This is a post I have been meaning to get out forever. One of the topic horses has been standing at stud for 3 years. This idea started to percolate when he was only 2. However, as we are in full swing of the current foaling season, I figured there was no better time to discuss blood vs. the X factor.
People spend a lot of time and money on bloodstock agents. These people work tirelessly to make sure that horses are matched together in a hopeful perfection. Although, it would seem their time would be better suited to worshiping an X factor deity.
You cannot plan for that special horse. You cannot replicate that special horse, but you can keep trying.
My strongest case for this dates back to Barbaro. My heart still breaks for the would-be champion. Often after the Derby, my gut lurches as it relays to me that "nope. That one will not be winning the Triple Crown."
"But gut!" my heart argues, but my gut refuses to listen. Refuses to let me forget it's nagging reassurance that it is always right. Of course I still get caught up in hope and band wagoning as I attempt to ignore its prediction. I cheered for the plucky Funny Cide despite my gut cringing as the gelding took the lead in the Belmont instead of stalking the pace. I really wanted to believe Calvin when he said Mine That Bird would take the Crown. I was devastated that I'll Have Another was pulled from the Belmont. I was very hopeful that California Chrome would win one more for his fans. However, I also always grudgingly have that conversation with my gut. "Well, you were right...again. No Crown for me this year." The only time my gut and heart were equally impressed and jumping on the same band wagon was after watching Barbaro.
I eagerly awaited his Preakness run. That horse had power, grit, heart, and class. That horse would also meet an untimely end before his potential could be fully realized. Regardless, his connections wanted to try again. So came into the world Barbaro's two full brothers, Nicanor and Lentenor.
Very few have probably heard of these two. Fewer actually remember them. Both of them turned in some wins at the allowance level. They made decent efforts in some Graded Stakes, but neither ever hit or neared the level of talent their brother held.
Same dam. Same sire. Same connections. Same hopes. Completely different outcomes. It makes you wonder what really makes a champion? Michael Martin Murphey hit the mark in his song "Run for the Roses." In the verse that I inevitably get teary at, he says, "From sire to sire, it's born in the blood. The fire of the mare, and the strength of the stud. It's breeding, and it's training, and it's something unknown, that drives you and carries you home."
I think that about sums up breeding. You need a certain quality of blood to increase your chances of creating a champion. Sure. I think we can agree to that logic. However, that X factor, that "something unknown" cannot be bred. It cannot be passed down. Dynaformer and La Ville Rouge were pressured into hopefully creating another Barbaro. They did not. Secretariat saw how many mares a year in hopes of making a "Big Red Jr."? He never did.
So good luck to all those foals who have hit the ground so far and all those we're still waiting for. I hope you hit the ground running with the "unknown" on your side.
Stay safe. Stay sound. Stay savvy.