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Not Your Father's Cross

We were interested to note the victory of Apapane in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), the most important contest for two-year-old females in Japan. The race has been won in recent years by such stars as Buena Vista and Vodka, and Apapane was scoring for the third straight time in four starts.

Apapane (TrueNicks rated A++) is by Kingmambo (TrueNicks,SRO) ’s son, King Kamehameha, out of a Salty Bid, a Japanese black-type placed daughter of Salt Lake (TrueNicks,SRO). We can also note that another son of Kingmambo, Lemon Drop Kid (TrueNicks,SRO) , has sired graded scorer Sweet Hope and Hello Maggie May out of mares by Salt Lake, as well as the stakes winners Lemon Drop Mom and Lemonlime out of mares by Salt Lake’s sire, Deputy Minister. What’s interesting is that Kingmambo himself had 13 foals, and ten starters out of Deputy Minister mares, without a single stakes horse, and also never sired a stakes winner out of a mare by any of Deputy Minister’s sons. There are times that crosses that might seem promising from a pedigree standpoint, sometimes work better (perhaps because of biomechanics, or aptitude) a generation further on. In this case, perhaps Kingmambo, a horse who is predominantly a turf influence, was suited by Northern Dancer line mares in general, but less so by Deputy Minister, whose influence has tended towards dirt. This didn’t apply to Lemon Drop Kid who is one of his sire’s most notable dirt runners, and who is out of a three-parts-sister to A.P. Indy, a horse who combines very well with Deputy Minister.

Funnily enough, Deputy Minister appears in another similar example with a Mr. Prospector son. Gone West, one of Mr. Prospector’s most successful sons, had 18 foals and 11 starters out of Deputy Minister line mares, but no stakes winners. However, the Gone West sons Elusive Quality (TrueNicks,SRO) , Grand Slam (TrueNicks,SRO) , Mr. Greeley (TrueNicks,SRO) and Speightstown (TrueNicks,SRO) have all sired multiple stakes winners out of Deputy Minister line mares.

Gone West reminds us of another combination that “got good when it got back.” This is Bold Ruler and Tom Fool. On pedigree it looked well worth a try, but in reality, and most notoriously – with Tom Fool’s great son, Buckpasser, over Bold Ruler mares – it was very disappointing close up in pedigrees (the combination yielded a lot of unsound and arthritic knees, possibly because of the linebreeding it created to the brilliant, but unsound, Pompey, and his sister Laughing Queen). Gone West’s dam, Secrettame, was a Bold Ruler/Tom Fool cross, and additions of those strains, particularly in tandem proved excellent for him, so the pedigree potential of the cross is being born out, albeit several generations later.

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Quite a bit of, dare I say rationalizations, contained in this article. More likely, it lends support to the notion that there should be no "A" nicks when there is involved an "unproven" stallion...As far as the Buckpasser/Tom Fool on Bold Ruler scenario; no doubt you're aware that both Bold Ruler and Buckpasser shared Phipps family ownership-reason it was so often used early on. Never considered the Pompay linebreeding to be the likely cause of its marked lack of success. Rather, it was my observation, and one shared by others, that the magnificent  Buckpasser was a wee bit back at the knee, and inherited the great Tom Fool's inherent knee issues. Bold Ruler, and many of his daughters, possessed massive "shoulders". Overly heavy "shoulders" on relatively frailish (mostly knee issue) front limbs is reason enough for soundness issues. Retrospectively, Bold Ruler, pedigree-wise, also didn't seem to possess what Tom Fool (probably the greatest genetic thoroughbred ever) "blood" desired. Note also that Tom Fool nicked exceptionally with Graustark whose get often had knee issues-including back at knees.  

sceptre 17 Dec 2009 9:37 PM

Hi Sceptre,

Thanks for the input on the physical issues involved with Buckpasser/Bold Ruler. I talked to the late Dr. Rooney (wrote what might be THE book on unsoundness and lameness in horses) at a conference at Cold Spring Harbor. He told me that he had performed "autopsies" - probably the wrong word, but you get the idea - on a lot of Bold Ruler's and they had very poor knees, tiny carpal bones.

I must admit, I would have liked Tom Fool and Bold Ruler, just as a paper exercise, with both going back in male-line to Phalaris/Chaucer crosses, and then having the brother/sister, Pompey and Laughing Queen at the bottom of the pedigree.

The reason that I thought Pompey and Laughing Queen might be significant in the scenario is that Pompey was a brilliant horse, but troubled by arthritic knees, the problem that particularly marked the recombination.

It's interesting that the only really good horse by Buckpasser out of a Bold Ruler mare, the English 1,000 Guineas winner, Quick as Lightning, was on turf, where she might have lasted a bit longer.

Bold Ruler, Tom Fool and Native Dancer - which must account for a tremendous percentage of the make-up of the modern U.S. thoroughbred - were all awash with Sainfoin/Sierra.

I can see why Graustark, with his double of Tracery would have worked. He's got Rock Sand, the son of Sainfoin, and a three-quarters relative to the dam of Phalaris. He also has a sister to St. Simon, who is doubled in the Phalaris/Chaucer cross.

The issue of "A" nicks for unproven horses is an interesting one philosophically. I think it's hard to downgrade a cross a male line/male line cross to an arbitrary lower grade because the sire hasn't had runners (you also get proven sires who haven't had runners on the cross).

Obviously a subjective analysis of the pedigrees should lead to careful consideration of how closely a stallion might emulate his male-line in his preferences. For example, Point Given, who is far more reminiscent of his maternal grandsire, Turkoman, than his sire, and has been far more like Turkoman than Thunder Gulch/Gulch, in his positive reaction to Seattle Slew.

Broadly, however, we're happy that unless there is a dramatic difference in phenotype (like Point Given) the nick ratings tend to hold well over the generations (in fact we've found little to no drop off in accuracy with nicks calculated on more distant generations).

So, it's unlikely that we'd change the basic TrueNick rating in the case of an unproven cross or stallion, but as the suite of products evolves we may well look at some figures that reflect such factors as "degree of certainty" and quality of the pedigree.

Alan Porter 18 Dec 2009 9:41 AM

Sceptre's points concerning phenotype are well worth remembering.  Robert Blake, in the eighteenth century, advocated breeding "like to like", in terms of physical appearance, to get the type of animal desired.  Regardless of pedigree, it seems that one should breed to eliminate bad knees, or the lack of balance implied by too much shoulder, regardless of the nick-rating.  Breeding based on nicks, without a balance of physical attributes, would likely lead to mediocre performance.

The whole industry of nicking is suspect; we never see the words "highly heritable trait" (legs and feet), nor do we hear that an ancestor such as Tracery or Rock Sand are mere tenths of a percent in a modern pedigree.  The statistical analysis of trends within and between sire lines is only a correlation.  No cause and effect relationship can be established by epidemiological review of performance.  A backward look at what has happened cannot predict what will happen, unless it is subsequently used as a basis for scientific experiment.  The causal relationship, that of breeding a certain sire with certain bloodlines, to mares of other specified bloodlines, can only be determined empirically.  It is impossible to drive a car looking only at the rearview mirror.  

The relative contribution of Chaucer, say, to a particular modern throughbred is nil.  Fuzzy thinking, as reflected in "his preferences" (did you ask these stallions?), clouds issues of heritability and genetic contribution.  Would these pages withstand the scrutiny of the animal geneticists at many of our outstanding universities?  

What are the relative success rates of A, A+, or, say, a B-rated nick?  Would that "success" be determined by graded stakes success?  What measurement would you suggest be utilized to measure the succes of the varied nicking products?

There is little doubt that your observations on the skipping generations in nicking patterns are accurate.  Pedigree is not totally inherited; each parent contributes only half to the offspring.  Interaction between alleles makes the phenotype.  Phenotype, the outward appearance of the horse, doesn't measure the less tangible aspect of performance, which is desire or heart.  Is this the aspect of breeding toward which Truenicks speaks?  It is confusing.

mhm 20 Dec 2009 11:30 AM

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