Horse running through field

Dissident Ancestors

by Roger Lyons

The point of my last post was, in part, to suggest that certain dissident ancestors of broodmares pose special problems for stallion selection. They’re not carrying signs and throwing rocks, but the troublemakers assert themselves so forcefully that some seemingly well bred mares will have severely limited opportunity for a good match–or none at all.

I’ll just name three ancestors on my watch list: Graustark, Halo, and Nureyev. I’m not really sure about Nureyev. Let’s call him an ancestor of interest, but one can’t afford to be squeamish when rounding up suspected dissidents. You never know where a seemingly innocent association might lead. What these three have in common is that an unusually large proportion of stallions don’t like them very much. That’s enough to warrant indefinite detention on pedigree security grounds. If they’re innocent, let them prove it.

Never mind that in the right pedigree context those ancestors can have powerfully beneficial effects. Individual merit doesn’t count for much when a pedigree security interest is at stake.

According to eCompuSire, the online pedigree intelligence asset, six stakes winners worldwide are out of mares in descent of Graustark, Halo, and Nureyev within five generations. I’m afraid that’s not enough to establish their innocence. Even the most exculpatory evidence, such as a record of stakes production, readily turns against the perpetrators. Just watch.

The dam of Treasure (Anabaa ex Treasure Queen, by Kingmambo), winner of the Prix de la Vallee d’Auge in France, has Halo as the sire of her second dam, and she has Nureyev and Graustark by virtue of Kingmambo’s dam, Miesque.

The dam of Bottega (Mineshaft ex Sun Is Up, by Sunday Silence), winner of the Criterium du Languedoc in France, has Halo as the sire of Sunday Silence, and she has Nureyev and Graustark by virtue of her second dam, Miesque.

The dam of Sunday Sunrise (Lemon Drop Kid ex Sun Is Up [same dam as Bottega], by Sunday Silence), winner of the Veteran S. in New Mexico (must impose a travel ban), has Halo as the sire of Sunday Silence and has Nureyev and Graustark by virtue of her second dam, Miesque. Furthermore, Sunday Sunrise is by a son of Kingmambo, out of Miesque.

The dam of Indigo Cat (Storm Cat ex Bluemambo, by Kingmambo), winner of the Hampton Court S. in the UK, has Halo as the sire of her second dam and Nureyev and Graustark by virtue of Kingmambo’s dam, Miesque.

The dam of Air Zipangu (El Condor Pasa ex Air Passion, by Halo), winner of the Stayer S. in Japan, has Halo as her sire, Nureyev as her broodmare sire, and Graustark as the sire line of her second dam. Not incidentally, Air Zipangu is by a son of Kingmambo, whose dam is Miesque.

The dam of Link Man (Torreador ex Western Smoke, by Among Men), winner of the Gold Medallion (G1) and other group stakes in South Africa, is the only one among the dams of these six SWs whose contribution of Halo, Graustark, and Nureyev is not controlled in some fashion by Miesque–and in one case (Sunday Sunrise) inbreeding to Miesque. If you disqualify the five because they’re all mediated by one freakishly good broodmare, then what you have left is only one SW worldwide–a G1 winner, to be sure–to testify in defense of mares descending from all three of these ancestors.

By the way, eCompuSire is what you need when you haul an ancestor in for questioning. It’s the waterboard of enhanced pedigree interrogation techniques. See subscription details at the eNicks website–Products tab. Did I not mention that I have a personal stake in that product? Wouldn’t want to breach any ethical constraints.

The Politics of Pedigree

by Roger Lyons

The recent series of posts relating to the table of ancestor preferences suggests that different ancestors have different roles and relations with respect to the stallion population. Maybe it’s time for a more schematic rendering of that variety.

Franco Varola famously placed the variety of touchstone sires (chefs de race) on a typological spectrum, using the analogy of the left and right wings (the dominant liberal and conservative ideological commitments) of the English-style parliament. His dosage analysis focused on the functional relations of the different types. However, his typology didn’t address the question of compatibility between individual ancestors. Could Varola’s analogy lead to a way of characterizing individual ancestors on that basis? Let’s give it a whirl.

Two structural changes are required.

First, our shift of emphasis means that we’re no longer subject to parliamentary rules. Out here in the street there’s a broader ideological spectrum, including radicals and anarchists, and, as the autocrat of your thoroughbred breeding operation, you ignore them at your peril. As we’ll see, it’s important that we sequence the four major ideological commitments in this way: radical, liberal, conservative, anarchist.

Second, the linear structure used by Varola won’t do. We need a structure that reflects the way in which the four ideological commitments relate to one another. So, the solution is to place them on a clock, with the radical at twelve o’clock, the liberal at three o’clock, the conservative at six o’clock, and the anarchist at nine o’clock. The question of compatibility is addressed by placement of ancestors on the clock, relative to one another and respective of their “ideological” commitments.

The radical, at twelve o’clock, is the easiest type, thanks to Varola, who familiarized us with “the Phalaris revolution.” Clearly, the radical is an incipient figure in Varola’s analysis and a pivotal one. As change-makers go, Native Dancer would be a prime representative of the radical commitment, but not the extremist that Phalaris was. The advantage of our compatibility clock is that we can place Native Dancer at around one o’clock if that seems right–the radical commitment shading into the liberal. Appropriately, the radical is diametrically opposed to the conservative, at six o’clock.

Accordingly, the liberal is opposed to the anarchist. Why? One might associate Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer with the liberal commitment, whose distinction is that it defines the mainstream of the population at any given time and in any given place. The liberal knows how to conform and expects the same, gets along best with other liberals. For that reason, the liberal has a tendency to be complacent about the company it seeks and needs to be revitalized continually by radical and conservative associations. The liberal has no use for anarchy and will give it no quarter.

The conservative can get along with the liberal just fine if often on contrasting terms and might tea party on the anarchic side, but the conservative can’t abide a radical. I’m inclined to think Varola’s pure types, such as Bold Ruler and Double Jay on the left and Vaguely Noble and Alleged on the right, could all be considered conservative in their way. Unlike the radical, who wants to start something new, the conservative wants to preserve something long established, regardless of Varolan type. Remember, our clock doesn’t stop with what an ancestor contributes. Its hours mark where an ancestor is likely to fit successfully in the population.

The anarchist, at nine o’clock, opposes the liberal mainstream any way it must, just wants its distinctiveness to be respected. The survival of the anarchist is always under threat. Largely because anarchists don’t play well together, their best hope lies in alliances with either the radical or the conservative elements, at twelve o’clock and six o’clock, respectively. Graustark is almost certainly an anarchist, and I suspect Halo of leaning libertarian.

There, I think that winds up the compatibility clock enough to get its wheels turning.

High Upside, High Downside Risk

by Roger Lyons

What do Lyphard, Fappiano, and Nureyev have in common? As ancestors of dams, each of these sires passes on respective traits that rub a lot of stallions the wrong way, but that contribute in favorable ways to the offspring of a lot of other stallions. We know this because of the high approval and high disapproval rates shown in the table of ancestor preferences for these three ancestors. In that respect, they represent a distinctive category of ancestors–a category for which stallion selection is faced with very high upside and very high downside risk.

Based on that table, there’s a 29% chance that a stallion whose name you pick out of a hat will have a higher-than-average strike rate with mares in descent of Lyphard; but there’s a 27% chance that a stallion chosen at random will have a lower-than-average strike rate with those mares.

Just a cursory look at the table suggests what a distinctive profile that is for an ancestor. Fappiano is similar, with a 27.5% approval rate and a 31% disapproval rate, and Nureyev has a 28% approval rate and a 26% disapproval rate. You can find other stallions with a similar profile. It’s not particularly rare, but it’s rarely this extreme.

In order for the stallion population to respond the way it does, the distinctive traits these three ancestors contribute–along with other ancestors of this statistical profile–would have to pass through to foals on a very consistent basis. Furthermore, in order to complement the contributions of a lot of stallions, but clash with the contributions of many others, those traits would have to be distinctive in character, but without being particularly idiosyncratic, as in the case of Graustark.

That much can be inferred from the numbers. As a numbers cruncher, I have no idea what traits are at issue in the contributions of Lyphard, Fappiano, and Nureyev and wouldn’t have the eye to discern them if they were pointed out to me. Still, the numbers say it’s something to consider.