Best Guesses Can Be Wrong

Photo: Three Chimneys
Flower Alley, who is inbred 3x3 to Mr. Prospector, has had success with mares carrying Mr. Prospector or Raise a Native.

There are plenty of examples in racehorse breeding when popular opinion turns out to be wrong. I was looking through an old racing book, The Spell of The Turf (1926) by Hildreth and Crowell, and found an interesting passage about Domino, who in 1894 lost a nine-furlong, three-horse championship race by 10 lengths to eventual Horse of the Year Henry of Navarre and well regarded Clifford. It was written that Domino was "disgraced" and "quit at the end of seven furlongs." According to Hildreth and Crowell, Domino's performance "confirmed the belief that the son of Himyar was a non-stayer and there wasn't much excitement over what he might produce when he retired to the stud."

Of course Domino went on to become a great influence on the breed despite an abbreviated stud career. His rival, stayer Henry of Navarre, proved to be a failure at stud.

Earlier this year I visited Three Chimneys Farm to see first year stallions Brilliant Speed (TrueNicks,SRO) and Caleb's Posse (TrueNicks,SRO). I also saw Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner Flower Alley (TrueNicks,SRO) and was reminded that when he retired, a popular point of discussion was his 3x3 inbreeding to Mr. Prospector. At the time, the farm cautioned against sending him mares carrying Mr. Prospector or his sire Raise a Native given the belief that increased inbreeding could be a negative.

Currently, however, Flower Alley's rate of winners to starters (65%) is identical between mares that carry Mr. Prospector or Raise a Native within three generations and mares that do not, and Flower Alley's stakes winners to starters is actually 2% higher with mares carrying Mr. Prospector or Raise a Native within three generations. Interestingly, four of Flower Alley's top six earners are out of mares with Mr. Prospector or Raise a Native within four generations, and that doesn't include Flower Alley's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner I'll Have Another, whose dam has a more distant strain of Alydar (by Raise a Native) in her fourth generation.

This isn't to say that adding Mr. Prospector or Raise a Native is a magic elixir for Flower Alley, but the data suggests that avoiding such inbreeding solely for the sake of avoiding it is unwarranted.

"As is the case with any stallion, a diverse first few books gives us the opportunity to see what works and what doesn't," explained Kyle Wilson, who handles stallion season sales at Three Chimneys. "Obviously the introduction of Mr. Prospector or Raise a Native is not an issue for Flower Alley, which is great because it opens up a much larger pool of mares. When his three grade I winners along with grade II winner Neck 'n Neck are inbred to Mr. Prospector or Raise a Native, then we have a responsibility to the farm and the horse to adapt accordingly."

We see similar examples all the time with TrueNicks, which uses racing data to help breeders and stallion owners make breeding decisions. It's true that stallions tend to maintain the affinities of their sires and sire lines, but each stallion will also have his own characteristics. On paper, WinStar Farm's first season stallion Bodemeister (TrueNicks,SRO) looks like a perfect fit for A.P. Indy line mares, particularly mares by Tapit (TrueNicks,SRO). Bodemeister's sire, Empire Maker, has an excellent record with A.P. Indy mares, and look at the clever pattern created in the mating of grade I winner Careless Jewel, the first mare pronounced in foal to Bodemeister.

But as is always the case, right or wrong, we won't know for sure until the stallion is proven.

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