a.p. indy, birdstone, bob fierro, changes in breeding aptitudes, native dancer, power type, shift toward power, shift toward stride
Part of the reason for my discourse on Dark Star and Native Dancer has been that my thinking has turned to the direction that the tides of breeding are taking. As John Sparkman remarked and I elaborated on somewhat, Dark Star represented the classic nobility of the past, and Native Dancer represented the powerful classic weightlifter that has come to dominate much of racing.
In the words of bloodstock writer and commentator Bob Fierro, Native Dancer is the “type of the biomechanical shift toward power: horses with greater height, greater mass, longer hind cannons,” and so forth. The increasing shift toward power has grown in volume since the 1950s and has dominated racing and breeding from the 1980s to the present.
My thinking has been that something significant is changing within the breed, however. Part of my inclination to believe this is so lies in the ongoing collapse of some of the dominant power lines, but it also includes the type of young stallions who are beginning to succeed.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and when one develops, something will come along to fill the space.
In terms of breeding, consider, for instance, the success of the dandy young stallion Birdstone, who is an example of a “power horse line” (Native Dancer, Raise a Native, Mr. Prospector, Fappiano, Unbridled, Grindstone) who has shape-shifted into a racer and sire whose primary assets are excellent stride characteristics.
And the primary line poised to take advantage of the changing needs of the breed is Nasrullah – Bold Ruler, especially through AP Indy, Pulpit, and his sons.
The “shift towards power”, in my view, had less to do with producing better racehorses than it did producing young horses that caught and filled the eye at sales. Moreover, the more muscular types are far more likely to breeze fast in the two-year-old sales.
As to the “dandy” young sire Birdstone, is there really reason to be very excited? Mine That Bird was a useful 3yo which got lucky and won a classic against an especially poor group on an off-track. He lacks scope and is unlikely to ever win another important race. Summer Bird was a nice staying type (in American terms), though was never really sound. What else is there of note? A couple of minor stakes performers?
While coincidentally standing at the same stud, I’d say that Afleet Alex is a far better and more promising young stallion. And interestingly, he is generally getting a good percentage of the lighter framed, later developing throwback (or European) types. From what I have seen, he is also getting a more consistent type than Birdstone.
This is a really good response. Good enough that I used the opening paragraph to write a further piece on power and the sales horse. But it was their performance on the track that led to sales success, rather than their sharp looks.
As for Birdstone and Afleet Alex, I think both are very respectable young sires with good prospects. Afleet Alex appears somewhat more versatile, getting good 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds who have shown good ability at a variety of distances. The Birdstones pretty much need some distance, which was the reason that I tossed him into the post.
He obviously won’t be siring two classic winners a crop. No sire does. But that he sired those kinds of horses tells us a lot about his type and his needs for mating and then for training the offspring. I clearly think more of him than you, but that’s OK.