Handicapping Tips: Using a Horse’s Pedigree

Handicapping Tips: Using a Horse’s Pedigree

Pedigree handicapping is one way to decipher a winner at the racetrack.


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By Quarter Racing Journal Editor Andrea Caudill

A horse’s pedigree can tell you a lot about its potential on the racetrack. The success of a horse’s parents, its sire (father) and dam (mother), can indicate what their foal will do, as well as a horse’s extended family, such as siblings. Will a horse be a prospect to win early in its racing career? Or maybe it will take longer to develop? Does it have serious potential for big stakes races in its future? What distances might a horse prefer to run at? Pedigree handicapping is most important when a horse has yet to establish its own set of skills.

For example, handicapping 2-year-olds and maiden runners is often helped by examining the horses’ pedigrees. The same can be said for horses trying something new – such as a different distance. But once a horse has become established, pedigree declines in importance – remember proven form almost always trumps pedigree and potential.

To handicap pedigree, start with familiarizing yourself with sire lists. Find basic leading sire lists in the Quarter Racing Journal, including sires by money earned and sires by 2-year-old results. You can find much more detail inside this magazine, where each month, we list first-, second- and third-year sires, and sires by various distances and broodmare sires. Every year, we also publish unique stats, such as an average earnings index, sires by stakes percentages and win percentages, and all-time statistics.

The dam is also important – successful broodmares (mothers) often have a history of successful runners. Listen closely for tips from TV handicappers that have been deciphering bloodlines for years.

Pedigrees in the past performance may list the pedigree as “Rare Jet-Native Parr by Heisanative (TB).” This indicates the sire (Rare Jet), dam (Native Parr) and dam sire (Heisanative). A horse is “by” a sire and “out of” a dam. When reading Quarter Horse pedigrees, remember that the sire will be on top, and the dam will be on the bottom. The tree reads from left to right, with each successive generation branching out. The dam’s mother is known as the second dam, and her mother is the third dam, etc.

Whistle Stop Cafe racehorse AQHA pedigree

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