Sire Power in the Performance vs. Pedigree Debate
Back in 2003, we did a landmark study that examined the long-term success of two groups of broodmare prospects: Those with strong racing credentials but lackluster female families, and those with strong female families but were unplaced at the track. The idea was to isolate the two variables from each other and tabulate production over the long term. The results were published in the October 23, 2003 issue of The Blood-Horse.
The results heavily favored performance over pedigree. Mares with strong racing credentials and minimal female family outperformed their counterparts in all categories including winners, stakes horses, graded stakes horses, and average earnings.
Subsequent studies were done by Avalyn Hunter in 2005 and Dan Rosenberg in 2010. Both studies replicated our 2003 findings and gave the nod to performance over pedigree. The results for all three studies can be accessed here:
- Myth of the Female Family (Jason Hall, 2003)
- Mare Study: Performance vs. Pedigree (Avalyn Hunter, 2005)
- Identifying Broodmare Prospects for an Elite Broodmare Band (Dan Rosenberg, 2010)
But despite this overwhelming evidence, purveyors of the importance of the female family claimed foul saying that better racemares are typically sent to better stallions and none of the three studies had stabilized that variable.
So in an attempt to stabilize the covering sire portion of the equation, we went back in time to the 2008-2010 Keeneland September Sales and identified pairs of yearlings by the same sire where one yearling came from a mare with strong racing credentials but a weak female family, and the other from an unplaced dam with a strong female family. Once we sent each yearling into their respective study group, we were left with two groups with the exact same amount of sire power. Claims that one group came from superior sire power would be neutralized under this scenario.
To qualify for the performance group, yearlings had to be out of mares that had earned black-type or in excess of $150,000 and could not have any black-type (other than the dam’s) under the first two dams. To qualify for the female family group, yearlings had to be out of mares that were unplaced and had black-type under their 1st and 2nd dams. Yearlings out of dams with 2 or more starters were not used as there would already be multiple indicators of the mare’s class as a broodmare.
Consider the scenario where two buyers go back in time to Keeneland September. One buyer is required to buy yearlings out of mares with black-type or $150,000+ in earnings but no other black-type can exist under the yearling’s first two dams. The other buyer is required to buy yearlings out of unplaced mares with black-type under both their 1st and 2nd dams. And for the purposes of this analysis, every yearling purchased has a same-sired counterpart in the other group.
To ensure we didn’t have a large discrepancy in quality/conformation of the individual, we only paired yearlings that were within one book of each other in the catalog. For example, we didn’t want to have pairs of yearlings where one came from Book 1 and the other from Book 5. In all, our study included 172 yearlings (86 in each study group). When we fast forwarded through time and tabulated race records for each group, we were left with the following results:
|Starters||77 (89%)||74 (86%)|
|Winners||63 (73%)||58 (67%)|
|Stakes Horses||4 (4.6%)||0 (0%)|
|Avg. Earnings Per Starter||$57,163||$45,935|
The numbers are clear, particularly when you look at stakes production where the female family group failed to yield a single stakes horse.
A common misconception is that we place no value on a strong female family. We would assume we can all agree that ideally, our broodmare prospects have strong racing credentials and a solid female family. But for economic reasons, that isn’t possible for most players in the marketplace.
So when economic factors come into play, we have to make a choice on what variable we can get by without. What we’re advocating through our research is that investors spend less of their resources on female family and more on racing credentials.