To Region or Not to Region

We were recently forwarded an e-mail containing an advertisement from another pedigree consultancy that mentioned "... other pedigree information services that attempt to dazzle you with vast database resources without discriminating the information that matters from the information that doesn't ...." It also asserts that it chooses not to include the results of restricted stakes - even though that can include such valuable and prestigious races as the Canadian Queen's Plate or the Japanese Derby.

Without conjecturing whether or not this refers to TrueNicks, it is certainly the case that TrueNicks has "vast database resources." However, TrueNicks - developed by industry professionals with extensive international experience in all aspects of racing and breeding - certainly knows how to sort and provide the information that matters.

In any case, the comments do raise some interesting points. One is that the fundamental difference between the TrueNicks database - that of The Jockey Club Information Services - and others is not so much that it is vast, but that it is thorough. It is this comprehensive database that allows TrueNicks to take into account all starters and foals bred on a cross, thus reflecting true - as opposed to hypothetical - opportunity. (As a bonus, it also means that TrueNicks ratings are always calculated using the most current data possible.)

Other nicking services work from a selective database that includes some stakes winners, from some countries, over some time period - and have devised convoluted arguments to explain away shortcomings in their data.

In fact, they strain to make a virtue out of a vice, and suggest that examining hypothetical opportunity among a select class of runners is going to yield more accurate results than comparing real achievement with real opportunity across all known foals and starters. Of course, this is patently false. The email cited earlier also alleges that

  1. "... patterns of successful breeding are evident only in runners of genuine quality"
  2. "... certain methods of inbreeding, sire-line crosses, or combinations of ancestors that never yield a listed stakes winner may often show up among the winners of restricted stakes"

The first assertion is patently wrong: patterns of successful breeding turn up in good and bad runners alike (as do less successful ones), and it is only when looking at all foals that we can determine how successful a cross or pattern is relative to opportunity. TrueNicks factors in both frequency of attempts and quality of material involved.

The second contention needs to be looked at in two parts. Firstly, let's consider the assumption that the unrestricted races included in our competitors' compilations of stakes winners are always going to be superior to restricted stakes winners. Upon even a surface examination, their criteria produce some strange anomalies.

For example, a horse would not qualify for their calculations by winning the Japanese Derby (a restricted race) - but a Japanese gr. III winner, who was soundly defeated in the same race, would qualify. It is also strains credulity to believe that all stakes winners in countries such as New Zealand, Italy (including Sicily), and Germany, or all gr. III winners in Chile or Peru, would be superior to the winners of, say, the Canadian classics. Even looking at Australia, where racing is of a generally higher standard, the winner of a race such as the Tasmanian Derby at Hobart (a group event), would in most cases struggle to get anywhere near the winner of the Canadian restricted turf classic, the Breeders' Stakes.

Similar anomalies apply when we consider racing in the U.S. There are restricted stakes at major tracks where the winning performances are clearly superior to open company stakes events at some smaller tracks. With these inconsistencies in mind, it should be clear why TrueNicks chooses to follow the industry standard and considers all winners of black type events as determined by the International Cataloguing Standards.

It's true that restricted and regional stakes winners are drawn from a wider gene pool, and as result sometimes have inbreeding via ancestors different from those found in more commercial pedigrees. However, in our experience of studying Thoroughbred pedigrees - which now extends back more than 35 years - nicks, crosses, or pedigree patterns that consistently work at the highest level tend to be beneficial further down the tree. For example, Giant's Causeway has done very well with Mr. Prospector-line mares, so we might expect that his brothers Freud and Roar of the Tiger (TrueNicks, SRO) (who stand in New York and Florida, respectively), would benefit from being bred to Mr. Prospector-line mares in those regions. The reverse can also be true: a nick that establishes itself in a regional program, and with modest stock, may well be worth recreating with higher-quality individuals.

Moreover, the sheer quality of individuals found at the higher levels can often compensate for lower degrees of pedigree affinity, a fact that highlights a major flaw in selectively-compiled databases.

For those who argue that it's problematic to compare highly-commercial sons of a particular stallion with less-renowned sons of the same sire, and to help breeders determine the level at which a nick has success, the TrueNicks page has a unique feature - a list of the top five horses bred on the given nick.

Last but not least, omitting restricted stakes winners severely limits competing products' suitability to be relevant to regional breeders. Unlike TrueNicks, they are not able to accurately identify and report specific regionally-successful nicks .

TrueNicks, with its comprehensive database, is the new industry standard in nick ratings.

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