blood-horse magazine, bruce lowe, dosage, figure system, history of breeding, joe estes, selection criteria for stallions, stallion selection, statistics in thoroughbred breeding
Joe Estes was a great researcher and a monumental force in evaluating the way we think about Thoroughbred pedigrees.
When he came to the Blood-Horse about 80 years ago, nobody thought about statistics as a means of assessing bloodstock or pedigrees. For one thing, it was so hard to compile a statistically valid body of data that essentially nobody wanted to do it.
Estes was lucky to have his position at the Blood-Horse because it allowed him to search for answers with a staff that had the leisure to follow his direction and compile reams of information that he could analyse and explain to the breeding public.
The volume of information he and the magazine staff could compile allowed him to discuss things about pedigrees that were totally new to breeders. Heretofore, breeders had selected mares on the basis of the leading broodmare sires, or by the Bruce Lowe family numbers, or according to the nick.
And here comes this quiet man writing things in an upstart publication (Blood-Horse wasn’t always the house organ) that came out of left field, at least according to the way most people thought at the time. Using his command of statistics and language, Estes retarded the effect of dosage on breeding by a good half-century, and his combination of satire and research into the Figure System of Bruce Lowe effectively destroyed it as a serious breeding system.
So after writing about stallion selection this week, I went in search of some input from Estes. In the Blood-Horse of 26 August 1939, he wrote:
The most important item in appraising the stud prospects of a young horse is his racing class. The racing class and breeding records of his sire and dam are also worthy of consideration, but beyond that the pedigree will tell you nothing worth remembering.
The prevalence of the popular notion that a good sire must come from a sire family (a term invented by Bruce Lowe, all-time hocus-pocus champion in Thoroughbred breeding) is easy enough to understand. It provides a reason to predict that a horse from a non-sire family probably will fail at the stud. And he probably will. So will the average good horse from any family.
Estes sure packed a punch, didn’t he? Still does.
John E. Madden, one of the greatest breeders of all time, wrote as follows: “As to the so-called intricate science of breeding in so blending the blood of the sire and the dam that winners may be produced in numbers, although of absorbing interest to the student and theorist, the practical man need confine himself to the formula only of breeding a good mare to a great horse taking into due consideration the varying qualities of each, and putting his trust in like producing like, or the likeness of some good ancestor. He will have his share of winners, his good years and bad years, and the experts will tack figures on to the pedigrees of his winners, and tell him how it all happened.”
J. A. Estes has gathered considerable data to prove the contention that high racing class in the immediate ancestors is the best index of probable excellence. For example, the Futurity has been run 56 times, and 22 of its winners, or 39 percent, were the sores and daughters of stakes winning mares. Since there are so few mares of this caliber, the normal expectancy would be nearer 10 percent. A similar study by Robertson of the classic winners in England, showed convincingly that racing class of a dam is indicative of her potential value in the stud. Estes adds, “It is, more specifically, my intention to contend that it costs ten times as much to buy a pedigree without racing class as racing class without a good pedigree, and that these odds are upside down. Class without pedigree is actually a far better
risk than pedigree without class. Class with pedigree (if the pedigree is limited to two generations) is of course better than either.”
Angel Contreras said:
Estes was the bestest! ;)).
This gentleman put on paper what seems logical but so many fail to appreciate….racing class is the most important factor in thoroughbred breeding….it applies for stallions and broodmares.
For those interested in a succinct summary of the importance of racing class in breeding, track down this esoteric book published by the legendary J. A. Allen (London) in 1978:
A Treatise on Thoroughbred Selection, by Donald Lesh