Is the American Thoroughbred a Separate Breed?

By Scot T. Gillies


In the September issue of The Blood-Horse MarketWatch -- hitting the press this coming week -- Alan Porter reviews the post-WWII history of bloodstock exchanges between Europe and the U.S.  He concludes that, following several waves of imports and exports across five decades, the tide (in the shape of breeders' interest) now has turned against continued transfer of top stallions across the Atlantic.

Porter argues in his "Close Encounters" column that "there is virtually no European demand for a U.S. runner." He also contends that "dirt performers have a similarly-reduced appeal in countries such as Australia and New Zealand."

While the English Thoroughbred was once the world standard, and the goal of every breeder to replicate, it is now a distinctly different type than what we're producing in America. Racing throughout the world has moved away from multiple heats and marathon distances, but nowhere is this more evident than in the States. Our runners are meant to mature physically at 18 months and continue sprinting throughout their careers. We favor dirt to grass -- to the point of turning up our noses at synthetic surfaces, arguing that they're too much like the turf. We breed Thoroughbreds that bear as much resemblance to Quarter Horses as they do to the long, sleek, lean runners of Thoroughbred racing's early days. And we consider 10 furlongs to be an absurdly long race; contests at a mile and a half are belittled as archaic (the Belmont) or quaint (steeplechasing).

The world is not with us in our steady reshaping of the Thoroughbred racehorse. Fans in Japan and Hong Kong -- where racing is a respected and growing sport -- want to see two turns. German breeders -- whose Stud Book's strict requirements for stallion eligibility might prove to save the breed in the long run -- purposefully produce late-developing, sturdy runners that are anathema to the U.S. industry. The trend in Australia and New Zealand has shifted to a European-style Thoroughbred type, with an emphasis on durability. Even in South America, where U.S. discards have been popular for more than 100 years and shuttle stallions are still in high demand, breeders use our bloodstock only in deliberate matings, wanting to infuse some of our fragile speed with the hearty South American families but not to reproduce the U.S. Thoroughbred "type."

Where does the American Thoroughbred go from here? Will we continue to lose buyers from Europe (and Asia, and the Antipodes) as the breed type becomes more and more disparate? Will our average race distances continue to drop? Should we expect to see the classic races reconfigured to a six-furlong Preakness, one-mile Kentucky Derby, and nine-furlong Belmont? Or, having exported much but imported little during the past several decades, are we on the verge of another wave of stallion imports that will realign our future foal generations with those of the rest of the world?


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Breeders who breed for pinhookers who "develop" for the novice buyer who is bedazzled by speed & glitter & portfolios will change the breed, maybe forever...and not for the better.

23 Sep 2010 11:55 AM

I understand this argument. But things are not as bad as they seem.

The most expensive stallions pass on some stamina. The sires with stud fees of $100000 and above according to the Stallion Register are:

Distorted Humor, Giant's Causeway, Medaglia d'Oro, Unbridled's Song, A. P. Indy, Dynaformer and Street Cry.

So long as the top sires are stamina influences all is not lost.(I agree Unbridled's Song is a question mark).

The problem is that too few races in America are run beyond a mile.

23 Sep 2010 2:10 PM

American breeders have taken a sire line that could not get past 1 1/16 miles and turned it into the "Hot" line, and with only a few exceptions that sire line is producing fragile horses that cannot even make it past their 3 year old season.  That sire line is the one and only Storm Cat!!  He himself did not race past his 3 year old season as his legs could not stand the pounding.  His sons and grandsons are throwing glorified sprinters (with a few exceptions) and I hear people say he is a sire of sires.  Giants Causeway seems to put some stamina in the pedigree, but even his top son Eskendereya could not make it past the Derby without getting injuried, yet he will get a top book of mares.  In Germany, he would probably be gelded and brought back to the races next year.  I hope he sires like his sire and not his grandsire.  

   I have said for years now that I wished some Ky stud farms would get together and go import some of the German stallions, not only for some stamina, but outcrossing also.  I simply will not breed to ANY stallion who did not win at a mile or longer and do it more than 1 time in top company.  German breeders are extremely hard on their stallions, and they are starting to reep the benefits of it.  I can see a German bred horse coming to America and winning OUR Triple Crown and winning it with ease.  American breeders had better start going in a new direction, or as sure as I am typing out this opinion, they will start crying to shorten the distances of the Triple Crown.  As Rush says...."Don't Doubt Me" !!

23 Sep 2010 2:43 PM
Karen in Indiana

To back up your argument, look at the thoroughbreds of the early 1900's and even up to the 1970's. They are long and lean, balanced throughout the body. European and Asian horses still look like that. Now look at the modern thoroughbred - front heavy, with a preponderance of short legs. A lot of them could pass as quarter horses. What is interesting is that we have seen an influx of former quarter horse trainers - Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas to name a couple - and those are the people advising buyers.

23 Sep 2010 4:16 PM

I know this is a very fashionable argument right now but there are too many holes in it. There is a huge overlap between American and European pedigrees within a few generations. Keep in mind that Danzig was a sprinter on American dirt and now he's globally dominant. Didn't a Distorted Humor colt just win a G1 in Europe? Speed will always be the currency we do business in, on dirt or turf. No one succeeds in this business very long setting out to win the distance races because we need the "brilliant" bloodlines to pull the breed forward.  Breed strictly for stamina and you'll just get slow horses.

23 Sep 2010 4:39 PM

I agree that the American thoroughbred racehorse is not as great as once was (for reasons I outlined on earlier (other) blogs). That said, I doubt that the European racehorse has surpassed the American, and believe it also is lesser than in past times. I don't see much to be gained through increased export of their breed, certainly not the German which as a group are far inferior to our own. Yes, there should be less demand overseas for our product, because there is now less disparity of product between here and elsewhere. We should endeavor to become better able to identify and preserve our finest genetic material- a very tall order as we must first understand the factors which caused the decline. Speed, in and of itself, may not be the culprit, as it before factored heavily in the improvement of the European thoroughbred-take a look at so many of their elite female foundation families.  

23 Sep 2010 4:41 PM
steve from st louis

Robert, raising the fear factor by quoting that world class fear-monger Rush (Limbaugh, I suppose) and warning of a German-bred Triple Crown winner is such zenophobic nonsense . Wouldn't US breeders embrace a foreign-bred American classic winner? Whether he was Irish-bred, French-bred, German-bred, etc., they'd beat a path to his barn. Look at the changes a little 15-hands 1961 Canadian-bred foal had on the industry.  

23 Sep 2010 5:38 PM

There is an element of chicken and egg to the question of the status of the American TB.  Major stakes races have been shortened in the last 40 years;  if they were all restored--the Jockey Club Gold Cup was 2 miles long for a while in the 1960s--would a different set of bloodlines emerge as fashionable? If those distances were restored AND the highest purses were offered for stakes races for 3 y os and up at 1 1/8 miles and longer, including many at 1 1/2 miles and more,  horses would be bred and conditioned for those races.  

23 Sep 2010 5:40 PM
Robin from Maryland

Unless we breed first for soundness, speed means absolutely nothing.  No sense winning a race only to breakdown post the wire.  As the old saying goes: Breed the Best to the Best, and hope for the Best. Its been shown and proven that the Dancer lines are all a bit unsound, but look closely at pedigrees and you'll still see them there.  Horse safety must come first because one fall in the middle of a pack can be disasterous for many.  Here's hoping for a new generation of soundness.

23 Sep 2010 9:56 PM
John T

American breeding is in serious trouble and all you have to do is look at it,s flagship race the Kentucky Derby to see that.Lately you are lucky to see a Derby winner

win another race let alone the other two legs of the triple crown.

The shot in the arm American breeding needs is a second coming of a sire like Nasrullah and let us hope it happens before the American Triple Crown does indeed have to be reduced in distance.

23 Sep 2010 11:49 PM


Medallia D'Oro an endurance influence? Did you watch the Personal Ensign? Now, don't get me wrong - I loved the horse, but he was not effective at winning the classic distance races, and neither is his offspring.

No, America, sadly is all about 6 furlong dirt races, much to my chagrin. It is harder on the horse to sprint like that. I would prefer to see a return to longer races (remember when the JC Gold Cup was 2 miles?).

23 Sep 2010 11:58 PM

While I agree that the American Thoroughbred is becoming an isolated distinct phenotype I must also point out that the raising/training methods also impact how a horse runs. It's why horses with American blood racing overseas can do so with success - training is part of the difference. Each region of racing trains towards the races offered at the racetrack; we train our horses to race in sprints and then hope they stagger home first in a race like the Belmont.

The stallions that impart stamina are far beyond the means of many breeders; the majority of them end up breeding to stallions they can afford and a lot of them are sprinters/milers. If you want to see more stamina, you gotta not only make distance racing more appealing (and encourage owners to run their horses past the age of 3) but also make stamina-oriented stallions more affordable.

People always say that if you breed for stamina you end up with plodders. Shut up. Nobody's breeding for slow horses; they want a horse that can carry its speed over a route of ground. We can have speed, we can have stamina, and we can have both. Right now America is lacking some real stamina and it's time we do something about the imbalance.

24 Sep 2010 1:03 AM

From the point of rehab, the off the track American TB is becoming less robust and able to stand up to day to day work over fences, feet are abysmal, legs are less than tough. Longer races and using stallions that run to a greater age and stay sound would stop this breeding trend.

24 Sep 2010 6:29 AM

Karen in Indiana I agree with you 100%! I have been saying the same thing. Quite a few of our "top" trainers have roots in Quarter horse racing and they definitely have to take some of the blame in this. We breed for speed here in the U.S and we wonder why they cant go the distance.

24 Sep 2010 9:26 AM

Anne...breed for stamina and you get slow?

Maybe when you breed for not just brilliance but hefty doses of Classic, Solid and a bit of Professional you get 10 of the 11 Triple Crown winners & the greatest in history...;-)

Man O'War: DP = 0-0-4-12-8

Zenyatta: DP = 6-3-14-1-0

Swaps: DP = 4-18-14-4-8

Dahlia: DP = 4-4-20-0-8  

Ruffian: DP = 18-13-15-4-0

Forego: DP = 8-2-26-2-2

Spectacular Bid: DP = 9-14-18-3-0  

Seabiscuit: DP = 0-6-3-13-6  

Secretariat DP = 20-14-7-9-0

Seattle Slew: DP = 7-6-4-5-0

Affirmed: DP = 8-6-26-0-0

Citation: DP = 12-0-24-6-8

Whirlaway: DP = 0-12-20-8-0

Gallant Fox: DP = 0-0-16-8-4

Omaha: DP = 0-0-8-4-4

Assault: DP = 6-6-8-1-3

Count Fleet: DP = 0-2-1-1-0

Sir Barton: DP = 0-16-0-0-0  

24 Sep 2010 9:28 AM
Pedigree Ann

Sceptre -"certainly not the German which as a group are far inferior to our own."

Really? Ever heard of Urban Sea, dam of Galileo? German dam, very old German family. King's Best, who sired two Derby winners this spring (English and Japanese)? Ditto. Stacelita? German sire and dam. Manduro, ranked the best horse in the world a couple of years back? German-bred. German sire Monsun has been the great revelation in Europe over the last few years. The German annual foal crop is smaller than that of California. Heck, it's probably smaller than Pennsylvania's these days. German studs go for quality not quantity. But the industry is making a splash world-wide since Germans left behind their fear of failure in trying their horses in foreign races (a hangover from the post-WWII days).

24 Sep 2010 10:21 AM

Definitely against this trend of breeding for speed and sprinting. Find little enjoyment in watching 4 1/2f, 5f and 6f races. We have quarter horse racing to enjoy sprinting. Feel this trend is connected to marketing and early profits. Distance sires generally don't sire precocity and therefore no feeding frenzy at the yearling and 2yr old sales. We expect our speedy 2 and 3yr olds to win the classics and be able to win a triple crown. Unlikely. Now we have a population of speedy sprinters in our thoroughbred population. Time to start infusing stamina and distance. All the pinhookers and buyers looking for quick returns won't like it. Tough. They can dabble in the stock market. The Thoroughbred breed and the horse should come first.

24 Sep 2010 10:47 AM

Steve from St Louis..... The truth is still the truth, wether you see it as fear or not.  I don't fear a German horse....I welcome it.  German breeders as extremely hard on their stallions and a horse like Storm Cat would NEVER have been given a chance at stud.  He was unsound and had a terrible mind.  He is by a stallion with a terrible mind (Storm Bird).  That trait is not a good one.  Not to mention 1 1/16 miles he was breathing fire.  

 Zenophobic nonsense??  Are you serious?  And It is "Xenophobic"....( A person unduly fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign, especially of strangers or foreign peoples)    Have you seen an American dirt horse win at 1 1/2 miles more than 1 or 2 times.  As for Northern Dancer, you proved my point.  His Father, Nearctic, was standing in Europe at the time of his conception and he won at 1 1/8 miles and 1 1/4 miles.  His grandsire, Nearco, while probably a top miler, was able to win at 1 1/2 miles and 1 3/4 miles.  I even have a mare that traces back to his full sister Arctic Dancer.  My idea is to go and get some of this stout German blood and outcross with out speed dominated lines.  This concept worked wonders back in the early part of the 1900's.  Check out the book "Sire Lines".  American breeders are concentraiting way too much on the sales ring and not enough on the race track performance.  Danzig, Storm Cat, and probably Big Brown are the exceptions to the rule.  All 3 violated Bull Hancocks rule of 2 year old brillance going along with 3 year old Classic ability, and then training on into their 4 and 5 year old seasons.  Fear.....not at all.  Pity for our breeding industry....maybe,  But its not fear at all.

24 Sep 2010 12:57 PM


Medaglia d'Oro is a grandson of Sadler's Wells and has Damascus on his dam side. He is bred for stamina like most of the top sires.

The problem is that in America horses are trained for speed even if they are bred for stamina. This occurs because the tracks are oval-shaped and there are few races beyond a mile. Speed to the first turn is desired.

You should note that Al Khali, a son of Medaglia d'Oro, won over 11 furlongs after he was forced to be held up for one run.

The offspring in the Personal Ensign has always performed as a speed horse.

Note also that a son of Street Cry, Shocking, won the Melbourne Cup over 2 miles after being held up for one run.

The stamina is there in the top sires. The Europeans train them to stay.In fact 2 of the top 2-yos  in England are by American sires, Dynaformer and Distorted Humor.

24 Sep 2010 1:29 PM
steve from st louis

Robert, I'm not going to get in a spelling match with you "wether" you like it or not.

Pretty harsh to dispose with the back of your hand one of the most successful sires of our time. By a son of Northern Dancer  out of a stakes winning daughter by Secretariat?? Are those lines to shy from? Good luck in your breeding endeavors.

Storm Cat's sons Giant's Causeway, Hennessey, Forestry and Tabasco Cat hold their own and Storm Cat's daughters have produced Speightstown and Folklore.

I don't know about you, but I've seen some pretty headstrong Seattle Slews like Swale, Capote and Landaluce but I don't think I would shy from the line.

Rachel: Love the dosage. If you just looked at the numbers, to me, I liked Swaps' 4-18-14-4-8 and take my chances. What balance, tipped for speed! Raw talent, mismanaged.

And Ruffian's 18-13-15-4-0 says all you need to know about a fast filly who could carry her speed, geared down.

24 Sep 2010 2:21 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

Karen in Indiana, I'm not trying to be catty, but your comment "Look at the thoroughbreds of the early 1900's and even up to the 1970's. They are long and lean, balanced throughout the body." but the best known horse in the 1970's was Secretariat and he was very much a short coupled, blocky type. So much so that the people making the soon to be released Secretariat movie were openly searching for appendix QH's to play the lead role. Nobody can say that Secretariat couldn't get a mile and 1/2 because he did it with flair!

Of course, this also backs up what Robert said about the durability and range of the offspring of the very popular stallion Storm Cat, who is out of a Secretariat mare.

There is no denying the influence that Secretariat had on TB racing, especially through his daughters. Everybody was looking for the next Secretariat then and still are now.

24 Sep 2010 2:35 PM

Steve in St Louis.....You got me... my spell check died on me :) As for Storm Cat.... I have been around too many individuals had just crappy minds that they never reached their potential.  They would rather kill you than be a race horse.  And again, you proved my point.  Speightstown and Folklore both could not get a route of ground and Folklore was done after her 2 year old season.  Yes Speightstown was a champion sprinter, but sprinters are a dime a dozen in this country.

 Of the sons you mentioned, Tabasco Cat.....maybe. Hennessy was a miler and more often than not, sired 6 and 7 furlong horses that could not train on.  Giants Causeway is his best hope to keep the line running and thats through an unsound son Eskendereya.  I will say this, I do like Storm Cat on the bottom side of the pedigree as he got the large heart gene from his mother through Big Red.  His daughters would pass it along.  

  You are right about headstrong Seattle Slews, but once they got to the track, they were all racehorse.  I would not rule them out for breeding.  

24 Sep 2010 3:26 PM

A quick correction re Nearctic. E.P. Taylor purchased his dam, Lady Angela, in foal to Nearco at Tattersalls in England. She stayed in England until she foaled the resulting offspring, upon which Mr. Taylor bred her once again to Nearco and shipped her in foal to Canada. Nearctic was foaled in Canada and was Canadian Horse of the Year. Upon his retirement he went directly to Windfields in Canada until later moved to Windfields in Maryland. Nearctic spent his entire life in Canada, not England.

Northern Dancer was in his first crop.

Years ago I attended a major sprint race in Ireland and was surprised to see that the horses were all over 16 hands with great depth of bone. To me, big heavy horses. An interesting contrast to our idea of a quarter horse look in American Thoroughbreds being thought of as the ideal sprinter.

Let's think back to basic Mendelian genetics...If you assume genes for sprint(ss) and stamina (SS)are pure and distinct (an assumption for simplicity's sake), then if you breed a pure sprint mare to a pure stamina stallion, you will get 100% Ss offspring. So it is nature's own rules that have given Europe the likes of Galileo, Montjeu, and many other prominent European stallions. Assuming they are Ss, there is greater selection of gene pool to be harmonious with in the mares. If stallion Ss is bred to mare ss (pure sprinter), the offspring are 25% ss and 75% Ss. If the mare is Ss like the stallion, then 25% will be SS (pure stamina), 25% ss (pure speed), and 50% Ss. Keep in mind that an Ss can be trained for either speed or stamina i.e. Distorted Humor was a sprinter. Could a sprinter be a stamina influence? Yes indeed, as being trained as a good sprinter was an environmental influence, not a genetic one. Secretariat could sprint with the best of one would ever call him a speed influence as a stallion.

If I may ruminate a bit more, we have had "surprise" stallions pop up in the U.S. over the years because they provide the outcross (or Mendelian hybrid vigor)to our speed dominant genetic pool. Some names? Lord at War (ARG) for one from the past few years; how about the influence of Candy Ride (ARG)in years to come? The late John Gaines imported many stallions from Europe and South America to introduce new bloodlines into American pedigrees (*Vaguely Noble, Sharpen Up (GB)), Darby Dan stood Roberto here in the U.S., and many other instances. The difference now? Stallions are international now and have offspring in Australia, Japan, Europe and the United States thanks to the practice of shuttling stallions. Any way you look at it, this narrows the gene pool. I have always admired the Germans with their alliterative female families that they carefully guard and cull without remorse any vices or defects. They are true breeders and don't allow commercialism to make their breeding decisions for them. Now before I get an onslaught of objections that this is a slam on commercial breeders, let me own up to the fact that I am one of those commercial breeders. That is my reality and I have to find the balance between genetic influence on the breed and what sells or will sell in two or three years time. Now where did I put my crystal ball...

24 Sep 2010 3:30 PM

Sorry, Robert.  Nearctic always stood in Canada.  He never stood in Europe.  His dam, Lady Angela, was imported while in foal to Nearco, who DID always stand in Europe.

The Dancer's blood returned to Europe where they were never afraid of 1 1/2 miles or more ... and that might just be it: you CONTINUE to run the "longer" races and don't dumb them down for current flavours-of-the-month.

24 Sep 2010 3:43 PM
Robert are SO my Stallions mix up.  Thanks

24 Sep 2010 4:28 PM
steve from st louis

Robert, Speightstown may have been a sprinter, but his offspring are somewhat more versatile, winning Grade 1s on the grass, and Grade 1s at nine furlongs.

I do agree with you on the unsoundness issue with Eskendereya, but Steve Haskin does not. I asked him about the horse getting a cold shoulder at stud because of that issue but Haskin thought breeders would beat a path to his door. It will be interesting to see.

24 Sep 2010 4:38 PM

How many American bred horses run well WITHOUT Lasix and/or Bute?

24 Sep 2010 5:15 PM

Pedigree Ann-

A few anecdotes fall well short of evidence sufficient to prove a (your) position. Also, of those you cite, few, if any, could remotely be considered as pure German. You failed to mention the foundation mare, Schonbrunn, which, along with Monsun, may be the best example of your point. Fact is, though, had it not been for Monsun's great success I'm sure we wouldn't be having this conversation. Sunday Silence was a great stallion in Japan. Does that mean that we should suddenly embrace Japanese bloodstock in general? Once again, these topics are all about perspective. Mine tells me that through the years German bloodstock has been woefully unsuccessful on the international scene (at any distance). Yes, I'd like to have a Monsun and, perhaps, one of his good sons, some daughters and, perhaps, a few good ones from the Schonbrunn line, but likely little else of German heritage. As said, the Germans, as a group, are FAR inferior to our own. If I wished to infuse more stamina in the American thoroughbred breed, aside from above, I'd look elsewhere (probably within our own gene pool).

24 Sep 2010 9:10 PM

It's really very simple.  There is very little incentive for breeders in the U.S. to breed distance-loving horses.

First, most owners of race horses lose money (often lots of it).  So, in order to try to stay "in the game" and survive, they look for early developers that can win as 2yr olds.  Those races are all short sprints, particularly in the spring and summer.  Thus, the horses that sell well at the sales are those considered likely to be early developers.  And when those horses get older, the racetracks have to card more sprints (and fewer distance races) to accommodate them.  It becomes a vicious cycle.

Second, the yearling sales are heavily attended by pinhookers.  As resellers, they have little interest in how a horse will perform past the 2yr old spring sales.  And, for those sales, it is only important that the horses look good sprinting an eighth or a quarter of a mile.

Third, how many stallions are given much of a chance if their 1st crop doesn't produce multiple winners and/or stakes winners?  Stallions that could be fine as the distances get longer and their offspring mature are often never given that opportunity.  (Note that these stallions are often sent to locations such as South America where their distance-loving offspring end up doing well.)

Fourth, there is very little financial incentive to race a quality horse past the age of 3.  For such horses, a breeding career is much more lucrative than anything they can earn on the track.  Which means that, except for a few races like the Derby, the BC Classic or the Travers, there is nothing to be gained to have a horse that excells past 1 1/8 miles.

25 Sep 2010 3:17 AM


25 Sep 2010 7:21 AM


25 Sep 2010 7:53 AM
pa male

Is it true that the German stud book does not admit horses which raced on medication?

This would bolster German breeding in my book.

  • Scot's reply:  The rules are a bit more complex than that, but the simple answer is that, for all intents and purposes, stallions that ran on drugs are ineligible for the German stud.  I join you in applauding this step!
25 Sep 2010 10:57 AM
Linda / Maryland

I most certainly do not have the experience or knowledge to get into this discussion.

I would only hope that the breeders would try to keep the thoroughbred horse strong enough to keep from breaking down.

It is devastating and heartbreaking to see them run and fall to pieces.

I guess I am just getting old and can't stand it anymore. When I watched the Kentucky Derby the year that Big Brown won and Eight Belle's broke down at the end of the race, it kills me.

25 Sep 2010 12:50 PM

What's very interesting is how many great European horses come from American lines, like Goldikova, or a lot of USA lines up close, like Sea The Stars, Makfi, Rip Van Winkle...

Thoroughbreds becoming "Investment Portfolios" was a bad thing for the breed. Brilliant speed in under 10 is ridiculous...of course, the proof is in the pudding of how many Triple Crown winners we've had recently...

25 Sep 2010 1:05 PM

I agree that retiring stallions after their three year old year is absurd. That is probably the best view of our current economic crisis...there is suddenly more money at the track to be made than in the breeding shed. AND...fortune has given us two exceptional horses that are fillies. Great timing. Eskendereya? Yes, I would breed to him. Possibly under different circumstances he might have returned to training, but due to banks being involved it made economic sense to retire him rather than risk him not coming back at the same level. I saw brilliance in his last race, and that one exceptional performance is enough for me. The deciding factor? Price. Keep him reasonably priced and they will be begging to breed to him. Theoretically, if I had an unlimited budget, I still would like him around $15,000. After that I would have to ask myself a lot of questions.

Consider this scenario: by the time Stallion A has runners, and he has shuttled each year, it is possible for him to have over 1000 offspring. If he is a success, he dilutes the gene pool; if he is a failure, he pollutes the gene pool.All in 3 or 4 years time. Commercially, if he is successful, he is devalued due to sheer numbers, supply and demand.

25 Sep 2010 6:41 PM

The North American Thoroughbred needs longer races and a greater emphasis on durability if it is to remain competitive worldwide. What percentage of TB foals get to the races, and how many of those are successful? Breeders have to start considering what else their horses can do if they can't race or breed. If a horse can't race past two, then what? People with field hunters, hunters and jumpers want durability, stamina, strength and a good disposition. They will keep buying European warmbloods instead of TBs if the American TB is too fragile and flighty and can't run past 7 furlongs. Breeders are ignoring a huge other market in their quest for 18-month-olds that run in 21 and change. That bothers me. Not every foal will be a career race horse or breeding horse. Without the other parts of the equation, they have nowhere to go but the meat market. And that is just wrong.

25 Sep 2010 6:59 PM

Regarding American bloodlines in European horses:

This is usually an American bred sire over European bred mares.  Would tend to keep some of the stamina.  However, as time goes on, more of the American lines are appearing in the dam lines and one wonders how long it might be before Europe begins to have the same problems, even with different training methods?

I hope the Germans maintain their strict standards.  In sport horse breeding, good mare lines are protected.  If they treat the Thoroughbred this way, hopefully, they will remain an out cross source.

26 Sep 2010 12:15 AM

Makarra and other commercial breeders here, would you like to see more bone and substance in your breeding programs and as it relates to soundness issues? What is your view of Seattle Slew and his offspring in that regard?

26 Sep 2010 5:15 AM

As we praise the Germans, let us not forget that a leading sire in Germany on more than one occasion was American horse, Big Shuffle, a grandson of Bold Reasoning. According to the Racing Post, in 2009:

"BIG SHUFFLE, one of the leading influences for speed in German breeding for the past two decades, died today. He was 25"

26 Sep 2010 12:50 PM
Karen in Indiana

While there is the very, very lucrative carrot dangling from the stick as an incentive for successful horses to retire to stud at the end of their 3 yr. old year, that's nothing new and there are other reasons for retirement. Man O'War was retired aa a 3 yr. old for possibly 2 reasons, but the one that is for sure is that his security was being threatened and keeping him safe was wearing on the owner's nerves. In recent years, Big Brown was threatened before his Belmont race. He had a security detail watching over him, Curlin when he raced & Rachel now have 24 hour security protecting them. That is not the reason a lot of these stallions on this blog have retired, just wanted to give another reason some horses retire early that doesn't have anything to do with soundness.

26 Sep 2010 1:49 PM

Very absorbing discussion going on here.  Much talk about German breeding and honorable mention of the South Americans but i have a question for you all.  What does Northern Dancer, Nijinsky, Vice Regent, Deputy Minister  and Awesome Again have in common?

Perhaps there is still some wisdom south of the border.

26 Sep 2010 7:13 PM

Yes, I definitely would like to see more bone. I have bred to sons of Seattle Slew (he actually is my alltime favorite!). What did I get? A beautiful, commercially popular yearling who admittedly was on the light side for bone, maybe not by American standards but certainly light compared to European horses. Unfortunately he was also unsound. The best part of the Seattle Slew line, as far as I am concerned, is intelligence. We tend to ignore intelligence in our breeding plans but no one can deny that Zenyatta is one very clever horse. Watch her ears, her ritual paso fino moves to the post. She KNOWS what she is doing and does it over and over and over. And that includes knowing that Mike Smith is going to tell her when to go and where the finish line is. I am in awe of her. But I digress.

Commercial breeders are having a very tough time. I have always liked to think of myself as a commercial breeder with a conscience; unfortunately I have chosen stallions and sold their offspring a bit too soon (I bred to Candy Ride (ARG), Medaglia d'Oro 3 times, etc. because they are stallions I really liked, but unfortunately the offspring were sold before runners hit the track). Take a good look at Medaglia d'Oro, he is a lovely horse, good size, good bone, and a consistent racehorse. Balancing commercial with pedigree and conformation are tough and I have regretted some of my decisions. But I have also bred a grade 1 winner. So back to the crystal ball...Can I ask everyone out there what new stallions (no runners older than 2yos of 2010)to nominate the best stallions with the greatest chance of success in the sales ring AND at the races? I will save my nomination for my next post.

26 Sep 2010 7:13 PM


Yours and Alan's piece(s) were certainly thought provoking. If, indeed, today's American thoroughbred racehorse is not the same as, say 35+ yrs. ago, the cause or causes may be numerous and many, perhaps, not so apparent... Races are usually written to reflect the perceived aptitudes and abilities of the runners on the grounds and/or the desires of their trainers, together with a goal to maximize field size-the engine of this business, the bettor-tends to prefer larger fields, and larger fields tend to attract a greater pool. It would seem that this dynamic, together with the commercial sales market dictate the direction of the breed. Paralleling this is the historical fact that races have steadily shortened over the past two hundred + years, and its cause alone is worth pondering. No doubt through those years we have endeavored to selectively breed for more speed. But, why should this fact alone have caused races to shorten-i.e. why should the ability to run faster equate to a need to compete over shorter distances?.. Another observation, somewhat apart from these, is that our current stallion pool is, for the most part (as never before), derived from sprinter-milers. Many buyers/owners profess the desire for the classic-type horse. These same people, however, believe that what on offer to them can achieve this goal-and it has mostly become a self-fulfilling prophecy-Mr. Prospector's son, Conquistador Cielo (Belmont winner) may have, in part, paved the way to this relatively new mindset...Changing this all around-in a sense, bucking the flow of history-seems a rather tall order. It would require strong market presures or, absent this, a powerful racing/breeding authority. Lastly, the fact that foreignors are less receptive to American-breds may be a positive step, but we should not be so certain that their relative reluctance stems from aptitude (distance) misgivings rather than a perception of generally lower quality on offer as compared to times past.        

26 Sep 2010 8:28 PM

Makarra I will offer you my opinion regarding a stallion prospect and that is Big Brown. Another to consider when he retires to stud is General Quarters. The reason I mention these two is that both carry Round Table, top and bottom of the pedigree. I am totally enamored of Round Table and his record. I saw him at age 24 and his legs and fetlocks looked so clean. If you have a mare with Round Table it could be an intriguing breeding; however I am not an expert or authority and have no financial stake. Would be interesting to hear your thoughts of my suggestion.

27 Sep 2010 3:25 AM

makarra :

I nominate Henrythenavigator.

27 Sep 2010 11:16 AM


Here are my nominations:

Hard Spun, being an outstanding son of Danzig and grandson of Northern Dancer, with inbreeding to Native Dancer and his sire Polynesian, is almost certain to throw classic progenies that can excell on any surface and do well in the sales ring.

Corinthian, being a grand son of AP Indy via Pulpit that has excelled on the track, is very likely to throw progenies that will appeal to long-pocket investors and be classic distance runners too, but only on Dirt.

Curlin has all the attributes of pedigree, performance and good looks to be a very successful sire capable of throwing precocious classic types that can perform on Dirt and Turf.

27 Sep 2010 2:25 PM

Someone mentioned Unbridled's Song as a stamina influence.  While I don't deny his breeding says that, he also seems to have progeny that are predisposed to leg problems. In my opinon, that would eliminate him from any possibility to breed to a mare I would own.  

Dynaformer is a great stamina influence, but, with the notable exception of Barbaro, most of his offspring tend to peak later.  

I love the German stallions, especially Manduro and his sire Monsun.  Great confirmation, exceptional stamina.  I would LOVE to see the Mosses send Zenyatta to Germany for a date with one of those stallions.

27 Sep 2010 10:17 PM


28 Sep 2010 1:49 AM

Sorry for the delay in replying with my own choices, and thank you to all who made suggestions. I, too, particularly like Corinthian to carry on the Seattle Slew line. Hard Spun reminds me more of his BMS Turkoman than Danzig, and that concerns me just a little.Curlin will certainly get an opportunity from the point of view of the mares, but as he is Mr. P x Northern Dancer wonder if he can get a outcross variety of mares? Big Brown, with all those crosses of Northern Dancer and Damascus, is a natural for Mr. P/Raise a Native mares. I thought he was an amazing racehorse, his Derby was one of the most exciting I have seen. What a shame about the Belmont, it left a black mark undeservedly on his record.

Dynaformer has been a very influencial sire for the Roberto line, but oh how much we will miss Barbaro carrying on the line!

My pick as a sire of sires is Giant's Causeway. Already is off to a great start with First Samurai (hot as a firecracker in September), Shamardal, and Footstepsinthesand, Aragorn (IRE). My picks for the new stallions without runners are Heatseeker and Red Giant. Red Giant was an AMAZING horse on the turf and won the Clement Hirsch [G1] in 1:57 and change, setting a NWR. A turf horse, yes, but a very fast one out of a Kingmambo mare. Heatseeker was also very speedy on the allweather, including the Santa Anita H. [G1], inbred to Blushing Groom (FR). Both stallions are a steal in my opinion (Red Giant, $6,000 and Heatseeker $15,000).

Keep up the comments, would love to hear more opinions from others!

08 Oct 2010 2:07 PM

I think Karen of Indiana brings up a very important point.  A lot of our leading trainers are previously quarter horse trainers and are obviously advising clients towards that type of horse. Of course, I appreciate there will be exceptions.

USA needs to create more classic distance races on turf and synthetic surfaces even on dirt but then again if we do not have the trainers able to deal with a classic distance horse and they are only able to deal with sprinters, the distance races would not fill.  If you are a commercial breeder in America, you almost have to go for speed.

Case in point, of several yearlings I recently sold, the one that most resembled a quarter horse was the one my consignor was most excited about believing he was the type of horse buyers will go for,  expecting a quick return at the early 2 year old races.

22 Oct 2010 9:43 AM

I have walked all the sale rings. Fasiq, obs, keeneland,i am from louisiana and i see a big diff in tbs from places like florida and kentucky compared to our horses in la.The bloodlines r the same but the looks at a yr old and 2 yr olds in la compared to florida and kentucky or extreme. Yearlings look like full grown horses and 2 yr olds look like they r ready for a tough race season.I would love to get my babies to look like that at a yr but with our summers i just dont think it is possible unless u r rich or u use substances that r not good for the horses. In my defense i babies look good enough to bring 10,to 15000 at the markets. They still to me dont look as goood as babies from the big markets . other topic  i think the breakdowns are from less training and less racing then from bad breeding. I think we all have read training books from the big trainers from the past and have any of yall seen trainers put thier babies to that much training and developing.  

07 Nov 2010 9:51 PM

Rachel Alexandra and Quality Road are excellent examples of our inferior bred horses. These two are sucking wind after 8.5 to 9 furlongs. Uncle Mo is the next one. Speed horses who should be racing Goldikova at a mile and no further.

13 Nov 2010 2:53 PM

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