It is always an intriguing exercise reviewing the pedigrees of great horses in an endeavour to discover what made them excel above all others.
If you get lucky, you can piece together commonalities or similarities which may be useful in your own breeding ambitions to produce that superior horse.
These are the fundamentals to which every breeder should aspire in the pursuit of excellence.
The late Clive Harper in yet another of his masterpieces "The Thoroughbred Breeders' Handbook" 1997 acclaimed 1992-3 Australian Horse Of The Year the mighty Veandercross as the greatest example of the strategy of inbreeding in the fourth generation and linebreeding extensively to the background of the inbreeding.
What then is the rationale behind this?
Harper identifies stamina as being built up from many multiples of the same ancestor, or close relatives of that ancestor, in particular between the 6th and the 10th generations.
He also points out that pedigree strength dissipates if not reinforced closer up reasoning that the probability factor is not there as it is with closer duplications.
A simple exercise in mathematics if you like dabbling with fractions.
Accompanying these thoughts and observations are the build up of common crosses that may be found throughout the pedigree ( of both sire and dam ) many of which may occur back in genes and certainly beyond the 10th generational level.
To balance stamina attributes there is also need for speed and the constant need to reinject speed.
The late Harold Hampton, the forefather of thoroughbred pedigree analysis in New Zealand, states numerous times in his works "The First Scientific Principles Of Thoroughbred Breeding" 1954 ( coincidentally the same year the Master of Thoroughbred Breeding Federico Tesio passed ) and "The First Scientific Principles Of Thoroughbred Breeding - The Origin Of Speed" 1956 that the creation of speed lay much closer up in a pedigree, particularly at the 4th and 5th generational levels, a finding also totally vindicated by Harper.
In relation to the findings of both Hampton and Harper we have elected to take three examples; Veandercross ( 1988 ), Might And Power ( 1993 ) and a more recent example in Verry Elleegant ( 2015 ) to see how closely they comply.
We are only too well aware that there are more examples like these but these three are sufficient to more than illustrate their findings.
As Clive Harper points out, Veandercross was bred by Wanganui school teacher Chris Turner, also a member of the the well known Levin Breeder's Forum to which Harper also belonged as did Peter Jenkins, now resident pedigree alchemist for John Messara at Arrowfield Stud. So Turner would have experienced a good grounding in the techniques involved in piecing together a superior pedigree.
Just like Bonecrusher, Veandercross was also colossal proof that you can take a seemingly non-descript mare like Lavender ( by Super Gray ) and mate her to an equally non-descript stallion Crossways and produce a champion, just like the Mitchell's did with Imitation ( by Oakville ) in her mating with Pag-Asa to produce Bonecrusher.
A perusal of Veandercross's 7-generational pedigree ( which is probably all we require to stake out speed inheritance ) firstly reveals that he is inbred on a 3x3 reverse-sex cross to Nijinsky II ( via Crossways dam Silky and Lavender's sire Super Gray ).
This not only provides Veandercross with a breeding core but also a likely "engine room", one based on speed, precocity and beyond.
Nijinsky II was English and Irish Champion 2YO 1969 and English and Irish Champion 3YO 1970 in a year that also saw him crowned English Horse Of The Year. His victories stretched from 1200m in the Railway Stakes ( as a juvenile at The Curragh ) through to the English St Leger Stakes ( at Doncaster ). His defining traits were his brilliant acceleration and his fluent galloping action.
Next we note that Veandercross possesses a 4x4 Rasmussen Factor ( breeding back to superior females through different individuals within the first 5 generations ) to the broodmare bluehen Somethingroyal but not through her most famed son Secretariat, but rather through another son Sir Gaylord ( grandsire of Crossways ) and daughter Loyal Land ( dam of Lavender's sire Super Gray ).
So in Veandercross we see a lot of the action happening at both the 3rd and 4th generational levels with that occuring at the 4th generational level also vindicating the strength of inbreeding to superior females to extrude speed.
Moving to the 6th through 10th generational levels as identified by Harper, it is noted that Crossways carries two presences of the mare Flying Vixen ( as granddam of Orpen and the great granddam of Challenger II ) who is a daughter of Flying Fox ( grandsire of Teddy ) and out of the mare Amphora.
Hence the pedigree match not only introduces two daughters of Flying Fox balancing the sons of Teddy but also Amphora is a full-sister to Sundridge.
Harper drools at the fact that in this one pedigree Flying Vixen combines the two basic strengths that also prevailed in Northern Dancer. If only Veandercross had not been gelded?
Harper adds that further genetic dynamite was provided through Veandercross's direct maternal line where his 9th dam Vane ( Orme - Vampire ) is a full-sister to Flying Fox.
Immersed in the realms of stamina creation and reaching well beyond the scope of a 7-generational Tesio printout Harper further identifies Veandercross as possessing some 30 examples of the Bend Or / Macaroni cross as well as 20 examples of the Sundridge / Ayrshire / Melton symbiosis.
Truly a pedigree pattern for breeders to aspire with their own creations.
Why, every time you go to spell this marvellous mare's name, it never looks right?".
What is easy to spell though is the name of Verry Elleegant's sire Zed ( a son of Zabeel ) and dam Opulence ( a daughter of Danroad, by Danehill ) hence being bred on an already highly proven cross of effectively Zabeel over Danehill.
Like Veandercross, Verry Elleegant also earned the crown of Australian Horse Of The Year for the 2020 season and to date has recorded 14 wins from her 32 starts for lifetime earnings in excess of $9.3 million.
And also like Veandercross, she has a remarkably similar pedigree construction, well close up at least.
Verry Elleegant is 3x3 reverse-sexed to Danehill ( as opposed to Nijinsky II as was the case for Veandercross ) thus also carrying a notable close up breeding core and likely "engine room" source.
Danehill was a high class sprinter in England and France winning from 1200m to 1600m. He was an excellent mover with a low fluid gait.
And yet again like Veandercross, Verry Elleegant also carries a 4x4 Rasmussen Factor but this time to Cotehele House ( a daughter of broodmare phenomenon Eight Carat ) but unlike Veandercross where his female duplication came in sex balance ( via a son and daughter of Somethingroyal ) Verry Elleegant's comes through two female presences ( daughters of Cotehele House ) in Theme Song ( granddam of Zed ) and Chalet Girl ( granddam of Opulence ) these two being half-sisters by Sackford and Imposingly respectively.
As these half-sisters both appear in the direct maternal ( tail female ) pedigrees of each of Verry Elleegant's parents, not only does this exceptional racemare carry a 4x4 Rasmussen Factor to their dam Cotehele House but it occurs via a feature recognised as "Breeding Back Into The Herd" ( aka BBITH ).
A former Australian standardbred pedigree guru Mr Gordon Campbell ( now retired ) was a huge advocate of the incorporation of Rasmussen Factors into a pedigree wherever the opportunity arose and even more so if this could be effected by way of "Breeding Back Into The Herd".
Campbell, along with his wife, created Australia's largest privately-owned standardbred database ( via Computabred Ltd ) to substantiate his advocacy with hard core factual statistics whenever challenged. One could not counter argue.
So what lies behind his great belief in "Breeding Back Into The Herd?".
Campbell reasoned that it most closely simulated that which occurred naturally in the wild when breeding.
Dominant stallions would cover even their own close family members ( inbreeding ) if they met the criteria that governed survival where qualities ( attributes if you like ) such as strength, determination, speed, stamina, toughness and a turn of foot were all highly essential in the evolution of the breed.
Campbell also identified these same qualities as also being required in the heat of the battle out on the racetrack. If you had a full arsenal the more your chances of aspiring to greatness.
No wonder Verry Elleegant has recorded nine Group 1 victories to date with signs that she may not be finished yet!
We are not going to delve too deeply into the deeper removes of her pedigree to highlight the multiple crosses of common patterns as Clive Harper did with the Veandercross pedigree other than to say they no doubt exist but Verry Elleegant does carry impressive sex balancing to an array of both female and male ancestors at her 5th through 7th generational levels.
Commencing with influential females these include Special at 5x6 ( through son Nureyev in Zed and daughter Fairy Bridge in Opulence ), Flower Bowl at 6x6x7 ( cross-duplicated but with Opulence providing the all important female balancing line via Bowl Of Flowers ) and Natalma at 6x6x6x6x6x6 ( again cross-duplicated but this time Zed providing the all important female balancing line of Spring Adieu ).
Influential males also contribute their part. Large heart progenitor Princequillo at 7x6 is found in balance ( through son Round Table and daughter Somethingroyal ) in Zed, Native Dancer is balanced at 7x7x7x7x7x7 ( cross-duplicated but Opulence again contributing the key male balancing line via Raise A Native ), Crafty Admiral at 7x7x6 ( cross-duplicated but with Opulence offering the key female balancing line via Dennis Belle ), Petition at 7x6x7x6 ( both Zed and Opulence contributing balanced lines ) and Tom Fool at 7x7x7 ( cross-duplicated but this time Zed contributing the key female balancing line via Bebopper ).
Lastly, we note that Your Host is also present in Verry Elleegant's 7th generation ( found behind Opulence's own sire Danroad ). Your Host is a sibling of Flower Bed who can be found in both Zed as well as Opulence.
Don Goodwin, breeder of Verry Elleegant, may well be an octagenerian who contends he has only been breeding thoroughbreds for some 15 years or so and emphasizes that he "got lucky", but in repeat breedings of Opulence to Zed one gains the feeling that his luck may not be running out any time soon.
Might And Power:
Any study of past and present greats of the turf would not be complete if it did not include a product of Cambridge Stud. That pretty much goes without saying.
Not to be outshone by our previous two subjects, Might And Power went one better, being voted Australian Horse Of The Year twice, in 1998 and 1999.
His 1997 Caulfield - Melbourne Cup double followed up by his 1998 W.S.Cox Plate victories were just part of his 15 career triumphs from just the 33 starts allowing him to bankroll in excess of $5.2 million for owner Nick Moraitis.
A case here of similar fate to Veandercross, another legendary male horse who escaped the breeding shed courtesy of being minus his crown jewels.
Might And Power was by Zabeel and out of the mare Benediction ( by Day Is Done, a direct descendant of the Princequillo male lineage ).
Whilst his pedigree appears at face value to differ from that of our first two subjects ( Veandercross and Verry Elleegant ) in many ways it is still the same albeit the genetic fireworks happening a generation further removed.
Both Veandercross and Verry Elleegant had it all happening in the 3rd and 4th removes whereas for Might And Power it all happens ( to the presumed delight of Harold Hampton ) where it should at the 4th and 5th removes.
Nevertheless, the over-riding pattern is the same.
A single desirably sex balanced duplication at the 4th generation to the valuable male presence Round Table through his daughter Isolt ( dam of Sir Tristram, sire of Zabeel ) and son Artaius ( grandsire of Benediction ).
There is no reverse-sexing prevailing in this pedigree construction but rather a less flashy sex balanced inbreeding ( as Harper terms it ) at 4x4 to Round Table.
Round Table was tough, durable and versatile. He started 66 times over four seasons winning on 43 occasions from a two year old through to a seasoned five year old embracing a wide range of distances. He was voted 1958 American Horse Of The Year and inducted into the National Museum of the Hall Of Fame in 1972.
He was noted for his excellent balance and bone with an exceptional shoulder and short cannons. He also possessed an impressive foot long overstep and had a biased penchant for a good track surface, disliking a wet surface.
At Might And Power's 5th generational level we see the female cross-duplicated Rasmussen Factor kicking in ( both Veandercross and Verry Elleegant had this occuring at their 4th generation ) this time to All Moonshine, a daughter of Lord Derby's bonny matriarch Selene.
And it occurs in the same fashion as that held by Verry Elleegant, through two daughters, the half-sisters All My Eye ( granddam or Sir Tristram, sire of Zabeel ) and Eyewash ( 4th dam of Might And Power ). All My Eye being by My Babu whilst Eye Wash is by Blue Peter.
Other female cross-duplications permeate Might And Power's pedigree from the 6th generation and beyond including the likes of Feola at 6x6x7 through her daughters Knight's Daughter ( dam of Round Table ) and Angelola ( dam of Aureole as present in Day Is Done, sire of Benediction ). Selene's presence is formidable and also favourably sex balanced for maximum effectiveness through sons Pharamond II and Hyperion and daughter All Moonshine.
And we also see Lavendula II present at 7x7x7 through her daughters Source Sucree ( dam of Turn-To who features in Might And Power's paternal sireline ) and Perfume II ( dam of My Babu who can be found behind both Sir Tristram and Artaius ).
Male presences found in balance include the likes of Princequillo at 6x5x5, Mahmoud at 6x7 ( via son Mr Trouble and daughter Almahmoud ), Sir Cosmo at 6x6x7 ( via daughter Knight's Daughter and with Benediction contributing the all important male line via Panorama ), Nearco at 7x6x6x6 ( again with Benediction this time contributing the all elusive female line via Arctic Sun, dam of Arctic Prince ), Hyperion ( Selene's best racehorse son ) at 7x7x6x6 ( through sons Aristophanes and Aureole and daughters Lady Angela and Sunset Gun ), both pairings contributed equally by Zabeel and Benediction. Valued influence Blenheim is also found to be in balance at 7x7 to the near relations Mahmoud ( in Zabeel ) and Mumtaz Begum ( in Benediction ) as is Blandford via son Brantome ( in Zabeel ) and daughter Sparkle ( in Benediction ).
We also note the presence of Badruddin as found behind My Babu on both sides of Might And Power's pedigree. As a male scion, his presence should have meshed well with his siblings the female presences Mumtaz Begum and Mah Mahal who also feature in the 7-generational pedigree chart of Might And Power.
Before departing this short but enjoyable comparative analysis in pedigree construction of three true powerhouses of the Australasian turf over the last three decades in closing we would like to bring things down a few notches and perhaps much closer to home.
The Cambridge training partnership of Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman have in their stable a promising three year old filly by relatively new sire Vanbrugh. Her name is Mustang Valley and she is a very close relation to Might And Power, her 3rd dam Buenos Aires being a half-sister ( by Rainbow Quest ) to Might And Power.
Like Might And Power she is of impressive constitution physically and for comparative purposes it is worth having a quick look at her pedigree fabric without going into any extensive detail.
We find at the 4th generational level that she carries a cross-duplicated male double of Danehill ( through his sons Lucky Owners and Danehill Dancer ). So perhaps a little trepidation here.
But female doubles, again desirably cross-duplicated, come into their own at Hampton's favoured 4th and 5th generational levels which see Mustang Valley carrying a double Rasmussen Factor.
These feature Fairy Bridge at 4x5 courtesy of a male double via the full-brothers Fairy King ( great grandsire of Mustang Valley ) and Sadler's Wells ( great grandsire of Cream Of The Crop, dam of Mustang Valley ) and of course Benediction at 5x5 through her daughters the half-sisters Miss Priority ( dam of Lucky Owners, damsire of Vanbrugh ) and Buenos Aires ( 3rd dam of Mustang Valley ).
As with her 4x4 Danehill cross-duplication, neither of the two female cross-duplications are sex balanced ( for maximum potential effectiveness ) so it is going to be an interesting future watch to see just how far Mustang Valley can progress on the racetrack but one thing is for sure, she certainly carries big potential towards the breeding barn when her time arrives.
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