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.

EQUUS - - Contents - By Deb Bennett, PhD

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.

PHALARIS

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