Dosage as a tool and not the rule

Profile Picture: Dick Powell

April 25th, 2019

Following Kellie Reilly’s brilliant piece on the strengths and weaknesses of the Dosage Index is like a hack comedian being asked to go on stage after Richard Pryor. Not easy.

Reilly went through the methodology and lack of updates of potential chef-de-race sires that have thrown the theory of the Dosage Index more into the world of speculation and not of science.

I use Dosage as a tool when handicapping the Kentucky Derby (G1). I have never been tied into it where it ruled my ultimate handicapping decision, but also could not ignore the years of success. The theory that a horse’s pedigree cannot have too much of a ratio of speed to stamina still seems valid to me; especially early in a horse’s three-year-old season. The points that Reilly raises about the decisions about how that speed and stamina are measured are concerning and it looks like the actual Dosage Index (DI) will soon go the way of phone booths and black-and-white televisions.

Part of the Dosage Index was applied to a contender with a DI below 4.0 also needed to have decent form as a two-year-old. This, coupled with the fact that it was over 130 years since a Kentucky Derby winner did not race as a two-year-old, made picking JUSTIFY difficult if you were a true believer but not if you watched his career debut.

The point is, the Thoroughbred is an evolving species and living by hard and fast rules misses the changes in training and pedigrees.

One horse that became the “Rohrschach Test” for the Dosage Index was STRIKE THE GOLD. ALYDAR was a top racehorse that went to stud in 1980 and had his first foals in 1981. His first crop of three-year-olds came along in 1984 and as quick a start as he had at stud, Strike the Gold was foaled in 1988 and was the sixth crop of three-year-olds that Alydar had sired, which was too soon to make the decision that he was a “chef-de-race” and if he was, in what category he would be placed?

So in 1991, here comes Strike the Gold, with a DI of 9.00, and was a toss if you were a strict adherent to the theory. But, and it is not as big a but as you might think, Alydar was eventually designated a Classic chef-de-race because of the continuing success of his offspring going long. The “Objection” sign went up in the minds of many who accused Dr. Steven Roman of force feeding the classification of Alydar to make Strike the Gold’s DI below 4.0.

The fact is, and what had me gravitate to the Dosage Theory in the first place, is that how a stallion performed on the racetrack was irrelevant and it was only after they showed that they had a measurable, predictable impact on the breed did they earn chef-de-race status. MR. PROSPECTOR won going six furlongs in 1:07 4/5 but he wound up being designated a Brilliant/Classic chef-de-race after he unexpectedly sired Kentucky Derby winner FUSAICHI PEGASUS, Preakness Stakes (G1) winner TANK’S PROSPECT, and Belmont Stakes (G1) winner CONQUISTADOR CIELO.

Had he been designated right off the track, the speedball might have become a Brilliant chef-de-race but after enough of his foals raced, he wound up showing that he could also sire Classic-type horses. It was not a projection or opinion that Mr. Prospector would become a Brilliant/Classic chef-de-race but empirical evidence based on results. I just wish that the same diligence that was applied back then would be applied to the sires that Reilly, rightfully, feels that should have been designated in the past few decades.

PHOTO: Justify wins the 2018 Kentucky Derby (G1) under Mike Smith (c) Coady Photography/Churchill Downs