Much of what we do here at The American Thoroughbred Review is based on a common sense approach, utilizing raw numbers in statistically valid methods that illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of modern breeding theories. Long reaching inferences are frowned upon, and facts reign supreme over the hypothetical.

Such methodologies were also at the heart of Joseph A. Estes’ life and work. A sports journalist by trade, Estes would later become editor-in-chief of The Blood-Horse in 1935, and later, a breeding consultant for the powerful stables of Nelson Bunker Hunt.

Estes was instrumental in the development of statistical methodologies for evaluating bloodstock. It was through his efforts that the Average Earnings Index (AEI) was born, giving breeders a tool for evaluating the relative earning power of an individual. Estes also worked closely with famed Iowa State professor Dr. Jay Lush, commonly known as the father of modern quantitative genetics. Estes implemented Lush’s practical research on genetic transmission to the academic study of thoroughbred pedigrees.

Of the many adjectives used to describe Estes, popular was not one of them. Estes could be confrontational and excessively direct, often demanding that his colleagues prove their ideas, rather than merely advertise them. Estes often found himself at odds with advocates of nicking and the Bruce Lowe Family Numbers.

Estes is best known for advocating racing class in broodmare prospects. Before the advent of the personal computer, Estes spent weeks at a time analyzing the relationship between racing class and broodmare production. Estes’ work laid the foundation for the theoretical perspective that is seen through out much of The American Thoroughbred Review. Among his works is this 1963 study comparing the progeny of mares with racing class versus the average for the breed:

AEI Progeny from High Class Race Mares Average for the Breed
.00 to .39 20.0 % 46.1%
.40 to .79 14.4 % 18.6 %
.80 to .1.19 12.1 % 11.9 %
1.20 to 1.99 18.5 % 11.8 %
2.00 to 3.99 16.5 % 8.7 %
4.00 to 9.99 10.0 % 2.2 %
10.00 plus 8.5 % .7 %

Eloquent and quick-witted, Estes was known just as well for the delivery of his messages. Among the more famous Estes quotes:

“The Bruce Lowe family number is worth no more to the breeder than the horoscope he gets when he puts a penny in one of those drugstore weighing machines.”

“The conclusion remains unshaken that the value of a mare as a producer is in direct proportion to her class as a racer, and no better standard for choosing a broodmare is available to the breeder, however long he may pore over pedigrees.”

“When a young horse enters the stud, he should be judged, first, by his class as a racer; second, by his physical attributes; third, by his pedigree.”

“Bruce Lowe’s theory that certain hereditary excellencies and deficiencies descended in unimpaired vigor through many generations of females was one of the most absurd notions ever thrust into the welcoming arms of thoroughbred breeders.”

“There is nothing like a positive opinion – right or wrong – about the future of a race horse to shore up one’s confidence in his judgment.”

“Nicks are the bunk. They are the most universally accepted bunk in the whole business.”

“It reminds us of the race track, where any self-respecting tout can do better selling his advice than betting on it. And of the yearling market, where it is so much more blessed to give than to receive that the amateurs outnumber the professionals in the business of giving advice.”

Posted in Articles by developer January 16, 2023

Author: developer

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