The breeding industry is enormous in the UK with an estimated 3,100 breeders in the country providing an economic contribution of £281 million per annum. There is also an estimated 34,000 acres of land in use specifically for breeding purposes.
Those looking to be players in the horseracing industry are prepared to pay a small fortune to own a horse that comes from great breeding. For example, Frankel, one of the greatest racehorses of all time, is worth an estimated £100 million today. When his first foal was sold at auction in 2014, it fetched an incredible £1.15 million; that’s quite a price to pay for potential!
It stands to reason that if people are willing to pay seven figure sums for well-bred horses, there must be a way for punters to profit from this industry. Creating genetic profiles of horses is another potentially lucrative pursuit; Thoroughbred Genetics Limited of Canterbury uses genome analysis to identify markers related to the strength, stamina, energy use and respiratory systems of horses.
The company claims its methods are 75% better than non-genetic ways to choose winners from a group of horses. It gives animals a performance profile based on analysis of approximately 750 markers. Its detailed tests give a strong indication of whether a horse is suited to long distance races, sprints or somewhere in the middle.
Of course breeding is not a foolproof method of finding winners. A famous example of a well-bred flop is Green Monkey; a 2-year-old colt with a fabulous pedigree that sold for $16 million at an auction in 2006. Its career was an utter failure as it ran just 4 races and couldn’t muster a single win.
What Does This All Mean For Punters?
In simple terms, a horse’s breeding should theoretically tell us what a horse should become based on its genetics. Most punters tend to shy away from using pedigree to pick winners but this could be a case of literally leaving money on the table. While it can be a complex process, I’ll try to simplify it below.
While you can use form and Official Ratings as your main guide when picking established horses, what can you do when forced to create ratings of your own? This refers to the assessment of horses that have either never raced before or are lightly raced with no real form to go on.
If you elect to simply ignore such matters, you’re basically dismissing the potential for finding winners on events such as 2-year-old maidens and there are plenty of races of this nature in the UK each year.
Rather than attempting to delve into the complex world of breeding in great detail, I’ll instead focus on detail’s pertaining to a horse’s sire which can potentially help find out useful information about the following:
- Going: Is the horse bred for fast or heavy ground?
- Course: Does the horse’s breeding indicate a possible preference for left or right-handed courses? Some horses find it tough to cope on stiff, uphill courses so this all needs to be taken into account.
- Distance: Does the horse’s lineage suggest a predilection towards sprints, middle distance or longer distance races?
This screenshot is taken from Timeform and outlines the highest rated Sires in British and Irish races from 2011-2014 inclusive. As you can see, Monsun is the top performer with an average rating of 84.1. For reference, an average rating of 80 is said to be the requirement to win a maiden in the UK and Ireland while 69 is the average rating to win a seller.
Yet the above stats relate to horses of all ages. Since you mainly use breeding as a betting factor in races where the horses have little or no form, the average ratings of 2-year-olds is a far more important indicator.
Again, the table above comes from Timeform and on this occasion; Galileo comes out on top with an average rating of 78.4. This clearly indicates that the progeny of Galileo perform well regardless of their age (as its offspring’s overall rating is 83.9 for all ages).
Therefore, if you discover a 2-year-old is the progeny of Galileo, it may be worth closer examination if it has no form to fall back on. Certainly, if you are comparing two horses in a 2-year-old race and find that one is the offspring of Galileo and the other is the offspring of Moss Vale, you would immediately be drawn towards the former as there is a 21.2 difference in the average ratings as seen above.
Incidentally, you can view the performances of all Galileo’s progeny on the Sporting Life website. The first entry sticks out like a sore thumb… Frankel!!!
Yet again, the table above is taken from Timeform and gives you vital information on whether a horse is likely to perform well over specific distances. The trouble is, this information isn’t as useful as it could be when it comes to events featuring 2-year-olds as few horses of this age ever run races beyond a mile.
The above table relates to the average distance at which mature offspring of the sires ‘ran to form’; this is defined as 5 pounds or less below the highest OR of the offspring in the calendar year.
The table does suggest that the offspring of Kodiac, Proclamation and Auction House are likely to fare better over a mile race than the progeny of Monsun and Galileo.
Dams & Damsires
You can look at the class of the dam itself along with its ability to produce high quality offspring. Alas, the sample sizes are much smaller than those of sires and it isn’t as easy to find this information in the first place.
Typically, unions between dams and sires are dictated by the sire’s importance. Premium quality dams tend to be sent to top class sires.
The damsire of a horse is the sire (the father) of a dam (the mother); in other words, the equivalent of a maternal grandfather. Again, it isn’t easy to find the information although the FlatStats.co.uk website has statistics relating to around 1,800 damsires on its database.
Breeding may well make your betting more profitable but its main use seems to be in relation to unraced or lightly raced horses. Additionally, it is sire stats that offer the most information. When you are able to trace the sire of a particular horse and compare the performance of that sire’s progeny against the pedigree of the rest of the runners, you may find the extra edge you need to pick a winner.
Nonetheless, it is far from being a precise process unless you have access to the technology of companies like Thoroughbred Genetics Limited!
 ‘The British Thoroughbred Breeding Industry: Economic Contributions & Opportunities- Volume 1 (2014)’ PwC