Zero Sum Game

The eight sires in the fourth generation of the following pedigree are as follows (top to bottom): Northern Dancer, Secretariat, His Majesty, Dr. Fager, Mr. Prospector, Le Fabuleux, In Reality, and Proud Birdie. Can anyone name the nag whose pedigree fits this description?????

While you are pondering this question I will make a few observations about this pedigree. You probably think this is a pretty good pedigree based on the eight sires cited above. After all, Northern Dancer sired 23% stakes winners from foals, Secretariat 9%, His Majesty 9%, Dr. Fager 13%, Mr. Prospector 15%, Le Fabuleux 9%. In Reality 15%, and Proud Birdie 6%. All well above the overall breed norm of 3%.

If you swallow the Dosage Dogma hook, line, and sinker, you probably also note that all of these sires are chefs-de-race (except for Proud Birdie). Proud Birdie is indeed the least accomplished of these eight sires.

That the one nonchef is at the very bottom of the pedigree is not unusual at all. In fact it is pretty typical. The worst sires in any given pedigree are usually down at the very bottom (along the female line). In an average pedigree the sires down along the female line are usually mediocre or worse. In a good pedigree you have a much better chance of finding some good sires down in those positions.

Proud Birdie was an adequate broodmare sire. He had 25 stakes winners from 718 foals (3.48%) as a broodmare sire.


The answer to the question above is The Green Monkey. His pedigree (Forestry out of Magical Masquerade, by Unbridled) has the eight sires listed above in the order listed.

Some of you might not remember The Green Monkey. He sold for $16,000,000 as a two-year-old in 2006. The Green Monkey posted a record of 3-0-0-1 for earnings of $10,440 and is now polluting the breed at stud.

To be honest, his pedigree was NOT the reason The Green Monkey sold for so much money. It was a two-year-old sale, and he had worked impressively. Two protagonists (who shall remain unnamed) with more money than sense got into a bidding war over him. One prevailed at $16,000,000. Not exactly the world’s greatest bargain.

I am told that the biomechanics of The Green Monkey in his workout before the sale were NOT the best. I can’t remember the specifics. Something about his stride not being efficient. Those of you out there who are familiar with biomechanics are invited to comment.

In terms of his pedigree, I would say that The Green Monkey was just about average for a Forestry sold in 2006. There were 71 weanlings, yearlings, and two-year-olds by Forestry sold in North America in 2006. They averaged $435,296. That includes the $16,000,000 for The Green Monkey. Excluding that one sale, the average was $212,943.

I would say that the pedigree of The Green Monkey was worth closer to the latter ($212,943) than the former ($435,296). Forestry is an overrated sire as a general rule (44 stakes winners from 921 foals, 4.78%).


All of which leads up to my point, which is that looking at only one distant generation (the fourth, in this example) is not going to yield you much useful information. The sire and dam of The Green Monkey were decent enough (although certainly not making him worth $16,000,000).

The most important thing about The Green Monkey is that his biomechanics were not up to snuff. Witnesses at that sale at that time could have told you so. Buyers chose to ignore that information. Or maybe they were misinformed by other “experts.” Who knows?????

So you can basically ignore Northern Dancer’s 23% stakes winners from foals in the first generation. That number is totally irrelevant when we are talking about a pedigree with ND at P1 in the fourth generation.

Among sales foals of 1999-2002, ND at P1 in the fourth generation had a PPI (result) of 1.29 (1.00 being average). It has probably declined since then. Among sales foals of 2003-2007, Secretariat at P2 in the fourth generation had a PPI (result) of 1.07. Etcetera. You get the general idea. By the time they hit the fourth generation, even the Northern Dancers and Secretariats have results that are pretty close to average.

One of the main reasons for that is that pedigrees are a ZERO SUM GAME. For every winner, there is going to be a loser, and vice versa. The farther back into pedigrees you go, the better ALL the sires get (with the possible exception of sires in the female line). I am going to add a sidebar to this post substantiating this statement.

By the time you get four generations back, the BEST sires are competing against other BEST sires. Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, In Reality, His Majesty, and many others are competing against each other as sires of males. Secretariat, Dr. Fager, Le Fabuleux, Proud Birdie, and many others are competing against each other as sires of females. So if Northern Dancer wins, someone else has to lose, and that someone else is going to be Mr. Prospector, In Reality, His Majesty, or some other “renowned” sire.

Turn to pages 178-180 of Racehorse Breeding Theories. On those pages are listed the 20 most popular sires in the fourth generation of foals of 1995-1997. Those results are broken down by the eight possible positions in the fourth generation. Note that not one of those 20 sires had positive results at all eight positions. All of them have a negative result at at least one position.

That makes perfect sense if you think about it. A baseball player is not required to be proficient at all nine positions. A football player is not required to be proficient at all 22 positions (11 on offense and 11 on defense). Why should a sire be ASSUMED to be proficient at all eight positions in the fourth generation?????? Observations have shown time and time again that this is a FALSE assumption.

That is yet another reason why pedigrees are a ZERO SUM GAME. Sires are better at some positions than others. They will win the competitions at some positions and lose at others. The cumulative total of all sires’ results will be 1.00 (average) by definition.

That makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for a sire to be a positive “influence” EVERY SINGLE TIME he appears in a pedigree. And many, many theories are predicated on that exact ASSUMPTION, the FALSE assumption that certain sires such as ND are a positive “influence” EVERY SINGLE TIME they appear in a pedigree.


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