Modern Thoroughbred Sire Lines

We occasionally discuss "rare" sire lines in this space, and later this week we're going to take a look at the remaining Teddy line.  While I'm more of a "female family" advocate in most breeding considerations, I also appreciate the Y-chromosome diversity that still exists within the Thoroughbred breed.  By request, here's a brief overview of what's out there.

Thoroughbred Sire Lines

Of the "founding three" Thoroughbred patriarchs that remain in tail-male descent, it appears the Byerly/Herod line is in trouble internationally, and is effectively dead in the U.S..  While Europe and Australia both have viable branches of the line, no break-out stallion has emerged in recent years to guarantee future propagation.  Shy of a standout son or grandson of Indian Ridge (IRE) (pedigree) developing in the next few years, the line of Ahonoora and Djebel and Tourbillon and My Babu might have permanently waned. 

The Godolphin line through Matchem is plodding onward, but seems to survive each generation with only one new branch-maker.  A while back we had branches of the 1850 stud West Australian that gave us Sassafras (pedigree) and Hastings (pedigree). Then we were down to Fair Play's offspring, including a line through the Bunty Lawless stud Windfields (pedigree), Where only a couple of decades ago it was possible to find old stalwart Man o'War through a couple of different sons and grandsons, we now look to his great-great-grandson In Reality as the new patriarch of the Godolphin line.  This bloodline has some current standouts and looks healthy for at least another couple of generations.

The Darley line through Eclipse is clearly dominant.  I've indented the following to help depict the tail-male lineage and its several branches:

A. Two lines of the 1775 Eclipse son King Fergus live on through his sixth-great-grandson St. Simon, who was born in 1881.  The modern St. Simon lines exist through Ribot sons His Majesty (pedigree) and Tom Rolfe (pedigree), and through Prince Rose sons Prince Bio (pedigree) and Princequillo (pedigree).  (Watch for future posts on these lines....) 

B. The bulk of modern-day sire lines descend from another Eclipse son:  the oddly-named Pot-8-O's.

1. In 1822, Camel (a great-grandson of Pot-8-O's) branched off. We've previously discussed the continuation of this line through Himyar sons Domino and Plaudit.

2. The Pot-8-O's line continued mainly through his great-great-grandson Irish Birdcatcher.

a. It branched off again with the 1857 stallion Oxford, whose fourth-great-grandson Blandford has a living line through Monsun in Germany, and another through Cipayo in South America.  That Cipayo branch has a chute in the U.S. with Seattle Fitz (ARG) (SRO), who we've discussed on several occasions.

b. Pot-8-O's Irish Birdcatcher line of Eclipse branched off again when his 1877 great-great-grandson Bend Or sired patriarchs Bona Vista (whose line is represented through Nasrullah and Northern Dancer and Raise a Native and Turn-to and Buckpasser) and Ormonde. 

i. Ormonde blood survives today primarily through his own great-great-grandson Teddy (1913), the third-great-grandsire of Damascus (pedigree). 

ii. Somewhere around 90% of North American Thoroughbreds trace through Bona Vista, most of them through the 1913 stallion Phalaris (pedigree).

LIke I promised, just a quick look at the sire lines that've made it to modern-day Thoroughbred breeding.  We'll look more in-depth at Teddy in the next couple of days.

In the meantime... do you have a favorite founding sire or a later branch?  I've talked about Himyar as my favorite line of Eclipse, and I'm a big fan of Matchem bloodlines.  What are your preferences?



Leave a Comment:


I am in love with the Matchem sire line; one of the first racehorse books I ever read was King of the Wind, which introduced me to both the Godolphin Arab/Barb and Man o' War. I'm in love with MoW's representative Tiznow, who's showing himself to be a viable source of stamina, which we need nowadays. I'm also fond of Ahonoora and the Teddy line.

15 Dec 2008 7:22 PM

What pedigrees should work well with Seattle Fitz?

  • Scot's reply:  I threw out a few ideas about breeding to Seattle Fitz in a previous post.  I like Relaunch-line sires with him (daughters of Waquoit, Honour and Glory, Tiznow, for example).  I'd also like to see Sadler's Wells mares crossed with him.
15 Dec 2008 9:53 PM

Matchem by a landslide, with the Byerley Turk a close second. Both of these lines, as far as I've been able to tell, have been rather sound. I'd rather send a mare to a sireline descendent of these lines than to any stallion representing the Darley Arabian.

I was looking through the grey pages in the 2009 edition of The Stallion Register the other day. The fact that there are so many descendents of Mr. P and Northern Dancer at stud disgusts me. Why on earth don't breeders grow some new brain cells and get away from all that and go for the rarer lines for outcrosses which would most likely save the breed from collapsing on itself?

15 Dec 2008 11:43 PM



16 Dec 2008 12:43 AM

To Catherine,

It's quite simple, the offspring of the mentioned sires are winning the major races and generally outperforming other sire lines. Would I love to see an under the radar outcross sire hit the big times, of course. I had high hopes for Mongoose, but saying his offsprings' performances have been lackluster is being generous. As far outcrosses go, I think the Holy Bull line is a sleeper and I'm really intrigued by Macho Uno. I also like Include and Chapel Royal. Keep in mind  the Mr.P/Northern Dancer lines won't always dominate. I'm rather new to the breeding aspect so I love hearing about these rarer sire lines.

16 Dec 2008 8:04 AM
Lance S

Good point, Chris.  I'm sure there was a time in the early 20th century that people were afraid the Herod line was going to completely dominate North American breeding, and yet now it's virtually extinct.  Also, people have to be careful about getting too excited about these ancient lines.  In reality, looking beyond grandparents really doesn't have much impact.  That's as far as dairy cattle breeders go - they are much more sophisticated about breeding than Thoroughbred breeders.

16 Dec 2008 9:18 AM

Dont' go forgetting Roberto. I hope that Turn-To continues with sons of Dynaformer but I also like Kris S and Rock Hard Ten and Arch and Action This Day.

16 Dec 2008 9:24 AM

The future of horse racing should be very interesting.  They'll be dirt sires, turf sires and synthetic sires, or is that the same thing as a good turf sire. If all the major american tracks switch to synthetic surfaces (which is good if its truly safer for the horses) then say good bye to many old bloodlines, especially if they can not produce synthetic runners.  For example, Curlin was a dirt performer,  what happens when he can not produce successful synthetic runners? I am almost positive that even if mares bred to him have been successfull on synthetic surfaces that does not mean his offspring will be able to run over it. It should be very interesting to see what happens in the next 5 to 10 years.

16 Dec 2008 10:26 AM

I wouldn't completely count Curlin out as a synthetic sire.  For example, Point Given is a leading poly sire & he never ran on the stuff at all.  

16 Dec 2008 11:41 AM

For that matter, Curlin's sire was a turf horse.

16 Dec 2008 12:05 PM

I agree with skipaway2000.   Curlin has enough ability that he could and probably will be a decent synthetic track sire.  Point Given has the hidden talents a few generations back in his pedigree,  As for sire lines, I really want some of the stout German and French lines over here.  Our sire lines simply don't seem to be capable of siring horses that can win the Triple Crown without killing them physically and knocking them out of action for months because it is too stressful on them.  The Thoroughbred was developed for speed over a distance.  We American breeders seem to have forgotten that.  Horses like Powerscourt, Northern Spur and Montjeu have shown distance is no problem, but with the exception of Montjeu, and his get only sell in Europe, none of them wil succeed in America.  Too Bad.  Our breed is slowly becoming fragile and incapable of going a distance.  To me a distance horse is NOT a horse who can barely win at 1 1/8 miles.  Curlin is a great race horse, but he was suspect at anything past 1 1/4 miles.  I will keep an eye on him and his stallion career.  Hopefully his owner faith that he will transmit stamina will come to pass.

16 Dec 2008 2:33 PM

Affirmed was a dirt runner, but sired some good turf horses.  You just never know!  It's a fairly unpredictable thing and that's part of why it's all so interesting.  You never REALLY know what you're going to get.

16 Dec 2008 7:09 PM
m palmer

Mr. Prospector, his sons, grandsons and great grandsons have sired the winners 30 of 75 Triple Crown races contested between 1983 and 2008. This has been the longest a line has dominate Triple Crown races.

The only line that will dethrone the Mr. Prospector line is the Seattle Slew line that is poised for resurgence through the following grandsons and great grandsons: Mineshaft, Bernardini, Pulpit, Golden Missile, Aptitude, Steven Got Even, Friends Lake, Suave, Tapit, Sky Mesa, Purge, Stroll, Oratory and Corinthian

16 Dec 2008 11:27 PM
Marc W

Tiz Baby--I don't think Smart Strike ran on the turf as far as I can remember. Dance Smartly won on the turf (and everything) as well as his dam. Every horse that had anything to do with the grand dam No Class was special. One of the greatest blue hens of the modern era.

He does throw nice turf horses but he sends good dirt as well.

17 Dec 2008 4:43 PM

I have a Windfields stallion book from 1981, and I found it quite interesting that at the time they were trying to find representatives of each of the three branches to stand at stud.  Even then they were having difficulty finding a Herod/Matchem stallion.

I stand a son of Indian Ridge, so I am quite partial to the Herod line :)

17 Dec 2008 9:03 PM
NJ Jenny

Krista, who's the son of Indian Ridge -- are you the one with Legal Jousting up in Canada?

17 Dec 2008 9:30 PM

Perhaps the Association should consider bringing in fresh Akhal-Teke blood to regain that endurance of the Byerley Turk lines?

17 Dec 2008 10:30 PM

Perhaps consider going through the dam's side to recover the old lines?

From an interesting website,

"...Byerley Turk mares became jewels of great price. Two of his daughters have been determined to be taproot mares for the breed. First was the daughter of the Taffolet Barb mare (three generations descended from Tregonwell's Natural Barb Mare, family #1).

Another Byerley Turk daughter known as "Dam of the Two True Blues" was designated founder of family #3. She was bred by Mr. Bowes of Streatleam, Co. Durham, a stud only ten miles from Middridge Grange, and so was foaled in the early part of the Byerley Turk's career. This mare's dam was unknown, and it has been speculated that these two daughters of the Byerley Turk are one and the same, but this can't be proven.

Other mares sired by the Byerley Turk include the only daughter of the mare by Bustler, founder of family #8, and the only daughter of another mare by Bustler, founder of family #35. He also sired the dams of Bulle Rock (allegedly the first "bred" stallion imported into Virginia), Smales' Childers, Fortune (also imported into the U.S.), the Farmer Mare, and The Wharton Mare.

--Anne Peters"

18 Dec 2008 7:45 AM
The Five-Cross Files

The Eclipse-line stallion Bend Or branched off with sons Ormonde and Bona Vista in the 1880's. While at one point multiple lines existed through the great Teddy, the line appears to be dwindling. The 2009 Stallion Register lists just seven Teddy-line

19 Dec 2008 11:43 AM

My favorite line is Domino, which seems to be going the same way as the Teddy line.  Though Include does have a full brother, Encaustic, who is still racing.  Maybe he will get a chance at stud.

20 Dec 2008 4:27 PM

NJ Jenny, Yes I stand Legal Jousting in Ontario.

I can honestly say I was somewhat ignorant of even Indian Ridge before I acquired a son.  Yet he's sired two Breeders' Cup winners (Domedriver, Ridgewood Pearl), and is the broodmare sire of another (Wando).  Many people don't realize that he stood for a significant stud fee at the Irish National Stud in his last few years at stud.  Indian Ridge also had some incredible success with two year olds, having at least one stakes winning two year old in I believe all but one of his crops to race.

I think part of the problem with non-Eclipse sirelines is that people go with what they know, and stallions from these lines have obviously been dominant in recent years.

21 Dec 2008 9:18 PM

I have a wild hare theory that the strongest horses, both in performance and in the breeding shed will show male lines to all three of the foundation sires in the first five generations for males and the sire of females in the fifth.

Those horses are becoming harder and harder to find as Man O'War and Discovery are found farther and farther back.

Even St. Simon is becoming rare, and who would ever have thought that could have happened.  Nasrullah is getting harder to find on top.  Who could have predicted that Balladier would have disappeared, or Black Toney?  Or Blue Larkspur?

Racing times have not improved enough to explain what's happened.  Fad breeding does.  

23 Feb 2009 12:16 PM

I forgot to say that Two Davids is looking to become a useful broodmare sire.

There was an Ambiorix son (ancient) standing in Oklahoma a couple of years ago.

We need more imported outcross sires like Siphon in North America.

23 Feb 2009 12:20 PM
The Five-Cross Files

A bit of research on Thoroughbred sire-line descent becomes a trip down memory lane as I consult the 1982 Stallion Register.

17 Sep 2009 8:52 AM

I have to say that these articles are the BEST.  I enjoy reading articles on pedigrees and to have the pedigrees easily available to look at is great.  I'm not sure if this has been covered yet, but can an article be done comparing modern pedigrees with those of the nearly "lost" "Iron Horse" of decaded agao.  The ones that ran more often and without the drugs of today.  Those were the true Thoroughbreds.  Our modern drugs are creating a "freak" of sorts that cannot improve upon itself in the breeding shed as breeders always hope will happen.  What is wrong with the diet of old - water, hay and oats?

Keep on writing these VERY informative articles.

20 Sep 2009 9:54 AM
Citation Lover

I am a newbie to pedigree study. I find it fascinating, but I don't want to annoy you with stupid questions. Just this one: How do you determine the founder of a "line"?

What level of potency makes a horse stand out so that he is called the father of a line?

Thanks for your help.

<ul><li><i><b>Scot's reply</b>: References to specific sires as the patriarch of a "line" are due partly to tradition and partly to context.  We refer to the three founding sire lines--Godolphin Barb, Darley Arabian, and Byerly Turk--because they're as far back as our records go to determine tail-male lineage.  Traditionally, we also refer to those same lines as Matchem, Eclipse, and Herod because those stallions were the most dominant male heirs, and they are the only remaining sire-line links to the founding sires.  Sometimes lines refer to the most prominent recent stallion of a given line.  Himyar (1875) has two active branches currently, through Domino (1891) and Plaudit (1895). I might discuss the "Holy Bull line" because he's the most recent stallion representing the Plaudit line of Himyar to have multiple sire sons.  Similarly, we would probably call his Domino branch the "Broad Brush line" now since that's the only line that has widespread represenation.  I'd urge you to look at the "grey pages" in the Stallion Register.  The bolded and large-font names are traditionally considered patriarchs of their sire lines.</i></li></ul>

20 Jul 2010 10:43 PM

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