Body Language | Breeding | Weights | Workouts
Over the years great strides have been made through the scientific breeding of hogs, cattle and other animals so it seems logical the same methods should be useful in the breeding of thoroughbreds. Itís not quite that simple, however. The effectiveness of the programs in other animals is easily measurable in terms of growth rate, weight , fat content, etc, but how do you measure the courage that a champion thoroughbred must possess? When it comes to thoroughbreds breeding is far from an exact science.
Most continue to breed the best to the best and hope for the best. Those hopes may or may not materialize. A fast sprinter might be bred to a stallion with great stamina in the hope of getting a fast horse who can carry his speed over a distance of ground. If lady luck smiles that might be the result; but should she frown the outcome could be a horse with little stamina who canít run very fast. Scan the pedigree of a few cheap claiming races and you will find quite a few fashionably bred animals. Not all have physical problems or were the victims of poor handling. Some simply inherited a case of the ìslowsî.
A horseís past performances are far more important than his pedigree in handicapping most races. The latter represents the hopes of his breeder, while the former tells us what he actually got. Cigarís pedigree strongly suggested that he would excel on grass. He didnít become a champion, however, until he switched from turf to dirt. Based upon his breeding there were serious questions as to whether Ghostzapper would be able to handle the Classicís distance in the 2004 Breedersí Cup. After he won it rather easily the idea that his breeding suggested that a middle distance might be his limit became irrelevant.
Generally the only time that a horseís pedigree is of major importance in handicapping is when he is being asked to do something for the first time. That would include distance (sprint, route, or classic), surface (dirt or turf), track condition (fast or off), and when two year olds make their first lifetime start in the spring or summer in a race without claiming. Those who make their debut later are less likely to run up to their pedigree and no horse is bred with a maiden claimer in mind.
Sire ratings are available from several sources. The one published by Thoroughbred Sports Network grades 5,000 sires based upon how their offspring performed in several categories. It should be understood, however, that the sire only contributed half of the offspringís genetic makeup. The other half came from the dam. Generally she hasnít had enough offspring of racing age to compile similar ratings. Many simply substitute her sireís ratings. That only partially solves the problem because it doesnít take into account the genetic input from her dam.