Horse running through field

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.

Quantity and Quality

My last post emphasized the importance of the class of runners representing a given breeding method, as opposed to a high strike rate from opportunity. A conflict between the two arises, for example, in the case of foals that are by Malibu Moon and inbred to Mr. Prospector, which has yielded some few runners of very high class representing a very low strike rate from opportunity. My purpose in bringing up that case was to suggest that class trumps strike rate, but what I didn’t say in that post and must add here, is that such cases, while not particularly rare, certainly are not the norm. Generally, high class and a high strike rate go hand in hand.

Insofar as Zenyatta’s celebrity has transcended her beeding, it’s something of a sacrilege to cite her as a case in point of pedigree, but I’m going to do it anyway because her pedigree context is instructive and, in fact, not entirely unique.

Her sire, Street Cry, has sired foals (through his 2007 crop) out of seven mares with both Hail to Reason and Hoist the Flag in their ancestries, to which in both instances Zenyatta is inbred 5×4. Among those seven foals are Zenyatta herself, Tomcito (Street Cry-Inside or Outside, by Eastern Echo), winner of the Classico Ricardo Ortiz de Zevallos (PER-G1) and the Classico Derby Nacional (PER-G1), and dual-listed SW Alice Belle (Street Cry-Camporese, by Sadler’s Wells). That’s a strike rate of 3/7, including two multiple-G1 winners.

Hail to Reason happens to be one of Street Cry’s favorite ancestors, assured only in part by his strike rate of 5/17 with Seattle Slew. His overall strike rate with Hail to Reason is 16/90, but the gross numbers, as good as they are, actually understate the effect of Hail to Reason. Among those 16 superior runners are five G1 winners, a G2 winner, and four G3 winners–a total of 10 graded/group SWs. Also included in my unofficial tally of probable superior runners is Temple Street (Street Cry-Northside Star by Pulpit), which ran second in the 2009 Humana Distaff H. (G1).

Street Cry’s record with Hoist the Flag stands at 3/18. That’s not a great strike rate, but it’s a good one as far as it has gone, and it’s buoyed by two G1 winners–Zenyatta and Tomcito.

There can be no doubt that Street Cry has a very special relation to Hail to Reason and probably, to a lesser degree, Hoist the Flag. Consider, though, how dubious those strike rates would seem if the class of the runners involved were below overall expectations of Street Cry, rather than above them.

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.