As Easy as A, B, C ?

Stallion managers and broodmare owners have offered some interesting insights since the release of TrueNicks.

One stallion manager told me that he would come across clients who would reject matings that rated A on another nicking product because they wanted A++. In an e-mail conversation regarding a prospective mating, a broodmare owner told me that a planned mating that had a very clever pedigree had a "disappointing TrueNick rating." When, I looked, however, that rating was a B, with a variant of 1.60 - that is, 60% better than might have been expected by opportunity.

It's clear from interactions such as these that there is often some misunderstanding about what a nick rating is and isn't. TrueNicks is an expression of one specific aspect of the pedigree, that of the sire line/broodmare sire line cross. From our studies in developing TrueNicks, looking at over 100,000 horses, it is clear that there is a strong correlation between the sire line affinities and success, as expressed by wins in stakes events.

That said, there are a number of reasons not to blindly follow a rating without due consideration of class, conformation, and aptitude. While the rating is a wonderful tool to apply when trying to determine primus inter pares - first among equals - common sense must be used when considering the class of the pedigree.

For example, all other factors being similar, a yearling by Storm Cat, Distorted Humor (TrueNicks, SRO), or A.P. Indy, out of a grade I winning mare, with a TrueNicks rating of B has more chance of becoming a high-class runner than a yearling by a $5,000 regional stallion out of an inexpensive mare. When it comes to choosing between horses of similar class backgrounds, the system does reflect rather efficiently.

For example, around 42% of Distorted Humor's foals are TrueNicks rated A or better, and 62% are rated B or better. Looking at his stakes winners, however, we find that 74% are A or better (a 76% improvement on opportunity) and 85% are B or better (a 37% improvement on opportunity).

Mention of the "B or better" group for Distorted Humor underlines something else. That is, while very high variants are appealing, they are often the result of some good results generated from a relative small number of attempts. So, while A++ ratings are highly positive, A+, A, B+ and even B ratings represent a significant improvement over opportunity. What also has to be taken into account, from the pedigree perspective, is the presence of positive inbreeding and linebreeding in the pedigree (the interpretation of which is admittedly a somewhat subjective exercise). For example, the mating that our breeder friend described as giving a "disappointing" rating (actually a B), gave an intriguing inbreeding to the excellent mare Wild Applause, 3 x 3 through three-parts brother and sister.

In our book, a B with a powerful inbreeding pattern is a very positive mating. TrueNicks was calibrated to show more C and D - or even F - results than A's and B's, so there's never a question of a B being anything other than an above-average rating.

The TrueNicks program provides additional information to give even greater flexibility in interpreting the rating, as the TrueNicks page for a named horse or hypothetical mating is the only one to give the top five horses bred on a cross. This sometimes reveals a good individual bred on a sire line/broodmare sire line cross that has generally provided modest results. Exploration of that individual might determine that it is worth taking the opportunity to emulate a specific successful version of a cross that in general has provided disappointing results.

After all, we must never forget that at the end of the day, we are attempting to breed racehorses and not ratings.

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