Horse running through field

Pedigree According to Darwin

by Roger Lyons

Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species succeeded in convincing most of the naturalists of his time that species difference is generational in nature, but he offended the faith of the clergy, who thought he went too far. Darwin thought the faith of the clergy didn’t go far enough.

You see, Darwin embraced the idea of a primordial Eve who was the Mother of us all, and he found inspiration in the thought of it. Darwin’s admiration for the natural world was magnified by his discovery that it had evolved in the well-ordered form of God’s “great Tree of Life.” And, since then, science has confirmed what hitherto could only be taken on faith. In that respect, science has done religion a great, unrequited favor.

Suppose your pedigree could be traced back to its origin and your entire human ancestry could be shown extending itself on a huge video display. It would look like the familiar binary tree that is used for thoroughbred pedigrees, the distinctive dynamic of which is that the number of nodes, for male and female, doubles with each generational remove. But have you ever thought about what happens at the end of it all?

For an undetermined number of generations backward, the number of individual ancestors would increase with each generational remove, but at a certain point, while the number of nodes in the tree would continue to double as your ancestry traces backward from one generation to the next, the number of individual ancestors occupying those nodes would begin to decrease, some fewer and fewer names distributed in increasing concentrations among the multiplying nodes.

Eventually, different parts of the tree would terminate at different generational removes as the entire structure approaches the common origin; and you would know your pedigree to be complete when all of the female nodes are occupied by a single name–that of Eve. Thus, all our pedigrees arrive at the same beginning.

Darwin’s only offense against the clergy was to render as fact the most primordial–and deeply repressed–spiritual longing: for all life to be one body.

My Favorite Matches–Keesep10 Day 1

by Roger Lyons

This post consists of some observations about hip numbers 20, 41, 52, 61, 76, and 90, which were offered on Day 1. My purpose is to highlight some pedigree matches that appear, from a certain statistical perspective, to be exceptionally well made, and I do this after they’ve gone through the ring, so as to render the exercise somewhat more academic than it could otherwise be.

The approach is based on the idea that a given stallion’s “strike rate” with mares that have a given ancestor provides an indication of the stallion’s relation to that ancestor in terms of performance. For example, the stallion Dynaformer has foals out of 45 individual mares with Seattle Slew occurring anywhere in their ancestries, and seven of those mares produced superior runners (winner of an unrestricted stakes, winner of a blacktype-qualifying foreign stakes, or a runner that finishes second in a G1 or G2 race). So, 7/45 is Dynaformer’s strike rate with mares that descend in some way from Seattle Slew.

Dynaformer has high strike rates with some ancestors, such as Seattle Slew, but with other ancestors he has low or average strike rates. Imagine, then, the evaluative potential of the strike rates for all ancestors represented in the six-generation ancestries of all the dams of Dynaformer’s foals, aged three and up. Any given mare could be comprehensively assessed as a potential mate for Dynaformer, based on his strike rates with her individual ancestors.

That is, in fact, the approach used below. Based on the sire’s strike rates with the individual six-generation ancestors of the dam, she occupies a percentile rank relative to other mares that have produced foals by the stallion, but the real value of having the data is that it enables pedigree interpretation and inference that is more comprehensively grounded in pertinent facts than is otherwise possible.

Hip 20 (A.P. Indy-Byzantine, by Quiet American): Byzantine’s ancestry scores at the 94th percentile of mares that have produced foals by A.P. Indy. Out of mares by Quiet American, A.P. Indy has sired Bernardini (multiple-G1) and A. P. Warrior (multiple-G2). Only one Quiet American mare that has produced a foal by A.P. Indy through his 2007 crop was unable to come up with a major stakes winner.

The strike rate of 2/3 with Quiet American didn’t come from out of the blue. A.P. Indy has extremely good numbers with both Fappiano (6/33) and Dr. Fager (10/53), sire and broodmare sire, respectively, of Quiet American, and he’s 6/40 with Quiet American’s third dam, Cequillo. Often, how well or poorly a stallion will do with mares by a given sire is indicated by the stallion’s record with the background ancestry. When a stallion has had no opportunity with an individual broodmare sire, I’m always especially cautious when he has a poor record on either side of the broodmare sire’s ancestry. That’s not the case here.

The yearling’s second dam is by Vice Regent, with which A.P. Indy has a strike rate of 11/43. Now, that’s mostly through Deputy Minister. In fact, A.P. Indy has a strike rate of 1/11 through female strains of Vice Regent, as in this case, but that is the only soft spot in Byzantine’s ancestry. A.P. Indy has a strike rate of 4/20 with Vaguely Noble, sire of the third dam, and a strike rate of 2/10 with Amerigo, sire of the fourth dam.

Hip 41 (Unbridled’s Song-Future Guest, by Copelan): Future Guest’s ancestry scores at the 96th percentile of mares that have produced foals by Unbridled’s Song. Rockport Harbor (G2) is one of two superior runners Unbridled’s Song has from opportunity with only three mares by Copelan (he’s had two other mares whose dams are by Copelan, for a total of five mares).

When it comes to Roberto, sire of Future Guest’s dam, the case becomes more nuanced. He has a record of 2/36 overall with mares that have Roberto in their ancestries. However, he’s had only nine mares that had Roberto through female strains, and only seven with Roberto in this pedigree position. One of those seven was Fleet Lady, by Avenue of Flags, and out of Dear Mimi, by Roberto. Fleet Lady is the dam of dual-G1 winner, Midshipman, by Unbridled’s Song.

With Sailor, sire of the third dam, Unbridled’s Song is 3/17, and with Swaps he’s 10/107. When Unbridled’s Song’s weakest strike rate in the ancestry of a mare is 10%, then he’s going to have a pretty good profile.

Hip 52 (Dynaformer-Juke, by Mr. Prospector): Even if you disregard Haka, the G3 winner on the catalogue page, the profile of this yearling’s ancestry is impressive. As it is, Juke’s ancestry ranks at the 96th percentile of mares that have produced foals by Dynaformer.

With Mr. Prospector overall, Dynaformer has a strike rate of 27/209–not bad, but misleading because, with female strains of Mr. Prospector, as in this case, his record is somewhat better, at 8/56. It’s of some concern that the quantity is a bit more impressive than the quality, but, then, that is the weakest part of the dam’s ancestry, with respect to Dynaformer. With Seattle Slew, sire of the second dam, Dynaformer has a strike rate of 7/45, and his strike rate with Seattle Slew in this position of the dams’ ancestry is 3/8.

With Riva Ridge, sire of the third dam, Dynaformer has a strike rate of 4/7, and in this pedigree position the strike rate is 3/4. And, by the way, the fourth dam, Exclusive Dancer, shows up through her son General Assembly in the ancestry of another mare that produced a stakes winner by Dynaformer.

Hip 61 (Smart Strike-Lassie’s Legacy, by Deputy Minister): Lassie’s Legacy ranks at the 85th percentile of mares that have produced foals by Smart Strike. That’s not as high as other cases listed here, but, like those other cases, the dam’s ancestry is free of ancestors that have been unfavorable to Smart Strike.

With Deputy Minister, Smart Strike has an overall strike rate of 5/42, but that may be deceptive because through female strains, as in this case, the strike rate is 4/29, and when Deputy Minister is the damsire, as in this case, the strike rate is 4/25, including Curlin and multiple graded stakes winner, Tenpins. Quality matters.

With Weekend Surprise, Smart Strike is 2/16 overall and 1/1 as the second dam, as in this case.

Hip 76 (Unbridled’s Song-My Friend C. Z., by Seeking the Gold): My Friend C. Z. scores in the 98th percentile of mares that produced foals by Unbridled’s Song, partly because Unbridled’s Song has a strike rate of 2/6 with mares that have Seeking the Gold in their ancestries and a strike rate of 2/3 with Carols Folly, the third dam, including G1 winners Unbridled Elaine and Political Force. In this case, the catalogue page almost says it all, except for highlighting the very small opportunity from which such good quality was produced.

Hip 90 (Street Cry-Shopping, by Private Account): As a general rule, the younger the sire, the less definitive the statistical profiles. What that means is that, for a young stallion like Street Cry, a profile can score in the 92nd percentile, as in this case, and still have an area of uncertainty.

While Street Cry has a strike rate of 2/6 with Private Account, he remains 0/7 with Majestic Prince, sire of the second dam. But one must keep one’s eye on the ball. Ultimately, the question in view must always be to what extent the ancestry as a whole supports the dam herself. Clearly, Private Account is in Street Cry’s camp, and, when the numbers in the background of the second dam are taken into account, the conclusion must be that a strike rate of 0/7 with Majestic Prince at this stage in Street Cry’s career doesn’t matter. It just hasn’t happened yet.

After all, Street Cry is 8/78 with Majestic Prince’s sire, Raise a Native, 4/34 with Better Self, sire of the third dam, Lady Be Good (which, by the way, shows up in the pedigree of Street Cry G1 winner Cry and Catch Me), and 6/57 with Eight Thirty, sire of the fourth dam. For such a young stallion, this is a very good profile.

Officer’s Opportunity–How Real is it?

by Roger Lyons

It’s understood as a commonplace in using sire-line nicks that in the absence of information relating to a given broodmare sire, how a stallion has done with the sire line of the broodmare sire in question is the best predictor. That’s certainly true, but other important considerations apply.

Let’s take the case of Boys at Tosconova (Officer-Little Bonnet, by Coronado’s Quest). Through his 2007 crop, Officer has had only two opportunities with mares by Coronado’s Quest. Of course, I’m talking about nominal opportunity here, not real opportunity. We don’t know how much real opportunity Officer has had with Coronado’s Quest without examining it mare-by-mare.

It’s like the difference between nominal wages, which have increased in America since the 1970s, and real wages, which have substantially declined. Just as real wages are a function of inflation in the prices of consumable goods, relative to nominal wages, real opportunity is limited by the “marginal disutility” represented by certain mares that have been bred to a given stallion.

The difference between nominal wages and real wages is not subtle. Ask any American wage earner who’s been around for awhile. Then, consider how absurd it would be to shift that distinction from wages to salaries, which have been virtually unaffected by rising prices. I mention this only to suggest that a wage-earning stallion like Officer is far more subject to variations in the quality of his mates than a salaried stallion like, say, Distorted Humor. The point is that how closely the real opportunity of a given stallion corresponds with his nominal opportunity, like the question whether or not one is likely to benefit from prosperity in America, is largely determined by class.

Therefore, Officer’s nominal opportunity with Coronado’s Quest’s sire, Forty Niner, consisted of 11 mares through 2007, and from those mares he got U. S. Cavalry, winner of the listed Turfway Prevue S., and Cuff Me, winner of the Silent Turn S. It would seem that Forty Niner would have been a fairly reliable indication of Officer’s potential with Coronado’s Quest.

But the broader pedigree context tends to muddle this conclusion. Officer has a fair record with Coronado’s Quest’s own broodmare sire, Damascus, at three superior runners from 31 mares. Among those three were Officer Cherrie, winner of the Mazarine S. (G3), Alpine Lass, and that same Cuff Me, whose broodmare sire is Gold Fever, by Forty Niner and out of a granddaughter of Damascus. Thus, Gold Fever and Coronado’s Quest, broodmare sire of Boys at Tosconova, are similarly bred in that respect.

U. S. Cavalry is out of a mare by Distorted Humor, by Forty Niner, and it happens that with Danzig, which is Distorted Humor’s broodmare sire, Officer has a record of four superior runners from 25 mares.

Clearly, ancestors other than pertain to the sire line come into play as conditions for the possible effectiveness of crossing a given broodmare sire with a given stallion. For Officer, the effects of Danzig and Damascus can’t really be separated from the effects of Forty Niner.

Consider, for example, how much less likely it now appears that Officer might sire a stakes winner out of a mare by Forty Niner son, Tactical Advantage, whose broodmare sire is Roberto, with which Officer has a current strike rate of 0/18. He’s 0/2 so far with Tactical Advantage. That’s the same nominal opportunity Officer has had with Coronado’s Quest, but is it as real?

Real opportunity for pedigree crosses, especially in regard to a sire like Officer, varies not only with respect to the range of quality among his mates, but also in regard to important pedigree factors unrelated to the sire-line cross as such.

The economics of sire-line crosses says that nominal opportunity is a poor measure. Similarity between any given mare of certain breeding and the peculiarities of crosses that have actually been successful is far more important. That’s because those successful cases are more likely to reflect what should be counted as real opportunity.