Horse running through field

Is Fly Down Up to the Belmont?

by Roger Lyons

When Frank Mitchell wrote about the classic breeding of Devil May Care here, I thought I might be in big trouble. I had already taken the position here that, while you can never rule out the possibility that a runner might be exceptional to its breeding, Devil May Care is not really bred to get the Derby distance.

The main problem is that she’s inbred 3×4 to Mr. Prospector. That’s a reasonable generational distance, but it still tags a runner as specialized for best efforts at distances of less than nine furlongs. That’s a norm that, like all norms, admits of exceptions, depending on other pedigree factors, such as the sire, the family, etc., and Devil May Care had already won the Bonnie Miss S. (G2) at nine furlongs. Still, . . . .

It’s now clear that Frank has a different view of close inbreeding to Mr. Prospector than I do because he’s just written here about how Fly Down’s (Mineshaft-Queen Randi, by Fly So Free) breeding puts the Belmont S. “well within his range.” Frank, once again, I must beg to differ.

Mineshaft has had 12 stakes winners, including Fly Down, that count when assessing his capability as a sire in matters pedigree. Five of those stakes winners have been inbred 3×4 to Mr. Prospector. It’s true that Cool Coal Man won both the Fountain of Youth S. (G2) and the Albert the Great S. at nine furlongs, but none of the other four have broken the 8.5-furlong barrier, and three of them never won a stakes beyond a mile.

Fly Down is Mineshaft’s sixth Mr. Prospector-inbred stakes winner, but not at 3×4. He has the added disadvantage, at least with respect to distance limitations, of being inbred 3×3, which is a huge difference.

Inbreeding and linebreeding, depending on the intensity, mean specialization around the capacities inherited from those repeated ancestors and their descendents. The increasing specialization in the population since the middle of the 20th century has almost certainly been a result of the increasing accumulation of linebreeding. Yes, some of this specialization favors the classic horse, but most of it does not.

So, Frank, if Fly Down wins the Belmont, I’ll take my hat off to you, but I won’t eat it because I remember all too well watching Volponi, another Mr. Prospector inbred, run away with the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

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