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Quite Contrary Exceptions

Before being made available to the public, TrueNicks was tested on a group of more than 100,000 horses. That study firmly established a correlation between a high nick rating and success at stakes level: in fact, while only 13% of the population earned a variant rating high enough to qualify for a rating of A or better, 37% of stakes winners achieved that rating. Horses that qualified for a rating of B or above represented 30% or the population, but more than three-quarters (77%) of all stakes winners were rated B or above. It clearly pays to plan matings or seek potential racing stock with ratings at the higher end of the scale.

We have, however, always stressed that nick ratings -- and particularly the TrueNicks page for a horse or for a hypothetical mating -- are at their most useful when intelligently interpreted (see #4 of 5 Things You Should Know About Thoroughbred Nicking). And strangely enough, we are finding that one area worth some careful investigation is that of the good horse on a bad nick.

Unique to every TrueNicks page is a list of the five best horses bred on a cross. This list often uncovers a good horse or two bred on a cross the yields an overall low nick rating. Close study of the pedigrees of those horses will sometimes reveal a compelling pattern outside of a simple sire line affinity. In those instances, understanding and reapplying that logic can pay dividends, particularly for those breeding to race.

A prime example might be last year's phenomenal miler filly Goldikova (IRE). She ended the campaign by sweeping the Prix Rothschild (Fr-I), Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (Fr-I), and Breeders Cup Mile (gr. IT), while defeating such as Henrythenavigator, Kip Deville, Darjina (FR), and Natagora (FR). Goldikova is a product of the breeding operation of Wertheimer et Frere, and from a family that the Wertheimers have developed over several generations. At the time the decision was made to breed Goldikova's dam (the Blushing Groom (FR) mare Born Gold) to Anabaa, the Anabaa/Blushing Groom cross had produced just two stakes winners, and had a rather moderate strike rate (in fact even with Goldikova factored in, the cross still only rates a TrueNicks D).

However, the Wertheimers have long been shrewd students of pedigree, and it was noticed that the two stakes horse bred on the cross (group I winner Rouvres (FR) and group III winner Marshall (FR)), were both out of Groom Dancer mares. (The Anabaa/Groom Dancer cross, incidentally, is TrueNicks rated A++.) Groom Dancer is by Blushing Groom out a Lyphard mare (giving inbreeding to Northern Dancer through Danzig and Lyphard), and since that is the same cross that produced Born Gold, the dam of Goldikova, it appeared to be a promising opportunity.

We were reminded of the value of using the TrueNicks page this way by two other recent mating plans. One involved considering a Summer Squall mare with Stephen Got Even (TrueNicks,SRO) . A son of A.P. Indy (TrueNicks,SRO), Stephen Got Even sired champion 2-year-old Stevie Wonderboy, graded stakes winners For All We Know, Don't Get Mad, Sweet Vendetta, Steve's Double, and Time To Get Even, as well as this year's promising 3-year-old I Want Revenge. Some of his best bred crops are yet to run, and he looks very solid value at his 2009 stud fee of $7,500.

Thee broad cross with mares by Northern Dancer and his sons and grandsons hasn't been the strongest for Stephen Got Even, however,and the proposed mating with the Summer Squall mare generated a disappointing D. A look at the "best horses" list, though, showed that Stephen Got Even had sired champion Stevie Wonderboy out of a mare by Summer Squall. A follow-up perusal of the five-cross pedigree with its highlighted inbreeding showed that the success of the Stephen Got Even/Summer Squall mating wasn't a fluke -- in fact, it resulted in a 3 x 3 inbreeding to the outstanding mare Weekend Surprise, dam of both A.P. Indy and of Summer Squall. With that confidence-building piece of information underwriting the previous success of the specific cross, the mare was booked to Stephen Got Even.

Another recent example involved an Australian mare. She was by Dolphin Street (FR) (by the Storm Bird sire Bluebird). A stallion under consideration was shuttle horse Good Journey (a grade I-winning son of Nureyev and champion Chimes of Freedom), who serves in the Northern Hemisphere at Magali Farms in Santa Ynez, Calif.

Now, based on the Nureyev/Bluebird cross, the proposed mating of Good Journey with the Dolphin Street mare was rated C. However, we happened to notice that the two stakes winners bred on the cross included a grade I winner by Spinning World, who just happens to have the same pedigree pattern as Good Journey (both are by Nureyev out of daughters of the Northfields mare Aviance).

A look at the pedigree of the two stakes winners Spinning World has sired out of Bluebird-line mares (including the one of out of a Dolphin Street mare) shows that the mating gives inbreeding to the Northern Dancer/Sir Ivor cross through group I winners Aviance (granddam of Spinning World) and Bluebird. The Spinning World/Bluebird cross is rated A++. Since Aviance is also granddam of Good Journey, he supplies that same crucial inbreeding. Thus, despite the relatively modest nick rating, careful examination of the information supplied by TrueNicks hypothetical mating page led us to conclude that Good Journey was a viable mating.

So, while high nick ratings are highly-desirable in a mating or prospective purchase, lower-rated pedigrees should not be dismissed out of hand. Cases where versions of a modest nick have produced good performers may well point to a pedigree pattern (such as inbreeding or line-breeding) as with the examples above that is powerful enough to compensate for the modest sire line/broodmare sire line cross.

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