In this week's edition of The Blood-Horse we present a study that will clear up some facts regarding a question frequently debated in Thoroughbred circles: Is the breed getting weaker?
The full report -- all 232 pages of it -- is available for download on BloodHorse.com. If you haven't already done so, review Losing the Iron Horse? Examining Racehorse Performance by Sire Over the Last Four Decades. Believe me, you'll be hearing a lot about this topic over the next weeks and months.
While the report offers specific, detailed information (yes, we do name names), it does not draw conclusions as to why the average foal today is expected to start in 28% fewer races than his 1970's counterparts, or why that disparity continues to expand. The study is meant to present facts that can help shape further discussion.
Since the issues of racehorse durability and soundness have come up before on The Five-Cross Files, I know that the average reader here is going to have strong opinions on the subject. Face it: most of us are either breeders or fans of breeding and bloodlines. We talk about the need to outcross and to breed for soundness. We argue about how and why yesteryear's horses were able to withstand training and racing schedules that their modern-day relatives can't match. We lament the breakdowns, the paltry average starts, the early retirements.
So today, I ask you to sound off -- because with the release of Losing the Iron Horse?, the whole industry will be looking for a reaction. Thoroughbred fans, track stewards, The Jockey Club officials, racing commissioners -- they all want to gauge how much we care about what many see as the downfall of the Thoroughbred.
I invite you to post your comments (below). As always, I ask that you write with passion, but avoid harsh criticism of individuals -- horse and human.
Also, don't miss The Blood-Horse editor-in-chief Dan Liebman's comments in this week's What's Going On Here column, Sound Off.