[In the December 13, 2008, edition of Thoroughbred Times, the magazine’s eminent pedigree writer and bloodstock editor, John P. Sparkman, wrote this article, “A new understanding of dosage,” which gives an historical account of the development of dosage as well as updated research information by John. Dosage was developed by Col. J-J. Vuillier, utilized privately by the Aga Khan Studs for whom he worked, redefined in published form by Dr. Franco Varola, and later refined for widespread use by Dr. Steve Roman. This post on Steve’s analysis of Danehill resulted in some queries on dosage. Roman dosage was popularized in the 1980s by the famous bloodstock writer Leon Rasmussen in Daily Racing Form, but Leon wrote about Varola’s dosage in the 1960s and 1970s, too. Leon, who penned his pieces in the paper’s hugely influential “Bloodlines” column, was a close friend of mine. I’d first written to him at Daily Racing Form about dosage in 1976, when I was 16, and was flattered when he wrote back. Many years later, I, too, wrote about bloodstock at DRF under the column “Taking ‘Stock,” and the following piece, “Varola and the issue of dosage,” was published in the December 17, 1995, issue of the paper and concerned Leon’s role in Varola’s dosage. It was written in response to John Sparkman’s interview of Dr. Varola in the December 9, 1995, issue of Thoroughbred Times. John and I both blog now, and his excellent blog, The Pedigree Curmudgeon, can be read here. For this “Taking ‘Stock” column, I had access to Leon’s personal correspondence with Dr. Varola while visiting with Leon and his wife at their home in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles.]
Varola and the issue of dosage
By Sid Fernando
Dr. Francesco Varola, the author of the fine book “Typology of the Racehorse” and the man who developed a dosage system based on the original work of Col. J-J Vuillier—the old Aga Khan’s pedigree adviser whose work was continued and updated by his widow, Germaine Vuillier, and later by her adopted son, Robert Muller-Conte, for Prince Aly Khan and the present Aga Khan, Karim—was interviewed by John P. Sparkman in the Dec. 9 issue of Thoroughbred Times.
Sparkman wrote in his introduction: “Varola’s work was popularized in the pages of Daily Racing Form by Leon Rasmussen, which caught the attention of Dr. Steven Roman and the late Abe Hewitt. Roman, with the assistance of Hewitt and Rasmussen, developed a new system of dosage which has become a popular standard in the industry.” Sparkman also wrote: “Varola very pointedly does not wish for his name to be associated with the proponents of Roman dosage…”
Later, Sparkman asked Varola: “Leon Rasmussen did a great deal to popularize your work in the US, and then he worked closely with Dr. Steven Roman in developing and popularizing Roman’s system, which utilized your classification by type and your chefs-de-race. Did Rasmussen or Roman consult with you at all or ask your permission?” Varola replied” ” ‘No permission was ever asked.’ ”
I don’t believe permission was required. Roman’s dosage certainly owes a huge debt to Varola’s pioneering work, but Varola himself based his concept of the chef-de-race on the original work of Vuillier, who developed the system [over years] to aid in the practical approach to matings for the Aga Khan’s studs.
“I didn’t think I needed permission from Varola to support the work of Dr. Roman,” said Rasmussen by phone Tuesday afternoon. “Through the 1960s and 1970s I wrote extensively about Varola’s dosage—you know, he wasn’t taken very seriously in Europe at the time—and there was some interest in his dosage—mainly from breeders and those people involved in the breeding industry—but the popularity of his dosage was nothing compared to what Daily Racing Form received when we supported Dr. Roman. As a paper for handicappers, I felt our allegiance first was to them and second to the breeders. Dr. Roman’s system was easily applied—unlike Varola’s—and allowed fans and handicappers to utilize it as a betting method if they so chose. You know, a lot of people made money using it for the Kentucky Derby.”
Rasmussen told me that although he and Varola corresponded frequently through the 1960s and 1970s, contact gradually ceased through the latter 1970s and ended altogether after Roman’s work appeared in Daily Racing Form in the early 1980s.
Perhaps as a result of going their own ways, Varola, in the Times interview, felt it unnecessary to acknowledge the role that Rasmussen played in the development of his chef-de-race list of American sires.
For instance, a Jan. 28, 1967, letter from Varola to Rasmussen said:
I must also thank you for your most valuable suggestions on American chefs-de-race as presented in the Daily Racing Form. You know so much more than I do as regards American sires that it will take some time for me to digest all your suggestions … I am attempting a preliminary reclassification of the 10 sires you propose, as follows: a group composed of Bold Ruler, Nashua, Native Dancer, and Tom Fool is the most likely to be elected in the new setup for 1970 or 1971, where Bold Ruler might qualify as intermediate, Nashua as intermediate or classic, Native Dancer as intermediate, and Tom Fool as classic.
Another group of Double Jay, Olympia, Hail to Reason, and Round Table would have to be further watched, with Double Jay as intermediate, Olympia as brilliant, Hail to Reason as intermediate, and Round Table as intermediate.
Finally, Johns Joy and Bull Dog would appear to be a little past the purpose of the 1970/71 reassessment, however Johns Joy might qualify as brilliant and Bull Dog as intermediate.
In some cases the above aptitudinal classifications differ from yours, but this is offered only as a point for further discussion … I will set your list as the basis for the future study.
In a January 1971 column in DRF, Rasmussen wrote that he felt Bold Ruler was brilliant, Native Dancer classic or intermediate and that “perhaps Hail to Reason is heading toward a classic classification.”
In “Typology of the Racehorse,” published in 1974, Varola named Bold Ruler brilliant, Native Dancer intermediate, and Hail to Reason classic—just as Rasmussen had suggested in 1971. Varola also named Nashua intermediate, Tom Fool classic, and Double Jay brilliant.
In a Sept. 5, 1967, letter to Rasmussen, Varola wrote:
… both Vuillier and myself have placed to the disposal of everybody the result of our findings … it can be utilized, applied, modified … by everybody who wishes to do so.
It was and is.
Copyright 1995 Daily Racing Form. Reprinted here with permission of DRF.