I admit it, I am a TB aficionado. I didn’t start that way– my eventing career began with Quarter Horses, I’m proud to say– but when my first Thoroughbred took me to the upper levels, I began to see there was something about them. Then I spent almost five years working in the central Kentucky Thoroughbred industry, and I became immersed in them.
The great thing about OTTBs, assuming you know their registered name, is that they come with a pedigree easily researched through the Jockey Club (www.equineline.com). Most of them also appear on pedigreequery.com as well, though it should be known that site is equivalent to Wikipedia; it’s user-entered, and can be a great source of extra info but not always accurate.
When prepping horses and working the sales at Keeneland, you get one-on-one time with a LOT of horses, from weanlings to yearlings to racers to broodmares. You watch them stand and walk. You handle them in the barn. You get an idea for conformation and temperament among individuals, and for particular bloodlines. You may not be able to pick out which ones will be good sport horses, but that doesn’t mean time spent with race-bred Thoroughbreds is a waste– an eye for athletic conformation will suit across disciplines, as will a smart, trainable brain.
When you look at enough horses, you start to pick out commonalities among bloodlines. You recognize which sires throw this type of neck, that type of hip; which ones tend to be sprinter bodies, which ones tend more uphill. You can’t discount the mare, though– while you may not know what she looks like, you can try to research her damsire, and what he tends to add to the mix. In breeding, there’s always the element of the unknown, but with a big pool of statistics, sometimes you can get a little bit of predictability.
Remember your genetics course at school? Punnet squares? The most important thing to remember when reading a pedigree is early generations count most!! Don’t get starry-eyed and expect Secretariat to stand in front of because you see Big Red back in the 6th generation. That means very little. Look at Mom and Dad, Grandpas and Grandmas, and then filter your way back. Yes, you will find common ancestors back there– many horses will show some inbreeding if you go far enough back.
So, a pedigree page sits in front of you. You don’t know what the horse looks like yet; perhaps you just received a catalog from an upcoming sale with 2000 hips. What horses might interest you? It’s largely a personal decision, built upon your own experiences, but here are my stand outs if seen in the first 4 generations.
Here’s Part I of names that I like to see. These would make me underline, circle, and dog-ear the page; if two or more combined, I consider it a must-see.
A.P. Indy and sons, Pulpit (and sons), particularly when crossed with Fappiano
I’ve yet to have a bad impression with a close-up A.P. Indy descendant. Athletic, smart, balanced horses. A.P. Indy is considered a good stamina influence; he won the Belmont (1.5mi) and is the sire of a Belmont winner (filly Rags To Riches) and a Preakness winner (Bernardini). Most of them don’t make it to sport horse homes because they are quite successful and valuable as racing/breeding stock. Chances are you’ll find him filtered out in a sport horse pedigree for this reason…but I’ve seen multiple instances where the 3rd/4th generation will be a strong throwback to AP Indy himself. Very prepotent, great damsire as well. Pulpits, in particular, seem to have a very nice uphill neck and shoulder.
Fappiano and sons, including Quiet American, Unbridled, Pentilicus, Cryptoclearance, Rubiano, and others.
Fappiano is the grandsire of Courageous Comet; a little less commercially appealing than some big name sires, he can be found in many successful sport horse pedigrees. I find them to have good balance, athleticism, can jump and move well. The Unbridled line (particularly Unbridled’s Song) has a reputation for unsoundness in the front limbs; perhaps because they are talented juveniles, yet slow to develop structurally, they break before they mature. I don’t discredit them– they’ll likely be fancy– but I’d vet them more thoroughly.
Pleasant Colony was a big, leggy horse with a tendency to pass that on; the ones I’ve known were tall, 16.3-17h. It’s often heritable for two or three generations beyond, too. Good movers and jumpers, big gallop, a bit slow to mature physically, but worth it. No huge commercial appeal, but gets a good enough racehorse you’ll see them around. I like him as a damsire too.
There are so many more! Stay tuned for Part II.