More Questions, More Answers – Harness Racing Update
by Alan Leavitt
My editor delivered two interesting posts this week, both of which got me thinking really hard with my brain, in the words of my wonderful nephew Seth Rosenfeld, at the age of 3. (Since then he has made his mark as a breeder of many top horses including Sweet Lou).
Jean-François Reid, from Montreal, asked me if, as a breeder, I favored the pairing of pedigrees with allogamy. First, this kid has always been a market breeder, that is, someone who mates with the intention of selling the foals as yearlings. So I always tried to figure out which mating for each particular mare would produce the most expensive yearling. Nothing more complicated than that.
But that doesn’t answer Reid’s question. To begin with, I had to research the definition of genealogical matching. After a fair amount of research, I’m still not quite sure what pedigree match means. The closest I could understand to the term was the idea of ”giving back to the father the best blood of his mother”. And I really don’t know exactly what that means, let alone how to apply it in a practical way.
I know what inbreeding, line breeding and allogamy are. In case you forgot, a horse is inbred when the same name appears twice in its pedigree when the sum of the generations it appears is five or six.
Line breeding occurs when the sum of generations in which the same name twice is seven or eight.
An outcross pedigree is a pedigree in which no name appears twice in the first four generations.
A horse by Father Patrick, by Cantab Hall, by Self Possessed, by Victory Dream, and a mare by Wewering, by Victory Dream, would be considered inbred at Victory dream, 3 by 2. It can also be said that the sum of generations in which Victory Dream appears twice is five.
Between a choice of inbreeding or crossbreeding, this kid goes great for inbreeding. This is tricky because you can end up with double emphasis on an unwanted trait, if you are not using horses that are as perfect as possible. But this is also how you can strike gold, producing a horse with a double barrel at high speed if you have chosen well.
There is nothing wrong with making crosses. A lot of good horses are crossbreeds, but you’re very unlikely to produce a world beater.
I can make it even more obscure by mentioning the importance of the specific genotype of the stallion you choose. Remember, the genetic range analogy to a deck of cards, with two down and an ace up. You want to breed with a stallion whose genetic deck starts with a 10, so he always rolls a high card for his half of the foal’s genetic makeup being conceived.
Can you know the genetic makeup of a given stallion? The answer is “yes” if he has sired at least four harvests and has a lot of play horses to his name. Of course, at this point in time he is one of the best bulls in the breed i.e. a Muscle Hill, and he comes with a stratospheric breeding fee.
The answer here, if neither your mare nor your bank balance can handle one of the few best proven stallions, is to bet on an unknown amount i.e. an untested horse.
You will be fine here if you go to see a first year horse who was excellent on the race tracks. First crop bulls always sell yearlings at a good price. This is true even though there is absolutely no correlation between racing success and stallion success, but that’s all we have to do.
This is why this kid, and his soul mate Federico Tesio, seek out the brilliance of the 2 year old racing tracks as the best guide to future success as a father.
Here my favorite examples are the two full brothers, Muscle Massive and Muscle Mass. Muscle Massive wasn’t much at 2, but won the Hambletonian at 3. Muscle Mass was undefeated in stakes and took home almost $ 200,000 at 2. At 3, he couldn’t beat Old Shep.
That’s not to say Muscle Massive is a bad father; it is not. But he’s no patch on his brother, Muscle Mass, who is one of the best trotting stallions alive today.
The. Mr Tesio and I stand by our case, although even the best 2-year-olds don’t come with iron guarantees, witness the unbeaten Deweycheatumnhowe, 2.
Well, at least on this topic, it would probably be difficult to find a true cross pedigree, especially with American Trotters, as there just isn’t much variety of sires or families. It would be easier with pacers, which brings up another point. Anyone who has spent time in the breeding trenches knows that most of the best trotting bulls today have fertility issues. This is a direct result of the loss of heterozygosity, the factor of variability, because our American trotter has become, over the years, too inbred, and when you lose heterozygosity, the first manifestation of this loss is a decrease of the fertility of the stallions.
This, in a way, brings me to Ulf Lindstrom’s post. He refers to what this kid said about the loss of the variability factor in the American trotter, and then links it to the thoroughbred book limits now enforced by the Jockey Club. The only problem with this is that the American Thoroughbred does not suffer from inbreeding and the fertility of their stallions is very good, pretty much in all areas.
Here at Walnut Hall Ltd. we have bred a few thoroughbred mares to a fairly wide range of stallions, and so far I have yet to meet one that does not breed at least three times a year. 24/7. And put full mares on most of their blankets.
Three of the main thoroughbred farms are suing the Jockey Club, saying they have no reason to impose a pound limit. The smart money goes to these breeders just like I expect Russell Williams to chew on these Jockey Clubbers and spit them out when it comes to HISA and the ongoing litigation.
Ulf also asked me a totally independent question about booking limits, but that will have to wait another time.
Ciao for now, everyone.