What's In A Name: Mendel's Secret


Mendel's Secret | Coady photo


4th-Kentucky Downs, $156,800, Msw, 9-1, 2yo, 1mT, 1:37.03, fm, nose. MENDEL'S SECRET (c, 2, Mendelssohn–Donnie's Secret, by Tiger Ridge) O-Turman Racing Stable, LLC; B-Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds (KY); T-Michael J. Maker

The name of Kentucky Downs 9-1-2022 brave post-to-post winner MENDEL'S SECRET (2yo, Mendelssohn–Donnie's Secret, by Tiger Ridge) is intriguing on many levels. It is very likely that there is a close connection with up-and-coming freshman sire MENDELSSOHN (2015 Bay Horse by Scat Daddy out of Leslie's Lady, by Tricky Creek), named after the great Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847). But Mendel is also the name of Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), a solitary genius who is thought of as the founder of modern genetics. Brother Gregor had a family background in farming and experimented with crossing different plants, like, famously, green peas with yellow peas. Mendel was greatly respected by legendary thoroughbred breeder Federico Tesio (1869-1954), who gave him a whole chapter in his “Breeding The Racehorse” masterpiece, with the title of the opening paragraph titled simply “Mendelism”. What Tesio writes to have learned from a lightning-quick reading of a book borrowed by a fellow train traveler between Pisa and Rome (the wizard of Dormello loved colorful tales) is that the racehorse is a hybrid, just like the dissimilar peas of Mendel, and therefore subject to the “laws” discovered by the monk – that is, the merry dance of “dominant” and “recessive” characters choreographed in the abbot's experiments. There is a lovely twist in the story: some modern scholars have questioned the outcomes of Mendel's experiments, deemed too consistent not to be suspicious – so much so that they have coined the expression “Mendelian Paradox” to indicate reported data that, statistically, are too good to be true. I feel a new name coming on.

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