The diminishing Sire Lines of the Byerley Turk and the Godolphin Arabian

The diminishing Sire Lines of the Byerley Turk and the Godolphin Arabian

Over the past 30 years I have heard many horselovers express their concern over the diminishing Sire Lines of the Byerley Turk and the Godolphin Arabian.

To put their concern in context: the last Champion Sire to descend in male lineage from the Byerley Turk (br.c. 1684), was when Tetratema headed the list in 1929; while the last Classic winner was Julio Mariner, when winning the 1978 St Leger.

The Byerley Turk (br.c. 1684)

Julio Mariner was 23 generations from the Byerley Turk, so his influence, if any would be minute.

Similarly, the last Champion Sire to descend from the Godolphin Arabian (b.c. 1724), was when Chamossaire headed the list in 1964; while the last Classic winner was when Mon Fils  won the 1973, 2,000 Guineas; Mon Fils being 16 generations from the Godolphin Arabian.

Incidentally, 50 years after the death of the Godolphin Arabian, everyone of the first 76 British Classic winners had a least one strain of him in their pedigree.

The Godolphin Arabian (b.c. 1724)

From this you can see the now near extinction of both Founding Fathers male lines. But, it is just in the male lines and although Herod showed great prepotency with the Highflyer and Woodpecker lines, like St Simon’s line (with 10 Classic winners) from the Darley Arabian, they eventually died out.

So what’s to be done?

No doubt some of the best horses of today have strains of both Founding Fathers if you go back far enough, but their influence at some stage was completely overtaken.

Through all this, it is ironic, that Eclipse was never a Champion Sire, yet near 97% of all Thoroughbreds racing today trace back  to him.

I think it fair to say that Sire Lines only continue due to the prepotency of the stallion – Cyllene (1909) to Mill Reef (1978) and Cyllene to Pitcairn (1980), both eight consecutive generations. And more recently the four generations of Northern Dancer (1970) to Frankel (2021).

Ultimately, the aim in breeding is to produce the best. At present we have the on going battle between Dubawi and the Galileo/Frankel offspring in healthy competition, plus a resurgence in breeding for longer distances.

The improvement in the Thoroughbred can be gauged by checking the record times on British racecourses in the annual Horses in Training, here it becomes obvious of the progression of record times.

I can understand people lamenting the diminishing number of sires going directly back in male line to both the Byerley Turk and the Godolphin Arabian, however,

I feel those tenuous lines have probably now played their part in the wonderful creation of the Thoroughbred.


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