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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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I hope that Flower Alley continues to deliver on the promise he has shown. He is a horse that has both brilliance and stamina and seems to be passing that on to his offspring. Another of his traits that I enjoy is his personality. On one of my tours of Three Chimneys a couple of years ago, while everyone was passing him by to look at Dynaformer, he tossed his head and raced around like 'Look at me!'. When I held up my camera, he ran straight over, struck a beautiful pose and, after I told him thank you, he kicked up his heels and went tearing around showing off. I had to laugh!

Karen in Indiana 25 Mar 2013 10:50 AM

I took a look at the Bodemeister x Careless Jewell cross, and it is interesting.  In bred 3x 4 to Unbridled, 3x4 to Storm Cat, and 4x4 to A.P. Indy.  The interesting part to me is that each inbreeding is opposite sex balanced.  Go back another generation and you have Mr Prospector 5x5 and he is balance inbreed to.  I probably would have stayed away from this because of the Storm Cat inbreeding.  He is not a horse I seek out to inbreed to.  

I bred to Flower Alley last year (the mare slipped), and I have nothing but good things to say about him.  His inbreeding does not bother me as he tends to look more like the Northern Dancer type and not Mr. P.  I would love to get ahold of one of his daughters for future breeding.  I believe Flower Alley is going to be a source of stamina that AMerican breeders could use.

Robert 25 Mar 2013 12:49 PM

Re-Flower Alley's offspring, it doesn't appear that the Mr. P.-Raise A Native additions (through their dams) are "close". Flower Alley is, himself, closely inbred, and was a mating I would have avoided. The fact that it "worked"-this time- may well say something about the relative risks of biting back to those lines THROUGH FLOWER ALLEY. The correct course, in his case, may still be beyond us, but may rest in our present genetic knowledge, and probability computational skills. I did note your winners/starters percentages, but not foals/starters percentages. Even should it be proven that close inbreeding pays off (given the fractured state of racing economics)-and I doubt that it will-, there's still the moral issue of increased wastage.  

sceptre 25 Mar 2013 2:35 PM

Run your stats separating out the Mr. Prospector crosses from the other Raise a Native crosses, because the issue has always been his 3x3 inbreeding to Mr. P, NOT 4x4 crosses to Raise a Native. It's significant that only 1 of his 4 Graded winners so far has additional Mr Prospector and that the dam of his champion I'll Have Another is an outcross. If his Graded runners have less Mr. Prospector than his non-graded stakes winners, that's significant, and they do, 3 to 1.

Anne Peters 25 Mar 2013 9:11 PM

Hi Anne,

It's not significant because only 20% of Flower Alley's starters (32 of 155) have Mr. Prospector within four generations (three generations of the dam). Assuming normal distribution, only 20% of his graded winners should have Mr. Prospector within four generations, but one of four (Neck 'n Neck) does, which is 25%.

Separating out Mr. Prospector within four generations of the starter (three generations of the dam), Flower Alley has 21 winners from 32 starters (65%), which equals the rate of all other starters, 81 winners from 123 starters.

Ian Tapp 25 Mar 2013 9:40 PM

Good point Ian, the Square Root of 16 is 4 which I think is very significant.

L. Howls 26 Mar 2013 9:01 AM

Hi Ian,

I'll try to be a bit more clear about one of my points:

All else equal, consider two hypothetical foals out of the same mare, a mare with, say, a single occurrance of Mr. P. in her 3rd. The mare is first mated to Flower Alley, and the subsequent foal would be 4(s) x 4(s) x 4(d). She is then mated to another stallion who has a single occurrance of Mr. P. in his 2nd. This resultant foal would be 3(s) x 4(d). Let's also presume that a 4(Mr. P.) x 4(Mr. P.) vs a 3(Mr. P.) are equal relative to the amount of Mr. P. genetic "material". For the above case, I feel that the 4x4x4 through Flower Alley would likely be SAFER (relative to recessive gene negative implications) than the above, 3x4. Reason- some % of Flower Alley's possessed Mr. P. recessive genes have already been "tested" in the performer, Flower Alley himself, and as evidenced by his level of performance have been found, all else equal, SAFER, than are (as a group) the less "tested" Mr. P. in 2nd genes (alternative stallion). What do you think?  

sceptre 26 Mar 2013 5:31 PM


I don't know why you say that Henry Of Navaree was a failure at stud.. without him.. there would be no Brilliant Speed or Caleb's Posse, two of the horses you visited.

Hal Dane. 27 Mar 2013 3:30 PM


Henry of Navarre was such a failure/disappointing/poor/not good stallion that he was donated (given away) to the U.S. Army to breed warmblood cavalry mares.

Many failed stallions have daughters who trace to important horses several generations later, which isn't surprising with Henry of Navarre since his first books would have included many nice mares from good families. He has daughters in tail female of Vice Regent, Miswaki, and Shut Out, but that doesn't retroactively make his bad stud career good.

Ian Tapp 27 Mar 2013 4:36 PM

Would a filly who bled through Lasix in some of her races be likely to pass on that characteristic to her offspring?  Should she be used as a broodmare at all?  Are there any known stallions whose offspring are known to NOT bleed or to stengthen a mare's offspring in regards to bleeding?

Annette Jackson 05 May 2013 10:17 PM

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