Thursday, May 11, 2017

Young Guns Hope to Usher in U.S. Breeding Golden Era

If you’ve been on social media the last few years, you’ve probably seen people complain about the lack of good young sires in the U.S. gene pool.

After Bodemeister (Empire Maker) became the second consecutive first-crop sire to produce a Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner last Saturday, I decided to dig into the data to see if the younger stallion pool is as weak as some claim. I looked at the top three finishers in every Kentucky Derby from 2010 to 2017, since that’s often theoretically where you should find the best-of-the-best routing sires in North America represented, to see if the young guns stack up.

What I found actually looks pretty decent for the younger generations.

In the time period that was reviewed, 24 different stallions had a horse hit the board in the Kentucky Derby with no stallion having more than one horse hit the board in that time. Sixteen of those 24 stallions (67 percent) produced that on-the-board finisher in one of his first four crops. Of the eight stallions to sire a winner of the Kentucky Derby, six (75 percent) have done so in their first four crops with Bodemeister and Uncle Mo the only two to achieve the feat in their first crop.
It is traditionally said that years two through four in the breeding shed are generally the hardest time for a younger sire because for the most part they fade a bit in breeders’ memories until 2-year-olds hit the track. Interestingly, those corresponding crops (numbers through five) count for 11 (46 percent) on-the-board finishers in the Kentucky Derby from 2010 through 2017.

The average age for the stallions in this exercise was 13 years of age with the oldest stallion to sire an on-the-board performer being Smart Strike (Mr Prospector), who sired this year’s third place finisher Battle of Midway in his 16th crop. The last Kentucky Derby where older stallions dominated the board was 2010 when the youngest stallion was Pulpit (A.P. Indy), whose Ice Box came from his ninth crop. Since then, stallions with more than five crops of 3-year-olds have only hit the board in 2013, 2016 and 2017. The last stallion with more than four crops of 3-year-olds to win the race was Malibu Moon (A.P. Indy) in 2013.

Interestingly from a pedigree standpoint, Mr. Prospector (Raise a Native) has been a dominant force in the Kentucky Derby in recent years. The stallion’s sire line swept the top three spots in 2017 and 2012 with Smart Strike (Mr. Prospector) playing a huge part this year as the grandsire of the second place finisher and sire of third place finisher. Last year he was also the grandsire of the second place finisher.

In all, 10 of the top three finishers in the Derby in the last eight years have been from the Mr. Prospector sire line with the Fappiano branch accounting for half of them (getting even farther down, Empire Maker has accounted for three of that branch’s representatives). Smart Strike for another three while Machiavellian and Forty Niner bring in one a piece.
Empire Maker
Much like when looking at this year’s Kentucky Derby field last week, A.P. Indy’s (Seattle Slew) sire line comes in second with five representatives, including the exacta in 2014 with California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) and Commanding Curve (Master Command) and winning the year before that with Orb (Malibu Moon). The Northern Dancer (Nearctic) line takes up third place with four runners hitting the board including the second and third place finishers in 2015.

The Kentucky Derby has seen multiple father and son pairs with runners hitting the board in this time period. The latest was Smart Strike and Lookin at Lucky this year (as mentioned earlier, Smart Strike’s Curlin also had one finish on the board last year). Empire Maker is a bit unique in that he is joined by sons Bodemeister and Pioneerof the Nile in this stat as well with Bodemeister being both the runner who got him on the board and a son who got him his second win as a grandsire (Pioneerof the Nile also finished second in the Kentucky Derby but that was before the time period discussed in this article). Pulpit and Lucky Pulpit also join the group with Pulpit’s Ice Box finishing second in 2010 and Lucky Pulpit’s California Chrome winning in 2014.

While some peoples’ worries seem to be that we have no younger sires to take up the slack when stallions such as Tapit (16 years old), Medaglia d’Oro (18 years old) and Candy Ride (18 years old), just to name a few, are pensioned it looks like there is a nice group coming up behind them who are already building their credentials.

Perhaps a bigger worry may be that only three lines seem to control the Kentucky Derby (and perhaps gene pool), though the many branches sprouting from those main sires seems to provide some genetic diversity that should help with that as well.

Crop Number
Sireline (Son)
Always Dreaming
1st (2017)
Mr. Prospector (Fappiano)
Lookin at Lee
2nd (2017)
Lookin at Lucky
Mr. Prospector (Smart Strike)
Battle of Midway
3rd (2017)
Smart Strike
Mr. Prospector
1st (2016)
Uncle Mo
Caro (Siberian Express)
2nd (2016)
Mr. Prospector (Smart Strike)
Gun Runner
3rd (2016)
Candy Ride
Mr. Prospector (Fappiano)
1st (2015)
Pioneerof the Nile
Mr. Prospector (Fappiano)
Firing Line
2nd (2015)
Line of David
Northern Dancer (Storm Bird)
3rd (2015)
Big Brown
Northern Dancer (Danzig)
California Chrome
1st (2014)
Lucky Pulpit
A.P. Indy (Pulpit)
Commanding Curve
2nd (2014)
Master Command
A.P. Indy
3rd (2014)
Street Boss
Mr. Prospector (Machiavellian)
1st (2013)
Malibu Moon
A.P. Indy
Golden Soul
2nd (2013)
Perfect Soul
Northern Dancer (Sadler’s Wells)
3rd (2013)
War Pass
Blushing Groom (Runaway Groom)
I’ll Have Another
1st (2012)
Flower Alley
Mr. Prospector (Forty Niner)
2nd (2012)
Empire Maker
Mr. Prospector (Fappiano)
3rd (2012)
Even the Score
Mr. Prospector (Fappiano)
Animal Kingdom
1st (2011)
Blushing Groom (Candy Stripes)
2nd (2011)
A.P. Indy
Mucho Macho Man
3rd (2011)
Macho Uno
Rough’n Tumble (Minnesota Mac)
Super Saver
1st (2010)
Maria’s Mon
Majestic Prince (Majestic Light)
Ice Box
2nd (2010)
A.P. Indy
Paddy O’ Prado
3rd (2010)
El Prado
Northern Dancer (Sadler’s Wells)

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