Luck — Or Opportunity?

We had yet another example of the imporatance of considering opportunity when creating nick ratings with the August 1 victory of Luck Money in the Majestic Light Stakes at Saratoga. Irish-bred Luck Money was scoring his first stakes victory, although he'd been third to superstar Henrythenavigator in the Coventry Stakes (gr. II) and captured the Goffs Million (endowed with a $2.3 million purse!) last year at 2.

Lucky Money is by an excellent Irish sire, the now-deceased Indian Ridge, out of Dundel, a daughter of Machiavellian, and therein lies the problem for a nicking program that does not have the ability to consider true opportunity. Indian Ridge is a son of Ahonoora, who in turn was by Lorenzaccio, notorious for defeating Nijinsky II in the Champion Stakes in that horse's fairwell performance. This male line - which goes back to Marcel Boussac's great sire Tourbillon - has very little representation outside of England and Ireland. Luck Money's dam is a granddaughter of Mr. Prospector, an international influence, but far more strongly represented in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world. This type of situation provides a problem for our competitors, who base their nick ratings on success relative to numerical representation among a group of unrestricted stakes winners (the claim is that this is not an opportunity-based system at all, although I would contend that it is in fact a form of hypothetical opportunity).

In this situation, other programs have no methodology to allow that stallions from the Indian Ridge/Ahonoora line would be much less likely to be bred to mares from the Mr. Prospector line than their numerical representation among a group of unrestricted stakes winners would suggest. Thus, we find that other systems rate Luck Money at a poor D rating, on the basis of the Ahonoora/Mr. Prosepctor cross. The TrueNicks program, utilizing the database of The Jockey Club, is able to ascertain exactly how many Mr. Prospector-line mares have been bred to Ahonoora and his sons; how many foals, starters and stakes winners the cross has produced; and how this compares with the strike rate of the Ahonoora-line stallions and Mr. Prospector-line mares involved when bred to all all other mates. The result - even prior to his victory - is that Luck Money was rated a TrueNicks B+, a rating level at which we consider a mating worth recommending.

August 3 threw up two other examples of similar discrepancies. The Taylor Made Matchmaker Stakes (gr. III) heroine J'Ray is rated D by the opposition and A+ by TrueNicks. She is by the Mr. Prospector stallion Distant View, out of a European-bred mare by Darshaan. This is another cross where geographic circumstance has dictated that the cross has had much less opportunity than numerical distribution of its components among a worldwide group of stakes winners would encourage one to believe. In fact from its relatively limited opportunities, the cross has done very well, producing seven stakes winner, six of them graded.

The obverse happens in the case of the Prix Rothschild (gr, I) heroine Goldikova. By Anabaa out of a Blushing Groom mare, she is an example of a cross that has had a higher than random opportunity. In fact he's sire of at least 55 foals and 43 starters out Blushing Groom-line mares but the cross represents only three stakes winners, a percentage of stakes winners to starters which is inferior to his percentage of stakes winners to starters with all other mares. Despite this, the opposition rate the cross A - because their systems have no way of knowing how frequently this cross has been tried - while TrueNicks has it as a D. Note, however, the "Best horses bred on the cross" feature, which is unique to the TrueNicks page, would have both encouraged this mating in particular, while warning against crossing with Blushing Groom at random. At the time of the mating, there had been two stakes winners bred on the Anabaa/Blushing Groom cross - group I winner Rouvres and group IIIwinner Marshall - both out of mares by Groom Dancer. He is a Blushing Groom/Lyphard cross, and it is precisely this cross that produced Goldikova's dam, Born Gold.

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