By Robert D. Fierro
The next time you have a major family gathering where your crazy Uncle Henry–the one who can’t shut up about politics and religion–is present, conjure up your DNA instinct, look around, and ask: Does Uncle Henry have a full (not step) brother? How many of the family units have two or more full brothers? How many of those full brothers resemble each other physically? And most importantly, how many of those full brothers are, or have been, on similar life tracks, and passed that on, in contrast to their siblings or other family members? (Note: Twins don’t count).
If any of them have nicknames like “Mike the Bull Dog,” or “His Majesty Fred,” or “Ziggy Freud,” you might want to check for hooves and tails.
We live in interesting times, and when it comes to Thoroughbred breeding, somewhat unusual times given the sudden dominance of a few sire lines in North America that seem to spawn every major stakes winner and champion.
But hidden in those records is something the archivers have never seen: At the end of 2017, there were two pairs of full bothers who finished in the top 40 sires in North America by earnings–Giant’s Causeway and his brother Freud (Storm Cat–Mariah’s Storm, by Rahy), and Flatter and his brother Congrats (A.P. Indy–Praise, by Mr. Prospector).
Indeed, full brothers have not been that successful since Graustark and His Majesty more than 30 years ago. Those two were the first to come along in over half a century when Selene’s sons Pharamond II (grandsire of Tom Fool) and Sickle (great-grandsire of Native Dancer), and Plucky Liege’s dynamic French-bred duo of *Bull Dog and *Sir Gallahad III were successful.
Full brothers at stud are not uncommon–there have been hundreds of examples through the years, but full brothers who were among the leading sires of their era are rare, indeed. For example, consider Mr. Prospector and Red Ryder. On looks, the former resembled Count Fleet, sire of his second dam and that entire female family, that of Myrtlewood. Red Ryder, on the other hand, was a spitting image of Raise a Native–but not nearly as efficiently made; he was eventually sold to South Africa.
We thought it might be interesting to see if there were commonalities in this group for whom we have biomechanical records that might not have been present in others. We do have these records for Graustark (an apparently burly chestnut), and His Majesty (an apparently more elegant bay) and discovered that “apparently” hardly applies. That’s because both had biomechanical measurements and profiles that were almost identical–they were the same Phenotype–and they bred on almost identically. Graustark only got one son who carried on–Key to the Mint–while His Majesty had Pleasant Colony and Cormorant who made some subsequent noise.
Thus, when we analyzed the current quartet, we were somewhat taken aback that the full brothers were very similar in Phenotype, almost the same size in most key biomechanical measurements, and their overall profiles as potentially successful sires also quite similar. This does not happen often among pairs of full brothers that we have analyzed in the past, or present.
Ironically, we wouldn’t be in this situation if some people didn’t take some risks. By most standards, neither Freud nor Flatter should have gone to stud with as much confidence from their connections as they obviously had. Flatter, for example, never won a stakes and placed in just a Grade II event, but he went to stud at Claiborne before his year-younger brother Congrats emerged as a Grade II winner and overall serious racehorse. Similarly, Freud, who also placed in a Group 2 event, went to stud in New York a year after Giant’s Causeway settled in at Ashford Stud.
Granting the fact that Giant’s Causeway had the opportunities, he certainly has taken advantage of them with an 8% stakes winner strike rate in the Northern Hemisphere and a 6% rate in Argentina. His son Shamardal is a major stallion in Europe, and he has plenty of other successful sons at stud all over the place, ranging from the well-established First Samurai to the newcomer Creative Cause.
On the other hand, the results have been quite eye-opening for the other three. Freud has moved well beyond being the most successful stallion ever to retire directly to stud in New York with Grade I winners at NYRA and in Argentina and a classy Kentucky-bred in Sharp Azteca among his 46 stakes winners to date.
Congrats hit his stride immediately with two Grade I-winning fillies in his first crop, Turbulent Descent and Wickedly Perfect. Indeed, nine of his 10 top earners are fillies.
Flatter is the one who has become the surprise star. He has 43 stakes winners thus far and six out of his top 10 are colts. They include 2017 Eclipse champion 3-year-old colt West Coast and the high-class Flat Out, Upstart, and Kobe’s Back–now all at stud.
There you have it. Something to jaw over at the next family barbecue or wedding, or Thanksgiving dinner. Do us a favor, however: don’t tell your crazy Uncle Henry.
Bob Fierro is a partner with Jay Kilgore and Frank Mitchell in DataTrack International, biomechanical consultants and developers of BreezeFigs. He can be reached at [email protected].