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Racehorse Breeding Theories
By Frank Mitchell
Russell Meerdink Company, November 2004, 332 pages

In many ways, horse racing involves people trying to find order in what is truly a chaotic system. On paper, a horse may be the fastest and the most likely to win, yet the handicapper who bets his money on that horse is in no way guaranteed to finish in the money let alone win. The same can be said of the breeding business. You may, as the axiom goes, "breed the best to the best" but that doesn't guarantee a stakes winner. Most racing fans have some understanding of breeding theory and, for example, can explain with some accuracy why a certain horse's dosage index makes him a more likely contender for the Kentucky Derby, but don't fully understand the basis of that system. In Russell Meerdink Company's latest book, Racehorse Breeding Theories, Frank Mitchell and five other experts in this field come together to explain the most popular breeding theories in the sport of thoroughbred racing.

The reader will gain an in-depth understanding of such theories as genetics, biomechanics, dosage, nicking, female family inbreeding, outcrossing, and heart size, with the expert in that field writing that particular chapter in most cases. For example, Dr. Steven Roman covers dosage, a theory originated by J.J. Vuillier which Roman modernized particularly for American use. Roman uses very detailed statistical analyses to demonstrate where dosage index and center of distribution are most effective predictors. Skeptics of Dosage theory may want to view some of the charts and graphs in this chapter, as they are quite convincing indeed.

Any fan of racing will be mesmerized by the theories included, many of which have been around for years but have fallen into obscurity. For example, dosage is all about the sires, specifically the "chefs-de-race" sires in a horse's 4-cross pedigree. With this in mind, the female side of the family is all but forgotten, given that a sire can breed to 100 or more mares in a season, while a broodmare can have just one offspring per year. In the book, the reader learns that not only do all Thoroughbreds trace back to three foundation sires, they all trace back to just one broodmare. They also learn that two very crucial factors for racing success - heart size and mitochondrial DNA - are passed on by the females. For example, Secretariat's enormous heart came from his broodmare sire Princequillo, and not from his sire Bold Ruler.

No book about thoroughbred breeding would be complete without discussing the great Federico Tesio. In two different chapters, Tesio's theories are discussed in detail. Arguably the greatest breeder of all time, he not only bred champions such as Ribot and Nearco at his Dormello stud in Italy, he trained them. He mostly looked for inbreeding to St. Simon at least five generations back, but on the other hand, inexplicably he only bred Romanella to Tenerani twice, the mating which brought Ribot. Romanella was bred to five different stallions during her broodmare career.

In the final chapter, veterinarian Ross Staaden issues his nine "evaluation rules", demonstrating many of the fallacies people have about breeding theory, and goes into a bit more detail on great ancestor crossing and the original dosage system as devised by Vuillier.

Fans of racing or those with an interest in the breeding business who want a deeper understanding of breeding theories will find this work very thorough indeed. This is clearly an advanced work meant for those interested in the breeding business or racing fans who might find the information useful for the more obscure handicapping angles such as seen during the Triple Crown and little-known pedigree-based handicapping angles are demystified. New or younger fans of racing may find this work overwhelming as an introduction to breeding and pedigree handicapping and may wish to start with something a bit simpler.

Racehorse Breeding Theories has a list price of $45.00 and is available from for only $38.25.

Because of the specialized nature of this book, it has two ratings.
Rating:     5/5 (for advanced fans and those interested in the breeding industry)

Rating:     3/5 (for new fans)

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