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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2 Responses to The Importance of Pedigree

  1. ned williams says:

    I am dismayed by the people who are calling for a change in the format of the Triple Crown. CC is a fine horse, who anyone would like to have in their shed row. However, his failure to secure the triple crown should not lead to a change in the format. As shown above, CC winning any of the three jewels would be considered an “upset” in terms of pedigree. It will take an absolutely superior horse to win all three races. CC does not fit into this category for me, both pedigree and performance wise. I don’t even want to get into the subject of Mr. Coburn’s rant about changing the rules, other than to say that I think his stable name, DAP, is very appropriate. Another horse will come along who can and will win the Triple Crown. Let’s be sure he is a great one by holding the line on the standard of what greatness is.

  2. ned williams says:

    …oh by the way, unlike Mr. Coburn, I challenged CC ability to win the Triple Crown before the Preakness and Belmont were run. It is puzzling to hear his rant after the fact.

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