Horse running through field

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.

The Next Little Thing

The ad agencies that want you to think every new gadget represents a “paradigm shift” have rendered that term even less meaningful (although possibly more valuable) than it was when Thomas Kuhn invented it in the early 1960s. To those who actually do science, as opposed to those who sell it, the name Karl Popper is much more important. He was the philosopher of science who showed how knowledge advances by accumulations of the incremental, piecemeal efforts of uncelebrated researchers asking small questions and getting small, but important, answers.

I’m reminded of Popper’s empiricism–and in an ironic way–when I read about the crazy economic policy coming out of both the White House and Paul Ryan’s House budget committee (because a new paradigm in economic policy has no use for the lessons of the past) and, for a different reason, when I’m asked a question about pedigree. Everywhere, people are looking for a paradigm, and it seems like the shiftier it is, the better it sells. The typical pedigree question is right out of the Thomas Kuhn playbook, but it’s still only the little Karl Popper moves that really matter.

My problem with the typical pedigree question is that it’s paradigmatic in scope, which means it has to be deconstructed before it can be answered. For example, how are the Gone West-line sires doing with mares in descent of Mr. Prospector? I might answer that one in the following way, starting with my usual, “Well, it depends.”

All of the Gone West-line sires are managing returns of Mr. Prospector differently from one another. But here’s a way to look at the big picture if that’s what you really want to do. Gone West is by Mr. Prospector, so the cross always involves inbreeding. Breeders are generally sold on that, so it gets lots of opportunity. It happens, though, that every single one of the proven Gone West-line sires has a lower frequency of superior runners from those that are inbred at 4×4 or closer than from those that are not. Insofar as inbreeding to Mr. Prospector figures in that, the picture doesn’t look good, but, again, it depends.

The best way to deal justly with a broad question like that is to give it enough rope to hang itself. It happens, incidentally, that almost all of the A.P. Indy-line sires, most of which have Mr. Prospector in their ancestries, have a higher frequency of superior runners from those that are inbred 4×4 or closer than from those that are not–just the opposite of the Gone West-line sires.

Interesting facts, but facts that have dubious practical import. You’re snake-bitten if you breed the mare to one of the two or three fashionable A.P. Indy-line sires that don’t cope very well with mares in descent of Mr. Prospector.

So, what’s my view of close inbreeding? Well, it depends. . . .

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.

My Favorite Matches–Keesep10 Day 1

by Roger Lyons

This post consists of some observations about hip numbers 20, 41, 52, 61, 76, and 90, which were offered on Day 1. My purpose is to highlight some pedigree matches that appear, from a certain statistical perspective, to be exceptionally well made, and I do this after they’ve gone through the ring, so as to render the exercise somewhat more academic than it could otherwise be.

The approach is based on the idea that a given stallion’s “strike rate” with mares that have a given ancestor provides an indication of the stallion’s relation to that ancestor in terms of performance. For example, the stallion Dynaformer has foals out of 45 individual mares with Seattle Slew occurring anywhere in their ancestries, and seven of those mares produced superior runners (winner of an unrestricted stakes, winner of a blacktype-qualifying foreign stakes, or a runner that finishes second in a G1 or G2 race). So, 7/45 is Dynaformer’s strike rate with mares that descend in some way from Seattle Slew.

Dynaformer has high strike rates with some ancestors, such as Seattle Slew, but with other ancestors he has low or average strike rates. Imagine, then, the evaluative potential of the strike rates for all ancestors represented in the six-generation ancestries of all the dams of Dynaformer’s foals, aged three and up. Any given mare could be comprehensively assessed as a potential mate for Dynaformer, based on his strike rates with her individual ancestors.

That is, in fact, the approach used below. Based on the sire’s strike rates with the individual six-generation ancestors of the dam, she occupies a percentile rank relative to other mares that have produced foals by the stallion, but the real value of having the data is that it enables pedigree interpretation and inference that is more comprehensively grounded in pertinent facts than is otherwise possible.

Hip 20 (A.P. Indy-Byzantine, by Quiet American): Byzantine’s ancestry scores at the 94th percentile of mares that have produced foals by A.P. Indy. Out of mares by Quiet American, A.P. Indy has sired Bernardini (multiple-G1) and A. P. Warrior (multiple-G2). Only one Quiet American mare that has produced a foal by A.P. Indy through his 2007 crop was unable to come up with a major stakes winner.

The strike rate of 2/3 with Quiet American didn’t come from out of the blue. A.P. Indy has extremely good numbers with both Fappiano (6/33) and Dr. Fager (10/53), sire and broodmare sire, respectively, of Quiet American, and he’s 6/40 with Quiet American’s third dam, Cequillo. Often, how well or poorly a stallion will do with mares by a given sire is indicated by the stallion’s record with the background ancestry. When a stallion has had no opportunity with an individual broodmare sire, I’m always especially cautious when he has a poor record on either side of the broodmare sire’s ancestry. That’s not the case here.

The yearling’s second dam is by Vice Regent, with which A.P. Indy has a strike rate of 11/43. Now, that’s mostly through Deputy Minister. In fact, A.P. Indy has a strike rate of 1/11 through female strains of Vice Regent, as in this case, but that is the only soft spot in Byzantine’s ancestry. A.P. Indy has a strike rate of 4/20 with Vaguely Noble, sire of the third dam, and a strike rate of 2/10 with Amerigo, sire of the fourth dam.

Hip 41 (Unbridled’s Song-Future Guest, by Copelan): Future Guest’s ancestry scores at the 96th percentile of mares that have produced foals by Unbridled’s Song. Rockport Harbor (G2) is one of two superior runners Unbridled’s Song has from opportunity with only three mares by Copelan (he’s had two other mares whose dams are by Copelan, for a total of five mares).

When it comes to Roberto, sire of Future Guest’s dam, the case becomes more nuanced. He has a record of 2/36 overall with mares that have Roberto in their ancestries. However, he’s had only nine mares that had Roberto through female strains, and only seven with Roberto in this pedigree position. One of those seven was Fleet Lady, by Avenue of Flags, and out of Dear Mimi, by Roberto. Fleet Lady is the dam of dual-G1 winner, Midshipman, by Unbridled’s Song.

With Sailor, sire of the third dam, Unbridled’s Song is 3/17, and with Swaps he’s 10/107. When Unbridled’s Song’s weakest strike rate in the ancestry of a mare is 10%, then he’s going to have a pretty good profile.

Hip 52 (Dynaformer-Juke, by Mr. Prospector): Even if you disregard Haka, the G3 winner on the catalogue page, the profile of this yearling’s ancestry is impressive. As it is, Juke’s ancestry ranks at the 96th percentile of mares that have produced foals by Dynaformer.

With Mr. Prospector overall, Dynaformer has a strike rate of 27/209–not bad, but misleading because, with female strains of Mr. Prospector, as in this case, his record is somewhat better, at 8/56. It’s of some concern that the quantity is a bit more impressive than the quality, but, then, that is the weakest part of the dam’s ancestry, with respect to Dynaformer. With Seattle Slew, sire of the second dam, Dynaformer has a strike rate of 7/45, and his strike rate with Seattle Slew in this position of the dams’ ancestry is 3/8.

With Riva Ridge, sire of the third dam, Dynaformer has a strike rate of 4/7, and in this pedigree position the strike rate is 3/4. And, by the way, the fourth dam, Exclusive Dancer, shows up through her son General Assembly in the ancestry of another mare that produced a stakes winner by Dynaformer.

Hip 61 (Smart Strike-Lassie’s Legacy, by Deputy Minister): Lassie’s Legacy ranks at the 85th percentile of mares that have produced foals by Smart Strike. That’s not as high as other cases listed here, but, like those other cases, the dam’s ancestry is free of ancestors that have been unfavorable to Smart Strike.

With Deputy Minister, Smart Strike has an overall strike rate of 5/42, but that may be deceptive because through female strains, as in this case, the strike rate is 4/29, and when Deputy Minister is the damsire, as in this case, the strike rate is 4/25, including Curlin and multiple graded stakes winner, Tenpins. Quality matters.

With Weekend Surprise, Smart Strike is 2/16 overall and 1/1 as the second dam, as in this case.

Hip 76 (Unbridled’s Song-My Friend C. Z., by Seeking the Gold): My Friend C. Z. scores in the 98th percentile of mares that produced foals by Unbridled’s Song, partly because Unbridled’s Song has a strike rate of 2/6 with mares that have Seeking the Gold in their ancestries and a strike rate of 2/3 with Carols Folly, the third dam, including G1 winners Unbridled Elaine and Political Force. In this case, the catalogue page almost says it all, except for highlighting the very small opportunity from which such good quality was produced.

Hip 90 (Street Cry-Shopping, by Private Account): As a general rule, the younger the sire, the less definitive the statistical profiles. What that means is that, for a young stallion like Street Cry, a profile can score in the 92nd percentile, as in this case, and still have an area of uncertainty.

While Street Cry has a strike rate of 2/6 with Private Account, he remains 0/7 with Majestic Prince, sire of the second dam. But one must keep one’s eye on the ball. Ultimately, the question in view must always be to what extent the ancestry as a whole supports the dam herself. Clearly, Private Account is in Street Cry’s camp, and, when the numbers in the background of the second dam are taken into account, the conclusion must be that a strike rate of 0/7 with Majestic Prince at this stage in Street Cry’s career doesn’t matter. It just hasn’t happened yet.

After all, Street Cry is 8/78 with Majestic Prince’s sire, Raise a Native, 4/34 with Better Self, sire of the third dam, Lady Be Good (which, by the way, shows up in the pedigree of Street Cry G1 winner Cry and Catch Me), and 6/57 with Eight Thirty, sire of the fourth dam. For such a young stallion, this is a very good profile.

Fine Tuning the Distorted Humor-A.P. Indy Nick

by Roger Lyons

Because of injury, Endorsement (Distorted Humor-Charmed Gift, by A.P. Indy) didn’t get to compete in the 2010 Kentucky Derby after qualifying with a runaway win in the Sunland Park Derby, but he did enough to confirm the value of the Distorted Humor-A.P. Indy nick. He also illustrates that the fortunes of a sire-line cross are not just a matter of chance, that nicks always arise from specific pedigree contexts, and that what can be learned about those pedigree contexts can profoundly affect the fortunes of the cross.

Distorted Humor has an especially discriminating taste for mares with Northern Dancer in their ancestries, perhaps because his own dam is by Northern Dancer’s son, Danzig. Let’s see how Northern Dancer plays in the pedigree context of the Distorted Humor-A.P. Indy cross.

Two mares by A.P. Indy contributed superior runners to Distorted Humor’s record through his 2006 crop, from 11 chances, yielding Any Given Saturday and Z Humor. His 2007 crop has yielded Endorsement and Bank the Eight, recent winner of the Frederico Tesio S. (L), bringing his strike rate with A.P. Indy mares to 4/23.

However, note that Z Humor is the only one of these four to be produced by a mare with Northern Dancer in her ancestry and that his dam, Offtheoldblock, has Northern Dancer through a daughter, Linda North.

This contrasts sharply with the opportunity Distorted Humor had through 2006. Seven of 11 mares with A.P. Indy in their ancestries also had Northern Dancer. Two were out of mares by Danzig, Distorted Humor’s broodmare sire, and, therefore, closely inbred. Two were out of Nijinsky II mares, with which Danzig himself crossed pretty well (8/33), but which tends to take the winning edge off runners by Distorted Humor. Another was out of a Deputy Minister-line mare, another out of a mare by Nureyev, and another out of a mare by Storm Cat. In other words, in all cases Northern Dancer descended through a son.

But, contrast those mares with the 13 contributing to Distorted Humor’s 2007 crop. Seven of those mares had Northern Dancer, six of them through sons. However, none of them had Northern Dancer through Danzig, and only one had Northern Dancer through Nijinsky II. A seventh mare had Northern Dancer as the sire of her second dam, and one out of a Deputy Minister mare also had Northern Dancer as the sire of her third dam.

Among the 12 Distorted Humor-A.P. Indy crosses of 2008, the shift away from linebreeding through Danzig and Nijinsky II–and the avoidance of male strains of Northern Dancer generally–is even more pronounced. Only three mares had Northern Dancer through a son, including The Minstrel, Deputy Minister, and Storm Cat–the latter two of the three being among the most adaptable strains of Northern Dancer in the North American racing environment. Even more significant, four of those 12 mares had Northern Dancer through females, ranging from the first to the third dams of the mares.

That 2008 crop is also locked and loaded as to quality. It includes Supercharger (dam of 2010 Ky Derby winner, Super Saver, by Maria’s Mon), Weekend in Indy (dam of G1 winner Any Given Saturday, by Distorted Humor), Tomisue’s Delight (dam of G1 winner Mr. Sidney, by Storm Cat), and Offtheoldblock (dam of G3 winner Z Humor, by Distorted Humor). That crop also includes a foal by Showpiece, by Holy Bull and a daughter of multiple graded stakes producer She’s a Winner (by A.P. Indy and dam of G1 winner Bluegrass Cat, by Storm Cat, and G2 winner Lord of the Game, by Saint Ballado), and a mare by A.P. Indy son Pulpit, but 10 of the 12 foals are out of mares by A.P. Indy.

Opportunity for the Distorted Humor-A.P. Indy cross has undergone a profound tranformation since 2006, not only as to the quality of mares, but also as to the form of Northern Dancer’s presence in, and absence from, their pedigree contexts. It will be interesting to see how that adjustment works out.

Super Saver: a Minority Report

by Roger Lyons

In a recent post on the breeding behind Super Saver, Sid Fernando sets in relief three differing approaches to identifying pedigree factors that account for that horse’s ability to win the Kentucky Derby, including my own. Nobody does the historical color as well as Frank Mitchell, but, clearly, Alan Porter’s analysis, as endorsed by Andrew Caulfield in his TDN column of May 4, is at odds with my account in regard to the factors that it emphasizes.

I realize that Andrew’s analysis has the advantage of being the standard account. Its topical structure defines the prevailing pedigree analysis, including its center-stage placement of linebreeding as the main actor. Therefore, I offer my rebuttal as a minority report.

Linebreeding certainly does have a functional relation to performance, but I emphatically disagree with the presumption that its effects must be favorable, much less decisively so, just because it happens to be found in the ancestry of a Kentucky Derby winner. To take Super Saver’s performance as evidence of the benefits of linebreeding simply begs the question of its effects and, more broadly, of its functional relation to performance. Unless the standard account can establish a statistical relation between Super Saver’s linebreeding and his performance, then its analysis might as well be founded on a non sequitur, and I believe it is.

As Sid points out, Super Saver’s family began with “a simple nick between a La Troienne daughter (Baby League) and War Admiral.” The family continued to evolve on that same basis, each daughter having had her best production by the best stallion that afforded the best simple nick. The accumulating linebreeding, involving multiple strains of La Troienne, therefore, was a systematic consequence of that series of simple nicks. More broadly, linebreeding is a systematic consequence of the pedigree model of breeding. It’s not a formula for breeding great racehorses. Rather, it’s an inevitable consequence of the process.

So, is linebreeding a cause of superior performance or just an effect of pedigree breeding? The latter is evident from the genealogical record, but inferring a causal relation to performance requires populational evidence that not even the cheerleaders for linebreeding are able to provide.

Well, then, what can be inferred about it? We know what the effect of linebreeding is in a broad sense. Its purpose and effect is to establish a generational continuity between a new individual and its ancestry. The more linebreeding a pedigree has, the more likely is the individual representing that pedigree to express the traits conferred by ancestors to which it is linebred. But, if linebreeding is so effective at reproducing the traits that constitute a great racehorse, why is it that so many horses with linebreeding similar to that of Super Saver in distant generations are just no good?

I firmly believe that the prevailing pedigree analysis–the standard account of pedigree–misunderstands the way in which linebreeding is functionally related to performance. Let me explain by analogy.

A good melody consists of two fundamental elements that oppose one another at every musical level. In order to be recognizable as such, a melody must have continuity. It must have a certain repetitive rhythm. If sung, the words must rhyme. A refrain is very much a part of what we expect of a melody along this direction of its movement. However, the continuity of good melodies is subverted at every point and at every compositional level by the element of variation moving in the opposite direction. Each measure of a melody must be continuous with the last, but different from it. The lyrics rhyme by repeating the same sound, but enunciated in different words. The refrain interrupts and contrasts with the sequence of verses. A good melody arises from the tension between continuity and variation, the latter always playing a subversive role.

Breeding a good racehorse is just like that. Linebreeding mediates generational continuity. Its function is to specialize the new individual around qualities that are conferred by the ancestors to which it is linebred. At its best, it yields a physically coherent individual. However, the new individual must also be capable of a well-rounded performance. It must have the variety of typological possibility required by the prevailing conditions of racing. That’s the job of generational variation, which operates in opposition to linebreeding.

In the same way that musical variation subverts continuity in the making of a good melody, generational variation subverts the continuity established by linebreeding. This fundamental opposition between linebreeding and generational variation is what the advocates of linebreeding don’t get.

According to the numbers I have for Maria’s Mon as a sire (and other stallions as well), A.P. Indy, Supercharger’s sire, has just such a subversive relation to his own linebreeding to La Troienne. After all, Maria’s Mon hasn’t otherwise done that well with Buckpasser (10 superior runners from 156 mares through his 2007 crop, counting the three through A.P. Indy). If you take out the seven mares in descent of A.P. Indy, then Buckpasser’s strike rate falls to 7/149.

Nor has Maria’s Mon done all that well with mares in descent of Seattle Slew, another important source of La Troienne. If you take A.P. Indy out of Maria’s Mon’s strike rate of 5/46 with Seattle Slew, it drops to 2/39. In fact, all but one of those five superior runners were out of mares with Seattle Slew in tail-male descent. But, if you exclude A.P. Indy mares, the strike rate with Seattle Slew in tail-male descent is only 1/19. So, read very carefully how the standard account gets its numbers relating to the Maria’s Mon-Seattle Slew “nick,” including that restricted stakes winner thrown in for good measure, because there’s much at stake in it for the linebreeding hypothesis.

My numbers, by contrast, don’t suggest broadly favorable effects of linebreeing to La Troienne through the ancestors of A.P. Indy. What they suggest is that A.P. Indy’s influence very favorably disrupts effects of linebreeding that are otherwise not at all favorable to foals by Maria’s Mon. A.P. Indy provides a beneficial variation that combines with Maria’s Mon to yield a simple nick.

It’s quite possible, too, that Numbered Account, a key source of La Troienne also tends to subvert the La Troienne continuity. Maria’s Mon has a strike rate of 1/3 with daughters of Numbered Account through his 2007 crop, but her dam, Intriguing, otherwise has a strike rate of only 2/23. Maria’s Mon happens to work with Numbered Account, as far as can be determined, but not so much with her sire, Buckpasser, or with her dam.

As a matter of fact, the ancestors of Supercharger that have had the most favorable impact for Maria’s Mon through daughters have nothing whatever to do with La Troienne or with A.P. Indy. Maria’s Mon has a strike rate of 7/50 with daughters of Mr. Prospector, sire of Super Saver’s second dam. With daughters of Northern Dancer, sire of Super Saver’s third dam, Maria’s Mon has a strike rate of 5/34. These numbers, far from confirming that Super Saver’s performance is an effect of linebreeding, clearly suggest that it’s more likely an effect of generational variation. The influence of these important sires interdicts a linebreeding continuity that otherwise really hasn’t worked for Maria’s Mon.

In one pedigree after another, ranging across many different sires, the numbers say linebreeding is not the decisive factor. In fact, the numbers point to the ways in which atypical or variant strains subvert the effects of linebreeding. Such evidence trends toward the inference that Super Saver’s ability to win the Kentucky Derby is decisively affected, not by his linebreeding, but by the various directions in which his ancestry has deviated from its linebreeding to constitute a well-rounded individual–a horse with the speed, stamina, stoutness, and physical courage not only to withstand the rigors of training for that race, but also to win it.

We live in an era during which linebreeding has become ubiquitous in the population. All of the horses are linebred, and the functional relation of linebreeding to racing performance has already been taken too far. It’s too late to turn to the standard account for celebrations of linebreeding. In such an era, the successful breeder is the one who can identify useful variations with which to restore the residual aptitudes, the one who understands that linebreeding is the problem, not the solution.