When piecing together a pedigree match for your mare's next mating have you ever stopped to think, where do I start?
A good place to start is by looking at the four pedigree quartiles found at the 2nd generational level that will comprise her offspring's overall pedigree.
We are talking here about the paternal pedigree of the proposed stallion ( Quartile 1 ) as well as the maternal pedigree of the stallion ( Quartile 2 ) and how this looks when placed on top of your mare's pedigree i.e. her paternal pedigree ( Quartile 3 ) as well as her maternal pedigree ( Quartile 4 ).
Where you land with this "quartilian mix" can often be governed by opportunity and where the opportunity arises then full advantage can be taken in the endeavour to breed a superior racehorse.
Whatever the outcome, there is immense satisfaction to be gained from this approach simply because there is some semblance of scientific method applied which provides an answer or reason as to why you may have bred a superior or elite performer.
This is in stark contrast to the breeding methodology of "Breeding the best to the best and hoping for the best". Where is the skill in that, one may ask?
Whilst you may get away with this approach if you are fortunate enough to have a superior broodmare that will produce top offspring literally regardless of the stallion they are put to, there is hardly any scientific application applied to this approach and often a good deal less satisfaction as a breeder.
Often you will see this approach with highly Commercial mares ( mostly from top producing families ) or with elite racemares and especially if the resultant progeny are destined for the Yearling Sales.
Here it is often about instant financial gain in the hope that the yearling will make the grade as a racehorse and "establish the mare" but in other circumstances this approach is also open to genetic failure and potentially damaging the young mare as a future soughtafter breeding proposition.
It is very much a "risk and reward" exercise with this approach to breeding.
As a pedigree consultant dealing especially with new Australian or New Zealand clients, when they answer the question as to what breeding methods they have previously followed invariably we receive the reply that they keep a close eye on the North American breeding scene and in particular "Crosses of Gold" in the Stallion Showcase. So much so that to us many become over-reliant on it.
Crosses of Gold pit individual stallion's over other broodmare sires hence only telling "half the story" as it ignores both the stallion's maternal pedigree ( Quartile 2 ) and the mare's maternal pedigree ( Quartile 4 ).
It therefore exclusively deals with just Quartile 1 and Quartile 3. There is often no genetic reason for this, often it may be a geographical factor at work e.g. the daughters of one stallion at a Stud being put to an associate stallion standing at the same Stud and where strength in numbers on that particular breeding cross outweigh any genetic factors at work.
In our breeding endeavours, yes, occasionally we may apply the use of Quartile 3 in association with Quartile 1 but only if there is good genetic reason to do so. As an example here, if we take a Bettor's Delight mare, we do like these with sons or grandsons of Somebeachsomewhere. Why? Because here we can link the blood of Bettor's Delight with that of Matt's Scooter, grandsire of Somebeachsomewhere. And for what genetic reason? Both Bettor's Delight and Matt's Scooter were superior racehorses but much more than this, genetically they both share the same maternal bloodline tracing directly to the highly influential matriarch Aida.
This provides a far more genetic validation of why to cross these two bloodlines than that featured in the North American crosses of gold.
But standardbred breeders are not alone in this approach with Quartile 1 and Quartile 3 as the "Match Your Mare" programmes such as G1 Goldmine and Werks E-Nicks that feature on most Thoroughbred Stud's websites also place a heavy emphasis primarily on sireline crosses.
This approach is defended, rightly or wrongly, by it's creators and breeder supporters as claiming that the statistical data is based on actual race performance and results.
While we cannot deny this, it is hardly a scientific genetic approach to breeding but rather one based on statistical data outcome.
So what approach may involve a more scientific or genetic approach to breeding Standardbred horses?
One very reliable method is to "Return the best blood of your mare to the best blood of the stallion".
To apply this method we first of all have to define what this encompasses.
In general terms when analysing a pedigree match, the best blood of a mare is seen as being in her paternal bloodlines ( Quartile 3 ) and the best blood of a stallion as being in his maternal bloodlines ( Quartile 2 ). Hence you are applying Quartile 3 to Quartile 2.
One of the distinct advantages of doing this is that it provides the basis for breeding a horse on a reverse-sex formula to either a key male or female ancestor where you may be chasing their particular traits or attributes especially if deficient in your own mare or breed.
And just occasionally you may end up with a foal bred on what is known as a double reverse-sex cross, not just to one common ancestor but to two.
By achieving a resultant reverse-sex cross in a foal you are not only developing a purposeful breeding core but also creating a potential or likely "engine room" based on the ancestor/s being duplicated.
Reverse-sex crossing is a favoured breeding technique as sex-balancing allows the genes of the duplicated ancestor/s to be potentially maximised in your resultant foal.
As an example here, the stallion Art Major is bred on a 3x4 reverse-sex cross to Albatross, the latter's history proven best cross. The new stallion Captain Crunch is another example being bred on a 3x3 reverse-sex cross to Artsplace.
Another popular breeding practice especially in more recent times and a more common now in North America is breeding horses utilising what is known as the delta pattern.
Certainly Southern Hemisphere breeders are seeing more North American stallions accessible to them being bred carrying a delta pattern to a specific male ancestor.
Fear The Dragon is bred on a 4x4 delta pattern to Most Happy Fella whilst Follow The Stars is bred on a 3x3 delta pattern to Abercrombie.
Delta pattern breeding focuses on applying Quartile 4 to Quartile 1.
This means duplicating a male ancestor that is present in your mare's damsireline in Quartile 4 with the same ancestor that presides in the stallion's paternal sireline as found in Quartile 1.
Delta patterns in a stallion can also be very useful as a launch board from which to capitalise on reverse-sexing opportunities for your mare's foal if that specific ancestor is in her sireline e.g. an Abercrombie line mare if bred to Follow The Stars would produce a foal carrying a reverse-sex cross to Abercrombie.
Yet another breeding technique that can be highly rewarding although a little harder to find is that known as "Breeding Back Into The Herd" ( aka BBITH ).
This involves applying Quartile 4 to Quartile 2 so the polar opposite of "Crosses of Gold" where focus is primarily on Quartile 1 and Quartile 3.
Breeding Back Into The Herd focuses on the bottom line ( duplicating a common female ancestor ) of both Quartile 4 ( of your mare ) and Quartile 2 ( the proposed stallion ) and was hugely favoured by legendary former Australian standardbred pedigree guru Mr Gordon Campbell as that which most closely resembled that which prevailed naturally in the wild and not unlike that which also occurred out on the racetrack especially in terms of the traits and attributes that were required to either survive or triumph. Campbell quantified his stauch advocacy for this form of breeding with statistical evidence from his own huge privately owned database.
Whilst there have been numerous examples of successful standardbreds bred on a "Breeding Back Into The Herd" formula we are going to use now 10 times Group 1 winner, including the 2021 Melbourne Cup, Verry Elleegant as a top class ( albeit thoroughbred mare ) to illustrate our point here.
Verry Elleegant is 4x4 "Bred Back Into The Herd" to the mare Cotehele House through her daughters the half-sisters Theme Song ( granddam of sire Zed ) and Chalet Girl ( granddam of dam Opulence ).
If this form of breeding can succeed big time for thoroughbreds then so too can it work big time with standardbreds.
Whilst the aforementioned form some of the leading methods of breeding quality standardbreds by applying the quartiles they are far from an exhaustive list. There are many other techniques that can be applied. In brief, a few of the leading ones are;
Returning The Blood - this involves returning the same blood from your mare ( through a common female ancestor ) to the same ancestor presiding in the stallion's direct maternal line ( or bottom line ). This sees either Quartile 3 or 4 ( sometimes both ) feeding back to Quartile 2.
Rasmussen Factors ( breeding back to superior females through different individuals within the first 5 generations ), duplicating elite females beyond 5 generations and the deployment of Colt Factors or Filly Factors ( more popular in thoroughbred breeding practice ) are otherhigly effective techniques that can be applied throughout a pedigree match and not necessarily dependent on any specific quartile application other than to say that cross-duplication ( contributed by both the stallion and the mare ) is most likely to yield best results.
More traditional breeding methods ( as opposed to pedigree matching utilising specific breeding techniques ) include "Outcrossing" for hybrid vigour or "Linebreeding" to hopefully concentrate the genes of a specific ancestor/s are other more traditional breeding methods as is "Inbreeding" where seeking speed enhancement or rejuvenation.
Premier Pedigrees was born out of Ken Mackay's passion for horse pedigrees to offer a very affordable pedigree matching service and valuable recommendations to new and existing Australian and New Zealand clients for both thoroughbred and standardbred mares.