Developing a Stakes-Winning Thoroughbred Filly, Part V (Conclusion)

Editor's noteDr. Robert Fishman shares his story about breeding recent stakes winner Girlfrienontheside. Earlier in the series (see part I part II, part III, and part IV), we read about how Dr. FIshman bred her dam, Refrain, and then followed along as Refrain was bred several times to some top sires. In the previous installment (part IV), Girlfrienontheside began racing and we reached the 2008 breeding season. Now, the author concludes his story. We hope you've enjoyed this original content -- a fresh perspective from a successful breeder. Please enter general comments or questions for Dr. Fishman in the "Leave a Comment" section below.


Girlfrienontheside had attained graded black-type status before the year began. For this and other reasons, I began to consider a foal share for Refrain in 2009. I pondered a bit too long, and missed out on my first choice, Indian Charlie (TrueNicks,SRO). Dynaformer (TrueNicks,SRO) was next, but also a no.

As a racehorse, Big Brown (TrueNicks,SRO) did stir my juices a bit, but I was less than awed by his pedigree. I had some fondness for his sire, Boundary -- his resolve as a racehorse, his "look" (for a Danzig), and the looks of some of his offspring. Still, Boundary was nothing special as a sire, and one of his best, the very good-looking and well bred Minardi, had disappointed me as a sire (had once considered breeding to him). This was troubling, but not yet enough to rule out Big Brown. He was a closely inbred horse, and while this might enhance his chances at stud, it could have potentially inhibited his ability to succeed at the races. He was, though, by any measure, a very talented runner, either in spite of his inbreeding or, in some measure due to it, or both. I viewed this dynamic to be a plus as to his chances for sire success. His lightly raced dam may have possessed real racing ability (I duly noted her Rough Shod II inbreeding), and I sensed that her genetic contribution (again, she is inbred to Rough Shod II) may have been a significant factor in Big Brown's success as a runner. It will be interesting to follow her future production record.

I will admit that I remained concerned about the Boundary issue, but grew to accept the rest of his pedigree's configuration with Refrain's. For one, there was his close Northern Dancer inbreeding as well as her rather close inbreeding to Mr. Prospector. This was unlikely to create much of a hybrid vigor scenario (since Mr. P and Northern Dancer share many common ancestors), but who knows, and the two had worked well together (though I've never sought out this combination). Big Brown was also inbred to Damascus who before had combined well with Raise A Native and his sire, Native Dancer (Refrain was 5x4 Raise A Native (through Mr. P) and 6x5x7x7 Native Dancer). None of this alone sold me, but it did somewhat counterbalance my distrust for Boundary, and Big Brown's pedigree's general lack of appeal. I had inspected Big Brown at Three Chimneys following his retirement, and had been very impressed. He had leg, balance, athleticism, overall good looks, and a particularly outstanding demeanor. About him there was little to fault, but for his slack pasterns, but neither Refrain, nor her offspring nor any of her immediate relatives had possessed that trait. It was the visit to Three Chimneys along with Big Brown's racing class that had first placed him under consideration. Recalling that, and factoring in the rest, finally led me to conclude that my reservations about his pedigree were not enough to prevent going forward with the foal share.

Refrain is presently in foal to Big Brown.

In closing, I wish to acknowledge the part of Bayne and Christina Welker, and Bayne's parents before, in all this. Through the environment they provided them, and due to the Welkers uncommon skill, knowledge, and attention to detail, my horses have thrived, blossomed, and been positioned to reach their true athletic potential. Inlaw retired from the track to their care, and we've been together ever since. Their counsel and insights have proved an invaluable asset to me.

Lastly, I've been involved in this sport for nearly 50 years, and well understand its lure. One can so easily become immersed in its beauty and history, and derive pleasure and gratification from the contest. Many also find fascination with the various mental aspects of racing and/or breeding, and in the challenge of refining predictive skills. I ask that you put aside some of these pursuits, and instead devote that time to a better understanding of horses' needs, especially as it relates to their well-being and safety.

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