Monday, September 14, 2009

Does Super Filly = Super Mom?

Four months ago, we questioned the hype that accompanied Rachel Alexandra, stating "her reputation is beyond her accomplishments at the moment." Four races later, including 3 victories over male horses and having beaten every single dirt horse of significance in America, Rachel Alexandra has established herself as one of the greatest female horses in American history. We hear the word "great" thrown around a lot with horses that are merely very good. This isn't the case with RA. She's truly an all-time great.

What isn't true, though is that this guarantees that her offspring will be fantastic. There's a lot of talk in the Interwebs that when she and 2007/2008 Horse of the Year Curlin mate, they will produce the next Pegasus. Take, for example, Billy Finley:
The next stop will be a farm somewhere in Kentucky and a date with Curlin. Want to get really ahead of ourselves? The foal should debut sometime during the 2013 meet at Saratoga before winning either the Spinaway or Hopeful.
Putting aside the fact his date is wrong (if she retires after 2010, as his article suggests, her first foal wouldn't hit the track until 2014), it's just wrong to think that because she's great, her foals will be great. If anything, history has proven the exact opposite. Let's take a look at how well the offspring of arguably the greatest fillies of the past 30 years have fared. We've excluded horses that died before they could breed (Go For Wand, Ruffian) and those that retired too recently to have much of a sample size (Azeri, Ashado). To make this manageable, we're only focusing on North American horses.

All Along--13 foals to race, none did anything.

Bayakoa--4 foals, none of which did anything.

Dance Smartly--This Canadien filly foaled 2 winners of the Queen's Plate and another stakes winner in 9 foals.

Genuine Risk--only successfully carried 2 foals to term, neither raced.

Heavenly Prize--9 foals to race, 2 of which were solid: Good Reward won a couple of Grade 1's on the turf and over a million dollars, while Pure Prize won almost half a million bucks. Neither horse was ever considered for an Eclipse Award, but both had their moments.

Life's Magic--14 foals, the only one who did anything was Simon Pure, who was in the money in a couple of stakes races.

Open Mind--2 foals, one of which did well in Japan.

Paseana--1 foal, who never raced.

Personal Ensign--The best of this group by a mile. She foaled My Flag, a multiple G1 winner and the 1995 BC Juvenile Fillies winner (who foaled multiple Grade 1 winner Storm Flag Flying); Miner's Mark, who won the JC Gold Cup and Traditionally, the winner of the Oaklawn Handicap. Additionally, she foaled Our Emblem, a consistent stakes horse (who sired 2002 Derby winner War Emblem) and a couple of other useful horses in Proud and True and Salute. And still, she had 3-4 foals who did little or nothing.

Princess Rooney--7 foals, one of which won over $100,000.

Serena's Song--9 foals to race with varying success. Grand Reward and Harlington earned money, but were never world beaters. Serena's Tune and Sophisticat were oddly managed and may have been better than they appeared on track.

Sky Beauty--7 foals, none of which did anything of note.

Winning Colors--10 foals to race, only two of which won over $100,000, and both of them did it in Japan, where the purses dwarf ours, making the comparison difficult.

From this group of leading ladies, we've got 96 foals, which have produced a total of 7 Grade 1 winners, i.e., a 7.3% batting average on being a very good horse. (It's probably notable that 4 of the G1 winners came from Heavenly Prize and Personal Ensign, which are regally bred fillies from the Phipps family.) At best, therefore, Rachel Alexandra is a 50/50 shot to produce a single Grade 1 winner, and there's a pretty good chance that her offspring will be anonymous. Remember, Serena's Song did great against the boys too, and hasn't produced anything that's contended for a title. What's to make us think that Rachel Alexandra is any different?


Eddie D. said...

"Rachel Alexandra is 50/50 to produce a Grade 1 winner."

LOL... there's not a breeder in the world who wouldn't take those odds, so what's the problem?

Also, Serena's Song has been a fantastic producer.

Robin Howlett said...

Miesque produced Kingmambo, and Urban Sea (93 Arc winner) produced both Galileo and Sea The Stars among other G1 winners.

El Angelo said...

I didn't include overseas winners because I don't follow it enough to try to scope out who were the best fillies from the past couple of decades. I will agree that Urban Sea is definitely on the short list of best mares in the past few decades with Hasili and Toussaud.

As for the 50/50 proposition, I agree that almost any breeder in the world would take 50/50 odds at getting a G1 winner from a mare. My point is that she's unlikely to produce MORE than one G1 winner (only Personal Ensign did that from this list), and she's likely to have a bunch of foals that stink or never make it to the races. The notion that she'll be a super mare and produce champion after champion (a la Hasili) is pure hyperbole--she may, but history shows otherwise.

Also, I would hardly call Serena's Song a "fantastic producer". Grand Reward and Harlington, while not bad, failed to win a single G1. And those were her two best horses.