Phalaris the Pervasive

After Conquistador Cielo won the 1982 Belmont Stakes, I remember reading a story on his pedigree. The author noted that the four sires in his third generation (Native Dancer, Nashua, Bold Ruler, and Turn-to) were all representatives of the Phalaris male line.

The author asserted that this was a first in the history of North American classic pedigrees. He was correct. I checked back to 1970 and did not find another North American classic winner fitting that description. Although interestingly all of those pedigrees (even the most obscure ones) had at least one of the four sires in their third generations tracing to Phalaris in the male line.

Thirty-plus years have passed since then, and nowadays it is commonplace to see pedigrees with all four sires in the third generation tracing to Phalaris in the male line. I performed a little survey on this a few years ago using sales foals of 2003-2007. A little over 35% (24,968) of those 70,714 foals had all four sires in the third generation tracing to Phalaris in the male line. It could easily be over 50% by now.

You sometimes see pedigrees with all eight sires in the fourth generation tracing to Phalaris in the male line. All 16 sires in the fifth generation????

These thoughts led me to devise the following survey of North American sales foals of 2008-2111, which I undertook strictly for grins. I decided to look at the 16 sires in the fifth generation of all such sales foals and classify them by how many of those 16 sires traced to Phalaris in the male line.

This survey does not purport to be all inclusive. Phalaris could also appear in the pedigrees of the 16 dams in the fifth generation. But Phalaris was almost exclusively a “sire of sires.” He was a leading broodmare sire three times in England, but over the long run his daughters were not nearly as influential as his sons.

I am pretty sure that by concentrating on the Phalaris male line in the 16 sires in the fifth generation I have captured a clear majority of his overall contribution. It is a bit of a shortcut but a justifiable one given the unique character of Phalaris.

There are 17 possibilities (zero through 16) in terms of this survey. I did not find a single foal with zero Phalarises among the 16 sires in the fifth generation. I found only one foal with only one Phalaris among the 16 sires in the fifth generation.

On the opposite end of the scale, I found only 18 foals with all 16 sires in the fifth generation tracing to Phalaris in the male line.

The average for all 45,562 sales foals of 2008-2111 was 9.42. The two most frequent results were ten (8,339 foals) and nine (8,126 foals). Hence the mode (number appearing most often) was ten. Slightly over half (23,072) of the 45,562 foals were nine or fewer. Hence the median was nine.

Of course the whole point of this survey was to determine if Phalaris (a foal of 1913) has any tangible effect on pedigrees today, either through prices or results. Let us begin with the former.

Presences           Foals          Average          Maverage          Price Index

1-4                         422           $32,407            127.50                   0.83

5-8                      14,524         $41,757            140.47                   0.91

9-10                    16,465         $45,472            152.53                   0.99

11-16                   14,151         $52,719            170.39                   1.11

In order to simplify matters, I decided not to list prices and results for all 17 groups but to consolidate them into the four groups above. This of course helps to “rationalize” the prices and results.

If you look at the prices above, you see that they are indeed pretty rational. The overall average for all 45,562 foals was $46,418. The lowest three groups were all below that figure, with 1-4 at $32,407, 5-8 at $41,757, and 9-10 at $45,472. The highest group (11-16) was only slightly above that figure at $52,719.

The maverages and Price Indexes followed suit. In terms of the latter, 1-4 was at 0.83, 5-8 at 0.91, 9-10 at 0.99, and 11-16 at 1.11.

So if prices are any indication, Phalaris should have had some impact on results as well. The actual results are listed below. APPPSW stands for average Performance Points per stakes winner, a measure of the quality of stakes winners involved, with the overall average now being 694.

Presences          Foals          Stakes Winners          %          APPPSW          PPI (Result)

1-4                        422                       8                      1.90           788                     0.64

5-8                     14,524                  402                    2.77           653                     0.77

9-10                   16,465                  530                    3.22          668                     0.92

11-16                  14,151                  603                    4.26          742                     1.35

As you can see above, Phalaris did have a significant impact on the racetrack results as well. The results followed the same pattern as the prices, with 1-4 at 0.64, 5-8 at 0.77, 9-10 at 0.92, and 11-16 at 1.35.

As always the most important question to be answered is the relationship between prices and results, which are listed below.

Presences          Foals            Price Index           PPI (Result)           Difference

1-4                        422                   0.83                       0.64                       –0.19

5-8                     14,524                 0.91                       0.77                       –0.14

9-10                   16,465                0.99                       0.92                       –0.07

11-16                  14,151                 1.11                       1.35                        +0.24

The pattern is pretty clear. The fewer the number of Phalarises, the more negative the difference between prices and results. To wit, 1-4 was –0.19, 5-8 was –0.14, 9-10 was –0.07, and only 11-16 was positive, at +0.24.

As I said at the beginning. this survey was undertaken strictly for grins. I would not want to make too much of it. I would not exactly recommend it as a theory for breeding better horses (or for picking better horses out of the marketplace).

Nevertheless, the results are pretty clear. The more Phalaris in a pedigree, the better the results, both in absolute and relative (to prices) terms.

The only other caveat I wish to offer is that pedigrees are constantly changing. They changed a lot since 1982, when Conquistador Cielo was considered an anomaly because all four of his sires in the third generation traced to Phalaris in the male line. Now such foals are a dime a dozen (which is not necessarily a good thing).

This survey was based on sales foals of 2008-2111. Right now it is 2016. If I repeated this survey with sales foals of 2016, the results would look a lot different. Phalaris would be even more pervasive now than he was less than ten years ago.

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