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Pedigree Expert Les Brinsfield Dies at 78

Brinsfield remembered for his love of technology, collaboration, and La Troienne.

BloodHorse Library

Les Brinsfield, a renowned pedigree consultant and pioneer in using computers to analyze breeding patterns and matings, died in Lexington Aug. 3 at age 78, according to his family.

Brinsfield was a native of Crisfield, Md., on the Delmarva Peninsula, where he developed his passions for pedigrees and technology. He initially began delving into pedigrees as a way to improve his handicapping, according to his daughter Megan Brinsfield of Washington D.C. In the meantime, he immersed himself in the world of the personal computer by teaching himself programming.

"You think of older folks avoiding the internet, but my dad was on the internet before people even understood what it was," Megan Brinsfield said. "He thought email was the greatest thing and connected with people all over the world."

Les Brinsfield moved to Lexington in 1988 and made an immediate deep dive into the world of Thoroughbred breeding. He brought to Kentucky a pedigree research tool he created called PC Pedigree, which he sold to breeders worldwide. His program also got him connected with other tech-savvy pedigree analysts, such as Anne Meredith in New Zealand, who had been developing her own software in parallel.

"As far as I know, he was the first person to put a database of pedigrees on a computer," said pedigree analysts Alan Porter. "The fact that you could get a six cross pedigree up on a screen, made looking at pedigrees faster that it ever had been. It took it into the computer age. Until his original PC Pedigree, I (working for Bert Firestone then), and everyone else used to do matings on paper generally using split pedigree books, presumably in a way unchanged since Tesio, or even before." 

"PC Pedigree was perhaps "the" ancestor conceptually of most pedigree research software. The ability to look at so many more pedigrees so quickly certainly impact my work and learning curve," Porter said.

Over the years, Brinsfield also created online forums for pedigree researchers to share ideas and helped organize a pedigree conference in Lexington.

Living in Lexington opened many doors for Brinsfield and his expertise. He operated his first office out of a rented downtown studio at the corner of West Second Street and Upper Street. In the same building was the office of fellow pedigree consultant John Prather. The two of them eventually formed a business called Pedigree Group. Together they worked with Prestonwood Farm to shape the first book for a new sire named Distorted Humor .

In a pedigree profile of Flower Alley written by Avalyn Hunter for BloodHorse, Prather gives credit to Brinsfield for focusing heavily on mares carrying strains of La Troienne. Distorted Humor's first crop of 66 foals included 20 whose dams carried La Troienne in their pedigrees. Twelve of Distorted Humor's first foals went on to become stakes winners, and seven of those stakes winners traced in blood back to La Troienne, including 2003 dual classic winner Funny Cide, 2002 Spinaway Stakes (G1) winner Awesome Humor, and 2003 Peter Pan Stakes (G2) winner Go Rockin' Robin.

Megan Brinsfield described her father as being obsessed with the La Troienne bloodline and the mare's extraordinary and continuing influence within elite American racehorses.

Les Brinsfield wrote the following in 2001 about why he believed La Troienne became such a powerful influence.

"The key to why La Troienne became a fountainhead lies not so much in what is, but rather, in the answer to the riddle of what is not. Outside of her first foal, a filly by Gainsborough, which was euthanized as a foal, in the United States, she was never bred to any sire that was not a Domino line horse except Idle Hour homebred Bubbling Over, whose dam was tripled to Domino and laced with his five-eighths sister, Lady Reel, dam of Hamburg.

"Domino is tripled Lexington, who led the American sire list on 16 occasions, and quadrupled to Lexington's sire, Boston, he a grandson of Sir Archy, he a son of Diomed as was Ball's Florizel. Lexington had a double Sir Archy along with a strain of Ball's Florizel.

"And Diomed is the rub. He won the first Epsom Derby in 1780, languished in a mediocre stud career in England and found his way to Virginia in Colonial America at the turn of the century. His stud career was in for a retroactive growth spurt as he left behind a great mare in Young Giantess, she the source of many good horses in rapid succession of close up generations: Sorcerer, Phantom, Langar, Priam, The Cure, Muley, The Picton as well as several lesser sires. Young Giantess and distaff descendants took a while to get this done and these producers are the reason for re-assessing Diomed after his export. They had help also as Diomed left a sister, Fancy as well as three-quarter brother and sister, Dragon and Young Juno.

"In the aggregate, theses Diomed factors had plenty of opportunity to accumulate in the gene pool and they did. By the time La Troienne was born, there were hundreds of such strains in her pedigree, mostly Young Giantess, and of her descendants, mostly Sorcerer—to the tune of hundreds of occurrences. Examine the foregoing and what is conspicuous by absence is a MALE strain of Diomed.

"While this buildup was taking more than a century to produce La Troienne, the male line was accumulating at fever pitch in America as Sir Archy was first a brilliant racer retired for lack of competition and then a brilliant sire. He left at least 23 sons who bred on but none more important than Timoleon, sire of Boston, sire of Lexington who, to remind is tripled in Domino, whose male line was responsible for most of the carnage to follow from La Troienne. The exception of course, was Bubbling Over whose dam was tripled to Domino and has five-eights sister Lady Reel.

"For a century, more or less, the gene pool, separated by an ocean and with a clearly demarcated partition, produced La Troienne with a total void of male strains of Diomed while simultaneously correcting that oversight with a vengeance in Domino, respectively.

"To summarize—every foal from La Troienne was the result of the reunion of male and female strains of Diomed after segregation for over a century. Barring an error in our pedigrees, this is undeniable. Equally undeniable, these foals were superior to the norm and the cumulative impact of their offspring is astounding."

Other top horses produced as a result of Brinsfield's research include multiple grade 1 winner and two-time champion Ashado, 2000 champion sprinter Kona Gold, seven-time graded stakes winner Yes It's True, grade 1 turf winner Sunriver, and grade 1 winner and iron horse shuttle stallion More Than Ready .

Brinsfield is also survived by his son Alan Brinsfield of Ridgeley, W.Va., and two grandchildren, Sara and Brady. Memorial and funeral arrangements are pending.