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Using TrueNicks to Predict Racetrack Success

With the first Northern Hemisphere 2-year-old races set to get underway shortly, we thought that this year we would do something that allowed us to follow TrueNicks as a predictor of racetrack success. We debated a couple of ways we could do this, with the primary goals of offering a statistically sound study and one that is trackable in 2009.

An ideal solution is to take a "snapshot" rating when a book of mares first visits a stallion, prior to the foals even hitting the ground, and following these ratings through for the lifetime of the horse. The lag time between the marriage of sire and dam and when their resulting progeny eventually hit the racetrack, however, means that such a study is years in the making. (An "historical" TrueNicks tool is on the "to do" list -- it will allow us to compute the nick rating that a cross would have received on a particular date in previous years. In the meantime, we are dealing with "present tense" nicks.)

With these constraints, we selected a handful of stallions and ran their entire 2-year-old crop (foals of 2007)  through the TrueNicks algorithm, returning all the ratings of each individual horse as of Jan. 1, 2009. We'll use this to track this foal crop through the year -- it allows us to focus on whether the ratings change, and if so, why they change.

The seven stallions we selected are the first-crop sires Afleet Alex (TrueNicks,SRO), Eurosilver, and Roman Ruler (TrueNicks,SRO) ; the proven duo of Johannesburg (TrueNicks,SRO) and Stormy Atlantic (TrueNicks,SRO) (both Storm Cat-line stallions); and the ill-fated Maria's Mon. Over the upcoming weeks we will post up some comments about each of the stallions and start to track their runners. 

Prior to this individual analyses, there are some interesting facts on how the ratings look from a general population viewpoint.

There are 879 individual horses in the study. Of these:

  • 248 (28%) rate A or better on the TrueNicks scale. Those who have been reading this blog for some time, will have already picked up that this is an inordinately high number of A-rated horses.  A couple of valid reasons exist for this number being generated.
  1. Firstly, in general, the "commercial population" has a skew towards higher ratings than the population at large. In almost all the other studies that we have done, while the general population of "As" is usually about 13% of all foals, we are finding that this is closer to 20% in the commercial market. This is primarily a byproduct of commercial breeders and buyers using nick ratings as a guide to their breeding and purchasing decisions.
  2. Secondly, proven sires have a much higher percentage of A-rated foals than the unproven. To wit, Johannesburg has 150 foals in his current 2-year-old crop and 66 of these, or 44%, are rated A or better. It certainly makes it harder for TrueNicks to be used as a discriminator in his case but does highlight the fact that success breeds success as once a stallion starts to establish a pattern, breeders and stallion managers focus on getting more representatives from those particular broodmare sire lines to his court.
  • Moving down the scale, 2-year-olds rated B form 27% of the population;
  • C rated 16%
  • D rated 22%
  • and F and/or "No Rating" yielded a smaller 7%.
Interestingly the three first-season sires have the greatest percentage of their crops rating D or below, with Afleet Alex topping the list with 42% of his entire crop with these low ratings.This is a reverse of what we see in proven sires, and is partially accounted for by first-season sires recieving a far more diverse representation of broodmare sires than the proven stallions.

As a matter of interest -- overattention to variant scores is not a great practice in general but makes for some fun reading -- Maria's Mon has the highest-rated 2-year-old by variant with the colt out of Cricket Wicket being an A++ (variant of 270.061) to his name. This colt failed to find many admirers when he went through the ring last September, falling to the bid of California trainer Mark Glatt for just $6,000. It will be interesting to see how he fares later in the year.

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Great study guys!  Looking forward to following the results as they come in...

Jason Hall 07 Mar 2009 1:00 PM

Just curious as to why no West Coast stallion was chosen - It seems to me that it is almost always Kentucky or Florida based Stallions are used. I for one, would be interested in seeing how 2 and 3 years from Unusual Heat do - He seems to be producing offspring that are winning everywhere.

Byron's Reply: Anne. You are right, Unusual Heat is an outstanding stallion. One of the top 10 in North America in my opinion. I didn't think of him when I proposed the study a while ago, but then I didn't include other great stallions like A.P Indy and Distorted Humor either. What I was trying to get was stallions with a lot of two-year-olds ready to run this year and the stallions I selected have a lot of representatives so hopefully we should get some interesting results. Thanks for the comment.

AnneM 07 Mar 2009 3:08 PM


Seems like a good study, looking forward to the results,

and am interested if the results  will be apportioned, I mean, if you have 848 sample # of foals with 248 (28%) rated A, then withen that sample A, the potential result could be that you have to rate some top, some mid and some bottom of the A level and then some will not even remain in the A level.  The question then will be what facts separate each group,and why etc or am I misunderstanding this. Seems like a good first step I think you may have eluded to this above. Once again my first impresson/ understanding of the study.    

Tony Braddock 24 Mar 2009 2:52 PM

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