By Sid Fernando
I wrote about the Man o’ War [Godolphin Arabian] sire line recently in TDN through the prism of Tiznow’s recent Grade 3-winning son Midnight Bourbon’s pedigree, which you can read here, and got some interesting feedback from owner-breeders Philip J. Leckinger of Plano, Texas.
Leckinger, who once stood the last Secretariat son Tinner’s Way in Texas, wrote:
“Whether reduced book size will result in positive trends, only time will tell. I think the mega books have definitely quickened the end of the Matchem [Godolphin Arabian] and Herod [Byerley Turk] lines. With Tiznow the last major spark for Matchem in the US, and sons performing poorly at stud, lights are almost out. I recently went through [Bill] Oppenhiem’s review of the top sires in Europe (Listing was stud fees under $100,000) and there are only four non-Eclipse [Darley Arabian] stallions listed. Pearl Secret and Captain Chop go back to Herod, and Dream Ahead and his son Al Wukair to Matchem. Of all the Breeders’ Cup entrants in 2020, Matchem was represented by Tiznow and Dream Ahead – [sire of G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner] Glass Slippers.
“Well over 95% of the entrants go back through Phalaris, and of the remaining 5%, 1% through Matchem and 4% squeak around Phalaris back to Eclipse (don’t even want to start on the concentration of Northern Dancer and Mr. P of that 95%). So the question, is it too late and what does it mean to the long-term viability of the breed? Does anybody care? I realize there is no room for sentimentality as it is too expensive, but Galileo on Galileo on Galileo on Galileo cannot be good for the breed – or am I wrong?
“Would be great to see a major commercial farm take a risk with a Pearl Secret or Al Wukair. It would take someone influential like Barbara Banke to push something like this, and would be very fitting based on what Jess Jackson attempted to do.
“In asking a couple of the major stud farms about the disappearance of the lines, they feel it is of no consequence to the breed. To me it is amazing how Indian Ridge in Europe is still showing up in such major current pedigrees, although I realize mainly through his daughters.”
Leckinger’s comments about Jess Jackson prompted me to reach out to him for clarification, and he sent me the following from this piece from 2015, in which the author wrote:
“Do you know that, in 2008 – the year when the late, brilliant Jess Jackson didn’t have a horse who’d win the Preakness – he spent Preakness weekend in South America, seeking out Byerley sires?
“Why do you suppose such an intuitive, savvy horseman would do that? Blow off the chance to be fawned over at Pimlico, and praised for his previous year’s victory with Curlin? Because he was on a mission: Mr. Jackson sincerely believed that getting the Byerley Turk back into the gene pool would improve the Thoroughbred. Would bring strength back to the breed – and give breeders a moment to stop and think before they triple-cross to a Native Dancer. The Byerley Turk line needs to be revived in American Thoroughbred breeding, and no less than the great Jess Jackson, himself, was hoping to get the ball rolling.”
You’ll note in this chart of the sire lines of the last 100 Kentucky Derby winners, the Byerley Turk is absent.