09/06/2007 11:00PM

Modest sires score high on durability

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - If you're interested in breeding for longevity on the racetrack, the Durability Statistics Committee has some numbers that might interest you. The committee - one of several created during the Jockey Club and Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation's Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit a year ago - this week released two lists that spotlights some unexpected, and inexpensive, stallions whose progeny are performing above the national average in two important categories: percentage of starters from foals (currently averaging about 70 percent nationally) and average number of starts per runner (currently averaging about 16 for recent crops).

The idea, said committee chairman Ed Bowen, was to identify sires whose foals are beating those national averages in the face of a declining lifetime start rate nationwide. The average number of starts per starter was 11.31 for the year 1960, but by 2006 that had slipped to just 6.37.

Horses such as Brunswick, Demidoff, Groomstick, Petionville, Roar, and Turbulent Kris - who stand for between $1,000 and $15,000 - float to the top of the committee's charts, though some more high-fashion names, such as You and I and Yes It's True, also appear in the committee's top 30 either for percentage of starters from foals or for average number of starts per runner.

The top sire on the average-starts list was Demidoff, a Minnesota stallion who stood in 2007 for $3,000; the average for his offspring who started was 27.9 starts, making him one of two stallions above 27 (Groomstick had 27.1) and one of five with 25 or more average starts. Turbulent Kris, who stood this year for $1,500 Canadian in British Columbia, led the ranks by percentage of starters from foals with 88.9 percent; he was one of 51 horses on the chart who got 80 percent or more of his foals to the races.

The dearth of wildly popular commercial stallions at the top of either list should be taken lightly, considering that starters by horses such as Storm Cat, A. P. Indy, and Unbridled's Song, for example, often retire faster simply due to the economic climate of the breeding industry. In relatively few high-level starts, they can become more valuable as breeding stock than as racing stock, a fact that tempts owners to retire them early. So while the two statistical lists elevate some lesser-known sires, they don't necessarily condemn fashionable stallions.

Stallions appearing relatively high on one list and within the top 40 on the other include Ameri Valay ($2,500), who is 10th by percentage of starters with 85.4 percent and 18th by average starts with 22.1; Is It True (deceased), 13th by percentage of starters with 84.7 percent and 37th by starts with 20.6; Demaloot Demashoot ($2,500), seventh by starts with 24 and 27th by starters with 82.7 percent; and Native Regent ($1,500), 18th by percentage of starters with 84.2 percent and 27th by starts with 21.

"I hope it's useful to individuals breeding at a level where a few percentage points can be enticing to them," said Bowen, who also is president of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. "In a regional market, where there are a couple of stallions standing for $5,000, for example, this might be helpful in making a determination.

"Clearly," he added, "if you are a market breeder, you are going to look at this data differently than if you are breeding to race."

It's important for breeders to know the committee's criteria for the charts, Bowen emphasized. To be considered for the lists, sires must have had their first crops foaled in 1995 or later, stood in North America, had at least three crops of foals age 3 or older, and have at least 100 foals of racing age. They must also have had identifiable stud fees as of 2005 or later. Current 2-year-olds were excluded from both charts, and the statistics for each only considered Northern Hemisphere racing, but did not include Japanese races.

In addition, the average-starts chart only considered sires whose offspring who started averaged at least 20 starts, and the percentage-starters chart required a lifetime percentage of at least 70 percent starters from foals.

After crunching the numbers, committee members found some surprises.

"I was surprised that the leaders in the number of starts per starter didn't have higher numbers," Bowen said. "I'd have thought that a subset of stallions of this criteria would have statistics significantly higher than the leaders did. But, on the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised that so many horses had 55 percent or a higher percentage of foals that got to the races."

The committee members were Bowen; Dan Fick of the Jockey Club; James G. Bell of Darley USA; Rollin Baugh, bloodstock agent and Del Mar director; Mark Simon of Thoroughbred Times; Hiram Polk, breeder and owner; Ric Waldman of Waldman Consulting Services and Overbrook Farm; and Carl Hamilton and Mark Adkins of the Jockey Club Information Systems.

Complete charts are available at www.drf.com.