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A Year On -- TrueNicks Scores From the 2008 March OBS Sale of 2-Year-Olds

As a prelude to the stallion study -- which is currently "under construction" as we determine the best way to track all the horses that we have rated by each sire throughout the world -- we thought that it was worthwhile going back and taking a look at the 2008 OBS March sale of 2-year-olds to examine the horses that rated well with TrueNicks from that sale.

A lot has changed in a year. Indeed as BloodHorse.com noted at the time, "news is flooded with negative reports about the American economy" If only we knew how relevant those words were! As part of the Data Digest for the OBS sale, the TrueNicks ratings were displayed for 2-year-olds that had a Truenicks rating of A+ or A++.

In all, 109 of the 460 catalogued hips garnered these superior ratings. This marks a significantly higher percentage than the general population in our own studies but we are continually noting that the commercial population -- especially those that have undergone a prior selection process by being exposed to a yearling sale and then re-offered at a 2-year-old sale -- are generating figures where closer to 25% of the population are earning superior ratings.

It is fairly early to be making definitive judgments of most of the horses that went through the ring that day. After all, we are talking about this group of horses being in the spring of their 3-year-old year and while some showed plenty of speed, this does not necessarily mean that it translates into precocity. Just examining the A+ and A++ rated horses bears this out. Twenty-five of the 109 are yet to see the starter's gate, which is not an unusual figure at this time of their life (just take a look at any second-crop sire's cumulative figures).

Of the 109, however, there are a couple of standouts. The stakes winners that rated A+ or A++ include the top class Canadian 2-year-old Southern Exchange who set a new track record at his first start and won three of his five starts at 2. Interestingly, 12 of the 109 are stakes-placed to date, including Darley's Coronet of a Baron who placed in both the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) and the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. There are also a number of promising young horses who have just broken their maiden and look set to contest stakes events over the upcoming months. It will be interesting to look back at these horses later in the year when time has had an opportunity to tell us what to make of them.

That's not to say that we got it 100% right by just including "A+ or better" rated horses. Indeed if we had put the mark at B+ or better -- the rating that we feel is the tipping point of positive sire-line affinities -- the current results would be even more impressive. This cut-off point would have included the West Coast's rising star The Pamplemousse who rated a B+. This colt, purchased by agent Alex Solis II at the sale, heads to the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) this weekend and all going well will then move to Louisville for the first Saturday in May.  

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Are we supposed to be impressed by those stats? Why not offer stats on your 109 compared to all others in that sale?

sceptre 02 Apr 2009 11:56 AM

Sceptre has a point.  If you look at the 2007 OBS sale (with a larger pool of starters) how does TruNicks compare?

Porfi 02 Apr 2009 9:14 PM

I don't think you are at a stage in the career of these horses - spring three-year-old - where you are looking at drawing conclusive evidence.

These initial notes are really just for a matter of interest. Still, even at this stage, the A and up horses have produced 12 black-type horses from 84 runners (14% stakes horses to starters), which is a pretty good start. That's especially so given that one is only looking at a pedigree criteria, so there is no opportunity to filter out horses that were failed the vet, or were just poor individuals.

So, for a selection, purely on the nick rating to have 14% stakes horse to starters by spring three-year-olds is not a bad start!

Alan Porter 03 Apr 2009 10:33 AM

I think we need to be really careful with these nicking programs.  How many good horses will have been prevented from being if the hypothetical foal did not come up with an A++ nick. We have had good racehorses and one stakes horse in particular that came up with a D nick.  I think Alan Porter is exceptional in studying pedigrees but I am concerned that now breeders call the stud farms and breed only on the nick rating.  Eventually every horse bred will have a A++ rating

Carol 04 Apr 2009 10:08 AM

Mr. Porter:

Not to be argumentative, but your reply is not responsive. Byron's initial post avoided offering the logical comparative, and you now elect to side-step as well. One could characterize this as deceptive advertising. My guess is that your company has already crunched the figures and the result in question was not to your liking... One small stakes winner (from 84 runners) and 14% stakes placers to starters til present (late March 3 yr. old yr.) may not eqate as a success story. This was a premier 2 yr. old in training sale. What was the avg. price of your A's  and ups as compared to the others (addresses your pedigree only comment) and, again, how did the others fare relative to yours?    

sceptre 04 Apr 2009 11:23 AM

Perhaps I'm reading their criticisms wrong, but two things pop to mind as rebuttals to sceptre and Porfi.

1. Sceptre: The blog entry states TrueNicks is in the process of evaluating the progress of EVERY horse it rated. (In the sentence at the very beginning, hard to miss, that mentions they're trying to "determine the best way to track all the horses that we have rated by each sire throughout the world." No small task. A little patience might get you the answer you seek. But it doesn't surprise me that they started by inspecting those they rated most highly. On the other hand, I *would* be surprised if the horses they rated less-highly had bettered a rate of 14 percent stakes horses.

2. Porfi: TrueNicks debuted in 2008, thus did not issue endorsements of entries in the 2007 sales. Granted, one could go back and see what the TrueNicks rating would be on all of those horses -- post-dated, so to speak -- but again, don't be surprised or dismayed by the fact that their initial efforts to measure their system's success happen to start with the first crop of horses they publicly rated and endorsed at the launch of their business.

It's almost amusing that a blog entry that pretty well bills itself as a preliminary and cursory look at only a certain segment of horses from a single sale is criticized for being a preliminary and cursory look at only a certain segment of horses from a single sale. What part of the truth-in-advertising did you two miss?

When the "under construction" stallion study comes around, the information is sure to be much more comprehensive -- which apparently will "track all the horses that (TrueNicks has) rated by each sire throughout the world" -- there will be considerably more data. Then we'll know whether their B+ or above horses fared better than the B or below.

Glenn Craven 04 Apr 2009 1:16 PM


I agree that breeders should not just blindly follow nick ratings. That said, one form of nicks has been out there for 20 years, and we wanted to offer something that at least has a different perspective.

I don't think we are likely to end up with all A nicks with our program, as it is comparing the success a sire has with one line against another.

My view, having had the opportunity to work with TrueNicks in planning several hundred matings is that I like having the extra information and perspective it gives. There are times that I've used the other information available to come up with a mating recommendation that doesn't have high nick rating.

In fact we had a blog piece on the subject truenicks.com/.../quite-contrary-exceptions.aspx

Alan Porter 04 Apr 2009 6:30 PM

 Firstly, allow me to applaud your integrity for posting my prior remarks. It was within your control not to do so.

 Now, to Mr. Craven's remarks:

I really gave this thought, and pondered on how I could state this less bluntly, but I'm forced to say that your remarks have no basis in fact. Take another look at their first paragraph (the one you persist in citing). Fact is they did a thorough analysis of their selections from that sale and reported their findings. They didn't have to report them. Their reason for reporting was rather obvious-they assumed it would reflect well on their business. My point was that the data offered was insufficient to cause one to conclude positively.

Also, that in collecting their data it is rather likely that they also collected the same data for all horses entered in that sale-that if the comparison had shown to their advantage it too would have been reported... Mr. Porter did permit my posts, but has chosen not to respond to the second, and did not address essentially the first (on same subject). Yes, I suppose he could state that only their selections were evaluated. This wouldn't say much for his evaluative/reasoning skills, let alone his business acumen-I doubt this is the case. So one is left with only one conclusion-the data for all sale entries were researched and the "figures" did not reflect that favorably on their selections. All the illogical interpretations of their first paragraph doesn't change this likely reality. So, again, I'd appreciate hearing from Mr. Porter on this issue. This seemingly small matter raises concerns about your methods in general.      

sceptre 05 Apr 2009 1:39 AM


Perhaps you need to take a deep breath and consider what a nick rating is and is not.  When breeding thoroughbreds there are many factors and many statistics. Alan offers his statistical study and assigns a rating.  There are no guarantees of performance on the race track! The performance of past matings is instructive but does not ensure future success when duplicated.

I think alot of breeders are searching for the magic mating where they get a stakes winning two year old every time they drop a foal.  That is a goal that is attractive to some breeders but not all. Having just lost a multiple stakes placed filly while racing at Turfway, I am suffering through the self inflicted scrutiny, asking myself did I race to much to early?  Sould I have waited longer and/or spaced the races further apart?  Should I have waited for a different surface? There are very different goals that should be considered when breeding! Successful breeding comes in many forms.  Sturdy horses that run many times and make enough money to support their racing careers can be very enjoyable and probably improve the breed.  For me that is an A++.  Breeding is an art form and not a science ---- relax and enjoy ---- do not turn this sport into accusations and assumptions of others motives or character.  Enjoy your own selection process and allow others to do the same.  There are enough heartbreaks in this sport without resorting to the sort of character destruction that is practiced by too many public figures, especially the politicians we have today!  Relax and enjoy our sport.  Cheer your success and root for others to have success as well. No one will be right everytime and no one is wrong everytime. A rating is an educated guess and is enjoyable to discuss if you are disposed to cordial interaction with others who enjoy our sport.

dave york 06 Apr 2009 5:34 PM

Dear Mr. York,

Appreciate your comments of which some I agree. I've been in this sport as a breeder/owner/stallion owner/advisor, and pedigree advisor for nearly 50 yrs., and no longer take this sport "seriously" but for two aspects-horse welfare (first), and the dissemination of potentially false or misleading information. It is a concern for the latter which prompted my posts. There are too many breeders, especially new breeders, that readily accept the written word of those they view as more knowledgeable. Many fail to recognize that, while these self-proclaimed experts may possess more knowledge, their theories and conclusions may have no substantial basis in reality. The representative of TruNicks who authored this piece did so, I claim, with one intent-to promote his company and methods. The piece was written solely to convey what is contained in his second-to-last paragraph. He offers this as a positive example of their work. The facts offered are no doubt accurate, the desired inference may be otherwise. As I said in previous posts, they either believe that the data offered (re-the Ocala 2007 sale) is, in itself, sufficient evidence of good result, or they have withheld other data which would have reflected on them less positively. I maintain that either scenario is negatively telling. So, what if I am correct? Would it have better had I merely "taken a deep breath" and said nothing?...Still waiting for Mr. Porter's response.              

sceptre 06 Apr 2009 8:18 PM

Dear Sceptre

Your motives appear honorable.  Welfare of the horse, which is directly attributable to breeding, is of great concern to me as well.  There are many sires standing in Kentucky for very high prices that are known to throw crooked but fast offspring. Many of these high priced stallions have offspring with very short careers.  This is truly the greatest sin of all to knowingly breed to get a couple of very impressive races, all the while knowing the end is very near.  Have you watched The Pamplemousse run.  It saddens me to watch big engines on top of horribly bent legs go to the racetrack.  If this colt is used as a stallion it would be criminal. The performance of thoroughbreds on the race track should be measured against their durability and frequency of significant injury.  Sadly, these statistics are seldom considered or published.  Statistics in any endeavor can be developed to support nearly any conclusion; however, there should be meaningful reporting on the durability of all stallions.  If the Bloodhorse or Thoroughbred Times wanted to do some serious reporting they would develop these statistics and print them weekly. "new" breeders will make many mistakes, no matter what advice or information they receive. I applaud your concern for those entering the business.  This is also a noble endeavor.  I do believe however that Mr. Porter is competing with other services that assign grades to the matings of thoroughbreds.  I differ from your conclusion that there is deception in his work.  Mr. Porter seems to me to do his statistical work with the goal of providing useful information as he understands it.  We all have  different methods of decision making.  The performance of thoroughbreds on the racetrack is for me a truly engaging and exciting event.  Getting to the point where you truly understand what it takes to get a horse to pay his way is generally an expensive lesson.  If someone had the key to successful breeding he would have probably presented it to all of us by now.  It is joy for me to read and compare the so called breeding experts, all the while knowing that luck and good fortune is more important than all the nicks and ratings available.  I am trying to breed to race. I am hopeful that there will be others that follow us that have as their number one goal - "the welfare of the horse".  

dave york 07 Apr 2009 7:49 PM

Sceptre - Byron, who actually conducted the study, is going to post a note here.

My understanding is that the only file that was generated in permanent form for the sale was a list of horses rated "A" or better (this was in the very early days of TrueNicks, and was originally created for use in editorial prior to the sale.

When time permits it would be interesting to compare the percentage of stakes horses from the sale as a whole.

For the moment, my only comment would be that I was encouraged by the percentage of stakes horses to starters thrown up so far, especially considering that the group includes several lightly-raced horses that have the potential to go on and win stakes.

I feel this is a very respectable start for any standardized methodology that doesn't attempt to assess the many of the most important factors in purchasing a potential runner from a two-year-old in training sale - the works; conformation; and vetting.

In a real life buying situation, we would obviously encompass all those factors, along with other pedigree elements, in addition to the nick.

That said, at a first look, we are very happy with the percentage of stakes horses to emerge from the "A" and up rated horses at this particular sale, and at this particular stage in their career.

Alan Porter 08 Apr 2009 11:43 AM

I just want to remind verybody that T Nicks is only "one of many tools" that we breeders use to decide which stallion to which mare. All info that comes up as part of these questions and answers are helping us to place in order of importance the value of "this tool" in our breeding programs. In my book I give it a major role in my final decisions.


marcelo 03 May 2010 3:15 PM

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