As Many Grains of Salt (Phalaris Revisited)

I promised I would go back to Phalaris and repeat the process using the restricted sample of 10,670 foals by sires born in 1998-2002 and out of mares born in 1998-2002. I will try to keep it short and sweet.

There are 32 ancestors in the fifth generation of a foal’s pedigree. I categorized them by how many of those ancestors traced to Phalaris in the male line. Since Phalaris was much more a “sire of sires” than a broodmare sire, that effectively captures the vast majority of his overall presences.

The average number of presences of Phalaris in this group was about 14. I did not find anything extraordinary at the upper or lower extremes of the distribution. So I divided the sample into only two groups, 0-15 (low) and 16+ (high).  Prices are listed below.

# of Presences           Foals           Average           Maverage              Price Index

0-15                             6,722          $33,862               132.14                     0.86

16+                              3,948           $38,093              141.54                      0.92

Not surprisingly, 16+ had slightly higher prices than 0-15 ($38,093 to $33,862 by average, 141.54 to 132.14 by maverage, and 0.92 to 0.86 by Price Index).

Listed next are the racetrack results for the two groups. APPPSW srands for average Performance Points per stakes winner, with the benchmark now being 696.

# of Presences            Foals          Stakes Winners          %          APPPSW          PPI (Result)

0-15                             6,722                    223                   3.32             786                    1.10

16+                               3,948                    183                   4.64             739                    1.45

The 16+ group was decidedly better by percentage of stakes winners from foals (4.64% to 3.32%). The 0-15 group was slightly better by APPPSW (786 to 739). The net result was that 16+ was much better overall by PPI (result, 1.45 to 1.10).

The table below summarizes the differences between prices and results.

# of Presences          Foals             Price Index          PPI (Result)            Difference

0-15                             6,722                 0.86                      1.10                        +0.24

16+                               3,948                 0.92                      1.45                        +0.53

Bear in mind that the overall difference for all 10,670 foals was +0.35 (0.88 to 1.23). The 0-15 group was slightly lower at +0.24. The 16+ group was higher at +0.53.

In my last post on Nearco I divided the sample into three groups. For purposes of comparison in the chart below I combined the lower two groups. The chart below (listing only two groups, 0-9 and 10+) for Nearco can now be compared to the chart above for Phalaris.

# of Presences          Foals           Price Index          PPI (Result)             Difference

0-9                              5,838                  0.87                      1.31                        +0.44

10+                             4,832                  0.89                      1.14                        +0.25

As you can see, Nearco had the opposite result from Phalaris. The lower group for Nearco (0-9) was actually better than the higher group (10+) +0.44 to +0.25.

Phalaris was the opposite. The higher group for Phalaris (16+) was better than the lower group for Phalaris (0-15) +0.53 to +0.24.

Just as a reminder, I used the smaller sample of 10,670 foals to minimize the effect of chronology on the results. Adjusted for chronology, it becomes clear that it is not so simple as the more Nearco, the better. A moderate amount of Nearco (7-9) was better than a low amount of Nearco (0-6) in my previous post, but a moderate amount of Nearco (7-9) was also better than a high amount of Nearco (10+).

So in the case of Nearco, too much of a good thing was not necessarily desirable. To put it somewhat more bluntly, Nearco fails the test for being a thoroughly positive influence on modern pedigrees when the sample is adjusted for chronology.

Not so with Phalaris. He still passes the test (adjusted for chronology) with flying colors.

How to interpret all this???? That is the rub. To do so I will have to indulge in some speculation. So take the following with as many grains of salt as you desire.

The most obvious and prevalent source of Nearco in modern pedigrees is Northern Dancer. The next most obvious and prevalent source is Nasrullah (many branches), Bold Ruler, . . . Seattle Slew, A.P. Indy, etc. I think what the numbers are trying to tell us is that those sources of Nearco are NOT the best ones in the long run.

Northern Dancer was a foal of 1961. By foals of 2017, it becomes easier and easier to build up a lot of Northern Dancer in the nether regions of pedigrees. If you are designing matings to do so (build up a lot of Nearco through Northern Dancer in distant regions of pedigrees), you might want to think again.

The most obvious and prevalent source of Phalaris NOT through Nearco is Native Dancer, Raise a Native, Mr. Prospector, etc. A distant second in that regard might be Tom Fool and Buckpasser. The rest of Phalaris (NOT through Nearco) is widely scattered and mainly European or South American (Fairway, Fair Trial, Petition, etc.).

I think what the numbers might be trying to tell us is that the sources of Phalaris NOT through Nearco are the best ones to use if you are trying to build up a lot of Phalaris in distant portions of pedigrees. And Mr. Prospector is by far the most prominent name in that group.

Take this speculation with as many grains of salt as you desire.

See the next post, The Seven Corners Conundrum, to see why a cake of salt might be more appropriate.

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5 Responses to As Many Grains of Salt (Phalaris Revisited)

  1. Allison Roulston says:

    I chose to use blocks of salt.

    A direct sire-line, manifested in the Y chromosome, is of extremely limited inheritable influence — about all it does is make a male a male. Beyond that, and absent sex-linked characteristics, any stallion’s influence becomes part of the genetic soup wherein chromosomes are as likely to come from any horse in the same generation as they are from the tail-male ancestor.

    Beyond the second generation the concept of a sire-line seems merely a convenient way to catalog pedigrees, a bookkeeping device if you will. I remember reading at some point that Arabs ignored the stallion and charted pedigrees along the bottom line of mare’s family. At least that incorporated the presence and possible efficacy of mitochondrial influences into the equation. Or have I misread something in the science of genetics?


  2. ddink55 says:

    Dear Allison,

    I do not dispute your statements at all. WAY TOO MUCH is made of the direct male line. But I was NOT talking about the DIRECT MALE LINE. I was talking about the male line of the 32 ancestors in the fifth generation. And in the case of Phalaris (and to a lesser extent Nearco), that male line is the vast majority.

    Even so I could be very wrong. Just trying to get to the bottom of an unimaginable abyss. I would LOVE to be able to PROVE that Phalaris, etc. have ZERO “influence” on modern pedigrees. So far though I have NOT been able to do that. Trying to deal with that frustration.


  3. Pete says:

    Fascinating stuff. Is there a sufficient number of horses in your sample containing the non-Nearco strains of Phalaris to tell if those strains (either collectively or one or two among them) show a markedly positive outcome (PPI over Price Index) for low, moderate, and high amounts of Phalaris relative to Phalaris when passed through Nearco (via Northern Dancer, Nasrullah, etc.)? Unless I’m misunderstanding your posts, that may be a way to check your hypothesis, which seems plausible although the grains of salt are certainly necessary without further investigation.

    • ddink55 says:


      Not a bad idea. IF the numbers are trustworthy. The problem is that I am beginning to think that the numbers themselves are not really proving anything. Perhaps I need to write a post about this explaining my reasoning.


  4. Pingback: The Seven Corners Conundrum | Boojum's Bonanza

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