Posts Tagged ‘x factor theory’

Dot Schmidt in Australia has sent in this thoughtful response to the discussion in the previous blog re the influence of Tar Heel with Bettor’s Delight and He’s Watching.

David has obviously put a lot of work into that but for mine there’s a couple of things to query. For his top 50 performers in Australia are these restricted to foaled in Australia, or are NZ imports included? To make the figures relevant a % of performers to foals is needed. 11 in the top 50 from ITP mares foaled in Australia I’d guess would be a very high % of performers but probably not if some of these are imports and thus cherry picked from a much larger foal crop. %age wise maybe the Artsplace, or particularly the Safely Kept crosses as I doubt that BD served many Safely Kept mares may actually be much better. Off course you need, and this goes particularly for some of the other sires listed a large enough number of offspring to be statistically relevant.

I noted Falcon Seelster wasn’t on David’s list of Broodmare sires in Australia which I thought was interesting as I recall something on your blog about the success of BD over Falcon Seelster mares in NA. I’m sure that this would be an anomaly rather then evidence  that BDs out of Falcon Seelster mares can’t run in Australia!

Is David’s fondness for Tar Heel based on the theory of “X factor” as found in Mariann Hanns books? If so the horse genome has been completely mapped and there is no single large heart gene found on the X chromosome. There are sires who do make a bigger contribution to a breed as broodmare sires then others and Tar Heel was certainly one. It may have something to do with the X chromosome but it will be multiple genes and probably as much to do with skeletal muscle as large hearts which obviously do exist just not as the result of a single gene.

With He’s Watching I’m not sure that the 8 (6 unique) strains of Tar Heels in the 6th generation is particularly relevant but perhaps the symmetry is what appeals. Meadow Skipper, not all in the 6th generation but there abouts has 13 strains through his sons and daughters and 7 unique so actually contributes a larger % of genes to He’s Watching. I think He’s Watchings high speed and success as a racehorse is largely due to the reinforcing of his highly successful U7 influences Leah Almahurst and Three Diamonds and luck in the genetic draw moreso then the influence of Tar Heel in the 6th generation. I do agree with David on the reinforcing of family U2 though.

I agree he could do well with BD mares but not in my opinion because of the Tar Heel lines in both but moreso because closer up BGs Bunny is genetically speaking very nearly a full sibling to Three Diamonds. Also the Abercrombie over Albatross found in both. Off course the other half of the mares pedigree counts too, some of Shy Ann’s descendants  as found in both Real Desire and Jenna’s Beach Boy wouldn’t go astray and as David pointed out The Old Maid/ Spinster U2 family.

I doubt it would ever happen but I’d imagine a He’s Warching out of Adore Me could a seriously fast horse! Two BGs Bunnys plus Farm timer who descends from Nora Adelle and has two lines of family U2

Of course the beauty of discussing breeding theories is just that, it’s theory and no one is necessarily more right then another and as they say opinions are like a***holes, everyone has one!

See also Kevin’s comment to this post. Click on the arrow alongside “One comment” below.

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In my previous post I listed 3 ways to help decide whether a sire carries the “X factor”. I should have included a 4th bullet point:

  • From his pedigree. The presence of commonly agreed ‘X factor’ damsires in his maternal lines, and the production record of his dam, grandam and great-grandam will also indicate whether a sire has increased chance of carrying the X factor himself. It is more certain if his maternal line production statistics show a higher proportion of foals to starters/winners (and good winners), but also if the mare did this with a range of sires rather than just one, and if the successful horses are colts as well as fillies. This indicates that the X chromosone she contributes may be a dominant one and carrying quality genes. A sire that is a “one off” superb horse but  not supported by some strong production statistics in his previous 2 or 3 maternal generations is much more of a gamble. Flashing Red would be an extreme example of this – a fantastic horse himself, but walking a fairly thin pedigree line.

However even with all the indicators flicking brightly, a sire can still be a disappointment at stud. This may be a result of getting mares with the wrong gene pool to complement his, or because of some other attribute he often passes on (fizzy temperament, conformation fault, lack of mental toughness, or just leaving bigger types that will take a lot of time to strength and mature).

So the X factor is just one of the things that go into the mix.

Refer to the articles that Ray Chaplin and I put together on Rich N Elegant and her siring sons for an example of this puzzle.

I’m not an expert in this at all, and I would love to hear from others who have more experience than I do – do you think the X factor is over-rated? What is the importance of heart size in today’s harness racing?

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Question came in recently from Kevin:  “I am looking for a list of Sires that carry the X Factor..Is there one, and where would i find it.”

I’d be interested in what others think or lists that people have found useful, but here is my views on the topic:

I don’t know of any list of standardbred sires that claims to identify current sires that carry the X factor. I am aware that Marianna Haun has published a list of galloping sires in her book “Understanding the Power of the X factor”, but she carefully defines what the list is – basically some current thoroughbred sires that possibly carry specific important heartlines and trace back to Eclipse (who was born in 1764) (See page 80 of her book).

It would be possible to do something similar for trotting and pacing, and there may be some pedigree/breeding consultancy services that will have databases that allow them to factor this into their evaluations of sires, damsires and mares. Such a list would be possible by either by tracing pedigrees back to Eclipse’s standardbred descendants or by listing current sires who are underpinned by proven producing mares and damsires – the great trotting and pacing families of the modern era.

There are pedigrees like that which maximise the chances of a sire inheriting a large heart. However even those lines can over time become diluted if mares are not matched with compatible sires that ‘bring out the best’ the mare has to offer and keep carryng those quality genes forward. Families “go off the boil” for a time, and often branches of them simply peter out. Even when matches are well considered, there is an element of ‘russian roulette’ about which X chromosome a foal will inherit.

In my view it is not as simple as labelling sires as ‘big hearted’ or not. The X factor usually refers to abnormally larger hearts, exceptional hearts. I’m not sure that an abnormally large heart is the ‘pot of gold’ some people think it is. In terms of heart scores, is a horse with an exceptional 150 score necessarily going to be that much better as a racehorse than one with a very good score of 120?  As in motor-racing, the car with the biggest engine has an advantage, but many other factors make a winner.

How can you tell if a sire potentially carries a large-heart gene?

  • From their performance on the track. All other things being equal, big hearted horses have had a real advantage on the racetrack, and thus are more likely to achieve the consistent top level “stand out” racing performances that are required to become a commercial sires these days.
  • From their performance in the breeding barn, those sires will soon start to build a reputation as a sire of good fillies, not just of colts.
  • And in the longer run, from their performance as damsires, leaving females that go on to be good broodmares of both male and female offspring.

By their deeds you will know them – although it is much harder to gauge new boys hot off the track, as the more reliable signs will only be apparent later.

Some horses (male and female) will never get the chance to pass on their big heart genes because for some other reason they did not show enough potential as a racehorse or their family is not commercial enough.

A list of sires only tells half the story. If you agree that the big heart gene is carried on the X chromosome, then the mares served by a sire play a huge role in carrying and passing on good heart lines.

Firstly, if the larger heart gene is sex-specific (i.e. carried on the X chromosome) then a sire cannot pass this larger heart to his sons. Male foals are the product of a Y chromosome from their sires and an X chromosome from their dams. So the idea that In The Pocket passed on his own heart size to Courage Under Fire and Christian Cullen, for example, doesn’t stand up.

On the other hand, female foals receive an X chromosome from both parents. One of these is likely to be dominant or “expressed”.  It may (or may not) be one that carries a larger heart gene. A larger heart gene could be on the X chromosome from the sire (from his dam), or it could be on one or both of the two X chromosomes the mare carries. This is what is referred to as a single copy or double copy mare.

Marianna Haun explains this really well in Chapter 9 of Looking for the Great Heart (in “Understanding the Power of the X factor”) and describes how to look for the signs of the X factor in the productions statistics of mares and sires.

So there are no guarantees even by breeding a filly from a sire that is carrying a large heart gene, that the foal will express that gene. But of course it does help your chances.

My previous blogs about Nedda, Nedda Guy, Esther, Volomite and the link back to Eclipse might show an example of how quality lines and big hearts can endure through many generations and pop up in modern pedigrees in different places.

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The qualities that Nedda had, she passed on to her daughter Nedda Guy, and Nedda Guy passed them to On Time who passed them on to the great racehorse and sire Good Time, his full sister Our Time, and several of her other nine foals (all winners). These enduring qualities were a result of several factors – but probably the most significant one is a thoroughbred mare called Esther.According to www.worldclasstrotting.com entry (this site has a great section on foundation mares/remarkable dams)

“Esther is the only thoroughbred that ranks as a foundation mare with the harness horse. And it all started with Leland Stanford, who wanted to experiment by crossing thoroughbred mares to his sire Electioneer 125.”


Expressive, dam of Atlantic Express (sire of Nedda)

In 1879 he bought several mares, one of which was Esther, and the resulting foals were all raised as trotters.

One of Esther’s daughters was Expressive (by Electioneer) who was a great racing mare and left some good progeny later in her broodmare career including Atlantic Express, the sire of Nedda.  Atlantic Express is also the damsire of Dean Hanover, one of trotting’s quality racehorses of the 1930s who became a good sire and such an influential damsire. It is Dean Hanover who sired Goddess Hanover, the dam of super mares Cassin Hanover and Arpege – a ‘golden family’ of trotting that led to Angus Hall, Andover Hall, Texas, world champion Ayres,  and many more.

Another of Esther’s daughters was Mendocita (by Mendocino, a son of Electioneer), who didn’t race but whose own daughter Cita Frisco was the dam of the outstanding Volomite.

Volomite, sire of On Time

Volomite, mated with Nedda Guy to produce On Time, Olympia and Mighty Ned

So when Nedda’s daughter Nedda Guy was bred to Volomite, her progeny were 4×5 to Esther on maternal lines. The results are covered in my previous blog.

(Nedda herself was bred once to Volomite for a colt called Prologue who took a mark of 2.10 as a 3yo in 1932 and later stood in a very small way as a sire, first in US and then in Sweden.  But that’s breeding, it doesn’t work 100% of the time for many reasons.)

But let’s get back to Esther – what makes her so special? Followers of standardbred breeding will be familiar with the “x factor” theory, which points to strong evidence of large hearted lines being carried on the x chromosone, and thus able only to be passed from from dams to sons and daughters, but not from sires to sons. Esther is a thoroghbred mare that traces back through her dam Colisseum to Glencoe, sire of Pochahontas – and Glencoe is one who is recognised as a primary carrier of the giant heart of Eclipse. If you want more on this, find the books by Marianna Haun which although mainly about applying the theory to thoroughbred lines also cover trotting examples.

Nedda had another card up her sleeve – her own great-grandam was Ethelwyn (the great trotting family also known as Kathleen) who traces back in two directions on x lines to Eclipse.

Now none of this would have guaranteed Nedda the ability, speed and courage that she showed and that she passed on. But it certainly would have helped maximise her chances.

Sometimes harking to the best of those great heart lines even well downstream can work. That might be by double ups, or it might be by referencing very compatible bloodlines again.

For example, as John Bradley points out in Modern Pacing Sire Lines, some of Good Time’s most successful sons and daughters had 3×3 crosses to Volomite (e.g. Race Time, Good Counsel) and others had 4×4 or similar double ups to Guy Axworthy who was Nedda Guy’s sire.

But I’d like to finish by returning to where this 3-part blog began – a salute to wonderful mother and daughter trotters, Nedda and Nedda Guy.  They had speed, determination, public affection, and even the ability to give punters a fright by making a slow getaway in a race…. Some things never change! For Nedda, born almost 100 years ago, to trot a mile in 1.581/4 is something to marvel at. What a sweetheart! What a trotter!

I was wondering what modern day mother-daughter combination has caught the trotting imagination like this? Petite Evander-Pride of Petite in New Zealand  immediately sprang to mind.

Any others you can think of? Comments please!

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