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Anatomy of a Sire Line

Above: TrueNicks ratings of the Sadler's Wells sire line with Seeking the Gold line mares.

I’m sure Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr never expected his famous epigram plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, which loosely translated amounts to “the more things change, the more they stay the same” to be applied to the development of Thoroughbred sire lines. In our experience with TrueNicks, the description is an apt one, however, as our studies show that sire lines often behave in a very similar way over a number of generations. In fact, the tendency is so marked that our initial study of over 100,000 horses showed no overall decrease in accuracy from the closest crosses back to the furthest removes we consider relevant to return a rating.

To every rule, however, there are exceptions, and a geographic change, or an appearance of a stallion who marks a divergence in physical type, can sometimes – although not always – mark a change in direction. Since TrueNicks draws on the data from Equineline (a branch of The Jockey Club Information Services), TrueNicks reports are unique for a nicking product in being based on up-to-the minute information that includes all black type winners and known foals from around the world. As a result, the TrueNicks Stallion Affinity Report – which compares a subject stallion with all broodmare sires and young sires that had more than 40 worldwide starters in the in the previous year (thus, future broodmare sires) – reflects not only the ongoing trends that are particularly successful for a sire line, but also the developments that have occurred due to differing genetic environments, or unique representatives.

As an example, we can look at Sadler’s Wells line stallions when crossed with mares by Seeking the Gold and his sons. Sadler’s Wells sired 16 foals and 13 starters out of Seeking the Gold mares, without ever being represented by a stakes winner. Generally speaking, Sadler’s Wells was not really stellar with mares by sons of Seeking the Gold’s sire, Mr. Prospector, although his record with the cross is given a veneer of success by his alliance with two very good daughters of Miswaki: Urban Sea (dam of Galileo, group I winner Black Sam Bellamy and group winner All Too Beautiful), and Whakilyric (dam of group I winner Johann Quatz and stakes winner Walter Willy). Of course, in part this reflects that there were relatively few established turf branches of Mr. Prospector with representation in Europe when Sadler’s Wells was at the peak of his powers.

For much of Sadler’s Wells’ tenure as Europe’s dominant stallion, his future as a sire of sires was in serious doubt. His one son who was a stallion success story in that early period was the relatively short-lived In the Wings (four stakes winners from 28 starters out of mares by sons and grandsons of Mr. Prospector, for around 14% stakes winners to runners). His son Singspiel was an example of the trend continuing, with 11 stakes winners out of 57 starters from mares by sons of Mr. Prospector, and 14 from 76 including mares by Mr. Prospector himself, and by grandsons of Mr. Prospector. Not surprisingly, In the Wings, his sons Singspiel and Act One, and Singspiel’s son Moon Ballad, would all rate highly with Seeking the Gold line mares.

As an example of divergence within the same environment, we can consider Sadler’s Wells’ later-emerging sons Montjeu, Galileo, and High Chaparral. The Coolmore trio have distinctly different bottom lines, and score very differently with Seeking the Gold line mares. Montjeu has proved an excellent foil for the strain, and in both hemispheres, getting 18 stakes winners from 109 starters out of Mr. Prospector line mares. He has only one starter out of a Seeking the Gold mare, but his success with mares descending from Miswaki and Woodman (both bred on the same Mr. Prospector/Buckpasser cross as Seeking the Gold) point to the potential, and he’s rated A+ with Seeking the Gold mares, as are his sons Motivator and Hurricane Run.

Galileo, out of a mare by a son of Mr. Prospector, has been tried less frequently with Mr. Prospector line mares, and perhaps that is just as well on the basis of a score of just two stakes winners from 75 starters out of mares by Mr. Prospector, his sons, and his grandsons. Perhaps the doubling of a North American dirt influence isn’t what best suits his environment? Out of mares by Seeking the Gold, he has just two starters and one winner, and he’s rated a TrueNicks D on the cross. Thus, TrueNicks also recommends steering clear of the cross for Galileo’s sons Teofilo and New Approach until there is evidence to the contrary.

High Chaparral – bred on a cross similar to In the Wings – has, like that horse, fared well with Mr. Prospector with three stakes winners from 27 starters, and he’s rated A+ with the cross. That Montjeu, Galileo, and High Chaparral are relatively young sires, and all three have shuttled, demonstrates how quickly the TrueNicks program is able to distinguish them from a generic group of “Sadler’s Wells and his sons” and recognize and reflect their individual tendencies.

Earlier we made reference to the situation where sire lines can find favor with broodmare sire lines found in a population, especially when they fit the appropriate physical profile and their aptitude complements the racing landscape. We can also see the same trends reflected on a global scale. El Prado, a son of Sadler’s Wells who started his career in North America, “hit it out of the park” with Seeking the Gold mares, getting three stakes winners from just 12 starters on the cross (25% stakes winners to starters). It is probably worth noting that like Scenic, another son of Sadler’s Wells who did well enough with Mr. Prospector line mares in Australia, El Prado was a sharp, speedy two-year-old type, rather atypical of most of the sons of Sadler’s Wells. In the same environment, El Prado’s son Medaglia d'Oro (TrueNicks,SRO) – tremendous with Mr. Prospector in general – sired his first U.S. grade I-winning colt, Warrior’s Reward, out of a Seeking the Gold mare.

As we look at the combination of Sadler’s Wells and Mr. Prospector – in particular his son Seeking the Gold – we can see that in certain environments and in certain places the affinity is strong, while elsewhere it is more likely to reflect the predilection of Sadler’s Wells himself and be underperforming, meaning that there are better options for the sire and better options for the mare at hand. Looking forward however, we can see that the emergence of Dubawi (IRE) (TrueNicks,SRO) as a serious European sire may give a renewed opportunity for this cross to perform in Europe as well as it has in North America.

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