By Don Engel
Editor, The Showcase
The time is drawing
near for breeders to make their most important decisions: choosing stallions
for their mares.
To The Thoroughbred Showcase of the West home page.
Too many breeders make
those decisions for badly flawed reasons, too numerous to list. Only two
criteria deserve to be considered: The probability that the stallion will
sire a runner of quality and the compatibility of that stallion and the
mare to whom he'll be bred.
The records of sires
with runners on the track are available in enormous detail; there's no
reason for a breeder to choose a stallion without having a clear idea of
that stallion's ability to sire a desirable racehorse.
Most sire prospects
entering the stud fail; therefore, statistically they are bad bets. But
of even less merit are sires who have been tried and failed. If sire statistics
serve no other purpose, they are important in determining which stallions
should be avoided.
The best choices are
those sires whose merit has been proved by the performance of their offspring
on the race track.
Deciding whether a stallion
and a mare are compatible mates poses an entirely different question, except
in the rare cases in which that mating already has produced one or more
Let's first consider
the task of evaluating the sire quality of a stallion.
The validity of sire
progeny statistics increases with the number of foals that race. The performance
of his foals that have raced is basically a sample from which an inference
is made regarding the statistical probability that future foals will perform
in the same way. The larger the sample, the more likely that inference
is to be correct. The smaller the sample, the less likely.
There's no way to know
with certainty how large that sample must be to have satisfactory validity,
but 100 runners is a reasonable guess. With a few sires, his quality will
become clear in a smaller sample.
In evaluating sire statistics,
breeders must keep that in mind. Many sires get a handful of excellent
runners from their first crop, breeders flock to book their mares, and
later runners don't perform well, leaving those quick-booking breeders
with inferior foals.
Where do you find those
There are five online
sources for free sire statistics, as follows:
The Blood-Horse Stallion Register at www.bloodhorse.com/stallion-register.
The page gives general information as well as a statistical summary. For
click on the words "Statistical Summary" in the box at the upper right
of the page. Updated every few days.
Thoroughbred Times Stallion Directory at www.thoroughbredtimes.com/stallion-directory/default.aspx.
The page gives general information as well as a statistical summary. For
that, click lines below the words "Statistical Summary" halfway down the
page. Updated every few days.
Bloodstock Research Information Systems (BRIS) Stallion Directory at www.brisnet.com/cgi-bin/static.cgi?page=stallion.
The page gives a five-generation pedigree, paragraphs for the sire and
broodmare sire, three and sometimes four generations of broodmare family
in sale-catalog format, sire record, and an extensive list of the stallion's
leading runners with details of their race records. Updated intermittently.
may be necessary for you to register with BRIS in order to have access
to this feature. Registration is free. To register, click
California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Online Stallion Directory.
The pages duplicate stallions' entries in the printed version of the directory.
It can be found by going to www.ctba.com
and clicking on "Stallions Online" in the column on the left side of the
page. Unlike the above directories, it is never updated. The original page
remains unchanged for the year following its posting, usually in December
preceding the breeding season.
The Thoroughbred Showcase of the West Stallion Directory. The page gives
a five-generation pedigree, paragraphs for the sire and broodmare sire,
three generations of broodmare family in sale-catalog format, sire record,
and an extensive list of the stallion's leading runners with details of
their race records. Click on the stalliion's name on the list along the
left side of the Showcase home page. Updated frequently.
None of those sources
provide information on all sires, but both Equineline and BRIS do--for
a price. Click here for directions on how to reach
them. The best information at the best price is provided by Equineline's
Product #31 ($13.00).
If you aren't familiar
with a term that you find in the sire records, click
here and you probably will find an explanation of its meaning.
You should know that
only the BRIS Stallion Directory and the Thoroughbred Showcase Stallion
Directories define stakes horses by "blacktype rules." The other three
base their stakes horses on "stakes rules." Click
here for an explanation of the difference.
For California breeders,
the Imported Sire Syndrome also must be taken into
levels for the various elements of sire records isn't practical, because
sire quality varies so greatly from one region to another. However, sire
quality is well-defined by--in no particular order--percentage of starters
and winners from foals, average earnings per starter, median earnings per
starter, Average Earnings Index, Sire Production Index, and percentage
of stakes winners and stakes horses from foals.
Sire statistics sometimes
are favorably distorted by the a single major winner; that can be misleading.
And the quality of the races won by stakes winners should be examined to
identify sires with an impressive number of stakes winners without a reasonable
number of graded winners.
And what of the stallions
with too few runners to permit a valid evaluation of their performance?
The specifications for
sire success for such stallions are extremely difficult to define, at least
with satisfying accuracy. A few stallions become successful with no apparent
credentials for such success, but they are rare.
An examination of the
pedigrees and race records of the leading 20 all-time North American leading
sires based on total progeny earnings showed the following characteristics:
Race Record: 12 won graded stakes at 2 and/or 3, 3 won graded stakes
at 4 or older, 2 placed in graded stakes at 2 and/or 3, 1 won an ungraded
stake and placed in angraded stake at 4, 1 won an ungraded stake at 3,
1 was undefeated in three starts (no stakes). 7 were champions.
Sire: 8 by a leading sire, 10 by a major sire, 1 by an excellent sire,
1 by a moderate sire.
Race Record of Dam: 12 won stakes, 2 placed in stakes, 1 was a winner
(no stakes), 2 placed, 1 unplaced, 2 unraced.
The sire designations
above are subjective judgments, except for those who were the No. 1 sire
at least one year. "Major" (highly successful but never a leading sire),
"excellent" (well above average), and "moderate" (somewhat above average)
are the next three levels in descending order.
Of the 20, 17 won or
placed in a graded stakes race, 19 won or placed in a stakes race, 1 was
undefeated (Danzig). All but one were sons of leading sires or excellent
ones. The 20th was Bold Reasoning, sire of champions Seattle Slew and Super
Concorde and not much else.
Nowhere on the list
of 20 was a sire who was unraced or who ran with little ability.
In the United States,
hardly any sire prospects who fit the profile detailed above will be available
outside of Kentucky, and they won't come cheap. Breeders without mares
in Kentucky will have to look to sire prospects with lesser credentials.
In California, for example,
the characteristics of leading sires are much less impressive.
An examination of the
most recent list of the 10 leading sires who have stood their entire careers
in California and have had at least 100 starters shows these characteristics:
Race Record: 6 won graded stakes at 2 and/or 3, 1 won graded stakes
at 4 or older, 1 placed in a graded stake at 3, 1 won an ungraded stake
at 3 and placed in a graded stake at 4, 1 was a winner at 3 (no stakes).
2 were champions (1 in Chile).
Sire: 2 by a leading sire, 2 by a major sire, 3 by a moderate sire,
3 by a minor (average) sire.
Race Record of Dam: 2 placed in graded stakes, 2 won ungraded stakes,
5 were winners, 1 was unplaced.
All but one of the 10
at least placed in a graded stakes race at some time in his career. That's
the only characteristic that could be considered a requirement for consideration,
except that sons of below-average sires should be avoided. The dams' race
records showed no pattern at all, other than that all but one were winners
at some level.
Now, what about matching
stallions and mares?
The popular practice
of matching stallion and mare by "nicking" is of little or no merit and
should never be a primary criterion. If it is to be used at all, it should
be for nothing other than breaking a tie between equally desirable stallions,
an unlikely situation.
An evaluation of the
nicking phenomenon can be found by clicking here.
This evaluation should be read by anyone tempted to rely on nicking analyses
to match stallions and mares.
It's deservedly no longer
as fashionable as it once was, but "dosage" is still considered by some
breeders, who almost always misunderstand its purpose. Click
here for an explanation of its purpose and its fatal defects.
If nicking and dosage
are to be disregarded, what criteria can a breeder use to determine what
qualified stallion is best for his mare?
In some cases, a stallion
can be eliminated from consideration because a mating would produce undesirable
inbreeding. Many breeders also avoid matings that match two sprinters or
two distance horses.
After all that, the
best advice for matching stallion and mare probably comes from the experts
quoted in this article.
Breeding a good horse
certainly requires a significant amount of luck, but, as a wise man once
observed, the challenge is to put yourself in a position for luck to run
That's what the foregoing
is all about, helping breeders to get into that position.