Friday, December 21, 2007

Not so Studly?

In an interesting article available in Biology Letters; Alastair J. Wilson and Andrew Rambaut apply evilutionary biology to the question of whether race horse studs are worth the money. Racehorses from prized bloodlines can command stud fees upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but according to Wilson and Rambaut, stud fee is a poor predictor of offspring performance.

Using techniques developed in evilutionary biology to answer questions regarding sexual selection and quantitative genetics, Wilson and Rambaut, "test whether there is genetic variation for success on the racecourse by analysing data on lifetime prize money earnings [and] ask whether stud fees are a useful indicator of a stallion’s genetic quality and hence its offspring’s prize-winning potential."

Unfortunately for breeders, parentage only accounts for 10% of the variation in lifetime earnings.

Dr. Wilson says, "The offspring of expensive stallions might tend to win more money, but not necessarily because they have inherited the best genes.

"It is likely that those breeders best able to pay high stud fees are also those who are able to spend more on care of the horse, how it is trained, and who rides it -- all of which will contribute more to how much it will win.''

Of course, given the competitiveness of horse racing, this probably will not deter studs from commanding high fees because people with money will spend it for any advantage no matter how small.

Photo: Secretariat winning the Preakness.

1 comment:

  1. Also, horse racing is a sport where first and second place are often decided by hundredths of a second. So even a slight genetic edge could be worth it.