Some would worry that we are breeding stamina out of the Thoroughbred, and so far as a consistent strain of horses who can only find their best form at 12 to 20 furlongs, yes, that is pretty much a thing of the past.
Yet if a pattern of distance races were available, with sufficient prize money and breadth of class gradients, there would be horses to race in and excel in those events.
We have only to look at the experiment in New Jersey at Monmouth Park, and the evidence is immediately clear. If there is an opportunity available, the trainers and owners will find the horses to take advantage of it. And they should.
To take advantage of a rich surplus of races for stayers would be no greater difficulty than boosting the profile of Monmouth Park. The Thoroughbred has such a diverse variety of genetic material in its makeup that the breed regularly produces outliers from the norm of the six- to eight-furlong horse. There are plenty of horses who are life and death to get past a half-mile, but there are also many who are only getting warmed up at 10 and 12 furlongs.
One stallion who might surprise people as a sire of stayers is Giant’s Causeway, a son of Storm Cat out of a Rahy mare and a top-class horse from eight to 10 furlongs.
From the racing results over the last 10 months, Giant’s Causeway is the sire of Man of Iron, winner of the BC Marathon (not a real marathon but better than a poke in the eye), and Rite of Passage, winner of the recent Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. And overall, Giant’s Causeway produces a significant number of progeny who race better over 10 furlongs or farther than the norm of the breed.
This is only important as an indication that much of what we think of as “stamina” is actually a fairly wide set of traits working together harmoniously.
Even horses who show one set of traits as racehorses, such as Danehill or Distorted Humor (both sprinters or sprinter-milers), can sire a significant number of offspring who show differing aptitudes as racehorses.
In addition to the classic successes by some of Danehill’s offspring, the stallion also sired Westerner, winner of consecutive runnings of the Prix du Cadran over 4,000 meters at Longchamp in 2003-04. Westerner is out of the Troy mare Walensee, but she didn’t produce the G1 winner by herself.
So we will have the stock to race the distance if only they have the opportunity.