Horse running through field

Dayjur and his Daughters

By Roger Lyons

Although not one to beat the drum for inbreeding, I’m willing to relent on the occasion of the pensioning of Shadwell Farm’s Dayjur, a stallion that’s been very good value for breeders on a budget. Bred Danzig over Mr. Prospector, he was bound to be almost exclusively a sire of sprinters, regardless of the mares he got, but he did get some very good mares early on. That and his speed contribution probably both figure prominently in the early results of crossing his daughters and their daughters with certain Mr. Prospector-line stallions. Dayjur apparently has an uncanny ability to mediate inbreeding to Mr. Prospector. (Click here to view Dayjur’s Conformation photo, stats, etc)

Gone West provides only an inkling of that since he only had four mares with Dayjur in their ancestries. From the mare Top Order (Dayjur-Victoria Cross, by Spectacular Bid) he got the colt Top Cross, winner of the listed Lamplighter S. (9f-T), but that’s a little too close for comfort at 2×4 to Mr. Prospector. Gone West sons Elusive Quality and Mr. Greeley have done a lot better.

Elusive Quality has had foals out of ten mares with Dayjur in their ancestries, and three of those mares produced superior runners. Elusive City, out of Star of Paris (Dayjur-Liturgism, by Native Charger), picked up on the speed angle winning the 6f Prix Morny (G1). So did multiple listed stakes winner Princess Janie, out of Petite Princess (Dayjur-Classy Women, by Relaunch), winner of the Just Smashing S. and the Mongo Queen S., both at three and both at 6f, and Great Notion, out of Evening Primrose (Dayjur-Water Lily, by Riverman), winner of the Southwest S. at 8f.

That one-generation break in the distance of inbreeding makes a huge difference. Just ask Mr. Greeley. He’s had seven mares with Dayjur in their ancestries, and three of those mares have produced listed stakes winners by him. At two, the filly Foxy Danseur, out of Ravish Me (Wild Again-In Conference, by Dayjur), won the Sharp Cat S. at 8.5f and at three the Cascapedia S. at 7f. The filly Parisian Affair, out of Star of Paris (Dayjur-Liturgism, by Native Charger–same mare as above), won the Phoenix S. at five going 5f on turf. The filly Zona, out of Miss Gaily (Dayjur-Gaily Gaily, by Cure the Blues), won the 8f Premio Seregno.

Almost everything Dayjur touches turns to speed, which is not a bad limitation for an ancestor to offer, as is suggested by other stallions that have had good Mr. Prospector inbreds from mares in descent of Dayjur–and from precious little opportunity.

Awesome Again, whose second dam is by Mr. Prospector, has Everyday Heroes, out of Lucette (Dayjur-Thirty Zip, by Tri Jet), one of only two opportunities with mares in descent of Dayjur. Everyday Heroes won the 6f Hirsch Jacobs S. (G3).

From only three mares, E Dubai, by Mr. Prospector, has sired the 2005 colt Dubai Destination, out of Darlin (Dayjur-So Endearing, by Raise a Native). Dubai Destination won the Eillo S. at 6f.

Northern Afleet sired Nay’s Tap, a gelding out of Tapforaly (Pleasant Tap-Aly’s Daylite, by Dayjur) and winner of the Sophomore Sprint Championship S. at 6f, that from only two opportunities.

If the good filly Shadow Cast, by Smart Strike and out of Daily Special (Dayjur-Nafees, by Raja Baba), were the only representative of inbreeding to Mr. Prospector by way of a mare in descent of Dayjur, she would qualify as the wildest of flukes. Smart Strike hasn’t otherwise done his best work with mares in descent of Mr. Prospector, either. Shadow Cast, in fact, is the only superior runner by Smart Strike and out of a mare in any descent of Mr. Prospector from 57 chances, only four of which involved Dayjur. Nevertheless, she won six stakes, four of them graded, including the Personal Ensign S. (G1) at 10f. Not everything Dayjur touches turns to speed after all.

One case does not a pattern make, but, even though Shadow Cast truly is an outlier, the good results by a variety of stallions from very small numbers of similarly inbred foals suggest that she is nonetheless part of a pattern of uncharacteristically effective inbreeding involving Dayjur.

Tesio insisted on using close inbreeding at least once per crop although very few of his crops yielded as many as two instances. Never mind that Nearco was one of those. Don’t forget that Tesio’s number one criterion for close inbreeding was that it involve the soundest individuals, and Dayjur’s record of 78% runners and 52% winners probably weighs as much in the accounting as his speed and the quality of the families he got in his early crops.

Affinity Schleminity!

By Roger Lyons

It seems the old eugenic notion of “purity of blood” just won’t go away. For the last couple of years one website in particular has been featuring it as the one and only theory of nicks, and with a zeal that is–well, I’ve always wanted to use this word, but didn’t have a chance until now–mythomaniacal. I’m referring to the obsession with explaining nicks in terms of the “genetic affinities” that are supposedly exploited by crossing “close genetic relatives.”

The term “genetic affinity” might not seem as crass as the term “blood affinity,” but they are close etymological relatives nonetheless, their pedigree tracing to the idea that all good things spring from pure blood. This figure of speech originally served the purpose of invidious social class comparison. Needless to say, it’s un-American. It’s also un-French. It’s even un-German. It’s English.

To the unreflective pedigree analyst, it’s all but irresistible. You take the ancestry of an individual stakes winner, and then you find individual, similarly bred ancestors of both sire and dam (don’t worry, you’ll find them if you go back far enough), and you proclaim, “That’s why this horse is a stakes winner.” This game has no rules, and it’s open to all. It works for any ancestry, and, if you repeat it enough times, then some people will be persuaded.

But here’s my main beef with that approach. It violates the dictum that tests of a theory must, in principle, have equal opportunity to confirm and to disconfirm the theory. Within an anecdotal framework the theory of genetic affinity can be confirmed till the cows come home, but such tests could not possibly disconfirm it, precisely because close genetic relationships are ubiquitous in thoroughbred pedigree.

In my last blog post I took a statistical approach to deconstructing the supposed genetic affinity between Halo and Prince John. I might have chosen any combination of the many ancestors that have been trotted out in tandem over the years as examples of “close genetic relatives.” I concluded that there’s no genetic affinity between Halo and Prince John, but the argument goes farther than that. There’s no such thing as a genetic affinity. Period.

One needn’t appeal to the supernatural or to The Catalogue of Unacceptable Ideas in order to account for nicks. I’m convinced that the relation between types and traits is all we need. Let me illustrate.

During his career, the stallion Woodman sired foals out of 54 mares that descended in some way from Better Self (by Bimelech, a son of La Troienne, and out of Bee Mac, by War Admiral), and only one of those mares produced a superior runner by him, a strike rate far below his norm.

Another son of Mr. Prospector, Gone West, sired foals out of 61 mares in some descent of Better Self, and nine of those mares produced a superior runner by him, a strike rate well above his norm.

Now, here are the premises of a simple theory based on the relation of types and traits.

1. Better Self, rarely occurring in pedigrees closer than the fourth or fifth generation of mares, is so prepotent in regard to a certain trait or set of traits that individuals in any given descent routinely express that trait or set of traits.

2. Any given stallion tends to throw offspring within a certain range of type.

3. From a performance standpoint, the trait or set of traits so persistently conferred by Better Self may accord with, or even complement, the range of type of a given stallion’s offspring (Gone West), but it may affect the offspring of another stallion (Woodman) in an extremely unfavorable way.

It’s a simple theory. No hocus pocus. No need for the mysteries of genetic affinity. This theory probably isn’t exactly right, at least not comprehensively so, but its great advantage is that it’s subject to both confirmation and disconfirmation by way of tests combining statistical observation and biomechanical analysis.

Having it both ways?

Unfinished business left over from my last blog post really needs to be addressed. The point of that post was to show that Alan Porter uses deceptive language in characterizing his nick rating system’s access to information relating to the measurement of opportunity. Such tactics only go so far before colliding head-on with reality, and, when used so carelessly and with such abandon, they are usually part of a larger pattern of deception. That is, they are habitual.

This is evident especially in the hypocritical nature of Alan’s stated commitment to using opportunity as a measure of the effectiveness of sire-line crosses. The pattern of duplicity is pervasive.

As I sat down to compose this post, I decided I would just go to his website and use his latest post as an example, whatever it might be. I knew it wouldn’t matter because they’re all the same. It happened to be an entry about the More Than Ready-Meadowlake cross (“Halo Effect”), and it’s very typical of the stuff he does all the time. Everybody knows that Alan’s big thing is to tie up the loose ends of ancestors that share a close genetic relationship–in this case Halo (More Than Ready’s paternal grandsire) and Prince John (Meadowlake’s tail-male great-grandsire).

As everybody also knows, Alan and his partner Byron Rogers are principals in a nick rating service whose main selling point is that it uses opportunity against which to measure the effectiveness of sire-line crosses–this, despite the fact that Jack Werk, Sid Fernando, Bill Oppenheim, and I (and probably others I don’t know about) have said for years in print and online that opportunity at that level is meaningless.

The reason is that, when dealing with descendents of sire lines and broodmare sire lines, there’s no way to control for the quality of breeding stock. In that case, when you reduce opportunity to “the number of times the cross has been tried” (let’s call it N for short), you are bound to end up with a wild discrepency between the two. Never mind Alan’s naive, but calculated, use of the term “true opportunity.”

Given a commitment like that, it’s surprising that, in making his point about the Halo-Prince John effect as it relates to More Than Ready, Alan never mentions how many of More Than Ready’s mates actually had Prince John in their ancestries. This is all the more surprising in view of the fact that the question of opportunity has its greatest relevance when it relates to the mates of a particular stallion because, in that case, the stallion himself controls to a great extent for the quality of mares. Thus, in that situation N is much more representative of actual opportunity. Why does Alan abandon his commitment to opportunity in such circumstances?

In my small consulting business that’s exactly the kind of information I use all of the time. For example, my database for More Than Ready shows that through his 2006 crop (I add the latest three-year-old crop in the middle of the year) he’d sired foals out of 87 individual mares with Prince John in their ancestries (North America only), and some of those mares had produced multiple foals by him. To date, ONLY three of those mares have produced a stakes winner by More Than Ready.

By the test of statistical significance I use, that’s an abysmal strike rate, relative to More Than Ready’s overall record. Alan is simply wrong about the More Than Ready-Prince John connection. Well, what about the greater Halo-Prince John effect that’s really at stake in his post?

I checked the performance with Prince John by other sires with Halo in their ancestries. Street Cry is the only one whose strike rate with mares in some descent of Prince John was significantly higher than his overall record. Fusaichi Pegasus, Giant’s Causeway, Pine Bluff, Rahy, Saint Ballado, and Victory Gallop all had SW strike rates that only just warranted their opportunity. The rest of them for which I”ve kept figures–Devil’s Bag, Harlan’s Holiday, Silver Ghost, and Van Nistelrooy–had SW frequencies with Prince John that fall significantly below opportunity, relative to their overall quality as sires. Conclusion: there is no broad, performance-enhancing affinity between Halo and Prince John.

A proper consideration of opportunity would have prevented Alan from misleading his readers. Unfortunately, while insisting upon the need for a measure of opportunity when its use is dubious at best, he completely ignores it when it would have the most relevance. He constantly reminds us that he has access to vast database resources, which leaves only one explanation. His commitment to the question of opportunity varies, not with the matter of its relevance, but with what it is he’s selling at the time.

NOTE: The above references to SW strke rates for individual stallions with mares in any descent of Prince John are partially derived from source material obtained from The Jockey Club Information Services, and I thank my lucky stars for policies on the part of that organization enabling small businesses like mine to participate in the thoroughbred industry in a way that’s meaningful and cost-effective.

Alan: Jack has no choice

By Roger Lyons

I couldn’t presume to account for the latest histrionics coming from the Porter-Rogers pillbox (“An Opportunistic Approach?”) , but I can only suppose their nick rating service isn’t going as well as they expected–this, based only in part on the fact that Jack calls me every other day or so with exuberant reports of how many new eNicks accounts have been opened since the day before yesterday, not to mention the new stallion enrollments, which are posted for all to see.

Apart from the overall tenor of spitefulness and mean-spiritedness that pervades Alan’s remarks about Jack and myself–and, yes, he makes it personal (words like “stupid,” “disingenuous,” etc.)–there is something even more deeply troubling and of much broader interest than the venom he spews in that post, which, after all, he and Byron have done before and without much effect.

Alan pounces on a recent post at Jack’s “Who’s Hot” blog, in which Jack correctly and appropriately distinguishes his eNicks nick rating system from Alan’s on the issue of measurement. Jack’s post was occasioned by Bill Oppenheim’s Jan. 6, 2010 TDN column, in which Bill expresses skepticism about basing assessments of breeding methods on the number of times the method has been tried, or “opportunity,” which is what Alan’s nick rating system does. Jack joins Bill in opposing that approach, with the following:

“They’ve been using it as their main selling point and knocking WTC’s eNicks system because we don’t do it that way. Well, there’s a reason why we don’t. They just haven’t figured it out yet.”

Alan sees his opportunity and strikes, thus: “to be able to truly assess opportunity, one has to have access to comprehensive database of known foals, runners or starters, and their results, such as the database of the Jockey Club Information Services. . . .” Alan is building his argument: that the only reason why Jack agrees with Bill is that it serves vested interests. After all, Jack doesn’t have access to the JCIS database, but, surely, Alan doesn’t mean Jack couldn’t have access to the JCIS database if he thought he needed it. Read on.

Alan goes on to say:

“They don’t do things the same way because, they don’t have access to a database that gives them all foals and starters bred on a cross. Thus, they are forced to make a virtue out of a necessity.”

Forced? Well, as Alan knows, TOBA allows its publication, The Blood-Horse, to refuse Jack’s advertising even though that doesn’t conform very neatly with the TOBA mission statement. In that sense, Jack’s company is “forced” to advertise elsewhere. As it turns out, though, a lot of advertising The Blood-Horse would gladly accept is also going elsewhere.

But my impression has always been that, unlike The Blood-Horse, JCIS is willing to be everybody’s strategic partner, and understandably so. The very legitimacy of The Jockey Club–as proprietor of the official registry and source of breeding information–is at stake in offering equitable terms of access for all. Yet, Alan seems to be suggesting that his nick rating service has some form of exclusive use of that information. How else could he be so sure that Jack doesn’t really have a choice? If Alan is right, then it’s a concern for everyone.