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Magatto, the makings of a champion. Photograph by Pat Mateo

The art of breeding champion racehorses

Pedigree plays a large part in preparing thoroughbreds for the racetrack.
Aurelio Icasiano III | Jul 23 2019

While a race will last only for minutes, it remains very much a game of patience. Before your horse gallops on the tracks, it would have taken more than a few years to raise it for competition—a process that begins several generations into the history of the horse itself. More than any other sport, pedigree is of singular importance to racing. A horse must trace its roots to other thoroughbreds that have been certified and registered in the past before it can be properly called a thoroughbred. The moment a horse is intended for racing or arrives from a ranch abroad, it is entered into the Philippine Stud Book, a registry of thoroughbreds in the country. The book contains a horse’s pedigree and the names of its ancestors, making it a valuable resource for new owners and breeders.

Pedigree influences which traits horses are likely to inherit and what kind of runner they could turn out to be, based on the performance of their sires and grandsires. Therefore, breeders prefer horses with ancestors that have a history of winning at the tracks in the hopes that the offspring will one day live up to its lineage.

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“It’s always a passion—the passion of horse owners, the passion of trainers, the passion of breeders. It’s not a one-man show,” says K.K. Kumar about the appeal of thoroughbreds. Kumar, who is Singaporean, is the consultant and designer of the Metro Manila Turf Club. He has personally supervised the construction of the racetrack, constantly improving it to deal with the unique conditions that the climate in Batangas presents. Over the next few years, the number of owners is expected to increase as the site gains popularity and builds more new facilities.


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Most winning thoroughbreds are descended from three famous champion horses: American-bred Seattle Slew and Mr. Prospector, and Canadian-bred Northern Dancer. “So, if you’re a horse breeder, you can study which one you prefer from these three lines,” says Alex Carandang. “And these three lines are all represented here in the Philippines.”

But, breeding hasn’t yet become an exact science. Mixing thoroughbreds can have unpredictable results. Owners who combine horses with different traits can’t be sure that the foals are going to possess a mixture of qualities from each of its parents. It could take generations to breed such a horse, and it would be difficult to pinpoint when that might happen, much less how the animal would fare at the tracks.

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Horse prices also fluctuate, depending on which line is currently dominating the field. If Seattle Slew’s descendants, for example, do well in the Triple Crown, that line will be in vogue and command the highest prices. Therefore, buying or breeding thoroughbreds requires an in-depth knowledge about the horse’s lineage, the races its family ran and won, and the traits the horse is likely to manifest.

It behooves the owner, then, to uphold that legacy, to choose the trainer and jockey that will perpetuate the line, and to make sure the horse continues to race on to glory.

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Photographs by Pat Mateo

This story originally appeared on Vault Magazine Issue 12 No 4 2013.