Thursday, July 18, 2013

What is my "Philosophy" on Breeding?

My philosophy on breeding standardbreds is simple as published recently in Hevos, the Finland Association news magazine. I do not have opinions on mares or stallions. I evaluate them on the basis of what I know to be true based on established fact.

Unfortunately the breeders of today base most of their decisions on opinions, mostly those of other people, and resulting from anecdotal information at best and from rumour at worst. As a result the success rate in producing top performers is far below what it should be and leads to an enormous waste of our time and resources.

Genetics tells us that if you choose a correct pedigree you have a 25% chance of creating the top individual you seek. The success rate for breeders worldwide is less than 5% in producing horses that will pay for themselves over their racing career. A pedigree is the foundation of the animal and once chosen and fulfilled in terms of a foal, it cannot be changed. The choice of the correct sire is therefore the most important decision a breeder can make and this decision cannot be made correctly without a knowledge of the facts. Guessing and rumour do not replace facts.

One fact that is evident is that a study of the top performers by any sire can produce a profile of the type of mares with which he has success. This sire profile is established in his first racing crop and does not vary. This fact alone is almost totally ignored by breeders who continue to breed mares that do not fit the profile of the sires they choose, with their decisions being based on “flavour of the day”, economic or location factors that doom their decisions from the start.

Based on the statistical evidence it is my recommendation that breeders, whenever possible, should outcross on sire line and line breed maternally for the best chance of success.  This approach is universally successfull as shown by my experience on a recent trip to Sweden for the Elitlop. One only needs to look at the pedigrees of Elitlop winner Nahar and three year old filly winner on the same program Massive Babe to see how this is so.

Elitlopp winner Nahar is outcrossed on sire line, with a sire line through Coktail Jet (Speedy Scot line) and a broodmare sire line through Stars Pride. He is linebred maternally to both Super Bowl and Speedy Crown. His sire, Love You, has a well established profile when bred to North American based pedigrees which shows a preference for mares with principal lines through Speedy Crown and Super Bowl. This is a fact – and breeding mares to him that do not fit this profile is a waste of time and money in addition to spoiling the reputation of the mare and the breeder.

Massive Babe is outcrossed on sire line being by a Valley Victory line sire and from a Noble Victory line dam by Andover Hall. She is linebred maternally to Arnie Almahurst and to Speedy Crown. Muscle Mass, her sire, has maternal lines through Pine Chip (Arnie Almahurst line) and Valley Victory (Speedy Crown line). While his first crop has been modestly successful there are just two of his first crop that were correctly bred for top performance being this filly and another called Muscle Magic who was the only Muscle Mass to compete successfully at the Gold level in Ontario last year. This was a mystery to me given the obvious and plentifull choice of mares by Andover, Conway and Angus Hall for this sire - yet such breedings were virtually non existent. His best two year old to date this year is Muscle Matters, dam by Conway Hall so he may fare better this year.

Based on the sire profile for a similar sire, Glidemaster, I was able to predict that these two fillies were bred correctly before they raced. Glidemaster, like Muscle Mass, is by a son of Valley Victory and from a dam that combines Arnie Almahurst and Speedy Crown lines. His best by far is the mare called Maven, and like Massive Babe is outcrossed on sire line and linebred maternally to both Arnie Almahurst and Speedy Crown. This fact alone based on the established profile of Glidemaster and other similar sires would have allowed you to choose Massive Babe as a yearling purchase with considerable confidence in her chances for success. Glidemaster has been a disappointing sire to date but dont blame the horse, blame the breeders who missed the opportunity presented to breed some of the many Andover and Conway Hall mares in PA and NY.

In Europe in particular there is a considerable emphasis on reducing the degree of linebreeding as a result of a fixation with low inbreeding co-efficients. Breeders of all types of animals have recognized for centuries that a degree of linebreeding is necessary to fix certain qualities in the breed. One of these qualities is consistency. It is an established fact that low inbreeding coefficients lead to increased randomness in results. There is still the opportunity for an exceptional performer because of the extreme outcross nature of many European breedings but the percentage of failure is much higher. But you can also find, even in French breeding, where close maternal line breeding is rare, such champions as Jag de Bellouet and Offshore Dream that have maternal line breeding similar to North American practice. In fact much of the recent success of French breeding is attributable to J P Dubois who is a strong advocate on maternal linebreeding with such sires as Super Bowl, Speedy Somolli and Florestan doubled in his best horses.
I would add one more example of what is shaping up to be an exceptional filly. Her name is Struck By Lindy. She is by first crop sire Explosive Matter and set a PA Sires record of 1.56.4f in her third start. Explosive Matter is line bred to Valley Victory and from a mare that is linebred to Speedy Crown. His sire, Cantab Hall, is out of a full sister in blood to Andover, Conway and Angus Hall. The dam of Struck By Lindy is by Angus Hall and the maternal sequence then goes to Valley Victory and Speedy Crown which is the same maternal sequence of sire lines in Explosive Matter. Add to this the sibling cross of Self Possessed on the sire line to that of his sister Dream On Victory on the maternal line and you have a complete package, outcrossed on sire line and extensively linebred maternally. Frank Antonacci of Lindy Farms obviously gets it.
Let me conclude by emphasising again that what I have said above is not opinion but is based on fact. Breeders should make sure they base their decisions on nothing less.

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