Thoroughbred Quotes

“The thoroughbred exists because its selection has depended, not on experts, technicians or zoologists, but on a piece of wood: the winning post of the Epsom Derby.”

Federico Tesio‘s quote above is probably the most famous about breeding racehorses. This is a collection of other thoughts on pedigree matters.

A good bull is worth half the herd, a bad bull is the whole herd. Bull Hancock

The mythology surrounding the breeding of thoroughbreds is pervasive. A few of these myths are the astonishing stupidity of the dosage system, the absurd overemphasis on the female family, and the irrational belief in the validity of nicks. John R. Gaines, former owner of Gainesway Farm in interview with The Blood-Horse 16/10/99

Everything in breeding and racing is a matter of understanding the probabilities and getting the probabilities working for you instead of against you. In genetics it is the progeny test and in the environment it is the transcendent trainer. ibid in answer to the question ‘What are the most important factors to breeding success?’

Estes [Joseph, longtime editor of The Blood-Horse] was the devastating critic and debunker of breeding myths. He was the most scientific journalist that ever wrote about the breeding of thoroughbreds. I was taught when all was said and done the progeny test was the only thing that mattered…In lieu of the progeny test, the most important thing is racing class in both the sire and the dam. ibid

If someone says how can you spend $6 million for a horse, well how can you spend $6 million for a boat? It is a matter of what your passion is. I think horses, particularly at the boutique elite level, are living, breathing pieces of art. There are paintings that bring $150 million, and a painting really has no value other than you get to look at it and admire it. It can’t perform, but I suppose at the same time it can’t die. With horses, you get the ability to play geneticist. You get to try to enhance and elevate that pedigree of that individual and make it even more animated, even more beautiful, even more effective as a producer and as an equine athlete. That’s pretty powerful. John G. Sikura, President of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in interview with Amanda Duckworth @ 11/11/16

Although it is impossible to reduce breeding to anything approaching certainty, there are one or two rules which can at least be expressed in terms of probability. The first is that it is the exception rather than the rule for a good horse to be sired by a bad one…The second is that the sire is the predominating factor in the transmission of stamina. It is very seldom that a top-class stayer is sired by a horse who was not a stayer himself…The third is that the mating of extremes seldom achieves its main objective, namely the production of a Derby winner…With regard to fillies, it is impossible to make any rules. John Hislop: ‘The Certainties and Hazards of Breeding’ in Cope’s Racegoer’s Encyclopaedia 1950

Breeding, it is true, is largely a matter of chance, but it is not mere luck; it depends too, upon stud management, experience, a sound knowledge of blood-lines and confirmation, and that undefinable flair which, in every calling, distinguishes the master from the tradesman. Possessed of all these qualities, a breeder’s success is a certainty; possessed of some of them, he may or may not make his way. But if he can boast of none, the fate of his venture will be pure hazard. John Hislop ibid.

The sixteen-month buying spree by Vincent O’Brien, John Magnier and the Irish magicians, which had started in July 1975 and gone through until the autumn of 1976, must surely have been the greatest exercise in selecting yearlings to race ever accomplished in the entire modern history of bloodstock auctions. Patrick Robinson, Horsetrader.