Horse running through field

Dixieland Band Delivers

by Roger Lyons

Dixieland Band ranked fifth among broodmare sires on 2010 earnings. Although that says a lot about the quality of his daughters, there’s a lot more to the story of his influence in the ancestries of producers. I can’t tell the whole story because, as anybody who reads this blog already knows, I’m not a horseman in any professional sense.

Sure, I love horses (who doesn’t?) and I’m around them every day, but that doesn’t qualify me to be an authority on exactly what it is Dixieland Band contributes through the dams of horses like Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie-Playa Maya, by Arch), whose second dam is by Dixieland Band. Yes, it’s mildly embarrassing that I’m just a numbers cruncher, but I can live with that as long as it enables me to report that something is happening, even if I can’t say exactly what it is.

So. It happens that Indian Charlie has sired foals out of only nine mares with Dixieland Band in their ancestries through his 2007 crop, and from those nine he got three superior runners, including Two Trail Sioux (G2), also out of a mare whose dam is by Dixieland Band. Uncle Mo (2008) is his fourth.

The bigger story is that Indian Charlie is not alone in having a very high strike rate with mares that have Dixieland Band in their ancestries. A survey of US sires for which I’ve kept comprehensive strike rates over the years turned up 29 that had sired foals out of at least 10 mares that had Dixieland Band in their ancestries, and 11 of those sires had superior-runner strike rates which, like that of Indian Charlie, significantly exceeded their overall records. Put another way, Dixieland Band has a 38% approval rating among contemporary sires.

But that’s not all. Dixieland Band’s disapproval rating is only 7% (55% having average strike rates). To put that in perspective, consider the record of Roberto, sire of Kris S., broodmare sire of Uncle Mo. Roberto has a 23% approval rating, which is still relatively high, but his disapproval rating is 24%. So, basically, if you pick a stallion at random, there’s a 23% chance that he’s going to manage Roberto’s influence quite favorably and a 24% chance that Roberto’s influence is going to be downright unfavorable. You can see by comparison with Roberto, then, that Dixieland Band’s influence through broodmares plays extremely well in the contemporary stallion population, with a very minimal downside risk.

As far as Indian Charlie is concerned, Roberto’s influence is innocuous from a statistical point of view, with a strike rate of 4/40 (Uncle Mo is the fifth superior runner). Yes, there are effects, no doubt, but they don’t pay off all that frequently for Indian Charlie. The numbers say Dixieland Band is probably the major player in the pedigree context of Uncle Mo’s dam, and they also say that Dixieland Band routinely contributes traits that, although quite possibly waning in the stallion population, remain highly exploitable by it.

Pedigree, Conformation, and Zenyatta

by Roger Lyons

My last post explains why a recent post by Frank Mitchell gave me second thoughts about the appropriateness of Giant’s Causeway as a mate for Zenyatta in spite of the sterling statistical profile he has with her ancestry. My underlying point is that what’s on paper can and must be interpreted in light of what’s on the ground–and vice versa. That point drew some thoughtful comments bearing substantively on the case and more generally on the relation between pedigree and conformation.

First, Frank elaborates his reasons for thinking Giant’s Causeway might not be quite right for her, and it has a lot to do with her broodmare sire, Kris S. Frank not only casts his gaze on a lot of horses, but he also measures them, so you can be sure that he’s not speaking from casual observation. When he casts his gaze on Zenyatta, he sees a lot of Kris S. and some Troy, the broodmare sire of her sire, Street Cry.

Then Michele shares the experience, as a breeder, of having tried both approaches–breeding largely on pedigree and, alternatively, breeding largely on conformation, concluding that neither approach seems to make much difference in the frequency of favorable outcomes. Michele’s experiment was not conducted in a lab. It unfolded at much cost and over many years of trying to breed the best horses possible, and, as you read the comment, you get the sense that it rings true.

In the last comment so far, Greg correctly concludes that the distinction between pedigree and conformation is nothing more than a matter of emphasis. After all, he explains, statistical analyses that assess how a given stallion has done with mares representing a given ancestor actually do capture conformation issues–although indirectly. If you read Frank’s “The Weekender Pedigree” (and who doesn’t?) at The Paulick Report, then you know how much he’s into pedigree even though his science is biomechanics. The opposition routinely invoked by the cliche “pedigree vs. conformation” exists only because we associate pedigree analysis with one broad category of facts and conformation with another.

Greg proposes marriage of the two approaches, and he’s right. When Frank says that Kris S. is the major player in Zenyatta’s conformation (note the implication that pedigree and conformation are inseparable), it relieves a lot of statistical pressure. Rather than assuming Zenyatta’s entire ancestry to be more or less uniformly relevant, the focus can shift to Kris S.

Here are the candidates, along with their numbers with mares representing Kris S.: A.P. Indy (2/6), Galileo (1/2 and Frank’s choice), Giant’s Causeway (3/10), Invincible Spirit (1/2), Lemon Drop Kid (1/3), Mineshaft (2/5), Oasis Dream (0/2 with Kris S., but 7/35 with Roberto and great supporting numbers), Speightstown (0/2 with Kris S., but 2/10 with Roberto and good supporting numbers). And, by the way, Songandaprayer is 2/4 with Kris S. and may be a better choice for Zenyatta than better stallions that have poor or questionable numbers with Kris S.

Zenyatta Plus ?

by Roger Lyons

As an earnest reader of Frank Mitchell’s blog, I attended with interest to his remarks about a mate for Zenyatta, especially his misgivings about Giant’s Causeway as a possible match. Now, Frank is an expert in biomechanics, so I’m supposing that, when he says, “I don’t especially like him for this mare,” he means he sees a physical mismatch somewhere along the contours of the two individuals. When Frank speaks, I listen, but I don’t much like what I hear in this case.

That’s because on paper, which is where my life unfolds in this business most of the time, Giant’s Causeway is the best match out there among proven stallions. Don’t get me wrong. Frank’s choice is Galileo, and he also has a great profile on paper, but it’s not as factually confirmable as that of Giant’s Causeway–on paper.

Just for reference, Zenyatta is by Street Cry, by Machiavellian and out of Helen Street, by Troy, and her first, second, and third dams are by Kris S., Forli, and Hoist the Flag, respectively. Giant’s Causeway has had no opportunity with mares by Street Cry (hardly any stallion has), but he has a superior-runner strike rate of 2/7 with Machiavellian and 2/7 with Troy. He’s also 1/2 with Helen Street, the dam of Street Cry, because she’s also the second dam of four-time G1-winner Shamardal, by Giant’s Causeway.

On the other side of her pedigree, Giant’s Causeway has a strike rate of 3/10 with Kris S., 10/117 with Forli (a bit weak, admittedly), and 8/46 with Hoist the Flag. The way I add it up, Zenyatta’s ancestry scores in the 94th percentile of all mares that have been bred to Giant’s Causeway.

I’m not going to get in a fight with Frank over this because I know when to back down. The truth is–as much an embarrassment as it might be to those of us who specialize in pedigree–what’s on the ground has the right to veto what’s on paper. So, I’m going to defer to Frank on this and back Galileo although, in deference to what might actually happen, A.P. Indy has a very good profile, too. The Mr. Prospector-line stallions that have been suggested–not so much.