All thoroughbreds that compete in horse racing today are all descended from one of three original stallions. Now, the least successful of those bloodlines may be coming to an end. Offspring of the Byerley Turk, one of racing’s three original stallions, have been slowly declining in recent years as more breeders turn to the bloodlines which involve the Godolphin Arabian and the Darley Arabian.
About the Byerley Turk
The very first thoroughbred stallion was the Byerley Turk. Though there has been much speculation about the actual origins of the horse, it appears to have been given its name as a result of war service to one Captain Byerley. One theory states that the horse was captured in a battle and sent back to England. Another says that the horse was a Turkish stallion, hence the name, that was captured and brought back to England. Still others claim the horse was foaled in England.
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No matter which myth you believe, they all come to the same end. Along with the Godolphin and the Darley, the Byerley Turk was selected to found a new breed of horse called the thoroughbred. These horses would be bred for one purpose: to race on race tracks around the world for the pleasure of spectators and bettors.
Every single horse that you bet on at your favorite online racebook can trace its origin back to one of the three original stallions. The Godolphin and the Darley have both produced a strong line of runners that continues to sire champions until this very day. Triple Crown winners have emerged from these bloodlines. For whatever reason, the Byerley Turk was not nearly as successful as a progenitor of race horses.
The End of a Horse Racing Bloodline
Many things in horse racing come down to the bottom line. It’s all about money for most breeders and owners. Horses that do not produce winners are sooner or later culled from breeding programs. It’s essentially the process of evolution at work, the very process which the original breeders of race horses wanted to achieve. Perhaps they perfected the process too well.
Over time there was a pronounced difference between the record of the Byerley Turk and the other two stallions. Therefore, breeders sought out stock from the other two bloodlines. The Turk line was then given fewer opportunities to breed, and thus fewer opportunities for racing success. This can only happen for so long before an entire generation passes without the foaling of single animal from the bloodline. Some thing this stage is coming soon for the Byerley Turk.
Some would argue that success on the track is not nearly as important as keeping this historic blood line going. There are those who respect the traditions of horse racing enough that just breeding a horse from the line would be acceptable, even if that horse never raced. The problem, as mentioned earlier, is that everything about horse racing comes down to the hard realities of dollars and cents. If there is no profit to be made, race horses have no value.
The numbers of Byerley Turk offspring are dwindling each year. 2018 may only see a scant handful of Turks to appear in the horse racing auction rings around the country. By 2020, there may be none at all. Hopefully, there are racing fans who will remember the forgotten father of many of the world’s thoroughbreds. At the very least the horse deserves enduring recognition.