PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR MATING SUGGESTIONS BY KEN McLEAN
By Anne Peters
Big Brown has a rich stallion pedigree. He's from the globally dominant Danzig sireline, out of a mare by Nureyev, so is inbred to the icon Northern Dancer. He's from the family of Eclipse Award winner Hidden Lake, which Three Chimneys raced in partnership with Tracy Farmer, and goes back to the same female line that has produced leading sires Val de Loir, Sadler's Wells, and Nureyev.
His sire Boundary, now pensioned at Claiborne Farm, is a highly underrated sire. His record of 23 stakes winners means that he sired 5% stakes winners to foals, which puts him in the upper echelon of stallions. His current AEI (average earnings index) is 1.74, showing that he moves his mares up from their CI (comparable index) of 1.60. Prior to Big Brown, he sired the English/Irish champion juvenile Minardi, and the classy sprinter Pomeroy, both G1 winners among his 8 group/graded stakes winners. A classy sprinter himself, he tends to sire brilliant speed, which in the case of Big Brown stretched out to the American classic distance of a mile and a quarter.
Boundary is a son of Danzig, whose sireline is on a mission of global domination. Danzig's other sons are led by Danehill, a champion leading sire in England/Ireland, France and Australia; and now a sire of sires such as Redoute's Choice, Danehill Dancer, Dansili, and many more. Other important sons of Danzig are Green Desert (sire of sires Cape Cross, Invincible Spirit, Volksraad), Chief's Crown (sire of Erhaab, Grand Lodge, Key of Luck, Beautiful Crown, Concerto), National Assembly (a leading sire in South Africa), Langfuhr (sire of Lawyer Ron and Wando), and Anaaba (sire of Anaaba Blue) to mention a few. Three Chimneys already stands Danzig's proven sire sons Exchange Rate and War Chant. Danzig's youngest top son is the much admired Hard Spun, now at stud at Darley in Kentucky.
Inbreeding for prepotency
While Big Brown's pedigree is not the height of fashion, there's a lot more there than meets the eye. The most obvious elements are inbreeding to Northern Dancer 3x3 through that sire's great stallion sons Danzig and Nureyev. There is also inbreeding to Damascus 3x4 and duplications of Round Table 5x6. A horse with this much inbreeding should become a prepotent sire.
Possibly the most significant area of Big Brown's pedigree is his dam's background, which shows inbreeding to a female line known for producing exceptional stallions. Mien is a daughter of Nureyev and out of Miasma, a daughter of Lear Fan. This Nureyev/Lear Fan cross has been a very successful one, and might be so because of the unique inbreeding it creates to the vastly important broodmare Rough Shod II. Nureyev's third dam is Rough Shod II herself, while Lear Fan's dam Wac is a daughter of Lt. Stevens, one of Rough Shod II's best racing sons. In fact, Nureyev's granddam Thong was a full sister to Lt. Stevens, meaning that Mien's pedigree is 4x5 to the siblings' parents Nantallah and Rough Shod II both.
Rough Shod II's legacy is the tremendous number of exceptional breeding animals that descend from her including some of the most important sires of the last 30 years including Sadler's Wells, Fairy King, and Nureyev, as well as Topsider, Stormy Atlantic, Lt. Stevens, Ridan, Apalachee, Thatch, Jade Robbery, Geiger Counter, Sword Dance (IRE), and Storm Boot.
The pedigree engineering doesn't end there. Rough Shod II is from the 5-h family, and Big Brown goes back in female line to Carpet Slipper, a half sister to the dam of Rough Shod II, from a branch that has also produced the French leading sire Val de Loir. This means Big Brown is also from this important sire-making 5-h female line, as well as being inbred to one of its finest members.
Putting it to use
Knowing all this, what do we do with Big Brown's pedigree in creating the next generation of superstars?
The first issue to address is the Northern Dancer inbreeding, 3x3 through Danzig and Nureyev. While this is close inbreeding comparatively speaking within the breed, it's not uncommon. Inbreeding to Northern Dancer is on the rise, and statistics from Owner-Breeder International (April 2008) show that "no less than 25% of all 2007 U.S. graded winners were inbred to Northern Dancer" within 5 generations. That noted, only 3 of those were 3x3 to Northern Dancer.
Inbreeding like this is not a bad thing, in fact just the opposite. This inbreeding helped produce an exceptional athlete in Big Brown. This also suggests that he should be a very prepotent stallion, since that's what inbreeding is supposed to do Ð make his genetic background very homogenous so that he passes on this same package with consistency.
The breeder's answer to relatively close inbreeding like this is to outcross, to generate that hybrid genetic state that tends to create the best runners. So in all likelihood, Big Brown will do best with mares that are outcrosses to Northern Dancer, or at least don't have additional close crosses of Northern Dancer or close inbreeding. It's hard to avoid Northern Dancer, so more distant strains, particularly Nijinsky II, would not add too much excess fuel to the fire, so to speak.
It's worth noting that besides their sire, Danzig and Nureyev have some similar strains in their dams. Danzig's dam Pas de Nom was by Admiral's Voyage out of Petitioner by Petition (by Fair Trial). Nureyev's dam was Special, by Forli, whose dam was by Advocate (by Fair Trial) and Forli himself was inbred to Fair Trial's dam Lady Juror. This suggests that if other Northern Dancer strains are going to be used, the best ones might be bred on a similar pattern. These could include Lyphard, whose dam was by Court Martial (by Fair Trial), or even Vice Regent (dam by Menetrier, by Fair Copy by Fair Trial's sire Fairway).
Sadler's Wells, Fairy King, and Topsider are all three by Northern Dancer from the immediate female line of Nureyev, so also look useful, even if they add more Northern Dancer. Big Brown's dam, Mien is bred similarly to a pair of El Prado's best sons; Kitten's Joy is out of a mare by Lear Fan, and Medaglia d'Oro is out of a mare by Damascus.
However, if the best route is going to be outcrosses, let's look at the best available outcrosses. We want to avoid more Northern Dancer, but go behind him in the pedigree by reinforcing with his best ancestors, in particular Nearctic, Natalma, Native Dancer, and Almahmoud. In Big Brown's case, the best outcross strains are probably going to be Mr. Prospector and Halo.
Going behind the inbreeding: Mr. Prospector and Halo
Mr. Prospector, a son of Raise a Native (by Native Dancer) carries a reinforcing, behind-the-scenes strain of Native Dancer who is also the sire of Natalma, the dam of Northern Dancer. Big Brown's sire Boundary has already demonstrated a solid nick with these mares, since his champion Minardi is from of a Mr. Prospector daughter, while Pomeroy is out of a mare by Seeking the Gold. Other Raise a Native sons would also be useful, and other Native Dancer strains should work well, too.
Halo was by Hail to Reason, a sire who is also found in Big Brown's second dam (by Lear Fan, by Roberto, by Hail to Reason). Halo's dam was Cosmah, whose mother Almahmoud was also the granddam of Northern Dancer. So Halo doubly reinforces some of the best stuff in Big Brown's pedigree. But don't forget about the existing Hail to Reason cross through Roberto. The Danzig/Roberto nick is very successful, and doubling up to Roberto has also been successful (particularly with TCF's Danzig son War Chant), so we would suggest crossing Big Brown with mares carrying a second cross of Roberto, particularly through Dynaformer or Kris S., should also work well.
Fortunately, there are a lot of mares carrying Mr. Prospector and Halo or Roberto in North America. The challenge is to find the ones that don't already carry a close cross of Northern Dancer or have as little as possible. The best for Big Brown might be mares by Smart Strike, Gone West, Seeking the Gold, Machiavellian, Forty Niner, and Unbridled.
Smart Strike's family has already done well with Danzig. Gone West has always been a good cross for Northern Dancer, and his many good sons might be just as useful, especially if they don't already have the nick in place. His son Mr. Greeley is free of Northern Dancer while Elusive Quality and Grand Slam are both bred on the Gone West/Northern Dancer cross. Seeking The Gold also has a good history with Northern Dancer.
Machiavellian is especially noteworthy since his dam is by Halo. Machiavellian's American-based son Street Cry (IRE) also has prospects here. Unbridled and Unbridled's Song are also very viable Mr. Prospector-line outcrosses for Big Brown. Boundary sired the G3 filly Lady Belsara from an Unbridled mare. Another Fappiano-line sire, Quiet American, sired Hidden Lake from this female family, so he looks interesting, too.
Forty Niner also nicked well with Northern Dancer, the most important example of this being Distorted Humor, out of a mare by Danzig. Those willing to roll the dice might try daughters of Distorted Humor if they're willing to try doubling up Danzig 3x4. Fusaichi Pegasus is also bred on the Mr. Prospector/Danzig cross, and his second dam adds the favorable element of Halo.
Kingmambo daughters could make a similar argument, since Kingmambo is by Mr. Prospector and his dam is the exceptional Miesque, a daughter of Nureyev. Nureyev would be inbred 3x4 in a Big Brown mating. It might be better with mares by Kingmambo's son Lemon Drop Kid, pushing that cross of Nureyev a generation further back.
Other sons of Mr. Prospector that might be useful include Geiger Counter, Numerous, and Jade Robbery, all of which are from the Rough Shod II family and so look to be interesting crosses with Big Brown's dam. A few other good sources of Rough Shod II to use are Apalachee (which also plays on Big Brown's linebreeding to his sire Round Table), Sadler's Wells (and his son El Prado (IRE)), Fairy King, and Topsider. Stormy Atlantic and Storm Boot are also from this Rough Shod II family, but with more distant Northern Dancer crosses through Storm Cat.
Finding Halo is not as easy as finding Mr. Prospector, but there's still plenty of it around. We've already noted Machiavellian and Fusaichi Pegasus, who have crosses of Halo in their dams. Rahy is another top stallion out of a Halo mare. Also consider Halo's good sons Devil's Bag, Saint Ballado, Sunday Silence and Southern Halo. Although Southern Halo's dam is by Northern Dancer, his son More Than Ready is becoming a star stallion, and his daughters might be a good choice with Big Brown.
Damascus and Round Table
Big Brown's other bloodline strengths include his 3x4 doubling of Damascus and 4x5 to Round Table through the mares Edge and Syrian Circle, both by Damascus out of Round Table daughters. While Damascus himself was sound, he's not a premier source of soundness, so additional close crosses might not be ideal. It would be more useful to find balancing crosses of Round Table's sister Monarchy. Pulpit, Tale of the Cat, and Johannesburg are female line descendants of Monarchy and look interesting here. Johannesburg's dam is by Ogygian (by Damascus) and makes an interesting play.
Other bloodlines with potential
Another outcross of tremendous potential for Big Brown is the Seattle Slew line, particularly A.P. Indy and his many outstanding sons out of Mr. Prospector mares. These include Pulpit, Mineshaft, and Malibu Moon. Boundary sired the G2 winner Conserve from a mare by Seattle Slew's son Slew o'Gold, so we know it can work. Seattle Slew's dam was by Poker, a son of Round Table, which makes him even more desirable, and Pulpit looks particularly useful since he also goes back to Round Table's sister Monarchy.
Mares from the Blushing Groom line might also be useful for Big Brown. Many of the American representatives of this line are free of Northern Dancer and include Rahy, Runaway Groom and his son Cherokee Run, and Mt. Livermore and his son Orientate. Rahy again looks promising since he's out of a mare by Halo and has already demonstrated a tremendous nick with anything Northern Dancer.
A few other notable sirelines that are outcrosses to Northern Dancer include Pleasant Colony, Cozzene, Maria's Mon, Valid Appeal, Broad Brush, and Holy Bull. Any of these are have intrinsic value all their own, although Pleasant Colony is proving a really solid broodmare sire influence and crosses especially well with Northern Dancer.
Icecapade is another bloodline that might be useful to Big Brown because he was bred on the same Nearctic/Native Dancer cross as Northern Dancer. Icecapade's sons include Wild Again and Clever Trick.