The Brock Talk

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two Easy Numbers That Help Define A Derby Pedigree

At some point in the career of a race horse, they become defined almost exclusively by their performance on the track and not the potential created by their breeding until of course, retirement discussions begin later. For most horses, that metamorphosis is usually not compelling enough to garner much notice and it usually occurs early unless the bloodlines and financial investments are able to extend a racing career on hope and potential.

There are exceptions to the rule of course, some more interesting than others. But the most intriguing are the 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail where we analyze their pedigrees right to the 1-1/4 mile Kentucky Derby and through the 1-1/2 mile Belmont Stakes. That exception is partially created because we are eventually looking for a horse that can win at the classic distance of 10 furlongs. These horses simply are not running as far now as they will be on the first Saturday in May so breeding becomes an important factor. That is assuming they even make it to the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum or you're just not the type of person who relishes pedigree research.

Hope is on the way.

Perhaps the source that provides breeding information that is both easy to find and easy to decipher is Daily Racing Form in the past performances. In the example on the right, this Daily Racing Form line shows a mare by the stallion Street Cry, who is by Machiviallian. And Street Cry stood for $100,000 during the year in which the horse was bred. There have been Kentucky Derby winners by marginal or lesser known stallions, (Silver Charm by Silver Buck comes to mind), so again this is not full proof by any means. But we do have some information and knowledge of a contenders breeding without knowing the difference between Mr. Prospector and Yosemite Sam.

The Derby is unique in this sense also, because of the distance, we are looking for "classic" breeding that will produce a horse that can win at 1-1/4 miles and simply allowing the market and Daily Racing Form to who they might be.

Another number that attempts to quantify breeding is the dosage index, which is also very easy to find online. Both Bloodhorse and Thoroughbred Times offer free, five-generation pedigree information on individual Thoroughbreds, each with complete dosage information including that individual dosage index.

Dosage is a technique in which to classify thoroughbred pedigrees by speed and stamina in five different types. Any clarification beyond that becomes extremely convoluted so all you need to know is that the magic number is 4.00. Since 1929, only Real Quiet (5.29), Charasmatic (5.22), Giacomo (4.33) and and Mine That Bird (5.40) have had had dosage index above 4.00.

Be warned, most of the runners on this Triple Crown trail will meet the dosage index standard so it will not give you the winner by any means. But it will give you an additional bit of information on the genetic potential or limitations of contenders.

Using these two easy tools and some intermediate breeding knowledge and we begin to clarify the pedigrees of Southwest Stakes winner Conveyance, Risen Star winner Discreetly Mine and Fountain of Youth winner Eskendereya.

Eskendereya has the most impressive pedigree of the three being by 2009 leading sire Giant's Causeway, who stands at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky for $100,000. A quick look at the bottom side of the pedigree and we see he is out a mare by Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner and one of the more influential sires of his generation. It is therefore not surprising that his dosage index (DI) is well within our rule at 2.43 and Eskendereya's bloodlines seem to have the potential to provide the stamina he will need to get to Kentucky.

Strolling out of the Nieman Marcus pedigree store and into Nordstram's, we have Southwest Stakes Conveyance by Indian Charlie who stands for $70,000 in 2010 at Airdrie Stud in Midway, Kentucky.

Conveyance's trainer, Bob Baffert sent Indian Charlie to the 1998 Kentucky Derby as the post time favorite, only to see him run third behind his stablemate Real Quiet. Conveyance is out of a mare by Holy Bull, (another beaten Derby favorite in 1994), and his dosage index misses the mark at 4.33. Keep in mind that Baffert won the Derby with Real Quiet and his high dosage index so this is by no means a disqualification.

Discreetly Mine won the most mundane of the three races with his carousel-type victory in the Risen Star where nobody passed anybody and winning jockey Javier Castellano kept the late challengers at a safe pace. Not much to learn from that race from a performance standpoint, so perhaps dosage and breeding become more of the equation in trying to determine if he can remain successful as the race distances progress.

Discreetly Mine is by Horse of the Year Mineshaft who certainly had no problem winning the Breeders' Cup Classic at 1-1/4 miles and Discreetly Mine's dosage index is a credible 2.76 which is good. Although Mineshaft's career as a sire, hasn't matched his success on the track and his $20,000 stallion fee is below the demand for Giant's Causeway and Indian Charlie, he looks capable of producing a Derby winner based on our over simplified analysis.

Again, this is an oversimplification to a very intricate puzzle. But stallion demand and dosage's are reliable numbers that are both easy to access and

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