The California Chrome Criterion (PPPP)

What proportion of modern Thoroughbred pedigrees does NOT trace to Phalaris in the male line???? I estimated an answer to that question awhile back at about 5,000 of the 70,714 sales foals of 2003-2007, or about 7%.

That estimate could have been a lot better. By actual count I came up with 6,616 foals NOT tracing to Phalaris in the male line. That is a little over 9% of all 70,714 sales foals of 2003-2007. The main sources of NON Phalaris in the male line these days are In Reality, Damascus, and Ribot.

The pedigree of California Chrome is an example of another phenomenon. The four sires in his third generation are A.P. Indy, Cozzene, Mr. Prospector, and Polish Numbers. All four are Phalaris-line sires.

This is not exactly a rare phenomenon. In fact, it is becoming more of the norm than any other combination of Phalaris among the four sires in the third generation. Of the 13,099 sales foals of 2003, 3,862 (29.5%) met this (California Chrome) criterion. Of the 14,796 sales foals of 2007, 6,409 (43.3%) met this criterion. That increase from 29.5% to 43.3% in only four years suggests to me that having all four sires in the third generation trace to Phalaris in the male line is becoming the norm, if not the absolute majority, in modern Thoroughbreds.

It was suggested to me that I should study this phenomenon more closely. I decided to do so. There are 16 possible combinations, ranging from PPPP (all four sires in the third generation tracing to Phalaris in the male line) to OOOO (none of the four sires in the third generation tracing to Phalaris in the male line).

I examined all 16 combinations by their prices and results, but I have decided not to bore you with all 16 results. Instead I combined them into five groups: PPPP (all four Phalaris), three of four Phalaris, two of four Phalaris, one of four Phalaris, and zero of four Phalaris (OOOO). The prices are summarized below.

Combination               Foals          Average         Maverage       Price Index

Phalaris 4X                 24,968       $67,984             183.29                1.12

Phalaris 3X                 30,063       $50,699            161.01                0.99

Phalaris 2X                 13,259        $40,981            139.40               0.85

Phalaris 1X                   2,321         $26,656            116.19               0.71

No Phalaris                      103         $15,835              81.99              0.50

The prices are all pretty much as expected. The more male-line Phalaris in the pedigree, the higher the prices. Only 103 foals had no Phalaris-line sires in their third generations, and they were the cheapest of all. Phalaris 3X actually had more foals than Phalaris 4X, but I suspect that those results will have reversed in more recent crops.

The racetrack results are summarized below. APPPSW stands for average Performance Points per stakes winner, a measure of the quality of stakes winners involved, with 620 being average.

Combination               Foals          SWs          %           APPPSW          PPI (Result)

Phalaris 4X                 24,968       977          3.91              613                   1.13

Phalaris 3X                 30,063    1,023         3.40             648                   1.04

Phalaris 2X                 13,259       356          2.68             587                   0.74

Phalaris 1X                   2,321         57           2.46             437                   0.51

No Phalaris                      103          2            1.94             386                   0.35

The results pretty much mirror the prices. The more male-line Phalaris in the pedigree, the better the results. The only glitch is that Phalaris 3X was better by APPPSW (648) than Phalaris 4X (613). That result was reversed by overall PPI, 1.13 to 1.04 in favor of Phalaris 4X over Phalaris 3X.

The table below compares prices with results.

Combination               Foals          Price Index          PPI (Result)

Phalaris 4X                 24,968             1.12                       1.13

Phalaris 3X                 30,063            0.99                      1.04

Phalaris 2X                 13,259             0.85                      0.74

Phalaris 1X                   2,321             0.71                       0.51

No Phalaris                      103            0.50                       0.35

Phalaris 4X was slightly positive (price of 1.12 and result of 1.13). Phalaris 3X was a little more positive (price of 0.99 and result of 1.04). The other three groups were increasingly negative. Not too many surprises overall.

One group that had pretty good results was PPPO (Phalaris-Phalaris-Phalaris, with the sire of the second dam NON Phalaris). There were 12,779 such foals, with an average of $54,657, a maverage of 166.80, and a Price Index of 1.02. Included among those 12,779 foals were 440 stakes winners with average Performance Points of 692 for a PPI (result) of 1.13. A price of 1.02 and a PPI of 1.13 is a pretty good result.

Those 6,616 foals without Phalaris in the male line also had pretty good results. They were pretty cheap, selling for an average of $36,264, a maverage of 133.01, and a Price Index of 0.82. Included among those 6,616 foals were 214 stakes winners with average Performance Points of 642 for a PPI (result) of 0.98. A price of 0.82 and a PPI of 0.98 is a pretty good result.

Since the 6,616 foals without Phalaris in the male line were overperformers, it follows that the other 64,098 foals with Phalaris in the male line were underperformers. Those 64,098 foals sold for an average of $55,985, a maverage of 166.22, and a Price Index of 1.02. Included among those 64,098 foals were 2,201 stakes winners with average Perfomance Points of 618 for a PPI (result) of 1.00 (1.002 if you want to get technical). A price of 1.02 and a PPI of 1.002 is a slightly negative result.

To recapitulate, the PPPP combination was not exactly magical, with a price of 1.12 and a result of 1.13 (very slightly positive). The totality of the Phalaris male line (all combinations starting with P) was a bit of an underperformer (see paragraph above).

But these things have a momentum of their own. It seems almost inevitable that the Phalaris male line will go to 100% one of these days, perhaps sooner than you think, wiping out all other male lines.

Some of you will bemoan the passing of all other male lines except Phalaris. I do not particularly do so. Male lines are a human construct. It is you who are attaching so much importance to male lines, more importance than they really deserve. The male line is only a tiny portion of a pedigree, especially if you trace it back a century to 1913, when Phalaris was foaled. Pedigrees are infinitely larger than just their male lines.

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The Confusion of Quantity With Quality

I am going to resort to Racehorse Breeding Theories, Chapter 14, pages 273-276, to continue this discussion of the Bruce Lowe Figure System.

“Lowe traced the winners of the English Oaks, Derby, and St. Leger through their female families back to the first registered mare found in the English Stud Book. . . .

“Lowe found that some families had produced many more classic winners than others. The family that had produced the most classic winners at that time . . . he labeled the Number 1 Family; the family with the second-highest total was the Number 2 Family and so forth. . . .

“Estes’s work with statistics showed that the Figure System was actually a classic case of opportunity. The most populous female families were, in general, the most successful. The families with the larger number of classic winners were the same families who accounted for the larger proportion of the breed. And their success was in proportion to their representation. A family might account for 12 percent of the breed through the tail-female line, and its members would have won 12 percent of the classics, more or less. . . .

“Furthermore, the Lowe families from first to least, for instance, also follow their rankings in having the largest number of claiming race winners. The rankings, in the final estimation, are a measure of quantity but not quality.”

I would like to emphasize that point about the families with the most classic winners also having the highest number of foals. If we substitute stakes winners for classic winners and examine sales foals of 2003-2007, the same holds true today. The chart below illustrates.

Family Number          Foals          Stakes Winners

1                                    10,036                342

4                                     7,893                 255

9                                     6,640                 245

2                                     5,837                 188

The four most popular families (by number of foals) today are one (10,036), four (7,893), nine (6,640), and two (5,837). No other family has more than 5,000 foals.

Not coincidentally, those same four families also rank first through fourth, in the same order, by number of stakes winners: one (342 stakes winners), four (255), nine (245), and two (188).

The above also illustrates that popularity waxes and wanes over time. Among the top ten Lowe families, numbers six (only 1,201 foals), seven (1,503 foals), and ten (1,747 foals) have declined in popularity over time.

The chart below summarizes racing results for all 21 groups. APPPSW stands for average Performance Points per stakes winner, a measure of the quality of stakes winners involved, with 620 being average.

Family Number      Foals         Stakes Winners      %       APPPSW          PPI (Result)      Rank

19                               1,475                   47                 3.19         823                     1.24                 1

3                                 4,361                 147                 3.37        764                      1.22                 2

9                                 6,640                245                 3.69        694                      1.21                 3

22                               1,677                  57                  3.40        734                      1.18                 4

13                               2.258                  86                  3.81        650                      1.17                 5

11                                1,171                  48                  4.10       606                       1.17                 6

10                               1,747                   74                 4.24        544                      1.09                 7

1                               10,036                342                3.41         669                      1.08                 8

21                               1,292                  46                 3.56         643                      1.08                9

14                               2,523                  92                 3.65        622                       1.07               10

4                                 7,893                 255                3.23        608                      0.93               11

5                                 3,378                 101                2.99        651                       0.92               12

16                               3,430                 121                3.53        541                       0.90               13

all others                   4,584                 158                3.45        529                       0.86               14

8                                 4,637                 151                3.26         561                      0.86                15

23                              2,019                  70                  3.47        523                      0.86                16

2                                5,837                  188                3.22        558                      0.85                17

6                                1,201                    36                3.00        578                      0.82                18

20                              1,371                    41                 2.99        578                      0.82                19

7                                 1,503                   54                3.59        469                      0.80                20

12                               1,681                   56                3.33         486                      0.76                21

The groups are also ranked by their PPIs (results). Ten of the 21 groups have PPIs above 1.00. 11 have PPis below 1.00. That is about as expected. Only three of the ten groups with PPIs above 1.00 were from the top ten Lowe families: family number three finished second, number nine finished third, and number one finished eighth. The top ten Lowe families should have had at least five groups in the top ten by PPI (results); they actually had only three.

The chart below compares prices with results. For example, family number 19 had a Price Index of 0.98 and a PPI (result) of 1.24. The latter is 0.26 higher than the former. That is an excellent (positive) result. Positive numbers in the Comparison column are good. Negative numbers are bad.

Family Number      Foals         Price Index          PPI (Result)         Comparison

19                               1,475             0.98                       1.24                      +0.26

3                                 4,361            1.01                        1.22                       +0.21

9                                 6,640           0.99                        1.21                       +0.22

22                               1,677            1.01                        1.18                        +0.17

13                               2.258           1.08                        1.17                        +0.09

11                                1,171            1.05                        1.17                        +0.12

10                               1,747            0.95                        1.09                       +0.14

1                               10,036           0.99                        1.08                       +0.09

21                               1,292            1.05                        1.08                       +0.03

14                               2,523            1.00                        1.07                       +0.07

4                                 7,893            0.99                        0.93                     –0.06

5                                 3,378            1.04                        0.92                     –0.12

16                               3,430           0.98                        0.90                     –0.08

all others                   4,584          1.02                          0.86                     –0.16

8                                 4,637           1.02                         0.86                     –0.16

23                              2,019           1.04                          0.86                    –0.18

2                                5,837           0.98                          0.85                    –0.13

6                                1,201           0.87                          0.82                    –0.05

20                              1,371          0.89                           0.82                    –0.07

7                                 1,503          1.01                          0.80                     –0.21

12                               1,681          1.04                          0.76                     –0.28

Interestingly, all ten groups with PPIs above 1.00 also had positive Comparison numbers. All 11 groups with PPIs below 1.00 also had negative Comparison numbers.

You probably want to take those results for family number 19 with a grain of salt. Curlin (13,802) accounted for more than a third of the total Performance Points garnered by that family (38,696). Without Curlin the PPI of this group falls from 1.24 to 0.80.

Family number 12 was the worst in the chart above with a Price Index of 1.04, a PPI of 0.76, and a Comparison number of –0.28. I can not come up with a good explanation for this poor result.

But do not take these numbers too seriously. Do not take this theory seriously at all. As I said at the beginning of my last post, the Bruce Lowe Figure System has long been discredited. And for very good reasons.

I will conclude with another quote from Racehorse Breeding Theories (page 276):

“Lowe’s work was interesting because it urged breeders to take more thought about the bottom lines in their breeding plans, but the theory was not thought out with an understanding of statistics and opportunity. As a result, it would have little use for the practical breeder today.”

Many breeding theories are “not thought out with an understanding of statistics and opportunity.” Many breeding theories confuse quantity with quality. The Bruce Lowe Figure System was a classic example of this confusion.

I hope these posts have helped readers to a better understanding of the statistics of pedigrees. Specifically, NOT to confuse quantity with quality.



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Bruce Lowe Family Numbers Prices

The fundamental tenet of the Bruce Lowe Figure System is that the lowest family numbers produce the best racetrack results. Family number one should be the best, followed by family number two, etc.

There is a certain “logic” behind this assumption, a fatally flawed “logic.” I will explain this “logic” in my next post. But for right now let us just accept this fundamental tenet at face value.

If the lowest family numbers did indeed produce the best racetrack result, you would expect to see that reflected in their prices. So I categorized the sales foals of 2003-2007 according to their Lowe family numbers. I specified a minimum of 1,000 foals and ten stakes winners to qualify for individual examination. Twenty families qualified. The rest I lumped into a group called “all others.”

The prices are summarized in the table below. For each family number I listed its number of foals, its average price, its rank by average price, its maverage, its Price Index (a derivative of the maverage), and its rank by maverage and Price Index. The discussion resumes below.

Family Number          Foals          Average         Rank          Maverage       Price Index     Rank

13                                 2,258          $74,474              1                 175.40               1.08               1

7                                   1,503          $66,652              2                 165.05              1.01              10

23                                 2,019          $62,329              3                169.15               1.04               5

11                                  1,171          $60,171               4                170.97               1.05               3

21                                  1,292         $59,130               5                171.75               1.05               2

8                                   4,637          $59,645               6                165.56              1.02               8

12                                 1,681          $58,817                7                169.25              1.04               4

all others                     4,584         $57,416                8                166.80              1.02               7

3                                   4,361          $56,631               9                165.34              1.01               9

5                                   3,378          $55,603             10                168.85             1.04               6

22                                 1,677          $52,987              11                163.97             1.01               11

14                                 2,523          $52,811              12               163.48             1.00               12

1                                  10,036        $51,972               13               162.22             0.99               13

4                                   7,893          $51,475              14               161.04             0.99                15

2                                   5,837          $51,201              15               160.13            0.98                 16

9                                   6,640          $50,489             16               161.51            0.99                 14

16                                 3,430          $50,040             17               159.70           0.98                  17

19                                 1,475           $49,647              18               159.12          0.98                  18

10                                 1,747           $45,112              19               154.98          0.95                  19

20                                 1,371           $42,275              20              145.89          0.89                  20

6                                   1,201          $40,061               21              142.55          0.87                  21

Twenty individual families are listed, from one to 23 (families 15, 17, and 18 did not qualify), plus “all others” makes 21.

The top five families by average price were seven through 23. Families one through five were ranked 13th, 15th, ninth, 14th, and tenth respectively. Not exactly what you would expect to find if the lowest-numbered families did indeed produce the best racing results.

There is an expression in the world of golf: “Drive for show. Putt for dough.” Averages are for show. Maverages are much more important in that they are a more accurate reflection of the relative value of individual groups.

Family number seven, for example, ranks second by averages but only tenth by maverages. That means its average was artificially inflated by a number of very high-priced sales nags. Its maverage minimized the statistical effects of those high-priced nags and gives a better idea of the overall value of the entire group.

But overall, the maverages look a lot like the averages in terms of which families rank highest and lowest. Families 16, 19, ten, 20, and six are ranked 17th through 21st (last) by both averages and maverages.

The top five by maverages are families 11 through 23. Families one through five are ranked 13th, 16th, ninth, 15th, and sixth, respectively. Family number six is last by both categories. Not exactly what you would expect to find if the lowest-numbered families did indeed produce the best racing results.

The largest family was number one (10,036 foals), followed by four (7,893 foals), nine (6,640 foals), and two (5,837 foals). These four families were ranked 13th through 16th by both averages and maverages.

Prices are a measure of expected success, or popularity. The more popular a family is, the more foals it will include. The more foals it will include, the more foals of mediocre (or worse) actual value it will include.

These families are the victims of their own popularity. A breeder is more inclined to try to sell a foal whose fourth dam is Rough Shod II (family number five) than a foal whose fourth dam is Blinking Owl (family number 20). Hence family number five includes more foals of mediocre (or worse) actual value than family number 20, which depresses the prices for the former.

Family number 13 was ranked first by both averages and maverages. That family includes such important broodmares as (in alphabetical order) Glad Rags II, Monade, Myrtlewood, and Vagrancy. Nice, solid names, but not in the same perceived class as La Troienne (family number one) nor Rough Shod II (family number five), for example.

Of course prices are relatively meaningless unless accompanied by concomitant racetrack performances. In my next post I will examine the racetrack performances of these 21 families relative to their prices.


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Clyde Van Dusen, Swaps, Iron Liege, Kauai King, and California Chrome

The 2014 Triple Crown campaign reminded me very much of the 1966 version. This year California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and finished fourth (dead heat) as the favorite in the Belmont. In 1966 Kauai King won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and finished fourth as the favorite in the Belmont.

I see some other similarities (or maybe potential similarities) between the two campaigns, but I will not delve into that subject matter right now.

It has been documented that California Chrome comes from the same female family as Kentucky Derby winners Swaps and Iron Liege. All three of those Derby winners trace in the female line to Betty Derr. She was the second dam of Iron Liege, the third dam of Swaps, and the eighth dam of California Chrome.

I have also seen it mentioned that 1929 Derby winner Clyde Van Dusen (Man o’ War out of Uncle’s Lassie) is from this same female family. Betty Derr was by Sir Gallahad III out of Uncle’s Lassie.

I have not seen it mentioned that Kauai King is also from this same female family. Kauai King was by Native Dancer out of Sweep In, by Blenheim II. The fifth dam of Sweep In was Wanda (1882). Wanda was also the third dam of Uncle’s Lassie. So all five of these Derby winners belong to the same female family (designated A4 in the Bruce Lowe Figure System).

If you are not familiar with the Bruce Lowe Figure System, do not lose any sleep over it. It is a theory that was popular early in the 20th century but has long since been discredited. See Chapter 14 of Racehorse Breeding Theories if you are that interested in the arcane.

In the course of my own peregrinations through pedigrees a few months ago I noticed that one of the three main sources of pedigrees still listed Bruce Lowe female family numbers. I was surprised and amused. The former because I did not think anyone paid any attention to those numbers at all anymore (although evidently I was wrong about that).

The latter because if one of the pedigree services still lists those numbers, someone must believe in them. Which makes them fair game, in my opinion. And it is always amusing to examine a theory (even a long discredited theory) and show how it actually works in reality (as opposed to theory).

And I admit that I have always been somewhat fascinated by the concept of female families (which does NOT mean that I attach undue importance to them). So I decided to have some fun with the Bruce Lowe female family numbers.

Listed below are the Bruce Lowe female families I examined, using sales foals of 2003-2007 as usual. I specified a minimum of ten stakes winners and 1,000 foals in order to examine a family individually. Everything else I lumped into “all others.”

The first problem I perceived is identifying the families. I decided to do so by listing some of the important (in a historical sense) broodmares representing each family number. I listed the broodmares alphabetically under each family number (thusly avoiding questions of precedence). The discussion resumes after the lists below.

Family Number 1–Aspidistra, Courtesy, Evilone, Friar’s Carse, Ghazni, Hail to Beauty, La Troienne, Nato II, Parlo, Persian Maid, Square Generation, Warrior Lass.

2–Almahmoud, Bellesoeur, Cool Mood, Fast Line, Imperatrice, Key Bridge, Knight’s Daughter, Little Hut, Scotch Verdict, Up the Hill.

3–Beaver Street, Dunce Cap II, Missy Baba, Orchestra, Stepping Stone, Tenez.

4–Alablue, Boudoir II, Enchanted Eve, Golden Trail, Hillbrook, Igual, Legendra, Libra, Ole Liz, Portage, Queen Nasra.

5–Broadway, Crawfish, Geisha, Grey Flight, Quick Touch, Rough Shod II, Wavy Navy.

6–Bravura, Fair Freedom, My Bupers, Sail Navy, Selene.

7–Easy Lass, Native Partner, Pat’s Irish.

8–Alcibiades, Best in Show, Crimson Saint, Flaming Page, High Voltage, Kerala, Lady Be Good, Miss Brief, Miss Disco, Rare Perfume, Shenanigans, T . C. Kitten.

9–Albania, Blue Delight, Bourtai, Dame Fritchie, Hildene, Kankakee Miss, Nellie Flag, Pandora, Recess, Romanita, Sunday Evening, The Squaw II.

10–Barely Even, Fleur (1932), Good Example, Victoriana.

11–Bebopper, Dinner Time, Itsabet, Miss Grillo, Tularia.

12–Bleebok, Justakiss, Old Bess, Soaring, Swoon.

13–Glad Rags II, Monade, Myrtlewood, Vagrancy.

14–Arachne, Banish Fear, Boat, Elpis, Fool-Me-Not, Nangela, Sister Sarah, Where You Lead.

16–Banquet Bell, Cequillo, Judy O’Grady, Lea Lark, Secret Meeting.

19–Barbarika, Bloodroot, Forest Song.

20–Blinking Owl, Haze, Neriad, Rock Drill.

21–Dog Blessed, Hail to the Queen, Hidden Talent, Iltis, Shy Dancer.

22–Eclair, Evening Belle, Olympia Dell, Loudrangle, Milan Mill, Quadruple, Qui Blink, Royal Statute.

23–Draeh, Golden Apple, Irish Jay, Juliets Nurse, Miss Carmie, Native Gal, No Class, Twilight Tear.

I hope you find the listings above somewhat amusing. I was impressed by how many important mares belonged to the same family (particularly numbers one and five, the latter having both Rough Shod II and Grey Flight). Having perused these lists, you are cordially invited to submit opinions as to which families were the most expensive, the most successful, or some combination thereof, if you feel so inclined.

The actual results will begin in my next post.

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The Importance of Pedigree

California Chrome does NOT have a very good pedigree. And that is stating it as diplomatically as possible. That is one of the reasons why California Chrome is so immensely popular.

People look at his pedigree and think, if they can breed such a good horse from such a mediocre pedigree, anyone can do it. Why not me????

Anyone can win hundreds of millions in the lottery too. It  happens. But statistically, the odds against winning hundreds of millions in the lottery are just about as astronomical as the odds of breeding a CC from his pedigree.

Nevertheless, most people agree that the appearance of a CC is good for the industry. It certainly encourages people to breed more cheap horses. Even The Jockey Club does not mind more people breeding more cheap horses. After all, they make the same amount of money on the registration of a cheap horse as on an expensive horse.

I have heard it said that Affirmed, Seattle Slew, and Spectacular Bid, for example, did not have very good pedigrees either. I thought it might be helpful to examine this statement in a little more detail.

Classic Winner                Sire, SSI                                  Dam, SSI

California Chrome          Lucky Pulpit, 3.58                 Love the Chase, 0.38

Seattle Slew                    Bold Reasoning, 32.26           My Charmer, 2.73

Affirmed                          Exclusive Native, 29.18        Won’t Tell You, 3.41

Spectacular Bid               Bold Bidder, 39.34                Spectacular, 4.00

SSI is an index of racing class. Lucky Pulpit, although a stakes winner with an SSI of 3.58, was nowhere near the racing class of Exclusive Native (29.18), Bold Reasoning (32.26), nor Bold Bidder (39.34 and a champion).

The four dams listed above were all winners. Love the Chase (0.38) was nowhere near the racing class of My Charmer (2.73 and a stakes winner), Won’t Tell You (3.41), nor Spectacular (4.00 and stakes placed). Also, the broodmare sires of the latter three (Poker, Crafty Admiral, and Promised Land) were all stamina influences. Not For Love is decidedly not a stamina influence.

On the proverbial scale of ten (five being average), I would say that CC’s pedigree is about a four. And I think I am being a tad generous in that estimation. The pedigrees of Seattle Slew, Affirmed, and Spectacular Bid were all in the range of six to seven. They were not great pedigrees, but they were pretty decent pedigrees, and they were all considerably better than the pedigree of CC.

CC is inbred to Mr. Prospector, and his dam is inbred to Numbered Account and Northern Dancer. Those facts are of very little consequence compared to the overall quality of his pedigree. You would have to be a purveyor of pedigree bullshit to claim that inbreeding has anything to do with the success of CC.

An unfortunate result of CC’s success is that it leads some people to believe that pedigree does not matter. The reality is that pedigree does matter, particularly so in a race such as the Belmont Stakes. With that thought in mind let us examine the pedigrees of the first three finishers of the recent Belmont.

Tonalist is by Tapit out of Settling Mist, by Pleasant Colony. Commissioner is by A.P. Indy out of Flaming Heart, by Touch Gold. Medal Count is by Dynaformer out of Brisquette, by Unbridled’s Song.

The three sires require no introductions. A.P. Indy won the Belmont and was Horse of the Year in 1992. Tapit is by Pulpit, by A.P. Indy. Dynaformer was America’s most preeminent source of stamina up until his death in 2012.

As for the broodmare sires, Touch Gold also won the Belmont (upsetting the Triple Crown of Silver Charm). Pleasant Colony won the 1981 Derby and Preakness before failing inexplicably in the Belmont. He was similar to Dynaformer in being a prime source of quality stamina in this country.

So you can see that these three pedigrees were all pretty good. I would say they were between eight and nine on the proverbial scale of ten. And all three had elements that made them particularly well suited to the mile and a half of the Belmont.

If CC had won the Belmont on Saturday, people would still be saying that pedigree does not matter. That is one of the reasons I am happy that CC did NOT win the Belmont and the Triple Crown. He finally “stepped on his pedigree,” as the expression goes.

Pedigree does matter. CC, John Henry, Carry Back, etc. are the exceptions that prove the rule (pedigree does matter). Good horses can be bred from mediocre (or worse) pedigrees. Expect it to happen about as regularly as winning hundreds of millions in the lottery.

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The Triple Crown Is Intact

“I do believe this horse (California Chrome) will win the Triple Crown. I know he will win the Kentucky Derby,” said Steve Coburn (one of the owners of California Chrome) in a recent interview.

Can anyone spell h-u-b-r-i-s?????? His hubris went unpunished yesterday, but as far as California Chrome winning the Triple Crown, do not get your hopes up too far into the stratosphere.


That is what I wrote in a post the day after the Kentucky Derby. Today I add, “Don’t say I never warned you/When your train gets lost.”

Yes, I understand that many fans of California Chrome are understandably disappointed (to say the least) that he did not win the Triple Crown yesterday. If you are looking for someone to blame for that result, I suggest you look right at Steve Coburn.

After all, if you go around saying that you KNOW your horse will win the Kentucky Derby and THINK he will win the Triple Crown as well, do not be surprised if the Triple Crown gods exact some retribution eventually. Yesterday was that day of reckoning.

I hope that most of you saw Coburn’s diatribe (to put it mildly) when interviewed on NBC after the race yesterday. Coburn should have been grateful that the Triple Crown gods allowed him to win the first two legs and foolosophical in defeat yesterday. Instead, he caterwauled like a four-year-old denied his favorite lollipop.

The essence of class is exhibiting grace in defeat. Steve Coburn is an UNclassy person.

(Perry Martin is an entirely different story. I have no quarrel with him or with any of the other CC connections whatsoever. Art Sherman in particular is a delightful, classy person.)

I do have to agree with part of Coburn’s diatribe yesterday. I think the time has come for the Triple Crown to be slightly restructured. I would agree with recent proposals that the Preakness should be four or five weeks after the Derby and the Belmont four or five weeks after the Preakness, for a total of three races in eight to ten weeks (as opposed to the current five weeks).

Most people who have made these proposals do so with the intent of making it EASIER to win the Triple Crown. I am not sure that such changes in timing would make the three races easier to sweep. Might even make it more difficult. But that would be a good thing, in my opinion.

I think that more time between the three races would be a good thing because it would encourage more owners and trainers (the latter particularly) to run their charges in all three legs of the Triple Crown. The Derby will always be the toughest of the three races to win, if only because it has a maximum field of 20.

As matters now stand though, the Preakness (and sometimes the Belmont as well) comes up with a weak field because trainers are reluctant to run their charges in all three legs of the series (for mainly legitimate reasons). If more of the best three-year-olds ran in all three legs of the series, the fields for the latter two races would be of higher quality. That would be a desirable result, even if the net effect is to make the Triple Crown more difficult to sweep.

This year’s Preakness had a particularly pathetic field, which is what encouraged me to think along these lines. Whom did CC beat in the Preakness???? The main competition was Ride On Curlin and Social Inclusion. The former has still won ZERO stakes races. The latter has still won ZERO stakes races. If you look at it objectively, this year’s Preakness field was of G3 quality at best. I see that as a continuing trend and one that will probably get worse unless changes are made in the timing of the three races.

I would hope that more time between the three races would lead to better fields for the latter two (the Preakness particularly). And that would be a desirable result. I am not so naive as to believe that all trainers would change their behavior though. Many trainers would still skip the Preakness to run in the Belmont. The only difference would be that they could no longer use the two weeks as a convenient excuse. They would have to come up with some other excuse. I have no doubt that they could invent some transparent excuses.

Maybe I am being too cynical. I still say that more time between the three races is an idea whose time has come. I hope it would encourage better fields for the latter two races. Therefore, it is worth a try.


Yes, we all want to see another Triple Crown winner. Some people are so desperate to see another Triple Crown winner that any ole nag will do.

I am not that desperate. Any ole nag will NOT do for me. It has to be the RIGHT nag. Which was the main reason (along with the churlish behavior of Coburn) that I was NOT a fan of CC.

For the sake of argument, let us say that Big Brown had won the 2008 Belmont and Triple Crown. Would that have been a “GOOD” thing for the racing industry??????

I think not. Allow me to refresh your memory. Big Brown was trained by Rick Dutrow Jr., who categorically stated before the race, “It is a foregone conclusion that Big Brown will win this Belmont.”

Big Brown did NOT win that Belmont. In fact, he finished last (pulled up). The Triple Crown gods do not look favorably upon the hubris exhibited by the likes of Dutrow, Coburn, et al. And that IS a good thing.

Fast forward to January of 2013. That is when Dutrow was banned from racing for ten years for his innumerable drug violations. Dutrow was a cheater when he trained Big Brown, and that fact was pretty well known (at least among more than passing fans of the sport). It took the industry that long (4 1/2 years after the 2008 Belmont) to convict him and ban him finally and for all of his legal appeals to be denied.

So it would have been a “GOOD” thing for the industry if Big Brown had won that Belmont and Triple Crown while being trained by a known sleazoid such as Dutrow?????? I think NOT.

That is one of the many reasons why I say that any ole nag will NOT do when it comes to the next Triple Crown winner. It has to be the RIGHT nag. Big Brown was NOT the right nag. CC was NOT the right nag either (albeit for different reasons).

I have quoted Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit) before and will do so again:

“Deserving horses have lost the Triple Crown, but no undeserving horse has ever won it, and none ever will.”

I am happy to report that this statement still holds true.

Hillenbrand concluded her essay (“Waiting for the Next Secretariat”) thusly:

“Those who worry that we may never see this again should be patient. True greatness is extremely rare; the next Triple Crown winner will be worth the wait.”

The Triple Crown is still intact, waiting for the RIGHT horse to come along and win it.

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Storm Cat Male Line, Kentucky Derby (continued)

If you have followed this blog from the beginning, you know that I usually post something about the Storm Cat male line in the Kentucky Derby shortly after the race each year. Here is how his male line fared in yesterday’s race.

Six of the 19 starters in yesterday’s Kentucky Derby hailed from the Storm Cat male line. The best finisher they could produce was Samraat, by Noble Causeway, by Giant’s Causeway, by Storm Cat. He finished fifth at 16-1.

The news does not get any better from there. The other five Storm Cats finished ninth through 19th. Chitu finished ninth at 25-1. Intense Holiday finished 12th at 14-1. Harry’s Holiday finished 16th at 44-1. Wildcat Red finished 18th at 18-1. Vicar’s in Trouble finished 19th and last at 20-1.

Chitu is by Henny Hughes, by Hennessy, by Storm Cat. Intense Holiday and Harry’s Holiday are both by Harlan’s Holiday, by Harlan, by Storm Cat. Wildcat Red is by D’Wildcat, by Forest Wildcat, by Storm Cat. Vicar’s in Trouble is by Into Mischief, by Harlan’s Holiday.

So the Storm Cat male line supplied more than 30% of the field yesterday and came back with ZERO. That makes the overall record for the Storm Cat male line in the Kentucky Derby 44 starts, ZERO wins, three seconds, and two thirds. Needless to say, that is NOT a particularly good record.

Last year’s post on this subject matter is hereby linked.

The first two finishers yesterday were both from the A.P. Indy male line. California Chrome is by Lucky Pulpit, by Pulpit, by A.P. Indy. (Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable is by Tapit, by Pulpit.) Commanding Curve is by Master Command, by A.P. Indy. Third-placed finisher Danza is by Street Boss, by Street Cry, by Machiavellian, by Mr. Prospector. Fourth-place finished Wicked Strong is by Hard Spun, by Danzig, by Northern Dancer (sire of Storm Bird, sire of Storm Cat).


“I do believe this horse (California Chrome) will win the Triple Crown. I know he will win the Kentucky Derby,” said Steve Coburn (one of the owners of California Chrome) in a recent interview.

Can anyone spell h-u-b-r-i-s?????? His hubris went unpunished yesterday, but as far as California Chrome winning the Triple Crown, do not get your hopes up too far into the stratosphere.

I say that mainly because of the final time of the race yesterday, 2:03.66 on a fast track. The only slower times in recent years were Super Saver (2:04.45 on a sloppy track), Smarty Jones (2:04.06 on a sloppy track), and Sunday Silence (2:05.00 on a muddy track). Those three were all on “off” tracks.

From there you have to go back to Cannonade in 1974 to find a slower Derby (2:04). So California Chrome won the slowest Derby on a fast track in 40 years.

For purposes of comparison, Untapable won the Oaks on Friday in 1:48.68 for nine furlongs. And Central Banker zipped seven furlongs in 1:21.15 yesterday to win the Churchill Downs Stakes. So there was nothing particularly slow about the Churchill Downs track this past weekend.

So if history is any indication, California Chrome is not a particularly good Kentucky Derby winner. But perhaps, “Time only matters when you’re in jail,” and he will go on to win the Triple Crown. I would not bet MY money on it though.

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