mon), a graded stakes winner at 8 1/2 furlongs; El Correder (by Mr. Greeley), a grade one winner at a mile; and Roman Ruler (by Fusaichi Pegasus), who was a fast horse, but who defeated Sun King in the Haskell at nine furlongs, and was third in the Travers (to Flower Alley and Bellamy Road, with Don't Get Mad and Andromeda's Hero behind) at ten furlongs, so she doesn't seem to be shortening her offspring up. The granddam is by Quack who would generally be an influence for stamina.

Chula Vista, CA:
I am excited that Sunday Silence stallions now available in the U.S. I only have two mares one by Sword Dance out of a Gulch mare and another by Candy Stripes out of a Conquistador Cielo mare. Which mare would you recommend I breed to that blood line and why?

I would go with the Sword Dancer mare. Sunday Silence and his sons have a better stakes producing strike rate with Nijinsky II line mares than with Blushing Groom line mares, and the stakes winners on the Nijinsky II cross have been better class too.

Moxee, WA:
I have a two year old filly by Horse Chestnut (SAF) out of Olden Rijn by Cozzene. Should I stick to the turf, or try dirt as well?

One obviously has to let the horse tell you, but this certainly sounds like a turf pedigree, although Horse Chestnut was very impressive when winning a graded stakes on dirt on his only try on that surface. Cozzene did sire some very good dirt horses, such as Mizzen Mast and Alphabet Soup (actually good on both surfaces), so its not set in stone. It might also be a possible for synthetic tracks.

Little Rock, AR:
Why do you think stallions like Spend a Buck and Fast Gold and others that fail to make it in the U.S., go to countries like Brazil and sire Graded winners, many of them return to the U.S. and run in Graded races here. Is it because they nick with the pedigrees there, or do they raise a better horse then we do?

I think there are a number of reasons. Generally speaking South American mares tend to be big and strong with a lot of bone, and this might help some stallions which go there. On pedigree there are going to be some bloodlines which suit the genetic environment - for example there are a lot of Boussac strains in South American, and I could see that playing into a stallion like Spend a Buck. Also stallions down there tend to predominantly cover mares from the farm which stands them, so if something does work it tends to get a lot of opportunity. In relative terms, some of these horses get better mares in South American than they would here, for example a $15,000 U.S. sire might be covering graded stakes winners and producers in South America. I think South American countries particularly produce good fillies, which might in part be due to the environment tending to produce a big, strong, rugged female.

Cranford, NJ:
Why do you think the Seattle Slew/Seattle Slew cross has not been very effective? and if I am allowed another question, how much and how close is too much Raise A Native?

In general terms, crossing a stallion back over his immediate male line produces below expectation results (for example, I did a study on all Northern Dancer/Northern Dancer crosses, and although this cross has produced hundreds of stakes winners, as an overall cross, and through different versions of it, it was nearly always inferior in terms of percentage of stakes winners to what had been achieved by crossing with non-Northern Dancer sires or dams). With this in mind, and breeders generally being aware, it's unlikely that the Seattle Slew/Seattle Slew cross has been given much opportunity with high-class stock. Of the top five stakes winners, only one is by a horse who stands in Kentucky (Malibu Moon) and he was in Maryland when he sired the stakes winner.

With regard to Raise a Native, he's not likely to be found much closer than 3 x 3 in modern pedigrees, and that wouldn't worry me. The earliest stakes winner inbred to Raise a Native I can find is Mining, who was 2 x 4. He was very fast, if not entirely sound. There are numerous stakes winners with Raise a Native 3 x 3. I would be worried by three crosses in five generations, or four in six, especially if some sound channels were involved.

Belmont, NY:
What makes a good pedigree analyst besides having a good memory? Thanks

I think that the skill set has changed. When I first became involved in the pedigree research side of the industry (getting on for 35 years ago now), we were still compiling catalog pages and other information by hand, so knowing where to find the information and having a good memory, was very important. These days an overwhelming amount of information is equally available to all on line, so the skill set has now become the ability to intelligently interpret this information, putting this information into context, and trying to extrapolate and understand trends.

Paris, KY:
Hi Alan, I find your insight on pedigrees most informative and always enjoy reading what you have to say. My question is, if a mating is a good match on pedigree, how much weight do you give confirmation, the fitting of the physical attributes of the mare to the stallion? I know of a number of breeders who strictly breed on pedigree and don't give a second thought to the physical match.

Thank you. I think having the correct physical match is essential. It is no good putting together an appealing pedigree page if it involves mating two individuals which have common faults, or are too radically dissimilar in proportion, type or aptitude. Pedigree is only one piece of the puzzle, and for me a bad physical match would disqualify a nice pedigree match. The obverse would apply where a good physical match might give a cross which has been proven not to work well (after all, there are plenty of lovely individuals who are very slow).


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