Revelations of the Catalog Page, part I

It's a couple of weeks before your favorite sale, and the catalog has just arrived in your mailbox. You sit down to take a first look through the book, flipping open to the first hip.

Quick: What jumps out? Where did your eyes immediately focus?

For most of us, the answer reveals a lot about our real passions in the Thoroughbred industry.  

Of course, there's no wrong approach to reading the catalog (just like there's no wrong way to eat a Reese's). But when a sale gets large enough -- think Keeneland November -- it's practically impossible to study the whole book and research every hip, shy of taking a week of vacation and sending the equivalent of a mortgage payment to equineline. Even at a smaller sale, having clearly-defined criteria to identify hips of interest will save both time and money.

Like most "minor league" breeders, I've developed my own system to quickly scour the offerings at an auction. For good or ill, I approach every sale the same: I look for mares that fit my personal ideals of "fashionable" breeding. And for pedigree geeks, this is where politics and religion collide....

The first time I look through the catalog, my attention remains on three names in each pedigree chart: the first, second, and third dams. I'm looking for names I know, either as great producers or as the female family of an established sire line. Either accomplishment -- and they're often, but not always, related -- will be enough to give the page a more thorough once-over. During this more complete overview, the presence of a clever breeding pattern, or a cross with one of my favorite "rare sire line" stallions, will probably entice me to dog-ear the page for further research.

  • Why do I look at female families?  Call me optimistic, but I believe that the best opportunities out there for someone like me -- someone starting out in breeding, with boundless enthusiasm but limited resources -- are underperforming mares that descend from great tail-female lines. The class of a great family can withstand a couple of generations of poor sire selections, only to turn around and prosper when compatible sire lines are reintroduced to the mix. For the past 10-odd years, I've followed the Aspidistra (pedigree) and Imperatrice (pedigree) families, and will refer to them frequently.
  • Why do I seek out rare sire lines?  The Stud Book has been closed for a long time, creating a situation where we're working with a limited gene pool. Allowing less-pervasive sire lines to wither and fade means we're putting all our future dreams on just a couple of Y chromosomes.
  • What do I mean by "further research"?  That's the question I'll be addressing in most of my posts on The Five-Cross Files. Whether your ardor is breeding or racing -- and, to a certain extent, even handicapping -- a knowledge of pedigrees and bloodlines is essential to making wise decisions. The Web is rife with tools and reports; we'll explore the ones that will increase your chances of success.

Okay, so now I've looked at the catalog and identified some interesting horses based on their pedigrees. What do my selections say about me? What's my next step to find out more about the dog-eared hips? And why might others approach the catalog with far different standards and biases?  More on that soon.  In the meantime, here are a couple of useful links for those who want to know the technical answer to "How do I read a catalog page?"



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There's no wrong way...

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