biomechanical analysis, biomechanics, danzig, distorted humor, dr. fager, fappiano, mr. prospector, native dancer, raise a native, secretariat, Unbridled's Song
Just as Secretariat found the norms of the breed unsuited to his excellent traits, other stallions with championship qualities have found themselves needing mates with different traits.
One of the reasons for some stallions needing mares with traits that are difficult to find is that the mares most likely to possess them are from the same lines as the stallion. The noted vet Dr. Bishop suggested that the thing to do with Secretariat was to mate him with his own daughters. This was never done, in part because we think of such matings from the human perspective as incestuous. Also, unless the mares were chosen for good qualities and lack of faults, the results would tend not to be very useful.
Another tack, in Secretariat’s case, would have been to use mares by Nasrullah, Bold Ruler, Princequillo, or one of the better Bold Ruler or Nasrullah sons. These horses tended to gravitate toward the stride type, and doing something like, while eccentric, would have created a sort of miniature “breed center” around Secretariat and might possibly have worked.
When considering the concept of the “center of the breed” in biomechanical terms, it sounds as if the norms of the breed are a static center, but there does appear to be evidence that the norms can drift, or perhaps even realign to form a somewhat different and more specialized center of the breed.
Particularly with regard to the preferred stock of the commercial market of the last 20 years, the change has been toward both a larger horse and one with a bigger hip (both wider and longer) and longer hind cannon. These are the traits especially associated with Native Dancer, Raise a Native, Fappiano, and Dr. Fager.
These are horses with extraordinary speed, but they were not purely sprinters and did not get their speed simply by muscle mass and rapid acceleration.
And if we think about Fappiano, in particular, most would agree that the outstanding sire son of Mr. Prospector combined some traits that were fairly atypical of Mr. Prospector, but that were more typical of Native Dancer and Raise a Native, with the best qualities of Dr. Fager.
This recombination of traits is the essence of the breed-shaping stallion who literally can remake the breed, or a portion of it, in his own image. For many outstanding racehorses, being atypical has been the death of their prospects of consistent success at stud. But this has not been the case for the power type of horse with the Native Dancer hip and the big frame of a Dr. Fager or Fappiano.
On the contrary, they have prospered because there are enough of this type out there to help one another as mates. As the number of high-quality horses has increased over the past 30 years or so, the opportunity for stallions to find suitable mates, even by chance, has likewise increased.
And breeders have every reason to use this type of mare and stallion in their matings because this tall Quarter Horse type has become the preferred commercial prospect, both at the yearling sales and especially at the auctions of 2-year-olds in training.
And as a result of this growth in popularity, some of the types or “populations” of horses that were not common enough to dominate the breed in earlier decades are now coming to have a larger influence on the breed.
The looming struggle for influence among different types of racehorses will be focused on the relative pressures in breeding and racing to retain the typey, muscular, medium-sized horse typical of Type I or to replace that with the larger, rangier, power-centered horse.
Unbridled’s Song, grandson of Fappiano through the outstanding sire Unbridled, is the prototype of the big power horse, and there could hardly be a more popular sire and physical profile, especially for the commercial breeder and buyer. On the other hand, Distorted Humor is the heir to Danzig, Mr. Prospector, and others of the Type I center.
Roger Lyons said:
A few years ago, just as the wave of crosses combining Storm Cat, A.P. Indy, and Gone West–all out of Secretariat mares–was getting underway, Bob Fierro wrote a piece in the Thoroughbred Times, in which he projected, broadly, which of the six possible crosses of these three sire lines would be most successful, based on a phenotypic analysis of differences between the respective sons and daughters of these three sires. Given your premise that salient traits contributed by an ancestor through a mare may be at odds with the phenotype of a mate, would it not also matter whether that ancestor descends to the mare through a son or a daughter? I would be interested in your observations about this, especially in regard to your expectations, broadly speaking, that the sons and daughters of a given sire will differ from one another in relevant ways. Are such differences exceptional? the norm?
My interest in this arises from a statistical point of view, of which Zenyatta is a good illustration. She is inbred to Hail to Reason through Halo and Roberto (both males) and to Hoist the Flag through Raise the Standard and In the Offing (both females). I very often find that a given stallion will have a good record with an ancestor through strains of one sex, but a poor or average record with the ancestor through stains of the opposite sex. Consequently, mares that are inbred to an ancestor through strains of the same sex are much easier to match up statistically, as in the case of Zenyatta.
It happens that through his 2006 crop Distorted Humor has sired foals out of 19 mares with Hoist the Flag through daughters, and four of those mares produced SWs. He has sired foals out of 79 mares with Hail to Reason through sons, and 12 of those mares produced SWs. Very few stallions can match that. But, if Zenyatta had opposite-sex stains of both of these ancestors, the choice of a mate for her would not be nearly as clear-cut as it is, at least to me. I deal in numbers, not traits, but it seems to me that, in principle, the fewer sets of traits that are in play, the more likely a favorable outcome.
I would add that this is a separate issue from the idea that inbreeding through opposite-sex strains is desireable, which I take to be a purely eugenic notion right out of the 19th century. I’d rather a mare be bred like Zenyatta because it makes my job so much easier.
So, based on your biomechanical observations, does the concern about whether an ancestor descends through a son or a daughter have broad relevance across a large range of ancestry, or is it very limited in scope to just a few ancestors?