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HRN Original Blog:
Pedigree Power

Dosage and the Kentucky Derby

 
Everyone wants to discover the horse who will eventually win the 2014 Kentucky Derby. We subscribe to theories, some quite logical, others outlandish, to determine which horse may have the pedigree, lungs and mental fortitude to make it to the finish line first in America’s greatest race. One theory that some handicappers ascribe to, especially around Kentucky Derby time, is Dosage.
 
 
So what, exactly, is Dosage?  I found a sentence that sums it up perfectly in, “Horse People: Thoroughbred Culture in Lexington and Newmarket,” by Rebecca Louise Cassidy. “Dosage theory attempts to predict ability based upon the analysis of superior male ancestors in a horse’s pedigree and is used by gamblers and breeders to forecast the likely distance over which a horse will excel.”
 
 
Let’s pause for a brief history lesson. Those who know all this have my permission to skip ahead and I’ll try to keep it short and sweet for those with attention issues.  Way back in the early part of the 20th century, one of the top pedigree authorities of the day,  Lt. Col. J. J. Vuillier, extensively and laboriously (no computers, remember) researched the pedigrees of major European stakes winners. One of his key discoveries was that specific stallions, fifteen to be exact, were present in the majority of pedigrees and that the stallions passed along certain characteristics.  He called these stallions the chefs-de-race or “chiefs of racing.” Vuillier also observed that every fifteen to twenty years, new chef-de-races evolved and passed along their own set of traits.  Vuillier‘s focus was on the chefs  themselves, their racing history and abilities as stallions He calculated the importance of each of these sires and the position in the pedigrees of the stakes winners that he studied, applied a mathematical formula, and Voilà!, the rudiments of Dosage were created. 
 
 
Dr. Francesco Varola came along in the mid-20th century. He loved Vuillier’s work and concentrated on refining the elements of dosage, shifting the emphasis from the chefs themselves to the attributes (speed, stamina) that these stallions passed along to their offspring. Varola believed that instead of adding more representation of the chief’s in the pedigree like a recipe (a little Herrod here, some St. Simon there), that breeders should strive for a balance of four factors: speed, ability to carry speed over a distance, the heart to persevere and ability to pass these traits to the offspring. Instead of giving each chief a dosage number, Varola classified the chiefs by the traits they passed to their offspring into aptitudinal groups: transbrilliant, pure brilliant, intermediate, classic, stout solid, stout rough, and professional.
 
 
Fast forward to the late 1970’s. Building on the work created by Vuillier and Varola, Steven Roman took Dosage calculations a step further. Dr. Roman changed the aptitudinal factions to Brilliant, Intermediate, Classic, Solid and Professional.  Roman then created a numbers system for these groups. Using a four generation pedigree, Roman assigned number values to each chef-de-race per generation. A greater number value to the chefs in the first generation, with descending numbers of influence to subsequent generations. Adding up these points, Dr. Roman created the Dosage Index (DI) and Center of Distribution (CD) to measure the speed and stamina in a horse’s pedigree.  The more speed the horse carries, the higher the DI and CD.  In my efforts of keeping this short and sweet, if you’d like to learn exactly how dosage is calculated, check out Dr. Roman’s explanation of Dosage: http://www.chef-de-race.com/dosage/review.htm
 
 
In his Bloodlines column for the Daily Racing Form in 1981, Leo Rasmussen wrote a three-part series presenting Dr. Roman’s work and noted that Dr. Roman’s research showed that no horse had won the Kentucky Derby with a Dosage Index of 4.00 or greater.  Then all the hoopla started. It seemed as if Steve Roman found the magic key to help figure out which horses had the greatest shot of wearing the roses.  More on that in a couple of paragraphs.
 
 
Now, back to Dosage and handicapping. The Dosage Theory divides race fans like no other subject in horse racing. You either subscribe to it or you don’t.  Heated and sometimes downright nasty debates and arguments rage between the Believers and Non-Believers. I have a confession to make.  I used to be a Believer. 
 
 
When I initially started studying breeding theories, I read the works Dr. Varola and later, the articles spotlighting Dr. Roman’s findings. I explored how dosage worked in regards to breeding and later, how it applied to handicapping.  I can’t say that using Dosage for handicapping helped my ROI any, but I figured, if these esteemed gentlemen said that Dosage was the real deal and that it helped predict winners, then that was good enough for me.  
 
 
As more Kentucky Derby winners broke the 4.00 DI cut off, the Dosage Theory for predicting Kentucky Derby winners was changed to incorporate a higher Dosage Index.   I was convinced by a friend who has worked in the breeding industry for many years to take a hard look at using dosage for handicapping.  My friend of explained it this way:
Dosage does not consider the female contributions in a pedigree nor the influences of non-chief stallions.  So right off the bat, Dosage is at the least 50% flawed, or half wrong.  Additionally, when Dosage is used to interpret a pedigree which has few chef-de-race sires close up (and it happens often), then using it actually distorts, rather than refines one’s understanding of the pedigree. Discount the non-chiefs and the ability passed along by the dams, and you wind up with a skewed perspective of a horse’s pedigree and ability to get a classic distance, or not. 
 
 
Since Dosage Theory for handicapping is always hauled out and dusted off around Kentucky Derby time, let's take a look at some of those "speed-bred" horses that have won the Derby in recent years:
 
 
Strike The Gold 1991’s Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold didn’t fit the theory that only horses with a Dosage Index under 4.00 could win the Kentucky Derby. Strike the Gold is by Alydar (an obvious stamina influence ignored by Dosage) out of a Hatchet Man mare (ditto): His dosage index was a 4.20. AFTER Strike the Gold won the Kentucky Derby, Dr. Roman added Alydar as a Classic chief-de-race. Eureka! Strike the Gold now has a dosage index of 2.60. The formula was wrong? Ok, we’ll fix it to fit the facts and announce that Kentucky Derby winners can now have Dosage Index of 4.00. 
 
 
Ok, it makes sense to change the dosage rules now since horses are more speed-oriented than in the past, so 4.00 seems like a reasonable change. But wait – seven years later, Real Quiet snuck onto the scene.
 

1998 was the closest we’ve come to having another Triple Crown winner.  Real Quiet is by Quiet American, who is a sturdy 1 ¼ mile influence.  Real Quiet has a whopping 5.33 dosage index, yet came within a heartbreaking nose of winning the Triple Crown.   Do we switch the formula again to fit the facts?


Giacomo DosageSurely, Real Quiet was an anomaly, right?  After all, that happens in horse racing all of the time.  Not so fast.  Seven years later Giacomo lumbers into the Kentucky Derby picture with a dosage index of 4.33.  If we were to follow Giacomo dosage numbers, his sire, second and third tail sire (grandpas on dad’s side) plus his first three damsires would all be ignored. Oh, and his second dam is a blue hen. She doesn’t count, either. 
 
 
 
We only had to wait another four years for Mine That Bird to come along with – you guessed it – a 4.33 Dosage Index. So, True Believers in using Dosage for handicapping would have you accept that the numbers have to be changed again to fit the facts.  That isn’t how a “scientific theory” is supposed to work.  You can’t keep changing the numbers after the fact. As a predictive tool for the Kentucky Derby, Dosage has become useless.
 
 
So, Dosage really can’t be used to help figure out who will win the Kentucky Derby.  It’s a weird race with too many factors, anyway.  But we can use Dosage to handicap races can’t we?  Umm, not so fast.  Here’s another way to look at Dosage.  Take a look at Indian Charlie’s dosage index, a fine, low number of 2.43. Pay no attention to the fact that the Chief-de-races in his pedigree are three and four generations back.  He was bred to mares by the chef-de-races A.P. Indy (Intermediate/Classic), Alydar (Classic), Halo (Brilliant/Classic), Caro, Danzig, Gone West (all Intermediate/Classic), Giant’s Causeway (Classic), Kingmambo (Classic/Solid), plus non-classic stallions, who are certainly influences – Victory Gallop, Quiet American, Awesome Again, Ascot Knight, you get the picture.
 
 
Now, how many of Indian Charlie’s 78 starters won a stakes race at 1 ¼ miles?  One.  That’s a 1.28% of winners at classic distances. The filly who won at the distance, Fleet Indian, had a Dosage Index of 5.00, by the way. She won twice at 1 ¼ miles, the Delaware Handicap and Beldame, crossing the wire in 2:02 and 2:03. Given the low dosage indexes of Indian Charlie and all of the classic chief-de-race daughters to whom he was bred, shouldn’t we have seen more stakes winners at classic distances since their dosages were low?  If using Dosage for handicapping was correct, we should have seen a lot more classic winners.
 
 
Finally, realizing that using Dosage to deduce the Kentucky Derby wasn’t sound, Dr. Roman completely changed course at the 2011 at the Thoroughbred Pedigree, Genetics, and Performance Conference.  Steve Roman gave a lecture on Dosage. He stated that, “Contemporary Dosage Methodology is NOT a breeding theory, NOR a handicapping system or a betting scheme for the Kentucky Derby. He defined dosage as a methodology applied to large populations of Thoroughbreds for classifying pedigrees by aptitudinal type, and as a research tool correlating type with real world performance.” (Added emphasis).  Hey, he’s allowed to change his mind. It takes an intelligent person to admit that their estimate was incorrect. Trust me, I have to do it quite often.
 
 
Reading the above, Dosage doesn’t appear to be  a reliable handicapping tool, does it? Yet, what’s interesting, is that Dr. Roman, who stated in 2011 that Dosage ISN’T a handicapping tool, encourages dosage for exactly that same use on his website. So what are we to believe?  It reminds me of the politicians who say “no higher taxes,” as they grin and wink.
 
 
An estimated 25% of the Derby starters will not meet the 4.00 dosage maximum. Currently 27% of the stakes winners of the 2014 Kentucky Derby prep races don’t fit the 4.00 profile.  So, if Dosage is more than half wrong and yet only disqualifies 25%  of the Derby starters,  how good is it anyway? Flipping a coin at least gives a true 50% probability. Still holding fast to that Dosage Theory for handicapping?  I’d rather flip a One Dollar coin and then use it to bet on the winner.
 

 

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Older Comments about Dosage and the Kentucky Derby...

the complexity even at the MOST BASIC LEVEL is so far out of predictive control as to be almost impossible to predict accurately over time. Even in the human genone. "For each of the 23 pair of chromosomes, there are 2 to the 23rd power DIFFERENT combinations of chromosome that could occur in a gamete and the likelihood that one set of parents will produce two offsring with the identical complement fo chromosomes (or even CLOSE for that matter) is 1 in 2 to the 23rd power or 1 in 8.4 million(assuming no monzygotic twins." Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine p. 341.
the complexity of what is transferred to the offspring has an entirely new set of complexity over riding that one the cistrons are IN the individual. There is no static contribution from a pre-potent sire.
YOU are still missing the point that the theoretical MISSES the actual variable expression of what the theory holds as static...No one uses subclasses of chefs i.e. this chef is a sustained when the 45X gene is on but is Classic when it is off, is Stout/Professional when that gene is under th control of both that one and the third operator over here.
The article by Dr. Ziembia is on the chef side only!
Here we go again. Your lack of understanding is kindergarten level. Lisa explain to you and everyone else why she discredit this article. It is missing another portion, the Reine(dam) portion. When combine the Chef and Reine, it provide one with more accurate information.
Dr Ziembia (Dr. Z's system of betting) tries to relate dosage to wagering BUT if you can understand it please let me know. http://www.chef-de-race.com/dosage/ziemba_gramm.pdf
You are simply ridiculous. We are not talking about cloning technology here on this thread, but you showed your lack of current understanding of the role of the application of epigenetics in the REAL world on the previous thread started by Mike in SB/Zenyatta--only it was really about polo ponies. Recuerdas? Your ignorance was truly exposed. I have other things to do now.
Here is a presentation by Dr. Hill on Jan 9, 2013. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XB-VDhXnn4g
AND the information gleaned from that new information blows big fat holes in dosage.
what is dosage all about if it is not telling us the theoretical apptitude from these so called prepotent SIRESÉ the only way a sire does anything is through his DNA
that is the basis of inheritence...I will call them cistrones then as that is what I always knew them as in school One cistrone One protein was the watch words I grew up with
that is the basis of inheritence...I will call them cistrones then as that is what I always knew them as in school One cistrone One protein was the watch words I grew up with
You just don't get it Travel_Vic. Do you even understand what Dr. Hill studies are all about?
Absolutely, Dosage was developed long before the molecular biological realities of today. So? Dr. Hill et al are on the cutting edge of genetics and molecular biology and they are not sitting still. Molecular biologists ARE the reality of current scientific study; their work will continue to refine and define what is presently known.
Vic,if only i had a dollar for every time you used the word Genes or Genetic. Donald Trump may be knocked down a peg on the Rich Men of Americas list.
no one is talking about CLONING technology but simply the multiple offsrping of the same parents which assuredly has nothing to do with a clone
great line In isolation, a gene is an inert object – nothing more than a string of nucleotide bases. Only when placed in a cellular environment and interacting with the products of other genes can a gene become active. The first step in this activation is for the gene to be transcribed, or `expressed'.
bottom line DOSAGE as a theory was initially developed mLONG before science knew anything about hwo genetic transmission actually occured. Now hen we know the complex and variable way that genetic information comes to fruition it makes the simplistic idea that some phenotype can be trusted to be genetically transfered in toto to the offspring is now shown to be full of new complexities that were never even considered at the time of its first notion. Keeping up with the realities that science now gives us makes this study far far less reliable as a predictor of anything genetically based.
How ridiculous, t_v. YOU are missing the point. Dr. Hill's research and the subsequent MSTN variant test has little to nothing to do with what you are saying. You are going to try to lecture me on epigenetics?? You, who were/are more than a decade behind the current state of epigenetics as it relates to cloning technology. You were totally unaware that epigenetic reprogramming/engineering had enabled the work to proceed without the replicative senescence associated with the original clones. The MSTN test would work based on the cytology of the given subject at the time of the test; I suppose it could be repeated at intervals. THAT would be a good, legitimate for Dr. Hill vis-a-vis your lack of understanding.
amino - He is still trying to figure out what are Chef and Reine.

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Meet Laurie Ross
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've been around horses for most of my life, working in racing stables as a hot walker and exercise rider in my teenage years, and later as a volunteer with rescued and retired racehorses. I became interested in pedigree when the sons and daughters of my favorite horses started their racing careers.   

 

For more than a decade, I've passionately studied pedigree, how it applies to handicapping and breeding theories. In 2010, I joined Horse Racing Nation as their Pedigree Analyst, focusing on juvenile stakes winners, Triple Crown contenders and first crop sires from a handicapping perspective.   

 

In 2011, I accepted the role of South Florida Coordinator and Advisory Board Member for the national non-profit Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association (ThoroFan). Working closely with Gulfstream Park management and other race fans, we created a ThoroFan Chapter at Gulfstream Race Track. Our main project is assisting Thoroughbred rescue and re-training groups.

 

I continue to maintain my website Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds and blog of the same name. As a pedigree consultant, I specialize in assisting small to mid-size breeding/training operations with broodmare breeding reports, sales catalog analysis and recommendations on claims and private sales. 10 - 20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue and retraining groups.
 
I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic please contact me at lross@horseracingnation.com.
 
 

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