Heartbeats & Hoofbeats: The Dosage system: does it matter?

Heartbeats & Hoofbeats: The Dosage system: does it matter?

By Susan Johnson, Copy Editor

OK, horse racing fans, get your pencils and papers ready. If you picked the Kentucky Derby winner, congratulations! If not, was there some information that might have helped you?

Every year at Triple Crown time, history is made, and records are made to be broken. Is placing a bet on a horse any riskier than, say, investing in the stock market? Either way, it’s a gamble of sorts, and if you do a little research, you might have some advantage. But, either with horses or stocks, know your limit of what you can afford to lose.

One system that has been used for years but recently has been questioned is the Dosage system. This theory was advanced in the early 1980s by Leon Rasmussen and Steve Roman. They believed that a horse’s potential at various distances could be mathematically calculated by the presence of certain influential stallions in his pedigree. These were called chefs-de-race.

Under Dosage, stallions such as Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector and Stage Door Johnny have been classified into categories based on the performance of their offspring. Roman regularly adds new sires to the list and re-evaluates others. A horse’s Dosage profile is determined by assigning points in five categories (brilliant, intermediate, classic, solid, professional) based on the chefs-de-race in his pedigree.

These numbers are used to calculate two more figures—the Dosage index and center of distribution. In both areas, the lower the number, the longer the distance suitable to the horse.

Dosage has been closely associated with the Kentucky Derby, and followers of this theory believe that only horses with a Dosage index of 4.00 or under are genetically suited to win the Derby.

Since the theory was expounded in 1981, 19 of the 22 Derby winners have qualified, but in most cases, the majority of Derby runners do so.

By the way, the Dosage index for Empire Maker is 1.88, and his center of distribution is 0.42. The Dosage index for Funny Cide is 1.53, and his center of distribution is 0.46. For Peace Rules, the numbers are 4.50 and 1.00, respectively.

Another method some Dosage believers use is the dual qualifier system. With this method, the horse must qualify on Dosage and also be either a foreign champion or weighted within 10 pounds of the high weight on the Experimental Handicap, a ranking of 2-year-olds determined each year.

However, this system has been less than satisfactory. None of the last five winners—Real Quiet, Charismatic, Fusaichi Pegasus, Monarchos and War Emblem—was a dual qualifier. Real Quiet and Charismatic did not even qualify on Dosage.

For this reason, many serious handicappers have dismissed the Dosage system as a reliable indicator of success. And, having just celebrated Mother’s Day, we shouldn’t forget the female side of the horse’s pedigree. Remember, half of a horse’s genes are contributed by his dam, and the influence of a good mother cannot be overlooked, even in the equine world.

Next column: The Beyer Speed factor

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