Horse running through field

Forestry: Yes He Can

by Roger Lyons

I have to admit that, even though I included Shackleford along with Animal Kingdom and Astrology at the top of my Preakness superfecta pyramid, I really thought it most likely that Animal Kingdom would win. Just in case it turned out Forestry could sire a classic winner after all, I wasn’t going to allow my super to be ambushed by the revelation.

The prior question whether or not Forestry could sire a classic-distance runner of even notable class had been answered only once before, when Woodlander (Forestry-Madam Lagonza, by Kingmambo) won Belmont’s 10-furlong Lexington S. (G3) in 2005. That is hardly a credible precedent for expectations of classic potential, as is evident in how far out of favor Forestry has fallen in spite of his prolific stakes record. For breeders aspiring to classic success it was not just a question of distance, but also of class, and, once that view settles in, it becomes increasingly difficult for a stallion to get the kind of mare that can produce a horse like Shackleford.

Given Forestry’s record, it might be conjectured that Shackleford has gamed his pedigree–that he’s a fluke–but I don’t think so. Rather, it looks to me as if there’s a certain process at work, one that makes Shackleford an interesting case for pedigree analysis.

I think the reason why Forestry appears to have distance limitations is that he does not routinely make efficient use of the stamina influences contributed by his mates. Note that he has a superior-runner strike rate of only 2/32 with Unbridled (Shackleford’s broodmare sire) and 2/20 with Roberto (Sire of Lear Fan, broodmare sire of Shackleford’s dam). However, Forestry can make efficient use of stamina influences if they are mediated by ancestors that are more agreeable with him.

Hold Your Peace, sire of Shackleford’s third dam, with which Forestry has a strike rate of 2/6, seems a likely focal point. While I can’t confirm this, I also suspect there is some special relation between Fappiano (sire of Unbridled) and Hold Your Peace. Note that Astrology, which finished not far behind Shackleford and Animal Kingdom, is out of a mare whose first dam is by Quiet American, by Fappiano, and whose second dam is by none other than Hold Your Peace. I know it looks like a coincidence, but I believe in synchronicity.

Then there is the fact that Forestry has a strike rate of 10/86 with Dr. Fager (broodmare sire of Fappiano), which couldn’t make a difference on its own because of Forestry’s moderate strike rate with Unbridled, but Dr. Fager’s relation to In Reality, to which Shackleford’s dam is inbred, is well established by the many successful runners whose ancestries include those two influences.

My point is that the combination of these ancestors with which Forestry has quite good relations mediates his exploitation of the stamina influences contributed by Shackleford’s dam. Forestry is in similar circumstances with respect to the dam of Woodlander, mentioned above. He’s 1/9 with Kingmambo, 1/16 with Nureyev, and 4/90 with Seattle Slew. But he’s not bad with Graustark (6/65), to which Woodlander’s dam is inbred, and note that Forestry is out of a mare by Pleasant Colony, by Graustark’s full brother His Majesty–both out of Flower Bowl.

Linebreeding three ways to Flower Bowl wouldn’t mean anything at all, except for the fact that Forestry is 10/81 with Flower Bowl, and he’s 2/5 with mares that are themselves inbred to Flower Bowl. It seems a pretty good way for Forestry to make efficient use of stamina.

It’s now clear that Forestry can sire a classic winner from a quality mare that contributes reliable stamina and meets the conditions under which he can exploit it, and that makes him an opportunity for breeders who get it right.

Astrology Bred for the Preakness

by Roger Lyons

Bred from the same sire-line cross as Bernardini, Astrology (A.P. Indy-Quiet Eclipse, by Quiet American) makes his third start of the year in the Preakness S. (G1) on Saturday. He may not win, as Bernardini did in 2006, but he has the right breeding.

With daughters of Quiet American, A.P. Indy has a strike rate of 4/7, including Astrology (G3), Bernardini (multiple G1), and A. P. Warrior (dual-G2). The A.P. Indy-greater Fappiano cross has a strike rate of 5/18, including A. P. Adventure (G1), Teammate (dual-G2), and Admiral’s Cruise (G2). That’s more than enough quality to merit a Triple Plus (A+++) rating in the eNicks rating system.

Astrology doesn’t have the family Bernardini has, but his dam contributes some other assets besides a great nick. He’s the only stakes winner by A.P. Indy and out of a mare with Hold Your Peace in her ancestry (from seven mares), but A.P. Indy is 3/12 with Hold Your Peace’s sire, Speak John. His son Friends Lake (G1) is out of a mare by Spend a Buck, whose broodmare sire is Speak John, and there’s also his son Just as Well (G3), whose third dam is by Verbatim, a son of Speak John.

Furthermore, A.P. Indy is 3/13 with mares contributing Round Table through his son Illustrious, which is the sire of Astrology’s third dam. Two other SWs by A.P. Indy are out of mares that have Illustrious descending through their female lines, as Astrology does, including Boca Grande (dual-G2), and from that pattern of descent A.P. Indy has a superior-runner strike rate of 3/5.

It just so happens that the moon enters Aquarius at about the time the gate opens on the 2011 Preakness. I have absolutely no idea what that might mean, but Astrology’s pedigree is a good sign that he’ll be close to the finish line when the race is won.

Best Dam Lines Dominate Derby

by Roger Lyons

Even if I have to say so myself (and I do), the Dam Line Index (DLI) profiles presented in my pre-Derby post were very lucky in separating the contenders from the pretenders. That post cited 11 Derby qualifiers whose DLI profiles, while not necessarily distinguishable from one another, were clearly superior to the rest of the field. Five of those 11–Animal Kingdom, Nehro, Mucho Macho Man, Shackleford, and Master of Hounds–finished in that order. Furthermore, nine of the top 12 finishers were among those 11 with superior DLI profiles. As I recall, even during its glory years, dosage had a lot nearer misses than that.

Of course, the profiles would be more satisfying if, like the individual indexes that constitute them, they would do a better job of ranking the female lines, on the whole. But, how do you compare the profile of Animal Kindom’s dam line, which consists of individual DILs ranging from 4.0 to almost 5.0 for the third through the seventh dams, with Nehro, whose indexes of 1.0 to 3.0 for the first through the third dams lead back to a fourth dam whose DLI is 13.5?

If we had known that on this occasion consistency across the dam line would be better than a big number in the background (and who’s to say it’s not!), then Jackie and I might have taken Animal Kindom on top of Nehro, instead of the other way around–and hit the super!

Kentucky Derby Dam Line Index Profiles

by Roger Lyons

The table introduced by this post lists the Dam Line Index (DLI) for the first seven dams of each of the 20 Kentucky Derby 2011 qualifiers. The DLI, remember, is derived from the number of runners winning stakes during the last 15 years and descending, tail-female, from a given dam, divided by the average number of generations that dam was removed in those cases. So, the DLI is, literally, the number of SWs attributable to a dam per generation removed, on average.

The DLI is a pedigree measure and bears only a statistical (read tenuous) relation to performance. What I mean is, you can go very far wrong predicting individual performance based on population characteristics.

There is very little in the DLIs for Uncle Mo’s female line to suggest that he would be Champion Juvenile Colt, let alone a Kentucky Derby winner. What it might suggest, however, is that he is in that respect anomalous to his breeding since, in fact, those accomplishments are largely reserved for horses from better dam lines.

The DLI profiles of Animal Kingdom, Archarcharch, Brilliant Speed, Master of Hounds, Midnight Interlude, Mucho Macho Man, Nehro, Pants on Fire, Shackleford, Soldat, and Stay Thirsty are far more typical of the horses of highest racing class.

Archarcharch has an especially unusual and intriguing profile. Ordinarily, the DLIs in a good female line descend in value from the seventh dam to the first dam, as in the well defined case of Pants on Fire, for example. By contrast, the DLIs in Archarcharch’s female line actually ascend in value from back to front, such that his second dam, Pattern Step (1985), by Nureyev, has a DLI of 5.0, the highest-rated second dam, by far, in the list. This would seem to be the picture of an improving branch of a female line that has otherwise gone more or less dormant.

In any event, see what you can make of the DLI record, but don’t bet on it.