“Why is Danehill not a chef-de-race?” I recently received an email from Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.), former Keeper of the Indian Stud Book, asking this question. Chefs-de-race are used for Dosage calculations. Click here to read about Dosage. I forwarded Major’s inquiry to Dr. Steve Roman in Costa Rica. Steve had developed Dosage as a practical tool in the early 1980s for evaluating the distance aptitudes of horses based on prepotent distance traits of sires in the pedigree, and he’d begun the task of classifying chefs (beginning already with the chefs classified by Franco Varola) with Abe Hewitt and later with Leon Rasmussen, the iconic bloodstock writer at Daily Racing Form.
Steve responded to my inquiry immediately, and I forwarded the information to Major. Steve game me permission to reproduce the correspondence here to explain his and his associates’ rationale for why Danehill is not a chef-de-race at this time.
The following explanatory letter was sent by Steve’s UK colleague Steve Miller to someone else inquiring the same issue a few years ago. Part of the letter is reproduced below, unedited:
“One of the biggest stumbling blocks people have with the Dosage system
is when they see successful (or simply favourite) stallions excluded
from the chef-de-race list and imagine it an omission or oversight.
Stallions are assessed on an ongoing basis and can only be designated
chef-de-race when there is sufficient evidence of prepotent stamina
traits from a significant population of offspring.
By prepotent we mean over and above what the mare brings to the table.
Note that we examine prepotent stamina characteristics when using
Dosage and not ability as such in any absolute sense.
Danehill’s average winning distance (AWD) for his progeny is 8.9
furlongs (Dr Roman has a figure of 8.19 for his North American Stakes
winners). However, it is not simply the average we look at but the
distribution of winners. Danehill throws up both speedier types and
those with much more stamina (including Derby, 12 furlongs, and Ascot
Gold Cup winners, 20 furlongs), suggesting that his influence is not
prepotent in terms of stamina but more a consequence of which mare
he is matched to.
Danehill is a stallion that has shown much more stamina for certain of
his progeny than his own distance capabilities on the racecourse would
indicate, at least when put to the right mare – with the likes of
Westerner, Distinction and others winning at the highest level in
extreme distance races.
Danehill’s distribution for 413 winning progeny worldwide (3-y-o and
above) shows: 5-7 furlongs 123 (29.8%); 8f 103 (24.9%); 9-11f 125
(30.2%); 12-14+f 62 (15%). About 55% of his offspring win at up to and
including 8 furlongs and about 45% win at middle distances and beyond.
You would in fact be hard pressed to find a stallion with a more
widely scattered progeny performance distribution across the distance
I have looked at Danehill on any ongoing basis over the years and have
concluded that there is no basis for prepotent stamina designation. As
his winning population grew it underlined what we already suspected –
that his influence for stamina was not prepotent, and his chances of
becoming a chef-de-race diminished rather than improved. Dr Roman
maintains a supplementary list of non chef-de-race that shows Danehill
as an influence for balanced speed (which is derived as more of an
average than any indication of prepotency).
Danehill’s sire Danzig is an Intermediate/Classic chef-de-race and
his sire Northern Dancer is a Brilliant/Classic. This offers a good
enough reason as to why Danehill is able to throw up speed performers.
Ribot is a prepotent influence for stamina (Classic/Professional) on
Danehill’s dam side.
Danehill tended to be matched to the best mares and his progeny do
tend to achieve high performance ratings, whether as a consequence of
himself, the mares, influences further back in his pedigree, or a
combination. This is material for quite separate analysis and has no
direct bearing on his suitability as a chef-de-race, which looks at
prepotency in stamina bands.”