Interpreting a Nick Rating

Recently, one of our readers submitted an excellent question about interpreting the TrueNicks Enhanced report. Byron Rogers and Alan Porter, the co-developers of TrueNicks and partners in Pedigree Consultants, offer their responses below.

Todd asks: I have a question about interpreting some of the different sets of statistics available in the Enhanced TrueNicks. As an example, I nicked Scat Daddy (TrueNicks,SRO) with two of my mares. The first mare is an A nick with 3.08 variant (click for example report) based on 7% stakes winners for the rated cross as opposed to 2% and 5% stakes winners for the sire line with other broodmare sire lines and the broodmare sire line with other sire lines respectively. The percentage of starters from foals is 69% compared to 56%/63% and the percentage of winners from foals is 66% compared to 34%/46%. All encouraging numbers.

The nick with the second mare was, on the surface, even better—an A++, with a whopping 34.67 variant (click for example report), based on 12% stakes winners compared to 3%/4%. However, the other numbers suggest a less than average chance of success for this cross, with only 46% starters compared to 62%/74% and 31% winners, compared to 37% and 50%. For a breeder with rather modest means and modest stock, raising a durable racehorse with a better than average chance of earning his keep might be a more realistic goal than raising a stakes winner. For such a breeder, would it not be wiser to pay more attention to the comparative figures of starters and winners than to the figures for stakes winners on which the cross is rated? Any thoughts about interpreting the interaction of these different sets of statistics?

Rating Variant SW SW Sire/BMSire Starters Starters Sire/BMSire Winners Winners Sire/BMSire
Report 1
Report 2

Byron: Todd, thanks for taking the time to post what is a very good set of questions. As we have stated a number of times on this blog, intelligent interpretation of nick ratings is what is required, and with the Enhanced report, a whole new skill set of interpretation is required!

Regarding your comments specifically, in our experience, don't spend an awful lot of time looking at variants and comparing them against one another. It is an excercise in futility. The best thing to do is, as you have here, spend a little more time understanding the numbers behind the creation of the variant which is more important and can only be found in the Enhanced report. Let's take a look at that first mating of Scat Daddy with your mare that resulted in an A nick. In this example, there are 7% SW to foals for the cross, as opposed to 2% SW for the sire line with other broodmare sire lines, and 5% SW to foals for the broodmare sireline with other sires. These numbers alone are significant. What they tell us is that while the cross is a good one, it is more that the broodmare sireline (5% SW with other stallions) is a good one that is effectively "lifting" Scat Daddy's sire line.

How important is this? Well, again, it is a matter of observation and experience, and it is our experience that you are best off having a mating where there is not a big difference between the alternates, that is instead of the "others" being 2% and 5% as they are in this case, it is better if they are 3% and 3%, and you have a high nick rating. What that effectively tells us in that case is that the cross itself is the one that is outperforming the norm rather than one or the other underperforming by so much that the nick has to rate well. The 3% figure is also important as that is the average for the breed (3.4% SW to foals to be exact).

Moving on to some of the other parameters you raised, there can be no doubt that there are going to be matings that, on paper at least, seem to be more "sound" than others. This is again one of the great features of the new Enhanced report. You raise the issue of where one mating provides a starters to foals of 69% where the alternate mating only has 46% starters to foals. There needs to be one caveat here: while TrueNicks has some algorithims in place to make sure that young sires with their first runners are not adversely affected by this, foals become "foals of racing age" when they first turn two. Thus, when January 1 came around, a whole racing crop in the Northern Hemisphere, including the U.S., Europe, etc., became "foals of racing age," which may create a skew in the data set. This is why even though TrueNicks looks at all the foals bred on a cross when deciding if a nick rating can be calculated, the calculation itself is made on starters. Possibly it may be worthwhile you having a look at the winners to starters ratios of these matings (as opposed to winners to foals) also to see if there is any true soundess issues manifesting themselves.

Alan: Hi Todd, my first thought would be that higher nick ratings (generally B+ or above) will tend to produce better runners than lower ratings, all other things being equal. Even if working with less expensive stock, it is still likely to be the aim to produce the best runner possible. After all, it doesn't help to produce sound but slow stock. Within the context of trying to produce the best possible runner, other factors do come into play, and soundness would be one of these.

Care has to be taken when interpreting the statistics, however, as popular crosses will tend to be represented by a large number of young horses. Many of these will have yet to have started (as Byron mentioned, foals of 2009 are now foals of racing age, but none will have started). Since the variable here is the stallion, if soundness is a primary concern, it would probably be better to consider his record as a runner and—if he has had sufficient crops—as a sire.

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