Promoting the classic Thoroughbred
Fundamental changes in how racehorses are bred and trained could not only improve their soundness and longevity but might go a long way toward solving many of racing’s long-term problems.
Fundamental changes in how racehorses are bred and trained could not only improve their soundness and longevity but also go a long way toward solving many of racing’s long-term problems.
What does the future hold for the Thoroughbred? Many have asked this question, though usually not from the broad perspectives offered by the principles of population biology, which I have employed throughout this series. Population biology teaches us to consider not only results from modern genetic studies but the selective conditions by which athletic horses are being identified.
Looking at the high number of “repeats” in many modern Thoroughbred pedigrees, some experts have predicted a kind of genetic implosion due to inbreeding, for it is a known fact that inbreeding “doubles up” not only on assets such as speed but on weaknesses like chronic unsoundness. Recent genetic studies have proven an exceptionally high degree of inbreeding among Thoroughbreds, and many Thoroughbred enthusiasts now fear that sound horses may become so rare that a flat-track racer’s whole “career” may consist of only one or two outings---in great contrast to times past, when a horse of average durability would log 25 to 40 career starts, and an outstanding one might have more than 100.
In the last several installments, we have analyzed the Thoroughbred family by family, first highlighting horses that descend from the foundation sires Matchem and Herod; such horses rarely make an appearance in upper-echelon flat-track racing today. Then we turned to the descendants of the foundation sire Eclipse, whose name turns out to be prophetic---for his descendants have indeed “eclipsed” all others.
The Eclipse family is so large that, to get a handle on it, it is necessary to break it down into sub-families---horses descending from Eclipse through the 19th century stallions Bonnie Scotland, Vedette, Touchstone and Birdcatcher. Finally, the Birdcatcher family itself consists of horses descended from Isinglass 1890 and Teddy 1913 (covered in the last installment) and the Phalaris family (covered in this one). Phalaris 1913 merits title coverage because no horse at any time now or in the past has so completely dominated the breed in all the ways that matter: winner’s circle appearances, money earned, and the production of stakes winners.