Horse running through field

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.

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