Horse running through field

The power of four

by Roger Lyons

It started with the realization, as the four of us were talking pedigree in the Keeneland lounge during the 2013 November sale, that each of us has a distinctive approach to figuring out what stallions are most suitable for the broodmares of our respective clients. And, I might add, while open-minded enough to be interested in alternative approaches, each of us is fairly hard-headed about the distinctive approach he takes, in no small part because the main reason why each of us is retained as an advisor to certain clients in the first place is that the respective programs of those clients are structured in a way that demands precisely that approach.

But what about the breeder who operates on a small scale, who has a small broodmare band, maybe just one or two, and who doesn’t have a highly structured program? What kind of approach does that breeder require?

It was Bill who came up with the idea of offering an individual mating analysis that would incorporate our four different perspectives into consensus stallion selections, tailored for the breeder who doesn’t have a cadre of advisors on retainer. None of us could have imagined how that idea would turn out in actual practice.

It’s interesting that, while Sid and I work together for clients of Werk Thoroughbred Consultants and Bill and Gary work together for their clients, our respective approaches allign quite differently. Gary and I both focus in our different ways on statistical-empirical answers to the question of compatibility of mates while Sid and Bill gravitate toward the pragmatics–pedigree potential and type, commercial appeal, racing opportunity, return on investment, and the purposes of the client. So, all four of us began the project already acquainted with the benefits of balancing perspectives.

Each of us nominates the stallions he thinks the client should consider, backed by a written argument in support of those nominations. Each of us reads the arguments of his colleagues. Then we vote on the order of preference for each of the stallions that have been nominated. Together with written arguments and supporting materials, we assemble the results into a report and deliver it to the client.

After we had set this project in motion last year, we were all surprised to find how non-competitive the consensus process turns out to be. The final analysis looks less like majority rule than fairly close consensus–agreement–as to the order in which we rank the nominated stallions. The only possible explanation is that an emergent argument arises from these four perspectives, an argument that could not have been made by any of the four of us individually, but that we all recognize as the most compelling argument.

That’s why it’s the most expensive mating analysis in the business.

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