Nicks in History
Compatibility of stallions from one male line with mares from other sire lines has shaped the breed since the Eclipse/Herod cross of the late 18th century. Called nicks, these successful crosses–Hermit/Stockwell, Lexington/Glencoe, Bend Or/Macaroni, Phalaris/Chaucer–have made a profound impact on the development of the Thoroughbred. In the modern era, the prolific Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer cross has produced outstanding racehorses and sires such as Kingmambo, Distorted Humor, Elusive Quality, Thunder Gulch, and Grand Slam.
Fast-Forward to the 21st Century
Computers have now made it possible to measure and rate nicks, which has given rise to a commercial market for such statistics. Though popular, the nick ratings offered to the public to date have been compromised by incomplete data. This inevitably yields results based on hypothetical rather than real opportunity. This statistical gap was the impetus behind the development of TrueNicks.
A Different Approach
Unlike other ratings that are calculated on the basis of hypothetical opportunity among a limited group of horses, the TrueNicks rating utilizes the database of The Jockey Club – the world’s most complete records of Thoroughbreds and their performance — to produce a sophisticated rating based on all foals for a given cross.
A TrueNicks rating is derived from two statistical elements: a Sire Improvement Index (SII) and a Broodmare Sire Improvement Index (BSII). Both of them compare the percentage of progeny stakes winners to starters. An SII of 2.0 indicates the sire/sire line has twice the percentage of stakes winners out of mares by the broodmare sire/sire line as he does when bred to all other mares. A BSII of 3.0 indicates that that the percentage of stakes winners out of a stallion’s daughters when bred to the chosen sire/sire line is 3.0 times as high as the percentage of stakes winners produced by the same mares when bred to all other studs.
The TrueNicks Calculation
The TrueNicks rating is then calculated by multiplying the SII by the BSII, effectively recognizing the real opportunity and performance of the given cross. In the example above, an SII of 2.0 and a BSII of 3.0 would result in a TrueNicks variant score of 6.0, indicating that the nick performs six times better than average opportunity, translating to an A+ TrueNicks rating.
With the entire database of The Jockey Club at its disposal during development, the TrueNicks rating was calibrated on a test group of over 100,000 horses of racing age. Converting the raw TrueNicks score to a letter rating – A to D and F, as in the academic system – reveals some intriguing results that verify the existence of nicks across a whole population. For example:
- While only 13% of the entire Thoroughbred population earn “A” ratings (A to A++), 37% of the stakes winners rate as “A’s.”
- Horses rated “B” or better (B to A++) represent just 30% of the entire population, yet 3 out of 4 (77%) stakes winners rate “B” or better.
- Almost half of Thoroughbreds in general–44%–are on the low end of the scale (rated “C” through “F”), yet only two in 25 stakes winners (8%) have these lower ratings.
Additional information about the TrueNicks system may be found on the Frequently Asked Questions page.