The breeding logistics of the racehorse is a combined puzzle of both complexity and beauty. It’s an expensive and risky lottery, with many breeders falling at the wayside in their quest to create a champion.
There are many avenues that can be explored in the crazy world that is the breeding industry, but the recurring lurking thought at the back of any lover of bloodstock is how the breeding of the horse has effected the distances their crop race at.
You would think it would be similar to football, wouldn’t you? Many top footballers don't hail from a genetic family of stars, but this couldn’t be further from the truth in the racing industry. The thoroughbred is purely defined through stardom, very rarely does a supreme racehorse not hail from a stallion who was a champion. More intriguingly, they are more than likely to follow the exact path of their family in their racing career.
Various factors contrive to this theory through the genetics, but the most crucial genetics that is passed down from the stallions to their crop is temperament. It’s a given that if a stallion performed best over the middle distances, then their crop is likely to appreciate that drip, and vice versa for sprinters and stayers.
Yet temperament is pivotal in the breeding of the horse and the correlation with certain distances. Effectively, if the horse cannot keep their head cool then it will severely impact them.
Horses that are bred out of a sprint king are very likely destined to have a highly-strung temperament. With the all-out intensity of ‘fast-as-you-go’ sprint races, you are more likely to see his crop in those races.
The test of relaxing for middle distance races is by far a bigger challenge, thus most champion stallions – such as Galileo – have a relaxed mind-set that goes a long way to their champion status.
A case of when it has all gone wrong was no more evident than the disastrous experiment of Dawn Approach in the 2013 Derby. Out of derby winner New Approach (who went against the theory and was hard to handle), everybody expected the derby to be the crowning of the 2000 Guineas winner, yet little did people expect such a temperamental performance and he duly finished last.
Dawn Approach was bred out of a speedball mare, thus promoting the theory of temperament in breeding and the certain races they are aimed at. So, while this piece could effectively be an essay on the biology of thoroughbred breeding, temperament is an undoubted key factor in the correlation of breeding and the certain races they are aimed at. Effectively, if they’re bred from a horse who has a temper, they’re more likely to be a sprinter. The calmer they are, the further they’ll stay.