Tobi Taylor's Journal

News > Monday, July-23-2012

Tadcaster Spots?!

My horse Immaginn, who was born in 2007, came into this world sporting a curious marking on his light-bay coat: a large, dark spot just behind his withers. Known as a Bend Or spot, it is named after perhaps the most famous bearer of this type of marking. Immaginn is a son of the Thoroughbred stallion Innkeeper, by Secretariat, and a descendant of the venerable Bend Or sire line  -- or is he?

Although Bend Or was ostensibly the winner of the 1880 Epsom Derby, his owners were accused by the owner of a rival horse of actually running his lookalike paternal half-brother, Tadcaster, in his place.

Today, Bend Or appears in the pedigrees of the vast majority of Thoroughbreds, often multiple times.  Recently, some British researchers examined DNA in what has been assumed to be Bend Or's skeleton.  As Byron Rogers writes in "True Nicks":

"[A] team led by Dr. Mim Bower at Cambridge University extracted mitochondrial DNA from the skeleton of Bend Or to discover whether he came from the No. 1 family to which Rouge Rose belonged, or the No. 2 family of Clemence. The team published their findings April 11 in an early view of the peer-reviewed journal Archaeometry.

If mtDNA from the skeleton claimed to be that of Bend Or matched the mitochondrial lineage of his dam Rouge Rose (family #1, of which the study had 21 representatives), then it is indeed that of Bend Or. Conversely, if the DNA matched the mitochondrial lineage of Clemence (family #2,18 representatives), the dam of Tadcaster, then the skeleton instead belongs to the lineage presently attributed to Tadcaster. Additionally, they obtained mtDNA from 10 additional historic Thoroughbreds in order to test, with statistical robustness, whether historic Thoroughbreds could be accurately placed within their maternal pedigrees using mtDNA, and compared these data with sequences obtained from 296 living Thoroughbred horses.

"Well, it turns out that it might be time to change some pedigrees. It now appears that the skeleton of Bend Or belongs to the No. 2 family and, therefore, "Bend Or" is most likely to be the colt by Doncaster out of Clemence."

That is, Tadcaster. Time to start calling them Tadcaster spots?

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