FRANKEL AT STUD: FINDING MATES FOR A HORSE WHO COMBINES THE DOMINANT SIRE LINES OF HIS ERA

For Europeans at least, Frankel, redefined the definition of greatness as far as the thoroughbred is concerned. His magnificent 14 race career saw him crowned the champion of his generation at two, three and four, and head the World Thoroughbred rankings in 2011 and 2012. More telling is that the champion’s frequent thrashings of horses that, when not facing him, appeared to be top drawer in their own right, was the catalyst for a complete recalibration of the International Classifications and World Thoroughbred Rankings from 1977 onwards. This is scarcely surprising, given the implications of a horse who has so dramatically and completely dominated his contemporaries otherwise appearing to have one superior (Dancing Brave) and two equals (Alleged and Shergar) in a relatively short span of time. The complete review of ratings and methodology used over the last 35 years has resulted in a significant shake-up, with the relative standings of some champions rising and others falling. With regard to Frankel, he now stands alone at the pinnacle (on 140), followed by Dancing Brave (138), Peintre Celebre (137) and Generous (136). Similarly, Timeform, whose 140 and higher ratings stretch back to Tudor Minstrel in 1947 have also rated Frankel as the best of all time, with a rating of 147, above Sea-Bird II (145), Brigadier Gerard and Tudor Minstrel (144), Abernant, Ribot and Windy City (142) and Mill Reef (141).

When a horse like Frankel comes along, words like “fluke” or “freak” tended to get bandied about. We, however, prefer to think of Frankel representing the “perfect storm” perhaps one that yields the rogue wave that sweeps aside all in it’s path. There are many elements to the phenotype and genotype of athletic performance, be it equine or human, these including structure and biomechanics; quality and quantity of musculature; cardio-vascular system; the processes regarding energy and nervous systems; and the mental compenent. We would hazard a guess that in Frankel we have the extraordinarily rare individual who is not only excellent in each of these compenent, but also possess them in a way where they are all aptitudinally harmonious with each other, a case where the sum truly is greater than the parts.

It almost goes without saying that one cannot plan to breed a Frankel – as demstronstrated by his three-parts-brother, Bullet Train, and brother Noble Mission, both accomplished runners, but a considerable distance apart from the champion in both talent and aptitude – but we can note that he does combine all the genetic elements for success. He’s not only by the leading sire of his time, but his paternal and maternal grandsires, Sadler’s Wells and Danehill, were the dominant sires of their era, and he also comes from a strong family. These elements have also consistently proven their affinity for each other, Galileo having sired 17 stakes winners from 101starters out of Danehill mares, six of them group one winners, while Sadler’s Wells sired multiple group/grade one winner Powerscourt out of the group winning granddam of Frankel. And Galileo has also shown a strong affinity for the mitochondrial haplotype of the Bruce Lowe #1 family, from which Frankel stems.

Frankel’s brilliance doesn’t really give much clue as to his potential short or long-term impact as a sire. When we consider great horses of the past, we’ll find that they run the range for spectularly successful to almost complete disasters. The horse that, in living memory, perhaps most closely resembles Frankel, at least in terms of the way he could completely destroy the opposition, was Secretariat. He was a reasonably successful sire, if disappointing relative to expectations;  a terrible sire of sires; but a breed-shaper as a broodmare sire (A.P. Indy, Storm Cat, Gone West to name but three). Oddly enough, Secretariat, from a pedigree standpoint, is something of an analog to Frankel. He was by the best sire of his day, Bold Ruler, and bred on the best cross for that stallion, that with Princequillo mares. However, he was also something of a physical outlier, and in general was not best-served by the mares to which he was bred, as he was a horse who would have been aided by speedier mares, rather than classic distance types.

In some of the power Frankel’s pedigree lies some of the challenge to his career as a stallion: he’s not only bred on the strongest cross for  his sire, but with Sadler’s Wells and Danehill, as his grandsires he’s going to be generally regarded as off limits to a high proportion of Europe’s top mares.That’s not to say that one can’t find plenty of other options, and we should note that the similarly-bred Teofilo is Europe’s current leading third season sire.

Among the most obvious is Shirley Heights (who has been best under Galileo through Darshaan and Mark of Esteem, but who could also be interesting through Slip Anchor, Deploy, and Darshaan’s son, Dalakhani). Sharpen Up through Kris and Diesis and Selkirk has strong appeal, as does Ahonoora and his Indian Ridge. Galileo has enjoyed a very strong affinity with mares from the Roberto line, including via Red Ransom, and his son, Intikhab, Silver Hawk, Lear Fan and Kris S. Galileo has done well when crossed back over mares carrying Sadler’s Wells’ three-quarters-brother, Nureyev, including two group winners out of mares by Nureyev himself and group one winner Rip Van Winkle out of a mare by Nureyev son, Stravinsky. Peintre Celebre and Spinning World are other sources of Nureyev that produced Galileo line stakes winners.

Galileo is out of a mare by Miswaki, a son of Mr. Prospector, but has not had a particularly good strike-rate with Mr. Prospector line mares. Galileo’s dam is a three-parts-sister to King’s Best, a son of Kingmambo (broodmare sire of a Galileo stakes winner), so that could be a strain to consider. It would not be out of the bounds of possibility to try a King’s Best mare giving Mr. Prospector  5 x 4 and Allegretta 4 x 3 (through Urban Sea and King’s Best).  With Danehill in the dam, it could be worth considering Machiavellian (broodmare sire of Galileo group one winner Red Rocks) giving linebreeding to Natalma, through two sons and a daughter in Frankel, and another daughter in Machiavellian (as well as another strain of Northern Dancer’s granddam, Almahmoud, through Halo). He hals also succeeded with Woodman, a three-quarters-relative to Miswaki, and that suggests Seeking the Gold might also work (with Dubawi being an obvious source). The best source of Machiavellian might be Street Cry, who brings in a cross of Never Bend. Distorted Humor and Fusaichi Pegasus daughters – giving inbreeding to Danzig – might also be possible. The Galileo/Blushing Groom cross has produce 11 stakes winners, and appeals through Rahy, Nashwan and Rainbow Quest. Galileo has a classic winner out of a Storm Cat mare, and Teofilo already has a group one winner out of a mare by Storm Cat son, Giant’s Causeway.

While Galileo has been exceptional with Danehill, he has also done well with other branches of Danzig.  Interestingly, Teofilo already has five stakes winners when crossed back over mares from the Danzig line, and branches to consider include Green Desert (sire of Invincible Spirit, Oasis Dream and Cape Cross), Anabaa, Sinndar and his sire Grand Lodge (by Chief’s Crown).

Finally, and although there will probably not be much inclination on the part of those putting up 125,000 pounds to breed to Frankel to experiment with relatively close inbreeding, we can note that Teofilo has sired group one winner Parish Hall out of a mare by Sadler’s Wells son Montjeu, and a stakes winner out of a mare by a son of Danehill (giving Danehill 2 x 3).

 

Comments

5 Comments on "FRANKEL AT STUD: FINDING MATES FOR A HORSE WHO COMBINES THE DOMINANT SIRE LINES OF HIS ERA"

  1. It seams to me that you throughbred anilest have inbreeding mixed up with line breeding. I have bred lots of different animals, dogs, cows, horses, sheep and so on. And it looks like to me you have it backwards. The way I see it you cant keep what you have in mare and stud I see a lot of miss breeding in throughbreds.. You got to go back to what you got to get what you want and the best way is half sister and brother out of same sire and line bred mare and uncle to nice and nephew to ant works verry well in other animal breeding I have bred lots of ch. show stock and produceing stock like that and that’s what you call line breeding not inbreeding. Inbreeding is father to daughter and son to mother.full sister to brother.

    • Byron Rogers says:

      Thank you for your comment. In thoroughbred breeding it has become the convention to describe multiple instances of an ancestor at four generations or closer as “inbreeding” and at five and six generations as “linebreeding” although I realize that is a somewhat different usage of the terms than is general with regard to other livestock.

      There is a key difference between breeding for show animals – fixing a set of physical (phenotypical) traits – and the more complex concerns of a performance animal where what can’t be seen (the genotype) is at least, if not more, important.

      In general terms, given the value of high-class thoroughbred stock, breeders have tended to avoid very close duplications, as there tends to be a risk of undesirable recessives surfacing. The breeder in relatively modern times who had the most success with close duplications was Marcel Boussac, who bred a great mare in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Coronation V who was by a son of the stallion Tourbillon out of a mare by Tourbillon.

      There is no doubt that there would be similar examples if this type of pattern were tried more frequently, but in general terms the risk of the unanticipated recessives expressing themselves is considered too high for this to be a strategy to employ with high-class stock

  2. If full brothers and full sisters do not as a rule work as in humans to boot,then the whole talk on line or in breeding is mostly rubbish….

    • Alan Porter says:

      Actually, given that humans are not selectively bred, so there is much more potential for genetic diversity in terms of results, there are quite a few examples of siblings doing well. For example in track and field the Stewarts (two brothers, Ian and Peter, who had British records, one an Olympic third, and a sister, Mary, who was European indoor Champion); currently the three Borlee brothers from Belgium, all international 400m runners. I can think of quite a few more that would be less familiar on a world-stage.

      The answer is that every mating represents a range of possible outcomes, but some matings (those where genotype and phenotype are complimentary, will have more positive outcomes than those that do not). It’s easy enough to find examples of crosses that have proved disappointing with top quality stock, such as Buckpasser/Bold Ruler.

  3. It’s the reality of realising that fiction has a place but not in reality……there is no proven way of repeating a genetic blueprint other than by cloning and that to does not guarantee similar performance ,let alone hoping that obscure relatives in history will come together exactly as expected,random is to much the lottery with the same odds .,that’s what makes it a chance to negative….physical characteristic speed stay heart size size shapes conformation etc you get better results


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