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The X-FACTOR ~ Heart of the Matter .. Part 2

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Large heart lines exist in many notable Quarter Horse sires and broodmares and should be considered in breeding decisions.

Part 2 of 2

... by Marianna Haun
 Author Biography

Click here to go to Part 1

This article first appeared in the Quarter Racing Journal, the monthly racing magazine of the American Quarter Horse Association. To subscribe, call 800-291-7323. Click here to go to the Quarter Racing Journal subscription page on the World Wide Web.


Failed Sires  |  Mares  | Dash For Cash Daughters  
| Dash For Cash's Heart  | First Down Dash  
Other Large Hearted SiresMan O'  War's Influence


Research has proven that the characteristic in racehorses known as "great heart" is really a physical description of an extraordinary heart found in certain Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses and Standardbreds. From the legendary Eclipse (TB), which was foaled in England in 1764, this great heart has passed down the female line on the X chromosome.

Geneticists use the term "X Factor" to describe the female X chromosome, which is attributed with creating the large hearts found in outstanding racehorses. With an electrocardiogram, researchers can measure the size of a horse’s heart and determine a heart score, which is gained by a correlation of heart weight, stroke volume, cardiac output and aerobic power. Research at the University of Kentucky into the size of more than 400 equine hearts found heart scores ranging from 100-160. In terms of heart weight, that translates to 6 1/2 pounds to more than 15 pounds.

As a result, the X Factor casts doubts on the centuries-old belief that the strength of the stallion determines the athletic potential in racehorses. Because the large heart characteristic is on the X chromosome, large-hearted stallions that carry only one X chromosome (which they receive from their dams) can only pass on the large-hearted X chromosome. Daughters of these stallions carry their sire’s X chromosome and one of the two X chromosomes carried by their dam.

Whichever X chromosome is dominant is the one that is expressed. If a mare is a single copy (meaning she carries the large heart on only one of her X chromosome), she could pass on either the large-hearted X chromosome or the small-hearted X chromosome. Depending upon whichever X chromosome is dominant, that mare might express either a large heart or a small heart.

This information can help breeders ensure that they take full advantage of the X Factor.

Large-hearted sires often panned

Because the large heart characteristic passes via the female line and the racing industry for centuries has judged a sire by his sons. Large-hearted stallions that accomplished amazing feats on the track often have been panned because they were unable to duplicate themselves in their sons. Extraordinary Thoroughbreds such as Secretariat, Omaha, Citation and Whirlaway are examples.

Man o’ War was an exception because he was lucky enough to be bred to a mare that had a larger heart than he did. That mare, Brushup (TB), was by Sweep, which also gave his high-performance heart to Dustwhirl, dam of Whirlaway.

Brushup produced Man o’ War’s greatest son, Triple Crown winner War Admiral, which has become one of the four largest heart lines in today’s pedigrees (joining the Thoroughbreds Princequillo, Blue Larkspur and Mahmoud). War Admiral’s heart is in Seattle Slew, broodmare sire of champion Cigar, and also fuels 1997 Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm.

Large-hearted sires that were successful racehorses have a consistent pattern of producing better daughters than sons – and thus not being appreciated until 10-15 years later, when their daughters begin to produce outstanding racehorses and the stallions are recognized as prolific broodmare sires. If lucky enough to be bred to good mares with large hearts, these stallions then earn the designation of being a sire of sires – ironically taking the credit for what the mare brought into the mix.

So, the key to making a sire of sires out of a successful large-hearted stallion is to mate him with mares of equal heart size. The resulting colt should have an exceptional cardiovascular system.

Mares are most important

The secret to achieving status as a sire is to get the best mares. The reason the genetic mutation that produces a large heart has made its way down more than 200 years through three different breeds is because of the pattern of breeding the best to the best. Because of the pattern of performance allied to the large heart, breeders have unconsciously been breeding the large heart into their respective breeds.

When selecting mares to be bred to large-hearted Quarter Horse stallions, it is important that breeders remember the tail-female line. The X chromosome the dam sends to her foal doesn’t just come from the broodmare sire – it also can come from the bottom of the dam’s pedigree. Because there is no way of telling which X will be dominant in the genetic spin of the wheel, it is important to cover all genetic bases.

Even with pedigree experts and careful selection of breeding stock, luck still plays a big part in who breeds a champion. There are genetic black holes in many pedigrees that simply can’t be planned against. This is why a double copy mare is so valuable.

There always will be single copy mares that expressed the large heart of their sire, but carried a small heart from their dam. These mares can perform brilliantly on the track, then disappoint in the breeding shed when they are either bred to normal-hearted sires or send the small heart to their sons and daughters.

This is the case with Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors, a single copy mare that often has sent the small heart to her progeny and hasn’t been able to reproduce herself. Some of Dash For Cash’s best daughters also have had the same problem.

Dash For Speed earned more than $1.2 million, but hasn’t produced up to her potential. The mare, which has some genetic holes in her bottom side for the large heart and is a probable single copy, always should be bred to a large-hearted sire – while a prayer is said for the correct X to come up in the mix!

Daughters of Dash For Speed, such as the two she has by Special Effort, eventually might produce large-hearted individuals. Even if they received the wrong X from Dash For Speed, they will carry the large heart of their sire.

One daughter of Dash For Cash that is a probable double copy mare is Miss Eye Opener. The reason is that she has produced six winners from eight starters and one stakes winner, world champion Special Leader. She carries the large heart of Dash For Cash and is out of a daughter of the large-hearted sire Beduino (TB), which has an outstanding bottom side for the large heart. Her second dam, Ought To Go, is a daughter of the terrific large-hearted sire Go Man Go and is out of a daughter of War Bam, which goes to the large Sweep heart.

As a result, Special Leader is a sire whose daughters should be worth watching as racehorses and broodmares.

Dash For Cash’s daughter Flow Of Cash was a double copy mare that was out of Cherry Lake (TB), a double copy mare that produced four champions when bred to Dash For Cash. Although she only produced two foals before her death, Flow Of Cash, a stakes winner of more than $324,246, did produce a stakes winner in her son Frisco Flare.

Cherry Lake produced six winners from eight starters that earned more than $1.8 million. Following the pattern of double copy daughters from double copy dams, Cherry Lake’s daughter Rain Onya (by Go Man Go), produced double copy Shake It To Em, by Dash For Cash. Shake It To Em continued the pattern, producing eight winners from nine starters, with two stakes winners.

When champion Elan Again was bred to Dash For Cash, she produced the filly Dash Again, an earner of $254,068 that has produced seven winners from eight starters, with three stakes winners and the earners of more than $1.5 million. Dash Again followed her double copy dam’s pattern when she was bred to Special Effort and produced the double copy filly Elans Special, which won the All American Futurity (G1).

Remember that the best producing daughters are not always the best racers, which is true in all breeds. There are many different reasons why some individuals don’t make it on the track: finances, injury, poor training. But these individuals still can carry the genes of champions and can produce.

Two examples of Dash For Cash mares that fit this category are Cypress Point, which never raced, but produced three winners from three starters, including champion Develop A Plan and the earners of more than $390,000; and Cash Balance, dam of stakes winners Six Figures, Fabulous Figure and Six On The Beach, which earned only $425 on the track, but has produced six winners from seven starters with earnings of more than $465,000. She is a probable double copy with large heart lines on all of her pedigree lines.

What some of Dash’s other daughters have done

Merry For Cash, which has a 106 speed index, is another example of a good producing daughter by Dash For Cash. She has seven winners from eight starters and three stakes winners. She probably received the Depth Charge (TB) heart from her broodmare sire, Midway Mayor (TB).

Especially For You is an example of a probable single copy. She didn’t express Dash For Cash’s heart, but had it to give to champion Rare Form, which now can pass it on to his daughters. He already is doing this, siring champion Fabulous Form. He also will sire winning sons, such as champion Especially Rare, when he is bred to mares like Me Bright Special, daughter of large-hearted sire Special Effort.

Dashing Phoebe not only expressed Dash For Cash’s heart and earned $609,554, but when bred to Special Effort produced champion Special Phoebe.

Darlin Dash might not have expressed her sire’s heart, but she produced champion Darlin Sixarun.

Millionaire Make Mine Cash expressed her sire’s heart and produced champion Make Mine Bud. Make Mine Cash has some holes in the bottom side of her pedigree, and that might explain her produce record of 10 foals, eight starters, four winners and one stakes winner.

Dash For Cash’s heart

Judging by the pattern of performance in Quarter Horses with large hearts, the high-performance cardiovascular system is just as important in an animal that reaches his sprinting speed in three strides and never lets up until the finish line.

The most successful Quarter Horse sires that pass on the large heart have large-hearted Thoroughbred lines on their bottom sides. Thoroughbred heart lines on the top side won’t do any good because the characteristic isn’t on the Y chromosome, which comes from the sire.

A prime example of a Quarter Horse with the large Eclipse heart is Dash For Cash. His dam, Find A Buyer (TB), goes to the Eclipse heart on the X chromosome through Whirlaway on the tail-female line through his maternal great-granddam, Scattered, and through his maternal granddam, Hide and Seek, a daughter of Alibhai. An outstanding broodmare sire, Alibhai was found to have a 14-pound heart at autopsy.

All of Dash For Cash’s maternal X chromosome lines go to the Eclipse heart line, but the stallion’s success and the success of his daughters on the racetrack suggest that the heart probably comes from either Whirlaway or Alibhai.

Following the pattern of other successful large-hearted racehorses, most of the big earners by Dash For Cash were female because they were the only ones able to inherit his heart. In studying the pedigrees of the stallion’s best sons, you will find large heart lines in the pedigrees of their dams. In First Down Dash’s case, for example, the large heart comes from his broodmare sire, Gallant Jet, which goes to Eclipse through his second dam, Linda Jewel. She is a daughter of Red Jewel (TB) that goes to Eclipse through Pocahontas on all of his female lines.

The best producers of a large-hearted sire are frequently double copy mares. Dash For Cash’s champion daughter Florentine is a good example. She earned more than $1.1-million and is out of a double copy mare, Trippy Dip (TB), which has large heart lines on all of her X chromosome lines. Trippy Dip is by Scout Leader, which is out of a probable double copy mare, Polylady, that is by the large-hearted sire Polynesian and is out of Lady Dorimar, a granddaughter of Man o’ War. Trippy Dip’s heart lines on her dam’s side are even better.

Her dam, Dancing Straw, is by Dancing Dervish, which is out of Mumtaz, a daughter of Mahmoud – one of the four largest heart lines. Her maternal granddam is the great Jackstraw mare, M. Straw, which demonstrated the pattern of performance and durability found with a superior cardiovascular system when she won a stakes at Ruidoso Downs on September 8, 1963. Twelve days later in Albuquerque, she won a six-furlong race, then was hauled 900 miles to New Braunfels, Texas, where on September 28, she ran the fastest three-eighths of a mile recorded in the state.

Jackstraw carried the large heart lines to Eclipse through his dam, Absurdity. Through her dam, Inquiry, all roads led to Pocahontas through her sons, Stockwell and Rataplan.

Jackstraw also demonstrated the pattern of producing outstanding daughters, including Sea Nymph, his leading earner, and multiple champion Straw Flight. His other outstanding daughters include Fly Straw, Nosey Josey (TB), Kaystorm, Maggie Straw, Cindy Straw, Straw Doll, Straw Lil and Miss Straw. They passed on Jackstraw’s great heart to future generations.

Because of Trippy Dip’s heart line, her champion son, Calyx, should sire nice daughters and sons when bred to large-hearted mares. Like all sires carrying the large heart on their X chromosome, Calyx should be bred to mares with large hearts. Otherwise, he will sire sons with normal to small hearts.

Trippy Dip’s Cinderella story of her rise from the Santa Anita claiming ranks to blue-hen Quarter Horse producer is a good example of the fact that no matter how poorly the world might treat you, you can’t keep good genes down. Lucky for the Quarter Horse breed, Trippy Dip’s worth was realized, and she was crossed with the large-hearted sire Dash For Cash. The rest is history.

First Down Dash’s contributions

First Down Dash is following in his daddy’s footsteps in producing outstanding daughters, such as champions Dashing Folly, Ah Sigh, Corona Cash, Down With Debt, Royal Down Dash and Speedy Empress. These daughters, which have good bottom sides, should be good producers.

First Down Dash has been lucky in the mares he has been bred to because most also have had outstanding large heart lines. Champion Dash Thru Traffic is out of Lady Meter Reader, a daughter of large-hearted sire Beduino (TB), whose dam, Jo-Ann-Cat, was a double copy daughter of Rejected out of the Depth Charge mare Quick Eye. Lady Meter Reader also is out of a daughter of Tiny Charger. Dash Thru Traffic’s maternal great-granddam, Rhoda Watch, is a daughter of Anchor Watch (TB), which carries the Sweep heart line.

Champion Royal Quick Dash, another son of First Down Dash, also is out of a Beduino mare, Harems Choice, which is out of a daughter of Tiny Charger. His maternal great-granddam, Hy Flicka, is a daughter of Hysition (TB), which goes to Eclipse through Pocahontas.

A Classic Dash, another champion son of First Down Dash, also comes from a dam with good heart lines. Classic Canyon (TB) is a daughter of Dusty Canyon, which goes to Eclipse through his broodmare sire, Goya 2nd. A Classic Dash’s second dam, Like Grandma, is a daughter of David Cox, which is out of the great Three Bars mare, Miss Myrna Bar.

Grade 1 winner Holland Ease, a son of First Down Dash that earned a 109 speed index, carries plenty of heart through his dam, Easy Henryetta, a daughter of large-hearted sire Easy Jet. Easy Henryetta’s second dam, Baby Steel (TB), is by Leadstealer, which is out of a daughter of the influential Mahmoud.

Other large-hearted sires

Reckless Dash, a son of Dash For Cash, carries the heart line of Raise Your Glass (TB), sire of Special Effort. Although his heart lines won’t help his sons, on the X chromosome line, Raise Your Glass carries the large heart lines of Bull Lea (TB), Sweep and War Admiral through his dam, Champagne Woman.

Streakin Six is another sire with good heart lines. His broodmare sire, Little Request (TB), is a maternal grandson of Sweep. While the bottom of his dam’s pedigree is pretty good, based on his pattern of performance, it is probable that Streakin Six is carrying the Sweep heart.

Carrying the Eclipse heart is champion Ronas Ryon. His dam, Rona Bar, goes to Eclipse through her sire, Three Bargains, which tracks to Lexington twice through his maternal granddam, Marina.

Man O’ War’s influence

In studying the pedigrees of some of the best runners, sires and dams in Quarter Horse racing, I am amazed about the number of great Thoroughbred hearts that are racing in today’s Quarter Horse. Man o’ War is represented in sires such as Spotted Bull (TB), Spy Song (TB) and Moolah Bux (TB). Each stallion was out of a daughter or granddaughter of Man o’ War.

Special Effort is a good example of a Quarter Horse with the Man o’ War heart. His dam, Go Effortlessly, is a daughter of Double Devil, which is out of a daughter of Spotted Bull. Go Effortlessly is inbred to Man o’ War through her dam, Hijo Beauty (TB), another daughter of Spotted Bull.

Special Effort’s son, Strawfly Special, is an example of what can be produced when an outstanding sire is bred to a double copy mare. His dam, Fly In The Pie, produced six starters from six foals, with four winners and one stakes winner. She goes to Eclipse through her sire, Pie In The Sky, which is out of Miss Jelly Roll, a daughter of Roulade (TB), which carries the Sweep (TB) and Alibhai (TB) heart lines. Her dam, Flying Rockette, by Rocket Bar (TB), is out of the great Jackstraw (TB) mare Fly Straw.

The Signature is another sire that carries the Man o’ War heart line through his broodmare sire, Moolah Bux. His second dam, Mable Chick, carries large heart lines to Eclipse through her sire, Triple Chick, and her broodmare sire, Wild Chicle (TB). Judging by the pattern of performance through his female line, it is probable that The Signature expresses the Man o’ War heart.

Merridoc also carries the Man o’ War heart line through Spy Song, which sired his second dam, Tiptoe Tune (TB). Merridoc’s dam, Sparkling Tip, is a probable double copy, carrying the Depth Charge (TB) line through her sire, Diamond Charge, and going to two large-hearted sires on her bottom side, Bolero (TB) and Spy Song.

Following the pattern of large-hearted sires, Merridoc has sired a champion daughter, St Willa. He is also the broodmare sire of world champion Down With Debt. Because she is by First Down Dash, Down With Debt could be a double copy mare. So far, she has three starters and two winners.

Another large-hearted sire that has made himself felt on heart lines of top Quarter Horses is Hempen (TB), which goes to both Man o’ War and his great son, War Admiral. Hempen is found on the X chromosome lines of champion Dashing Folly through his daughter Hempes Folly. Another champion by First Down Dash is Speedy Empress, which has Hempen as her maternal great-grandsire.

The Hempen heart line can be found in sons of First Down Dash as well. Grade 1 winner Rakin In The Cash, which entered stud this year, is out of a Hempen mare, and Leaving Memories is also out of a daughter of Hempen.

When it comes to great heart, Man O’ War had plenty to spare, and he spread that great heart to both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses.

Back to Part 1

This article first appeared in the Quarter Racing Journal, the monthly racing magazine of the American Quarter Horse Association. To subscribe, call 800-291-7323. Click here to go to the Quarter Racing Journal subscription page on the World Wide Web.

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