Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pedigree Power

I'm not a big believer in pedigree's. I know some people follow them religiously and have success with them. I've always been of the belief that horses show you what they're capable of so their pedigree becomes less important with each passing start. A pedigree suggests what a horse might be good at but race results show you exactly what they're good at.

I think one of the biggest myth's in racing is this thought that only horses with a certain Dosage figure can win the Derby. I've written about Dosage many times in the past, there is no need to go into it all again. I could sum up my feelings about it in just a few sentences. Dosage is of little value because nearly every single Derby contender has the proper Dosage and the ones who don't often have young sires that simply haven't been properly quantified by the system. You could actually have made a profit simply by betting on the Derby entrants with a Dosage of more than 4.00. This year Old Fashioned and Beethoven are both non-dosage qualifiers. Personally that doesn't effect my opinion of them at all.

The one pedigree angle I do consider is the Sire and Damsire's Average Winning Distance in open stakes races. Because the Kentucky Derby demands more stamina from it's entrants than they have occasion to prove it can be useful to consider a projection of how far they'll actually go. The Average stakes winning distance of horses of similar lineage is, to me, the most logical way of determining the possible stamina range of a Derby contender. It's rare for a horse, even one who has outrun his pedigree, to be proficient at distances a full three furlongs longer than their sire or damsire average.

Now it's far from an exact science but logically if a horse is thought to have inherited stamina it seems reasonable to expect that their sire or damsire will at least have a progeny Average Winning Distance (AWD) of 8 furlongs or more.

Average Winning Distances aren't going to tell you exactly how far a horse is going to go. But a horse is rarely going to be proficient at 10f if both sirelines suggest that they ought to like sprinting. So for my personal Derby evaluation I use the 8f cutoff. To be a viable Derby contender a horse sire or damsire AWD must be greater than 8.00. Any horse with a pure sprinters pedigree would have to outperform their AWD's by three furlongs to win the Derby.

From 1999 to the present day there have been 24 Derby entrants whose pedigree have lacked the necessary stamina according to the AWD's. Of those 24 entrants only Lion Heart and Denis of Cork managed to run in the money.

Some horses have insufficient data I just give them an exemption despite the fact that many of them look suspect for a route. A young sires stakes winning AWD will always be skewed lower because 2yo's mostly run in sprints. It doesn't mean they can't go further, it just means they've had limited opportunity.

In many years non-qualifiers have actually taken a bit of money. They aren't usually the favorites but quite often they're prep winners who are well regarded. Horses like Gayego, Came Home, Favorite Trick, Scat Daddy, Trippi and Bandini all had low sireline AWD's and a good many of them finished well up the track in the Derby despite proficiency in Derby prep races.

On this year's trail we don't have too many contenders with poor AWD's but we'll see how things develop. It's still January and many horses will come out of the woodwork before the first Saturday in May. So far the only horses identified as non-qualifiers from a pedigree perspective are Big Drama, Gone Astray and Quality Road. I've rated Quality Road pretty highly because of the impressive figures he's produced but perhaps it would be better to regard him as less of a Derby contender and more of a sprinter/miler type.

Food for thought anyway.


EquiSpace said...

Nice post and extremely informative. Thanks for passing on this knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Solid post!!

Anonymous said...

Are these AWD numbers posted on any of the common pp's? I assume you are not talking about the #'s posted on the Brisnet pp's since you state it is the "progeny Average Winning Distance," not the sire or damsire's AWD Bris net includes.

Kennedy said...

You can find these AWD figures at

It's the only place that compiles these specific figures that I'm aware of.

The difference between these AWD's and the general progeny AWD's is that these only take stake races into account.