We read a recent advertisement from Castleton Lyons farm in the United States (the property of Dr Tony Ryan, founder of the legendary cut-price airline, Ryanair) in which it stated that 20 of the last 23 winners of America’s Triple Crown races, showed no inbreeding within the first four generations. It struck us that, with all the obsession we see these days with the concept of line or inbreeding, this was a remarkable statistic. It bears out our long-held view that in thoroughbred breeding, there are so many other elements to consider in the process of our breeding programmes, before we start worrying about how many times an ancestor is duplicated in a pedigree.
We so often hear these days at Broodmare sales, in pubs and most other places breeders gather, how many lines of this or that stallion there are in so-and-so’s pedigree, and this is proffered reverently as the principal reason behind the success of a particular runner. It ignores the fact that the same runner’s full brother or sister, or both of them, might be completely devoid of talent, and yet these students insist that it is the line - or inbreeding alone which has sculpted the masterpiece.
Though we can’t ourselves profess to be particularly smart with computers (it’s probably fair to say we’re technologically challenged!), we do understand that it’s not that difficult to write these programmes we see so frequently on “wannabee”-breeder’s desks, laptops and sometimes even under their beds, and we have to confess to having several of the programmes ourselves, more often than not though to satisfy the needs of clients that still want to see the whole thing in print.
While we agree it’s gratifying to see the construction of a pedigree on paper, the reality is that unless we pay attention to the need to produce an athlete that has the temperament, the soundness, the courage and the will to run, besides having all of the right machinery, it matters not an iota what’s on the print out. The late great Irish trainer, Ryan Price, who trained for many of the English gentry, was once famously quoted, following the protestations of a dumfounded client that one of his beautifully inbred horses was “utterly” useless, that “you can’t train a bloody pedigree!” No matter how many lines of St.Simon the animal carries.
The case rests.
Of course, that doesn’t mean to say inbreeding is any less effective as a road to breeding a good horse. It simply means it isn’t the only way, and when it has to be done, it should be for for the right reasons.