Saturday, November 23, 2013

Glory Days

The following post appeared first in the November 14 issue of European Bloodstock news as my bi-weekly "Letter from America"

Glory Days, well they’ll pass you by,
Glory Days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory Days, Glory Days

I suspect Bruce Springsteen has never been quite the icon on your side of the Atlantic that he is in America. His songs embody a particularly, unabashedly American ethos that I doubt resonates as viscerally in other cultures.
Most everybody loves a great rock song, though, just as everyone in the Thoroughbred industry loves high prices, and lord knows, we had plenty of those at our November breeding stock auctions. Glory days indeed.
The Fasig-Tipton November sale began calmly enough, but once Love and Pride, a spectacular physical specimen with a race record and pedigree to match, sold for $4.9-million to Brazilian Goncalo Borges Torrealba, all hell broke loose. And it wasn’t just that there were better horses that followed Love and Pride into the ring than had preceded her. Everyone in the industry knows that a horse like Love and Pride should bring a certain price (in her case $4-to-$5-million), and once they hit the mark, it makes signing other tickets for millions of dollars so much easier. The feel of the marketplace changes from caution to let the good times roll with the crack of the gavel.
At the end of a memorable evening 24 mares had sold for $1-million or more at Newtown Paddocks, and Keeneland sold another 14 in that range over the next two days across town. Those 38 seven figure mares were purchased by 21 different individual buyers. The principal residences of those buyers (as far as we know at this point) are located in Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Greece, Qatar, and USA. Clearly the resurgent Thoroughbred market is a global phenomenon.
We have been wondering if or when the Qataris would dive into our market as vigorously as they have yours, and Sheikh Joann did not disappoint, purchasing dual Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mizdirection for $2.7-million. That was, however, the only high-profile Qatari purchase. Sheikh Mohammed’s forces continued to be conspicuous only by their virtual absence, purchasing one Street Cry weanling they co-owned on a foal share for $350,000.
Four years ago when the market was in the dungeon following the global economic meltdown of October 2008, I do not think anyone would have been foolish enough to predict that four years hence we would not need Sheikh Mohammed to enjoy a vibrant market for Thoroughbred bloodstock. That, in fact, has been pretty much unthinkable for more than 30 years now, but it was obviously true at the two bloodstock sales in Lexington last week.
After watching your horses beat everyone but Wise Dan on grass at the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita last week it is obvious that you have better horses than we do right now, so what price glory at Goff’s and Tattersalls over the next month? Even here the top-priced lot was a Galileo three-quarter sister to Yesterday and Quarter Moon purchased by Coolmore for $5.2-million.
After years of wondering whether they would survive the latest bloodstock recession it did the heart good to see smiles on the faces of so many old friends in Lexington last week. True, there are fewer left to smile, but that is the way of the world.

Those that are left understand that the glory days can disappear, indeed as quickly as the wink of a young girl’s eye...or perhaps the wink of an eye of that lovely young mare now residing in their broodmare barn.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Christmas is coming

One of the good things--trust me there were not many--to come out of the Thoroughbred Times bankruptcy was the fact that, through the good offices of TT's founder and editor Mark Simon, I ended up with the remaining unsold boxes of my book Foundation Mares. Published by Thoroughbred Times in 2008, Foundation Mares expanded and elaborated on a series of articles in the weekly print edition of the magazine. The book sold pretty well, but at the time of the bankruptcy there were some boxes of books at the printer's in Wisconsin that were going to be destroyed.

Instead, after considerable angst and no little expense on my part, they are sitting in my basement, and frankly they would make great Christmas gifts for anyone in the horse business.  As always, the wonderful Thoroughbred Times staff did a great job producing a beautiful and useful book and the stories ultimately tell the history of Thoroughbred racing in America, tracing all the way back to the famous unnamed Cub mare who was imported from England in the 1760s.

If you would like to put a smile on a racing enthusiast's face on Christmas morning you can order a signed copy of the book for $65 (including shipping costs) by emailing me at Or if you prefer, you can order the book through, but please scroll down and order through my Amazon seller account at JPS Inc. If you order by either of those two methods, I get paid. If not, I never see a cent of the money.

Such is life after a messy bankruptcy.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Memory Wall

I suppose what follows can serve as my requiem for Thoroughbred Times. It is one of my favorite weekly columns in Thoroughbred Times Today, first published, according to my records, on February 25, 2011. 

American novelist and short story writer Anthony Doerr is obsessed with memory. In his unforgettable novella Memory Wall, future technology allows the memories of an aging victim of Alzheimer's disease to be downloaded to digital cartridges so that she can revisit them as dementia advances.

I'm ready for my memory download. More importantly, Thoroughbred racing is desperately in need of an analog of Doerr's memory cartridges for the American sporting public.

I first became interested in Thoroughbred racing in the mid-1950s after inhaling Walter Farley's Black Stallion series of books. In those post-war boom years, wagering on horse racing was the only legal way to gamble everywhere but Las Vegas, and crowds of 50,000 and more crowded the largest tracks regularly on both coasts.

Newspapers in major cities carried race results on their sports pages, at least on the big weekends. Reading Anthony Doerr and thinking about how memory works somehow sparked a mental visual of a photo that appeared in the Nashville Tennessean in May, 1957 of the finish of the Peter Pan Stakes.

The photo, which I am sure was grainy and could not have been of very high quality on newsprint in any case, showed one of my first racing heroes *Gallant Man beating Promised Land and Nah Hiss. I think one of the reasons that photo—an ordinary three-quarter head-on finish picture—stuck in my mind for more than 50 years was the ominous, mysterious character of the third place finisher's name. Think about it...optimistic, noble names like *Gallant Man and Promised Land followed by....Nah Hiss!

(The Peter Pan was the last of three stakes-placings by Nah Hiss, a colt by Call Over out of Waymark, by Nedayr, who retired after five seasons of racing with seven wins in 73 starts and earnings of $49,817. Yes, they made them tougher in those days.)

Ten-year-olds in rural Tennessee, suburban Des Moines, or the heart of New York City nowadays have virtually zero chance of developing a persistent memory of their own version of Nah Hiss. Racing coverage in non-specialist newspapers, television, or sporting websites is virtually non-existent except for the biggest events of the year. Interests and habits developed in childhood often last a lifetime, but Thoroughbred racing currently has no viable conduit for reaching those kids whose psyches would be susceptible to the addictive charms of our sport.

Where is the Zenyatta/Rachel Alexandra racing video game for Playstation? Where is the Jockey Challenge for the Wii platform? Talk about a workout! Anyone who has ever ridden with short stirrups knows how many calories that would burn.

The Breeders' Cup at least has an iPad and iPhone app that sends racing news to those devices, and the NTRA offers a download of the NTRA Virtual Horse Racing game, but that is not nearly enough. The current generation of ten-year-olds is plugged in to personal computers, cell phones, or gaming devices 24/7, and if we cannot reach them what kind of future do we have when they are the adults with discretionary income?

In Doerr's story, the memory cartridges ultimately benefit those around the aging woman far more than they do her. The memory of the moments just before her fossil-hunter husband's death leads to the discovery of a fossil worth millions that, by somewhat circuitous means, go to her poor caretaker.

In the digital age, a comparable payoff is out there for Thoroughbred racing. All we need is the creativity and the will to find it.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Long time no blog

Regular readers of this blog--should there be any of you left--will be well aware of the long, sad downward spiral into bankruptcy of Thoroughbred Times that finally reached its inevitable conclusion about a year ago. While that certainly is not my only excuse for not blogging for over two years, it certainly had a lot to do with it. 

The eventual fate of Thoroughbred Times was evident long before the final denouement, but denial is a powerful thing. So too is loyalty, if you happen to be afflicted with it. Unfortunately, 16 years of loyalty and devotion to Thoroughbred Times turned out to be a one-way street, vis a vis the corporate ownership. But then corporations, no matter what the Supreme Court says, are not people and loyalty is seldom one of their virtues.

My all time favorite literary quote, though, is from Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan. In fact the purpose of the entire plot of that early Vonnegut novel is to arrange for the hero, Malachi Constant, to say “I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.” Life happens.

I have been the “victim” of a long series of quite happy accidents throughout my life, and one of the happiest occurred about a year before the demise of the Times when a new consulting client came along at the most opportune time imaginable. That more or less coincided with my last previous blog post and, in truth, probably had as much to do with the hiatus as anything else.

The new client created both new demands on my time and a new outlet for the creative energy needed for blogging. The Pedigree Curmudgeon blog faded in importance as the pedigree curmudgeon himself got more, and more enjoyable, work to do.

Not too long after I stopped posting on this blog, I also found another delightful outlet for thoughts that might once have appeared here. My old friend Terence Collier recommended me to his old friend Paddy Finlason of European Bloodstock News to write a biweekly “Letter from America” for EBN. If you’re not familiar with EBN, you should be, and you can become familiar by checking out their website at   and subscribing to the newsletter. You won’t regret it.

My EBN “Letter from America” is designed to be informal, chatty, personal and entertaining, all of the characteristics of a good blog post. In fact, I think my next blog post will be a reprint of one of my favorite contributions to EBN.

Anyway, welcome back to The Pedigree Curmudgeon. Future posts may well be EBN letters, or reposts of my weekly column in Daily Racing Form’s new DRF Breeding newsletter. Or they may be something entirely original.

Who knows what happy accidents are in store?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thoroughbred Pedigree, Genetics, and Performance Conference

2:00 p.m.

The conference now devolves into breakout sessions with several different speakers at the same time. Personally, I've had enough and I'm going to sign off here.

The biggest difference for me between this year's conference and the first one last year is that it was much more blatant that virtually all of the presenters represent commercial ventures and they have something to sell us. Given who the organizers are and the economic system we live in, this was never going to be pure science, but it is a little disconcerting to feel like the presenters are as or more interested in hawking products as disseminating information.


1:00 p.m.

Steve Roman begins the afternoon session.

Roman will cover his ideas on aptitudinal type. First begins by comparing different definitions of speed....i.e. final time, average speed, fractions. Stamina....speed over a distance or winning over a distance? Somebody has to win the race, regardless of speed. Any horse can run any distance if you give it enough time.

American time records fall in an almost straight correlation line, projected from the shorter distances. Roman calls that line the genetic frontier of speed.  Although the times have changed, the shape and linearity of the line has not changed since 1976. That measures an increase in speed over the last 35 years.

Dosage not a breeding theory, not a handicapping scheme, or a betting scheme for Ky. Derby.

Defines dosage as a methodology applied to large populations for classifying pedigrees by aptitudinal type, as a research tool correlating type with real world performance.

Roman produces good slides that show that dosage index and center of distribution decline with distance both in the U.S. and every other country he's tested. The key point is that the line is highest for American dirt horses, which means, as Roman says that American dirt horses are the most speed bred horses in the world.

Roman spends a lot of time defending the dual qualifier concept, despite his earlier claim that dosage is not a handicapping tool. Unfortunately he has to expand the concept to include horses like Smarty Jones who were not rated on the Experimental Free Handicap.

11:15 a.m.

Jeff Seder of EQB up next on heart ultrasounds.

Begins by showing average for the breed statistics as a baseline level. Believes a lot of performance has to do with who is really trying and which ones will put up with pain.

Talking about a published study on heart ultrasound.

Study based on over 7k horses, divide those into categories, colts fillies, US, foreign, dirt-turf, etc.
How do you use heart data
Size of left ventricle at relaxation....fillies and colt sizes very different. Growth curves are different. Train diligently to insure reproducibility of heart measurements. Size and weight of the horse matter. Age is also critical to get accurate measurements. Thickness of the septal wall is also very important.

Horses ranking above the 75th percentile in left ventricle size earn more. No surprise.

These measures do tend to differ by sire and sire line. No surprise that Northern Dancer and sons produced very high percentages of big hearts and thick septal walls.

Trying to figure out which sires are going to produce big hearts is very hard to predict. Dynaformer for example tends to produce smaller hearts but with thick septal walls.

Lunch break.

10:00 a.m.

Bob Fierro and Jay Kilgore up next of DataTrack international on stride length

As usual, raconteur Bob starts off with a funny story about a trip to Argentina, where the mythical national hero shares his last name. Then he describes how DataTrack invented their Breeze Figs, which rate horses according to stride length and other measures at juvenile sales. DRF now publishes daily Breeze Figs for 2yos for their first four starts.

Graded SW have an average stride length of 24 feet or greater....drop down a level to listed winners and it's under 24 feet.....and so on.

Jay Kilgore gives some details on how their video analysis of stride efficiency works with stills of digital video. Fascinating video showing how horses feet move as they run. The computer attaches points as it were to the horse's feet, nose, etc. to measure efficiency of movement. Video showing lines that the points make through space are visually very effective.

9:40 a.m.

After several frustrating hours of being unable to connect to the wireless internet here at the Griffin Gate Hotel in Lexington, I am finally connected and ready to resume live-blogging.

John Seaman of Cecil Seaman and Co. just finished his presentation on breeding type to type.

Most of John's discussion was about their measurement of body length as an indicator of overall body size. He presented numerous slides showing how similar body types tend to predominate in the pedigrees of successful racehorses. This tends to be the basic message of biomechanics gurus. Mating horses with similar body types and measurements tends to work better than matings of dissimilar types. This will not be news to anyone who has been doing matings for 40 years. ....or, indeed, considerably less than that.

More to follow

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

2011 Pedigree and Genetics Symposium, Lexington, Kentucky.

Professor Jamie McCleod of UK began the symposium by going over basic genetics.


Bill Oppenheim is here! Lol.

Speaking on The Myths we live by: Data we use and its limitations strategies for a chaotic universe.

Racing is a business without borders, a free market economy, and there is is a finish line. The best horse wins.

Both scientists and pedigree students want to replicate the successful patterns of good horses. That which has happened before is more likely to happen again. The question is exactly what is it thatl we're looking for.

Small sample size: early success leads to breeders following the hot cross, which later falls prey to the law of averages. Storm Bird/Secretariat mares. First 8 crops 36% SW, last 10 crops 2% SW. Overall actually just an average cross for the sire.

As soon as we know something works, it's outdated, because there's a 4 or 5 year lag between mating and result. Lines wax and wane in strength. It is a myth that once we discover a great cross all we have to do is continue to do it. The greater the numbers the less the success.

Bill doesn't much care for the nicking companies, he makes it pretty clear. As usual, the problem is with numbers and quality. There are too often not enough cases to reliably predict anything. Bill is much more interested in accurately identifying success.

1:40 p.m.

Skipped over Bill Oppenheim to go next with Sid Fernando on adding stamina to the Thoroughbred.

Stamina in this country is analogous to low "good cholesterol"....Got to pay attention or we'll have a heart attack.

Early 1970s--2 G1 equivalents at 1 3/4 miles or more. No G1 races at 6 furlongs. We gave more weight to distance and less to speed. Today 20 G1 6-7 furlong races for 3yos and up. None over 1 1/2 miles. Europe and Japan have continued on a path in racing and bloodlines where stamina has remained importance.

1:00 p.m.

Steve Tamariello of Performance Genetics is next.

Discarded the test he promoted last year and now focusing on performance tests through linkage disequilibirum....which is non-random association of alleles at two or morel loci, not necessarily on the same chromosome. Wants to identify genetic variants associated with speed, using linkage disequilibrium (?).

American horses have a distinct phenotype for dirt track races. Chose peak Beyer speed as their measure of racing ability. Separated population into 2 stringent categories.
Grade 1 winning 108 or higher, but no G3 or Listed SW, or allowance horses. non-Elites =78 or lower Beyer speed, generally similar quality sires and dams.

Sample size=60.....Again sample size. But then later says 365 horses without reconciling the two numbers. Who knows.

Found associations to elite performance on ten different chromosomes....more than other researchers have found.

Most interesting thing Tamariello shows is that according to their performance test, Mineshaft and Pretty Discreet both test as route runners, Mineshaft elite, Pretty Discreet not so much, but their son Discreetly Mine tests as a G1 sprinter, which is exactly what he was.

11:12 a.m.

That was fun. Emmeline basically stonewalled Lambert's question (see below for her answer). The controversy between Lambert/Binns and Hill comes basically from the fact that Hill makes bigger claims for the power of her tests than other geneticists do, and they do not take that lightly. And since in the modern world whoever yells loudest gets the most attention, it turns out to be quite important commercially.

Stephen Harrison up next.

Contrary to popular belief, the Thoroughbred is quite outbred compared to many other breeds. It's a probability model, and the more tests you have the better predictor you have.

Harrison's specialty has been Mitochondria, so he dives right in on that.

Original 2006 study found 13 different functional MtDNA genes. Looked at variations in stamina levels, quality, interaction with stallion mtDNA, etc. 33 different mtDNA types in Thoroughbred.

Some evidence of positive interactions between stallions and particular mtDNA types in mares. Invincible Spirit and Fusaichi Pegasus, for example did better than expected with certain types. No mention of sample size however. Small study showed that best ratios of mtDNA to nuclear DNA was for mtDNA type to same mtDNA type between sire and dam.

Someone from Emmeline's school attacks Harrison's data about mtDNA from males mixing. Says it's very well established that mtDNA is very well established coming only from the female in mammals. Harrison tries to defend. This is basically over everybody else's head except for the scientists. Harrison doesn't really answer.

10:00 a.m.

Brief set of questions from audience. Emmeline Hill up next. This could get interesting.

Emmeline begins by saying only four genes have been definitely identified as associated with performance in Thoroughbreds. Naturally, all of those are from her studies as far as I can tell from the slide.

Begins with rehashing Myostatin and her so-called "speed gene". Not a test for class, but only for preferred distance. Still insists that her marker for Myostatin is more accurate than other markers, in contradiction to what Matthew Binns showed in his talk.

Largest change in the expression of the myostatin gene due to training is in the CC sprint type. In other words, CC horses respond more quickly and more precociously to training than CT or TT horses. That is an interesting finding, confirmation that CC is related to precocity. It makes sense that the sprint genotype would have a big influence on 2yo racing.

Moves on to PDK4 gene's association with performance. First found an association but could not replicate. Then looked for novel variants that might have some effect, but again couldn't replicate original findings. Hypothesized that different genes may be interacting with the myostatin gene. Found a strong association with the stamina type horses, so implies that PDK4 gene is important for longer distance exercise, but not shorter distances.

Elite performance test. You get stronger results from the CCs and TTs, but different genes associated with performance in the different types. This is related to why what used to be called fish and fowl matings generally don't work....Different genes are required for success at shorter and longer distances, and therefore and they don't work together that well.

Technology is not a silver bullet, but it will increase your chances of improving your strike rate.

Hill's Class 1 and Class II horses earned more money than they cost at sales. Class III and IV did not.

That's a good result, but the problem for Hill is that she only uses blood samples not hairs. Therefore her tests are useless as a way of cutting down your short list at a sale, because it takes two weeks to get a result. Cannot be done overnight like hair sample tests. That's the source of the contention between Hill and Binns over which test is more accurate.

Uh Oh. David Lambert of Genetic Edge challenge's Hill on the numbers in her sample size.

Hill responds that they are capturing genetic potential, management and environment are hugely important. Equinome has applied for an international patent on myostatin that includes other people's markers....that's going to be trouble. In response to numbers, she claims even in small sample size, the proof is strong. "of course the more samples you have the more power that you have, but what we're able to do is capture the genes having the greatest influence on performance."

9:00 a.m . 
Matt Binns up next.

Matt will cover:
Genetic perspective on traditional pedigree methods; Characteristics of genetically complex traits;
Genetic Edge products---

Pedigree is a surrogate for genetics. The thoroughbred is a perfect playground for geneticists because of the 300 years of records.

Good illustration using Zenyatta's pedigree of how her 5x5 inbreeding to Nashua actually works genetically. The statistical chances of getting the same genes from both of her crosses of Nashua are actually very small.

Binns thinks nicking exists....Complementary positive genes being inherited, but it operates at a relatively low probability because of the basic facts of genetic inheritance.

There has been a slight increase in %inbreeding since the 1960s, according to comparative DNA genomes, but it's only slight. Reinforces Bailey's point about diversity.

Correlation between 8-generation coefficient of inbreeding from pedigree and what you get if you do it by DNA testing is very low. Surprising result. The problem is that there are a limited number of variants at sites in horses but they can come from different sources than what genetic theory says.

Presents new research that produced loci for white coat color markings in Thoroughbreds.

Now we're smoothly into the Genetic Edge pitch. The familiar ABCD scoring system. Data predicts that the performance panel can eliminate about 50% of individuals from short list and retain about 75% of the short list. Only 5% of Grade Ds are Graded SW.

10% of pop are As, Bs and Cs are 40% each. A's increase your chances of getting GSW 3 to 1.

Distance marker: If you want to win a G1 sprint, you'd better be homozygous for the distance marker (myostatin). About half the Kentucky Derby winners, though are also homozygous for the sprint distance marker.

Goes after Emmeline's claim that her test is more accurate, and effectively debunks it. The gloves are off this year folks.

Concludes that this is still fairly young science. This speaks to one of the big problems with acceptance and use of genetic tests. Everybody wants to wait five years until they can see the results of predictive studies.

8:50 a.m.

Now Dr. Ernie Bailey is applying what Jamie said to horses.

Gus emphasizes that contrary to popular belief, there is still a lot of genetic diversity to exploit in Thoroughbreds. Thoroughbreds are genetically less diverse than other horses because of 300 years of selection for speed, soundness and stamina, but they are far more diverse than other species that might look more diverse like dogs.

I'll be live-blogging periodically from the second annual Pedigree and Genetics symposium at the Griffin Gate Hotel in Lexington today.

The first two speakers are covering basic genetics, so there's not that much of interest there, but then the fun should start with Matthew Binns of the Genetic Edge, so check back later.

Friday, July 8, 2011

American exceptionalism

The following article was first published in Thoroughbred Times Today on July 1, 2011.

According to the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), the best racehorse on the planet right now is either the brilliant, unbeaten Australian sprinter Black Caviar or the brilliant, unbeaten English miler Frankel. And who might be the IFHA and why should we care what their rankings are, you ask?

As its name implies, the IFHA is an international organization comprised of racing organizations from more than 60 countries, including the American Jockey Club and the NTRA, that seeks to coordinate and harmonize racing rules and practices around the racing world. And we should pay attention to their rankings because the rest of the world does.

The IFHA has evolved from the organization founded by Jean Romanet and Marcel Boussac, who hosted the first international meeting among the racing authorities of France, Great Britain, Ireland, and the United States at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe meeting in 1961. By 1967 the first International Conference of Horseracing Authorities, also hosted in Paris by the Societe d'Encouragement (then the French racing authority headed by Romanet), attended by representatives from nine countries, including the original four. Representation expanded to 110 delegates from 50 countries by 1993, and the name of the organization was changed to the current title in 1994. The International Stud Book Committee, the International Cataloging Standards Committee, and the Society of International Thoroughbred Auctioneers all operate in association with the IFHA.

The World Thoroughbred Rankings list originated as the International Classification of the best horses in Great Britain, France, and Ireland in 1977. North American trained horses were first included in the rankings in '95, and Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand were added in '97 and '98. The annual rankings now include more than 650 horses worldwide, all ranked on a scale derived from the original European handicapping system, a scale of weights similar to historic American “free handicap” weights, but with a higher range of weights. Horses are given separate ratings for dirt, synthetic, and turf performances, and they are weighted according to their best performance in a single race, not overall form.

Very few American-trained horses were included in the early years, but the inauguration of the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) and the expansion of international races around the world, including the Breeders' Cup meeting, has given international handicappers a better handle on American form. In most recent years, their opinion has not been flattering to American racing.

World Thoroughbred Rankings cover a rotating six-month period and are issued about every two months. The most current rating list on the IFHA website ( covers the period from December 1, 2010 through May 23, 2011. The first 12 horses listed, at weights ranging from 130 to 122 pounds are trained in Australia, England, Ireland, Italy, Singapore, South Africa, and France. Animal Kingdom and Shackleford are the joint highest rated American-trained horses at 121 pounds, and only six other American-trained horses—Big Drama, Gio Ponti, Astrology, Jeranimo, Sidney's Candy, and Twirling Candy—appear among the 53 horses currently rated.

As in the larger world of international affairs American racing aficionados have become accustomed to believing that American horses are the best in the world. For the 30 years from about 1968 to 1997 or thereabouts, that was, on average almost certainly true. For at least the last decade, though, as demonstrated by international race meets like the Dubai Carnival and the Breeders' Cup, it is glaringly obvious that American-trained horses are superior to the rest of the world only on dirt.

Among the 60-plus member countries of the IFHA, however, only a few South American countries like Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay race predominantly on dirt. In North America in 2010, 76% of the races were on dirt, accounting for 63% of available purse money. Great Britain, Ireland Italy, Australia, Japan, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Singapore, all with horses rated higher than any American horse on the current ratings, all race exclusively or predominantly on turf.

American exceptionalism, the idea that America is qualitatively different—in so many words, better—than other countries, may or may not still be a viable concept in political circles. In the context of Thoroughbred racing, however, the rest of the world has clearly decided that it is an outdated belief.

The sooner we recognize that and act to change negative perceptions of American racing created by race-day medication and other factors, the sooner we can begin to reimpose American exceptionalism. And the sooner we can sell more horses to them at better prices.