TALKIN' HORSES with Alan Porter

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20th December 2005

TALKIN’ HORSES with Alan Porter


Pedigree advisor Alan Porter has been professionally involved with Thoroughbreds for almost 30 years, has been a writer on racing and breeding for more than 25 years, and has been planning matings for 18 years.

 

 
Over the years, Porter has written columns for The Daily Racing Form, The Thoroughbred Daily News, Pacemaker, The Australian Bloodhorse Review and Owner, Breeder International, as well as contributing to numerous other publications in Europe, Japan, and North America.

Porter has also authored three books, appeared as a speaker at numerous seminars and conferences around the world, provided pedigree commentary on camera for Fox Sports network and New York Times Television, and has been involved in the matings for more than 100 stakes winners, including champions or classic winners in at least ten countries.
Most recently (all in 2005) these include Frost Giant [Killavullen Stakes (G3)], Blues and Royals [UAE Derby (G2)], Seeking the Ante [Nassau County Stakes (G2)], Indian Vale [Turnback the Alarm Handicap (G3), Falls City Handicap (G2)) and Benicio (Victoria Derby (G1)].

Porter also helped Bob Logan with the mating for Golden Slipper Winner Polar Success.
 

 
Montreal, Canada
Hello Mr. Porter, I realize that Ghostzapper is a truly brilliant racehorse, but does that warrant a $200,000 stud fee in his first year? Thank you for your time.

Porter:
We're starting with a tough one. It is a higher fee than horse such as Smarty Jones, Mineshaft and Fusaichi Pegasus have retired at in recent years. On the other hand, Ghostzapper is almost certainly the best runner we've seen in North America at least since the Cigar/Holy Bull era, and possible longer than that. He was also rare in that he was outstanding over such a wide range of distances.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to supply and demand. Ghostzapper will be supported by a very strong group of mares from his owners, and that means that there will probably be a relatively small supply of seasons available. In turn, this means a higher stud fee than if he had to be filled with 100-150 outside mares. At the end of the day, the market will decide...if $200,000 is too expensive, he won't get the outside mares his connections want and there will be an adjustment.
 

 
Springfield, MO
If you could have a free breeding to just one of the new stallions for 2006, which would you choose?
 
Porter:
I suppose the obvious answer is Ghostzapper, as he's the most expensive! Actually, there are a lot of interesting horses retiring this year, and in part it would demand on what mare or mares I had. I am coming up with Saint Liam as potentially fitting a lot of different mares; so of the top horses, if I had to start with the free breeding and then find a mare, I might go with him.
 

 
Surrey, BC
I watched Northern Dancer from the time he didn't reach his $25k sale reserve to the end of his career. Afleet Alex strikes me as a similar colt. His story to date is similar. ND far exceeded expectations in the breeding shed. How do you compare their pedigree? Is it possible AA will be the next Northern Dancer? Similar conformation and both had heart.

Porter:
Anything is possible, but Northern Dancers come along once or twice in a lifetime. I think with the compression in the breed which has taken place - meaning there is a decreasing gap between the very best horses and the average horses - it might be difficult for any horse to be as continually dominant as the giants of the past.

It's hard to look at Northern Dancer's pedigree afresh without letting hindsight influence. Overall, though, I would say that it was stronger than Afleet Alex's appears at the moment (although that could change, of course). His sire, Nearctic, was a good horse -- Saratoga Special and several Canadian stakes at two, and Champion in Canada at four -- and he was beautifully-bred (by Nearco out of a Hyperion mare). His dam - Natalma - was stakes placed and was by Native Dancer out of Almahmoud, a stakes winning daughter of Mahmoud (Champion Sire and English Derby winner). Of course, Almahmoud ended up also being granddam of two other good sires, Halo and Arctic Tern, and is now in the female line (through Natalma) of Danehill and Machiavellian.
 

 
Lexington, KY
On stallion potential alone, if you had to take a well performed horse with a modest pedigree or a moderately performed horse with a good pedigree as a stallion, which would you choose? Would you choose a horse like, say, Strawberry Road over a horse like Hussonet?
 
Porter:
There are always exceptions, but I think, historically speaking, if you look at achievement relative to expectation and opportunity, it has been moderately-performed horses with good pedigrees that have outperformed initial opportunity/expectations and high-class horses with modest pedigrees that tend to be among those who are more disappointing. Strawberry Road is an interesting one - he was a very good horse whose pedigree wasn't fashionable, and he was by a well-bred modest runner (Whiskey Road) who turned out to be a pretty good stallion in Australia. Not to take anything from Strawberry Road, who was a good sire (and looks a promising broodmare sire), but he was also helped by the fact that his owner had a good broodmare band and was happy to have later developers and turf horses, which Strawberry Road frequently got.
 

 
Stamford, CT
Indian Ocean is a new stallion in Florida for 2006. He has Storm Bird and his full sister Oceana 3x3 at the top and at the bottom of the pedigree. And those siblings are crossed with Secretariat, providing a reverse cross. What mare lines would go well here?
 
Porter:
This is going to be a much shorter answer than I would normally have to give, because it would take an in depth study. Briefly, however, we could look at things which have worked with Stormy Atlantic and are not in the dam, such as Seattle Slew, Notebook (Bold Ruler via Raja Baba), Damascus, Buckpasser, and His Majesty. Other strains which have done well with Storm Cat, such as Alydar and Blushing Groom, might go well. You could also experiment with some of the genetic relatives to Storm Bird (Nijinsky II, The Minstrel) or bring in Fanfreluche (particularly through D’Accord or Medaille d’Or – in Florida through Tour d’Or, who are Secretariat/Northern Dancer crosses). Halo’s family, through Cannonade, Rexson (in Florida, via Rexson’s Hope), Maribeau, L’Emigrant, etc. might also do well.
 

 
Sacramento, CA
Sometimes a horse might not be perfect but his or her blood's as blue as it gets or vice versa. At what point do you ignore a conformation flaw because the pedigree is very good or when do you ignore a poor pedigree because the conformation's stellar? What tips the balance for you, and does a horse come to mind that had the best balance you can think of?
 
Porter:
I don’t think I would ignore a poor pedigree for stellar conformation if I was breeding to race. I think that kind of horse is probably better for producing for the show ring. For a runner, we are primarily looking for athleticism. From the point of view of using a stallion who has conformation flaws – which most do, including some of the very best – I would firstly be concerned whether he was athletic enough to run through them. I would then be concerned to send a mare who did not herself duplicate or throw those faults. Other than that, I wouldn’t lose sleep about conformation flaws in a well-bred, well-performed horse….he would certainly have a better shot than a beautiful individual who couldn’t run and/or had a poor pedigree.
 

 
Melbourne, Victoria
I read news recently on the site about Rakti coming to shuttle to Australia. Although he is another of the Danzig line horses to stand down here, he is not that inbred and I'm not sure what to make of the family. He is a European Champion on the track with many U.S. influences in his pedigree. He will be a very interesting horse for Australia, but I do not know what to make of him. What are your thoughts on his pedigree?
 
Porter:
Well, he’s from the right male line – he is a son of Danzig, and obviously that strain had done very well in Australia. He’s got some Fair Trial, Tudor Minstrel, and Alycidon in the dam, and those strains have done well in Australia. He was also a tough and versatile horse (if somewhat temperamental), a group one winner from a mile to a mile and a half.
 

 
Wynnewood, PA
You suggest, in your writings, that the breed has reached new pinnacle, that there is now far less genetic diversity. As I recall your conclusion was based on the following: 1. No final time improvement in Triple Crown and similar distance races. 2. Inability of the present and recent past stallion population to establish a relatively consistent upper hierarchy. I consider this as insufficient evidence. What other evidence -- and empirical evidence, if any -- have you to support such conclusions?

Porter:
Actually, this is not quite my hypothesis. My opinion would be not that the breed has reached a new pinnacle, but that the standard of the best horses (in the U.S. and leading European countries) ceased improving significantly around 30-50 years ago. There’s nothing particularly odd about this, it’s happened in human athletics in some events. For example, in the 800m only one person has bettered the time set by Sebastian Coe about 20 years ago. I don’t recall suggesting that there is less genetic diversity – in the U.S., however, there is more of a specialization of type focused on horses who are most effective between 7-9 furlongs and who can gut it out to a mile and a quarter on occasion.

I have never actually conducted the study you note in (1). What is clear is that final times of races are not dramatically improving. Dr. Fager’s world record for one mile on dirt, for example, has not been beaten on that surface (it was tied by Najran). However, a low 1:33 mile (a record when set by Buckpasser) is not particularly rare, and an awfully lot of ordinary horses can run 1:09 and change, 1:22 and change, and so on -- time which would have been exceptional 50 years ago. What I would suggest is that the standard of the very best horses is not significantly improving, but the standard of the average horse has, so there is less of a gap between the best and the rest. This means that competition at the highest level is more intense, and one of the results is that the best horses can’t compete as often as in the past.

It’s fairly clear that, if you look at the best stallions of say 20 years ago, there was a dominant group – Seattle Slew, Mr. Prospector, Nijinsky II, Alydar, Fappiano, Nureyev, Danzig – and I don’t think anyone would suggest that there is such a well defined hierarchy now. Another indicator is that – from memory – 10 of the last 13 Kentucky Derby winners have been sired by stallions who were standing at $15,000 or less when they sired the Derby winner. The best stallions aren’t able to dominate the greatest race.
 

 
Charles Town, WV
Being from Charles Town, speed is of the essence at our racetrack. What are some of the best crosses for speed currently, and are there any good bargains?
 
Porter:
There are some potential good bargains for sheer speed. I think out and out speed is a truer breeding characteristic than classic ability (which comes from a more complex combination of physical attributes). I would go through some stallion books and stallion ads looking for some horses who consistently ran fast early fractions, and for this purpose, pedigree wouldn’t be as big a concern, so there should be some value. As far as bloodlines, Carson City is one who comes to mind who gets a lot of horses with early speed – Five Star Day and Cuvee being two examples in the early part of their stud career – some of the other Mr. Prospector branches, including Gone West, have got some very fast early speed horses.
 

 
Sugar Land, TX
Which new stallions that stand for less than $10,000 do you see as potentially great dam sires?
 
Porter:
It’s hard for stallions at this stud fee to become great broodmare sires, as they don’t get bred to mares from the kind of female lines which make for good broodmares. If I was looking for inexpensive stallions to breed a mare to hoping to get a filly, I would look for some well-bred, older racehorse sires, who aren’t as fashionable as they once were – horses like Cryptoclearance, Crafty Prospector, Pleasant Tap – come to mind. I like horse which were themselves out of good mares, and/or are by good broodmare sires and/or from strong families – in this price range, one could see horses like Mutakkdim, Cape Canaveral, Silver Ghost, Out of Place doing well in this role.
 

 
Baltimore, MD
So many big name stallions are looking at 100-150 mares a season. How many mares do you think a stallion can responsibly be bred to provided the demand is there?

Porter:
In terms of the stallions to handle bigger books, there is the potential because the number of covers per mare has come down with improved veterinary techniques.

In terms of the effect on the commercial market and the breed as a whole, I think the real question is: unless there is some outside regulation imposed (highly unlikely) or self regulation (also somewhat unlikely), large books for the most popular stallions are a reality for the immediate future, so how do we best deal with the situation? For a breeder, I think it is very important not to over breed a mare as the buyer is going to have so many other weanlings or yearlings to choose from. The bigger books do also mean that disappointing stallions get found out in a shorter period of time. For good or bad, however, it's something we're going to have to live with for the moment.
 

 
San Francisco, CA
Who would you feel should be the Broodmare of the Year? Maggie Hawk possibly?
 
Porter:
I’d honestly want to do some research on that one. Maggie Hawk would have to be a candidate, not only for Afleet Alex, but also for Unforgettable Max and both sired by a stallion who was at the time a very inexpensive horse.
 

 
Dunnellon, FL
Are many breeders taking into account airway surgeries, bleeding, and procedures on foal legs, in selecting matings? Or is enough known about which horses have had things done to them? Will it just become accepted that ALL race horses run on Salix and have airway surgery?
 
Porter:
It’s pretty difficult – if not impossible - at the moment to know which stallions and mares had some procedures when they were foals – I’ve known of correct mares who consistently threw very crooked foals to a variety of stallions – suggesting they might have had corrective surgery. I don’t know about the airway surgery – although I know one major claiming owner said he did a myectomy on every horse he claimed – but I think we have to accept that virtually all horses are going to race on Salix/Lasix as long as it is perceived has being generally performance enhancing.
 


Charlotte, NC
Who do you like for the Derby if you had to pick between Private Vow, Stevie Wonderboy, Henny Hughes, or First Samurai?
 
Porter:
I wouldn’t claim to have any great ability as a handicapper, but on pedigree and on general impression I would tend to go for Private Vow and Stevie Wonderboy. Henny Hughes, despite his great effort in the Breeders’ Cup, seems like more of a sprinter/miler type (although a lot of these are stretching out for the Derby distance, at least against their fellow three-year-olds in the spring). It’s hard to see why Henny Hughes would reverse the Breeders’ Cup result over ten furlongs, everything else being equal. First Samurai is a harder horse to weigh up. Giant’s Causeway certainly stayed ten furlongs well, but his dam line is quite speedy. Private Vow and Stevie Wonderboy both look as if they will be suited
 

 
Atlanta, GA
What are your thoughts on Smarty Jones as a sire before we see his first foals? I can't find a good conformation shot. Even the Three Chimneys website doesn't have a good shot and it almost seems like they don't want me to see something which sounds silly. How is he as a physical specimen?
 
Porter:
It’s not unusual for farms to use a racing shot in a horse’s first season, before he has let down. There is a posed conformation portrait of Smarty Jones in the BloodHorse Stallion Register and on their online stallion register. As for Smarty’s chances at stud – he must at least have a shot. Apart from his own racing ability, he’s by a very good sire - son of Gone West and from the La Troienne family. And just as importantly, he has been well-supported at stud.
 

 
New York, NY
Do you consider Tiznow a surprise at stud? Did he get lucky or is a Storm Cat mare his way to go? I have to say I enjoy the potential for a strong stallion who is tail-male to Man o'War because it's so hard to find nowadays.
 
Porter:
I agree that it’s good to see a Man o’War horse start well (although last year’s leading freshman Successful Appeal is also from that sire line). It’s early days to say anything conclusive about Tiznow on the basis of his runners, how;ever, while it’s encouraging to see him get a good horse in his first crop of two-year-olds, one standout doesn’t yet say a lot about his prospects one way or another. We’ll have a lot better idea this time next year. In our Owner.Breeder notes on first year horses, we marked Storm Cat as a possible good cross as Tiznow’s granddam has some genetic similarities to Storm Cat, so it's not surprising to see this work.
 

 
Crompond,  NY
What is your opinion of Rock Hard Ten's potential to sire winning race horses? What family of mares is best suited to his pedigree? One "criticism" is that Kris S. has done poorly as a sire of sires, and RHT is going to sire late developing horse. Is there any validity to this criticism?

Porter:
Rock Hard Ten was certainly a very talented, and for these times, versatile runner. Kris S. hasn’t been a sire of sires, but one factor might be that he started at stud very inexpensively and, therefore, some of his first stallion sons were out of mares by some pretty funky broodmare sires. Rock Hard Ten is out of a mare by Mr. Prospector, who was a Champion Two-Year-Old in France and a group one winner sprinting at two.

I’d like to see some Mr. Prospector line mares bred back to him. There are already 11 stallions which are out of mares by Mr. Prospector and who have sired stakes winners Mr. Prospector inbreeding, four of them getting grade one winners with this pattern. The Raise a Native/Native Dancer line should also do well here through Alydar and Sharpen Up. Rock Hard Ten is free of Northern Dancer, several Northern Dancer line stallions broodmare sire line of Kris S. line stakes winners, including Dixieland Band, Danzig, Storm Bird/Storm Cat, Nureyev and Nijinsky II. Blushing Groom, Graustark and In Reality could also do well.

Generally speaking, it’s probably fair to say the Rock Hard Ten’s are going to be better at three and four than at two. Don’t forget, however, that he would have been a live contender for the Kentucky Derby, had he not missed the race due to lack of earnings (due to his dq in the Santa Anita Derby), so there is no reason that his offspring wouldn’t be early enough to be Derby runners. Kris S. got two Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners – Brocco and Action This Day – and the dam was a Champion at two, so some high quality back end two-year-old winners are certainly not impossible.
 


San Luis Obispo, CA
I don't have a question. I just want to say it's a privilege to read these questions and your answers. Thank you for a fascinating chat.
 

 
Weston, CT
What do you think of Holy Bull's reemergence as a sire? With Giacomo, Woke Up Dreamin', and Bull Market now at stud in '06, do you think he could be a sire of sires and continue the Plaudit line? Also, what do you foresee for the future of the Princequillo line now that Meadowlake is deceased?
 
Porter:
The Plaudit (and Domino) branches of the Himyar line just refuse to die. Holy Bull has done pretty well for a horse with his pedigree. He’s not an obvious sire of sires, but Woke Up Dreamin’ is interesting as he has a very good pedigree on his dam's side (out of a Storm Cat mare going back to Almahmoud) and could be something of a sleeper. Giacomo is quite an outcross to most commercial strains so that will at least give him a range of probabilities. Let’s not forget the best one of all – Macho Uno – a half-brother to Awesome Again, who is in Florida, where the bloodlines should suit Holy Bull and who will have received strong support from the Stronach broodmare band.
 


Bethseda, MD
Who will win the Kentucky Derby first: a) German-bred runner b) Japanese-bred runner?
 
Porter:
I don’t see either happening in the near future, but I’d go for Japan, as they have more U.S. bloodlines and some dirt racing, whereas German horses are exclusively turf.
 

 
Washington, D.C.
What is your opinion of Ghostzapper as a stallion including his soundness? Was his sesamoid injury really just a result of being that good and that fast or is there physical concern with breeding to him?
 
Porter:
As we said earlier, Ghostzapper was a truly exceptional horse. He’s by as good a young stallion as there is at stud, and he’s half-brother to City Zip, who is the leading freshman sire this year by number of winners. So he’s got everything going for him. I wouldn’t be paranoid about him from a soundness point of view, if he had retired at four, rather than coming back at five, it wouldn’t have even been mentioned as an issue. And, yes, probably as hard and as fast as he ran, he would have been putting more stress on the “chassis” than an average horse.
 

 
Floral Park, NY
What Kind of mares do you think are best suited for Leroidesanimaux and will his hoof problems be a concern?

Porter:
I’m not sure of the exact nature of Leroidesanimaux’s problem – I saw it described as “sore feet” but he’d been in action for over a year when the problem arose and had won eight straight before the Breeders’ Cup…it doesn’t seem like anything which is a specific genetic flaw, just the consequence of his campaign.

He is a Blushing Groom line horse from a European family (includes Banks Hill, Intercontinental, Heat Haze out of a half-sister to his dam). He should be good with Northern Dancer, particularly Danzig, Nijinsky II, Sadler’s Wells, Nureyev. Roberto could go well here. The sire had U.S. stakes winners from the Mr. Prospector, Private Account, Bold Bidder, Never Bend, and Caro.
 


Cave Creek AZ
Do you think Alysheba is underrated as a broodmare sire?
 
Porter:
I think he’s more of a wise guy horse than under-rated. That is, those who are into pedigrees recognize him as a very nice broodmare sire, albeit more for turf than dirt. The problem with trying to find a younger one is that he didn’t get such good mares as he got older, so the younger daughters tend not to have such good pedigrees.
 

 
Raleigh, NC
It seems like we're getting more of a trickle of Sunday Silence progeny in this country than we've had in the past. How would you have expected him to perform as an American sire all these years had he stayed, and will the influence of his offspring be significant in the U.S.? Was his influence overrated in Japan for any reason like race restrictions or purse inflation? So many of them seem talented but I wonder how much of the perception is skewed. How should we really rate Sunday Silence?
 
Porter:
Given that the best Japanese horses are clearly very good, we’d have to acknowledge Sunday Silence as an outstanding stallion. He probably received better opportunities in Japan in relative terms than he would have received here, but it's hard to believe that he wouldn’t have sired some very good horses in the U.S. as well. He’s probably not going to have a huge influence in the U.S. as it’s unlikely that we are going to get one of his top sons to be commercial here; so, unless there is a top-class U.S. sired horse out of a Sunday Silence mare which goes on to be a stallion, his influence will probably be limited. To sum up, I would say, a very good stallion by any standards, but best regarded as a seminal influence in his time and place – like Star Kingdom in Australia and Sir Tristram in New Zealand, for example.
 


 

 

 
Jersey City, NJ
Can the great sire Danehill have the same worldwide effect on the breed as his grandsire Northern Dancer?
 
Porter:
It’s unlikely, as with dirt and turf bloodlines growing more disparate, he’s unlikely to have the same impact on U.S. dirt racing as he has had on turf in Australia and Europe.
 

 
Berkeley, CA
Given Afleet Alex's pedigree, do you think he has the potential to produce contenders for the Triple Crown and other classics? Does he have classic blood in his pedigree?

Porter:
Well, we’ve had something like 11 of the last 14 Kentucky Derby winners sired by horses that were standing for $15,000 or less when they got the Derby winner, so it’s getting hard to tell where they are going to come from. It seems like the U.S. classic pedigree is changing somewhat, in that we are getting Derby winners by sprinter/miler types who could just about stretch to 8 ½ furlongs – Distorted Humor, Elusive Quality, and Northern Afleet who have the last three Derby winners fit the mold. It might be that the sprinter/miler type is getting a horse who is more the finished product in early May, and at that stage is faster, more mature, and stronger than his staying bred contemporaries.

Afleet Alex has quite a nice blend of speed and stamina in his pedigree. Northern Afleet was a graded winner at 7, 8 ½ and 9 furlongs and placed in the Met Mile. The broodmare sire, Hawkster, was a two-year-old grade one winner who stayed 12 furlongs, and is by Silver Hawk, and English Derby placed son of English Derby winner, Roberto. The granddam is by Champion Turf Horse Hawaii, another who stayed 12 furlongs.

From the mix of aptitudes in his pedigree – which expressed themselves in a very versatile runner – he has the background to sire horses who will be effective at classic trips.
 

 
Auckland NZ
Is your expertise sought after in the Southern Hemisphere?
 
Porter:
I’m fortunate enough to have been able to work with many clients in the Southern Hemisphere and have been lucky enough to be involved with the matings for a Melbourne Cup and a Golden Slipper winner, as well as the winner of this year’s Victoria Derby.
 


Columbus, OH
Pardon my ignorance on the subject, but, why can't a horse go to stud and also remain in training to race?

Porter:
Actually, some horses have done just that, one notable example being Seabiscuit. In general, however, a horse is frequently injured, or at or passing his peak when the decision to retire him is made, so there would be no upside in bringing him back to race. It would also be hard to get a horse back to fitness for major fall contests after a full stud season (and that assumes he isn’t shuttling to the Southern Hemisphere). Of course, there is also the question of how focused on racing a horse would be after discovering the delights of breeding!
 


Newark, DE
What tests are done on a horse to determine if he will be a good breeding prospect? And is this done by the owner before they say we are going to retire this horse to stud duty?
 
Porter:
The only formal test which usually happens is, if there is going to be a financial transaction, there is an inspection of the horse to determine that he insurable as a stallion prospect (testicles of normal size and consistency and so on). Apart from that, it is a question of whether a horse’s performances and pedigree will lead to a buyer purchasing him for duty as a stallion, or whether the owner considers it worth the expense of standing him.
 

 
San Francisco, CA
Alan: Can you shed some light on the following question that I and many of my friends have wondered about: Why is it that so many horses are castrated or "gelded" at such an early age? Wouldn't that diminish their eventual value as there will be no stud careers for them? Just look at Declan's Moon or Funny Cide as two sad examples--or the great Forego. It makes little sense to us that castration is still such a widespread practice. I know that there are situations in which a horse is deemed too "rank" and therefore not trainable and castration is resorted to. Or, if testicles are deemed to interfere with movement or are undescended, they're removed. But still, it certainly appears that people should be more restrained before they resort to such an extreme measure, if only because of the financial ramifications. Also, who makes these decisions? The breeder? The trainer? The owners? A joint decision? Thanks
 
Porter:
I’m not sure about Declan’s Moon, but Funny Cide was cut because a testicle interfered with his action, so if he hadn’t been gelded, we’d probably never have heard of him. Forego was gelded because of his extreme size and difficult temperament. Actually relatively few horses are cut here early in their career, as opposed to say, England. Usually, if a horse is cut, the decision is taken because of physical (too heavy fronted, testicles interfering with action) or temperamental concerns. Owners do not generally lightly do away with the potential stud careers of promising and well-bred youngsters!
 


West Friendship, MD
I believe I understand breeding "type to type" and nick ratings. Are they equally important? If not, which should be give more weight when selecting a stallion for your mare?
 
Porter:
All of these things are a general guide. Nick ratings are just a generalized measure of affinity between the stallion (or sire line of the stallion) and the broodmare sire (or his sire line). In the most generally popular commercial application, this is a nick rating based on hypothetical opportunity. It is, however, a broad guide to general trends. In terms of breeding type to type, it's generally acknowledged that breeding radically different individuals doesn’t gent to work well. If I was finalizing a mating, I would want to be happy with both the “nick” (or whatever other pedigree criteria I was using) and with the physical match.
 

 
Locust Valley, NY
Two of the more expensive horses entering stud in 2006, Rock Hard 10 & Afleet Alex, both carry strains of Roberto. Please comment on the Roberto's influence on the breed and explain why breeders were historically reluctant to embrace his bloodlines; do you see a swing in that reluctance with Rock Hard 10 & Afleet Alex both entering stud with such high stud fees this year?
 
Porter:
Roberto has generally been traveling in the direction of being a turf influence. I think that was the biggest problem with him commercially. Of his best active sons, Dynaformer has established himself as a high level force and will stand at $100,000, while Red Ransom – who started in the U.S. - has been exported to Europe, where he is highly regarded. It will be interesting to see if either Dynaformer gets a stallion son or Rock Hard Ten – a grandson – can establish a male line. As a grade one winner from seven to ten furlongs, and out of a Mr. Prospector mare, he is probably the last, best hope. Unless that happens, I think the Roberto influence will become more marginalized as far as U.S. dirt racing is concerned. Afleet Alex is an extended reverse cross to Rock Hard Ten – Mr. Prospector/Roberto (the dams of these two are by Nashua and are related). However, Roberto is going to be back in the fourth generation of his pedigree, and probably less of an influence.
 

 
Albany, NY
Pollard's Vision seemed a durable, versatile hors, making several successful starts after running in the Kentucky Derby. Carson City appears to becoming a sires of sires, with the recent success of City Zip and Five Star Day. Any thoughts on his potential as a sire and the types of mare that may suit him?
 
Porter:
He certainly was a tough runner, and City Zip and Five Star Day are giving Carson City a new lease of life as a sire of sires. Pollard’s Vision is a Mr. Prospector line horse with three crosses of Northern Dancer. Outcross strains which have done well with Carson City include from the Turn-to and Hail to Reason line, Best Turn and his son, Cox’s Ridge, Halo and Sir Gaylord; In Reality, through both Relaunch and Valid Appeal routes; and Bold Ruler through Seattle Slew and Secretariat. If more Northern Dancer was to be added, Storm Bird/Storm Cat line mares might work.
 


Concordia, KS
Buddha will have his first crop of two year olds in 2006. What do you think of their chances? Also, do you see him as a sire of early speed/late developers/hidden turf, or something like that?
 
Porter:
I like Buddha. He was very well received at the sales this year with 87 yearlings sold averaging nearly $85,000. I’d be looking for his two-year-olds to come along later in the year at 7f+ and to go on to be middle-distance three-year-olds and up. Generally speaking, I don’t think he’ll be an early speed or sprint sire. His broodmare sire, Storm Cat, has got good turf horses, and his second dam is by The Axe II, a turf influence, but the Unbridled/Unbridled Song line has tended to be much better on dirt than turf.
 


Saratoga Springs, NY
Might your comments about Afleet Alex apply to Pico Central as well? He's a sprinter/miler with Grey Dawn, Bold Bidder, and T.V. Lark in his female family.
 
Porter:
Pico Central does have some stamina elements back in the pedigree, but the difference between he and Afleet Alex is that Pico Central was a horse with extreme speed, who absolutely did not want to go any further than a mile. His sire, Spend a Buck, was very speedy and is by Buckaroo, who got the good Florida speed sire, Montbrook. The Grey Dawn II comes through his broodmare sire, Purple Mountain, who won the Fall Highweight when it was a G2 sprint. What will seal the deal is that he’ll mostly cover speed mares in the Florida market.
 

 
Lexington, KY
Can you give me some picks under $10,000 for an Affirmed mare out of a Summer Squall mare from the 20-a female family?
 
Porter:
Well, we don’t have time or space here for a full mating report, and it’s hard to be definitive about individual sires without seeing the whole pedigree of the mare. But there are general directions we could look in. A Storm Cat line horse would double the Storm Bird/Secretariat cross through Storm Cat and Summer Squall, and Storm Cat has been good with Affirmed. You could try a Deputy Minister line horse – he is from the family of Affirmed’s sire, Exclusive Native. Danzig is another strain which has been good with Affirmed. You could run through the Bloodhorse online stallion register for horses at $10,000 and under to find some from those sire lines.
 

 
Davis, CA
Thank you for an educational and informative chat. Do you feel that certain turf sires are better suited to producing runners for racing in California where the surfaces are harder? If so, which sires?
 
Porter:
That’s a good question. I originally come from England, and there we do note that some sires get turf horses which are better on firm ground and some with give in the ground. In fact, in the spring you would always get a lot of winners by horses who liked soft ground. The soft-ground sires were well-known just like horses whose runners do well on wet or muddy tracks here. I would think that firm ground sires would be better for California, but I must admit I haven’t done a study on U.S. horses which would tell me which do better on firm turf. It is a very good point, however.
 

 
Chicago, IL
Happy Holidays, Alan!! What 2 year old has the best pedigree that will have a great shot at winning the Derby? I know it is Dec. 05, but 'tis the season.
 
Porter:
Happy Holidays. Of the high-profile horses, Stevie Wonderboy has the “cleverest” pedigree as he is by a son of A.P. Indy out of a mare by Summer Squall, a half-brother to A.P. Indy. A.P. Indy won a Belmont and Summer Squall a Preakness, so it would be appropriate if inbreeding via them got a Derby winner. The best-bred horse in commercial terms is Bluegrass Cat. He’s out of an A.P. Indy mare, and his second dam is a graded stakes winner by Mr. Prospector out of grade one winner Dance Number. She was by Northern Dancer out of Champion Numbered Account going back to La Troienne, so he might be the one I would like to find a share in when I open my Xmas stocking!
 
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