No Magical Results

Listed below are the prices of sales foals of 2008-2111 by the sires of their broodmare sires (P3 in the third generation).

Sire of BM Sire                    Foals          Average          Maverage          Price Index

Mr. Prospector                     4,900        $51,617             165.64                     1.08

Storm Cat                              2,380         $51,867            166.71                     1.08

Danzig                                     1,691         $45,099            151.71                     0.99

Northern Dancer                  1,643         $52,142            164.69                     1.07

Seattle Slew                            1,596         $60,104           176.22                     1.14

Deputy Minister                    1,592          $48,281           161.06                     1.05

Fappiano                                 1,158           $61,197           175.59                      1.14

Gone West                               1,015          $47,859          159.45                      1.04

Totals                                      12,159          $51,437          164.70                      1.07

Eight sires qualified with 1,000 or more foals. The next three were Forty Niner (994), Roberto (932), and Halo (867). The top eight are the usual suspects (no great surprises). They are arranged by their number of foals, and Mr. Prospector (4,900) has a commanding lead over Storm Cat (2,380). For more current pedigrees those roles could very well be reversed.

The overall average for all 45,562 foals was $46,418. All eight were above that figure except for Danzig ($45,099). Only Deputy Minister ($48,281) and Gone West ($47,859) were below $50,000. Only Fappiano ($61,197) and Seattle Slew ($60,104) were above $60,000. The other three were all clustered just above $50,000: Northern Dancer ($52,142), Storm Cat ($51,867), and Mr. Prospector ($51,617).

These eight sires accounted for almost 27% of all foals (12,159 of 45,562). The overall average for all 12,159 foals was $51,437, not quite 11% above the overall average for all 45,562 foals of $46,418.

The maverages and Price Indexes followed the same pattern. In terms of the latter, only Danzig (0.99) was below the benchmark of 1.00. The other seven ranged from 1.04 to 1.14, with the Price Index for all 12,159 foals being 1.07.

Basically these 12,159 foals sold for prices only slightly above average and should have achieved results slightly above average as well. The chart below shows the actual results. APPPSW stands for average Performance Points per stakes winner, a measure of the quality of stakes winners, involved, the overall average now being 691.

Sire of BM Sire                     Foals          SWs          %          APPPSW          PPI (Result)

Mr. Prospector                      4,900         166         3.39              664                    0.97

Storm Cat                                2,380           82        3.45              689                    1.02

Danzig                                      1,691             64        3.78             665                     1.08

Northern Dancer                    1,643            56         3.41             730                     1.07

Seattle Slew                              1,596            72         4.51             727                      1.41

Deputy Minister                      1,592             65        4.08             662                     1.16

Fappiano                                   1,158              41         3.54             688                    1.05

Gone West                                 1,015              28        2.76             693                    0.82

Totals                                         12,159            449       3.69            678                     1.08

Without going into too much detail, the results are not very different from the prices. The chart below compares prices and results.

Sire of BM Sire                         Foals          Price Index          PPI (Result)          Difference

Mr. Prospector                          4,900                1.08                     0.97                        –0.11

Storm Cat                                    2,380                1.08                     1.02                       –0.06

Danzig                                          1,691                  0.99                    1.08                        +0.09

Northern Dancer                        1,643                 1.07                     1.07                              0

Seattle Slew                                  1,596                 1.14                      1.41                         +0.27

Deputy Minister                           1,592                 1.05                     1.16                          +0.11

Fappiano                                        1,158                  1.14                     1.05                         –0.09

Gone West                                     1,015                  1.04                     0.82                        –0.22

Totals                                            12,159                  1.07                     1.08                         +0.01

As you can see in the chart above, these eight sires posted four negative differences (prices higher than results), three positive differences (prices lower than results), and Northern Dancer was right on the money (both price and results being 1.07).

The four worst sires in this position were Gone West (–0.22), Mr. Prospector (–0.11), Fappiano (–0.09), and Storm Cat (–0.06). The three best sires in this position were Seattle Slew (+0.27), Deputy Minister (+0.11), and Danzig (+0.09).

Danzig was the only one on these eight sires with a price below 1.00 (0.99), but his results were actually positive at 1.08. Lookin At Lucky (6,207 Performance Points) was largely responsible for this positive difference. Without Lookin At Lucky Danzig’s PPI drops to 0.92, more in line with his price of 0.99.

The biggest winner in the chart above was Seattle Slew (price of 1.14, result of 1.41, difference of +0.27). My first thought was that A.P. Indy as a broodmare sire was largely responsible for this. Of Seattle Slew’s 1,596 foals, 385 were out of mares by A.P. Indy.

Those 385 foals had a price of 1.73 and a result of 2.18. The remaining 1,211 foals had a price of 0.96 and a result 1.17, still a difference of +0.21. So Seattle Slew did pretty well at P3 in the third generation even without A.P. Indy (thanks mainly to Doneraile Court).

Seven of the eight sires listed were from either the Northern Dancer male line (Northern Dancer himself, Storm Cat, Danzig, and Deputy Minister) or the Mr. Prospector male line (Mr. Prospector himself, Fappiano, and Gone West). Seattle Slew was the only outlier in this respect, and perhaps it is not coincidental that he had the best results.

Storm Cat was the original focus of this study (appearing at the same position, P3 in the third generation, in the pedigrees of both American Pharoah and Nyquist). With a price of 1.08, a result of 1.02, and a difference of –0.06, obviously there is nothing “magical” about Storm Cat in this position. He does appear in the pedigrees of lots of good horses in this position. That is because he appears in the pedigrees of lots of horses (good, bad, and indifferent) in this position period.

The same could be said for Mr. Prospector (price of 1.08, result of 0.97, difference of –0.11). He does appear in the pedigrees of lots of good horses in this and all other positions. That is because he appears in the pedigrees of lots of horses (good, bad, and indifferent) in this and all other positions period. Do not confuse quantity with quality.

All 12,159 foals representing these eight sires posted a collective price of 1.07 and a collective result of 1.08. They sold for prices about 7% above average and achieved results about 8% above average. That about sums it up. You pretty much got the value for which you paid.

The larger the quantity of foals, the more likely it is that the results will be close to the norms. Take Mr. Prospector, for example. Sure, he has a number of sons who are pretty good broodmare sires. He also has a larger number of sons who are not very good as broodmare sires. Take them all together, and you get a difference of –0.11.

That is simply the way the Thoroughbred population works. It is also the reason that “names in pedigrees” produce no magical results.

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American Pharoah and Nyquist

I have noticed two points of similarity in the pedigrees of American Pharoah (AP) and Nyquist. Both have dosage indexes (DIs) higher than 4.00, which supposedly disqualifies them from winning the Kentucky Derby, according to dosage theory. That old canard has been discredited for many years now, but undoubtedly some people still believe it.

AP has a DI of 4.33 based on eight total points (Unbridled in the third generation and Fappiano and Exclusive Native in the fourth generation). Nyquist has a DI of 7.00 based on four total points (Mr. Prospector and Pleasant Colony, both in the fourth generation, both through his dam).

I am not trying to suggest that Nyquist therefore will follow in the path of AP to Triple Crown glory. As usual I am just poking fun at a system of “pedigree classification” based on two or three ancestors (in these two cases) in a pedigree and ignores all the others.

AP is by Pioneerof the Nile out of a mare by Yankee Gentleman, by Storm Cat. Nyquist is by Uncle Mo out of a mare by Forestry, by Storm Cat. So the two do have Storm Cat in the very same position in their pedigrees, the position I have designated as P3 in the third generation.

I am not exactly a fan of Storm Cat, particularly of his male line in the Kentucky Derby, as readers of this blog since its inception might have noticed. One could argue that Storm Cat is a lot better broodmare sire than a “sire of sires.” Now of course he has progressed to being a sire of broodmare sires and even deeper into pedigrees.

I wondered how effective Storm Cat is in that role, as a sire of broodmare sires. So I decided to find out, and in my next post I will present some statistics on Storm Cat and other prominent sires of broodmare sires.

Right now I would like discuss Nyquist more thoroughly. I liked Mohaymen all winter because he has an excellent pedigree, and as y’all know, I am a sucker for excellent pedigrees. A friend recently inquired if the Florida Derby made me a believer in Nyquist. Here is my (somewhat edited) reply.


Yes and no about Nyquist and the Florida Derby. The morning of the race I sat down and looked at his pedigree closely for the first time. As you know, the main knock against his pedigree is that he is by Uncle Mo, who does not figure to be a distance influence. The only time Uncle Mo ever tried ten furlongs was in the BC Classic, in which he finished tenth of 12 at 5-1, by far the worst race of his career. Most people reasonably expect his progeny to be about the same (severely challenged at ten furlongs).

The more I looked at his pedigree though, the more I started thinking that if any Uncle Mo could actually win a G1 at ten furlongs, Nyquist might be the one. His broodmare sire (Forestry) is pretty neutral on distance, I think. But I do like the Seeking the Gold second dam. Third and fourth dams are by Cox’s Ridge and Arts and Letters. He will get some help from his bottom side.

So I was not too surprised to see him beat Mohaymen so easily. And I have yet to hear any reports of an injury to Mohaymen or spurious excuses. As far as I know Mohaymen is still on the Derby trail.

So as matters now stand Nyquist figures to be a heavy Derby favorite and deservedly so. In that sense I am more of a believer in Nyquist now than I was before the Florida Derby. If Nyquist tries to go wire to wire in the Derby, he could be in a heap o’ trouble though. He has  a better chance of winning the race if he runs like he did in the BC Juvenile (wide and from off the pace).

I think Nyquist is probably the best horse in the Derby now, but I still have my doubts about him getting the distance. He will not relish the distance, but he might be good enough to win anyway. I would not bet on him in the Derby. He will be too short a price relative to his actual chances of winning.

One of the reasons I still have doubts about Nyquist is the time of the Florida Derby (1:49.11). That does not compare favorably to Valid winning a G3 race earlier on the card at the same distance in 1:48.42 (0.69 seconds faster). If Nyquist had run faster than Valid, I would like his chances in the Derby a lot better.

BRIS speed and class figures confirm this. Nyquist ran a 97 speed figure and a 120.1 class figure. Valid ran a 99 speed figure and a 120.5 class figure.

But the opposite occurred, which leads me to two conclusions. Nyquist is NOT a superhorse. Mohaymen is NOT a superhorse.

Before the Florida Derby it appeared that the Kentucky Derby was probably a two-horse race. Now it looks to me much more like a typical Derby (wide-open, 20-horse race). The last remaining preps should be very interesting, more so now than before the Florida Derby.

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Just Another Name in Pedigrees

I am going to apologize in advance for returning to today’s topic, La Troienne (LT). I have visited this topic many times in the past (perhaps too many times). To no avail, as evidenced by the quote below.

“Maria’s Mon has done well with mares returning Buckpasser, getting eight of his 23 graded winners from this cross, including four of his seven North American grade I winners. He also has done well with mares sired by Seattle Slew and his sons; of 17 such foals, five are stakes winners, including champion Wait a While (also out of an A.P. Indy mare) and grade I winner Latent Heat. These results would seem to support one of . . .’s favorite axioms: ‘If a pedigree lacks La Troienne, get some in there. If it has La Troienne, get more in there.’ Super Saver certainly has no shortage of La Troienne blood, and no shortage of the quality that so often goes with it.”

This quote appeared in a national print magazine. I am not going to name the author nor the source of her quote. My intention is not to embarrass nor vilify anyone, but to examine the idea therein. Hence my decision to tilt at this particular windmill once again.

The “statistics” quoted above are utterly puerile, needless to say. They do not particularly interest me. What does interest me is the axiom quoted: “If a pedigree lacks La Troienne, get some in there. If it has La Troienne, get more in there.”

Take that axiom at face value, and it means the more crosses of La Troienne a pedigree has, the better that pedigree should be. I found it interesting that some people still actually seem to believe such a dubious theory despite all the evidence to the contrary.

The axiom above makes no distinction between sires and dams. So the more crosses of LT a sire has, the better that sire should be. Ditto for dams.

I decided to examine this proposition, using sires first. The first step was to identify sires of sales foals of 2008-2111 with lots of crosses of LT.

How many is “lots”? American Pharoah (AP), for example, has five crosses of LT. That might seem like a lot, until you add the detail that all five are through Empire Maker, his paternal grandsire. Empire Maker has three crosses of LT through Unbridled (his sire) and two more through El Gran Senor (his broodmare sire).

So AP’s five crosses of LT are not exactly unique. ANY pedigree with Empire Maker in it ANYWHERE has at least five crosses of LT. Fifty years from now a pedigree could have Empire Maker in its tenth generation, and that pedigree would still have at least five crosses of LT (and probably a whole lot more).

But five seems like a good number. So I examined the sires of sales foals of 2008-2111 and identified those with at least five crosses of LT. They are listed alphabetically below.

A. P. Warrior, Atlas Shrugs, Bachelor Blues, Banned in Boston, Bear’s Kid, Bernardini, Bluegrass Cat, Broken Vow, Bull Market, Corinthian, Cosmonaut, Daring Bid, Devil Hunter, Domestic Dispute, Dow Jones U S, Dunkirk, Ecclesiastic, Empire Maker, Essence of Dubai, First Defence, Friends Lake, Frisco Star, Going Commando, Grand Appointment, High Cotton, Indygo Shiner, Latent Heat, Leading the Parade, Majestic Warrior, Malabar Gold, Matt’s Broken Vow, Monba, Mutakddim, My Golden Song, Olmodavor, Onebadshark, Parading, Pavarotti, Petionville, Pike Place Gold, Pioneerof the Nile, Private Vow, Quiet Cash, Rabih, Rationalexuberance, Ready’s Image, Rockport Harbor, Rosberg, Seeking Diamonds, Sequoyah, Shaniko, Sightseeing, Sir Cherokee, Songandaprayer, Southern Africa, Southern States, Striking Song, Strong Hope, Tapit, Unbridled Jet, Whiff of Indy, Winter Glitter, Yesbyjimminy, Yonaguska, and Zanjero.

The 65 sires who qualified run a gamut in terms of quality. Three of the very best sires are included (Tapit, Bernardini, and Empire Maker himself). A lot of clunkers are also included. The prices for the 2008-2111 sales foals by these 65 sires are listed below.

Foals          Average          Maverage          Price Index

3,636         $65,745            194.54                     1.26

These 65 sires were represented by 3,636 sales foals of 2008-2111, almost 8% of the total of 45,562 foals. The overall average for all 45,562 foals was $46,418. These 3,636 foals were almost 42% higher at $65,745.

The overall maverage for all 45,562 foals was 154.0. These 3,636 foals were 26+% higher at 194.54. Hence their Price Index of 1.26.

With Tapit, Bernardini, and Empire Maker in the mix, it is not at all surprising that these 3,636 foals had such high prices. They should have had pretty good results as well.

Their actual results are listed below. APPPSW in the chart below stands for average Performance Points per stakes winner, a measure of the quality of stakes winners involved, with the benchmark now being 688.

Foals          Stakes Winners          %          APPPSW          PPI (Result)

3,636                   127                     3.49            690                     1.04

The overall percentage of stakes winners from foals was 3.36% (1,532 of 45,562 foals). These 3,636 foals were barely higher than that at 3.49% (127 of 3,636 foals). The APPPSW for these 3,636 foals was 690, barely higher than the overall figure of 688.

So taking both quantity and quality of stakes winners into account, these 3,636 foals had a PPI (result) of 1.04. That does NOT compare favorably with their Price Index of 1.26. They sold for prices about 26% above average and achieved results only about 4% above average.

So even with Tapit, Bernardini, and Empire Maker on their side, these 3,636 foals were overpriced and underachievers. And these 3,636 foals are all by sires with at least five crosses of LT (the highest in the population). Therefore, the notion that the more crosses of LT a sire has in his pedigree, the better that sire should be is firmly rejected.

Dams might be a different story. That might not be too surprising, considering that LT was famous for her daughters, not her sons, only one of which (Bimelech) was of any account whatsoever as a sire.

Speaking of dams, I have some preliminary numbers which show that about 73% of all 45,562 sales foals of 2008-2111 have dams with at least one cross of LT. Put another way, only about 27% of those 45,562 foals were out of dams with zero crosses of LT. The percentage of foals by sires with zero crosses of LT is probably even lower than 27% and the percentage of foals by sires with at least one cross of LT is probably even higher than 73%.

All that means is that LT has indeed become a pervasive name in pedigrees. ALL pedigrees, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the horrendous. “Pervasive” does NOT mean the same thing as “positive influence.”

The opposite, if anything. The more pervasive a name becomes in ALL pedigrees, the less that name actually means. The “good” names in pedigrees are those that appear disproportionately more often in the pedigrees of “good” horses than in ALL horses. Such “good” names are hard to find and do not last forever. They eventually retreat back to the norms from which they originally emerged.

Take Phalaris, for example. Phalaris is a lot more pervasive in ALL pedigrees than LT is. Does that mean Phalaris is a “positive influence” on pedigrees???? Absolutely not. Do people go around saying the more Phalaris you have in a pedigree, the better that pedigree should be???? Not that I am aware anyway.

Young children believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. But at some point those kids grow up and learn to face, accept, and adapt to reality (most of them anyway).

Grow up, people. Face reality. Accept reality. Adapt to reality.

La Troienne was a foal of 1926. Phalaris was a foal of 1913. At this point in time (more than a century later) Phalaris is just another pervasive name in pedigrees. At this point in time La Troienne is just another pervasive name in pedigrees. Neither name has any “values” (good, bad, or otherwise) associated with it anymore.

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Bottom Feeding

In my last post I presented some statistics to show that dams might be ever so slightly more important than sires. The following post is a variation on that same theme with a somewhat different emphasis.

Using sales foals of 2008-2111, I looked at all sires that had ten or more sales foals (weanlings, yearlings, and two-year-olds) sold in the same year. I then divided those sires into two groups: those that averaged $50,000 or more for all their sales foals in a given year and those that averaged less than $50,000 for all their sales foals in a given year. Call the latter group “average” sires and the former group “better” sires.

I then looked at the most expensive foal each year (ties included) for the average sires and the least expensive foal each year (ties included) for the better sires. Call the former group “top-average” and the latter group “bottom-better.”

Listed below are the prices for the two groups.

Group                                  Foals          Average          Maverage          Price Index

Top-Average                       983            $109,726          301.15                    1.96

Bottom-Better                    269              $6,761              47.32                     0.31

Not surprisingly, the discrepancies in prices between the two groups are wide. That just goes to show that even average sires have at least one foal per year that sells really well and that even the best sires have at least one foal every year that sells really poorly.

The reasons for this are fairly obvious, but I will state them anyway. The top-selling foals by average sires are either out of much better mares than the rest of their foals that year or are outstanding physical specimens (or both). The bottom-selling foals by better sires are either out of mares of much lower quality than the rest of their foals that year or are really poor physical specimens (or both).

Now let us examine the results for these two groups. APPPSW in the chart below stands for average Performance Points per stakes winner, a measure of the quality of stakes winners involved, with the benchmark now being 687.

Group                               Foals          Stakes Winners          %          APPPSW          PPI (Result)

Top-Average                     983                     77                       7.83            647                    2.20

Bottom-Better                  269                       3                        1.12            214                    0.10

Top-average performs much better than bottom-better, not surprising given the discrepancies in their prices. The chart below shows how results stack up versus prices.

Group                               Foals          Price Index          PPI (Result)          Difference

Top-Average                     983                  1.96                      2.20                       +0.24

Bottom-Better                 269                   0.31                      0.10                       –0.21

So top-average outperformed its prices (difference of +0.24). That is particularly impressive given that the higher the price for a group, the more difficult it is for the result to keep pace. A price of 1.96 (as in top-average above) probably corresponds to a result of 1.80 or so. The actual result was 2.20. The obvious conclusion is that buying the best (most expensive) foals by average sires is a pretty good buying strategy.

Bottom-better seriously underperformed its prices (price of 0.31, result of 0.10, difference of –0.21). To put those numbers into perspective, I will compare them to similar numbers by locale in which the foals were bred from one of my posts last summer.

Locale Bred         Foals          Price Index          PPI (Result)        Difference

California            1,733                  0.48                    0.48                         0.00


Louisiana            2,461                  0.47                     0.42                       –0.05

New Mexico           523                 0.33                     0.71                        +0.38


Texas                        462                0.41                     0.37                        –0.04

Washington            399                0.37                     0.46                        +0.09

Listed below are the five locales that had Price Indexes less than 0.50. They range from California (0.48) to New Mexico (0.33). The results range from New Mexico (0.71) to Texas (0.37). Look at the numbers for bottom-better (price of 0.31 and result of 0.10). The price is a little bit lower than the prices for these five locales. The results are a LOT lower. These 269 foals (bottom-better) are worse than the sales foals bred in the five locales above.

I would not conclude from these numbers that dams are more important than sires. This particular study was not designed to address that question. The price discrepancies between the two groups are too great to allow any meaningful comparisons.

About all you can say is that some buyers put too much faith in sires. They think they are getting a bargain because they bought a foal by such a good sire for such a cheap price. Usually there is a good reason why that foal sold so cheaply.

This study was designed to evaluate buying strategies. Buying the most expensive foals from average sires was a pretty good strategy. Buying the least expensive foals from better sires (also known as bottom feeding) was a piss-poor strategy.

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The Truth of the Matter

Last June I posted some statistics on the question of whether dams were more important than sires. The statistics did NOT corroborate this supposition.

One of the reasons for that result was a flaw in the definition of “elite” sires, which for purposes of that study consisted of all G1 stakes winners (with all other sires being considered “nonelite”). At the time I suggested that a different definition of “elite” sires (not related to racing class) might produce a different result.

So I returned to this idea with a different definition of “elite” sires. This time I am using market prices to define which sires are “better” than others. Here is how it works.

I defined A (“better”) sires as those who had at least ten sales foals (weanlings, yearlings, and two-year-olds) in a given year, and those foals averaged $50,000-$99,999. I defined B (“good”) sires as those who had at least ten sales foals (ditto) in a given year, and those foals averaged $10,000-$49,999.

To even the playing field, I considered only those foals by both sets of sires that sold between $20,000 and $50,000 inclusive. So the foals by A sires in this group were at the lower end of their sires’ sales prices. And the foals by B sires in this group were at the higher end of their sires’ sales prices.

So the foals in this group by A sires were by better sires out of good dams. Call that group AB. The foals in this group by B sires were by good sires out of better dams. Call that group BA.

One of the points of this exercise was to determine which is the better buying strategy, to purchase cheaper foals by better sires or to purchase more expensive foals by cheaper sires. The AB group (sires better than dams) corresponds to sires being more important than dams. The BA group (dams better than sires) corresponds to dams being more important than sires.

Perhaps a concrete example will illuminate this idea. Mine That Bird (Birdstone–Mining My Own, Smart Strike) won the 2009 Kentucky Derby at odds of 50-1. Earlier that year (on February 8) the unraced Mining My Own had produced a colt by Even the Score. When that colt came up for sale at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale, he brought a pretty good price ($250,000) because he was a half-brother to the previous year’s Kentucky Derby winner. Even the Score had ten yearlings sold in 2010. The next highest price was only $39,000. The overall average for those ten yearlings was only $33,710, and the median was $4,350.

That of course is the way the breeding industry works. At the time the decision was made to breed Mining My Own to Even the Score in 2008, Mine That Bird had not even raced yet. In the two years between the decision to breed that mare to that sire the value of the mare (and of the resultant foal) increased significantly, thanks to Mine That Bird. The resultant foal by Even the Score was named Dullahan and became a G1 winner.

Dullahan is a rather extreme example of a “better” mare being bred to a lower-ranking sire. The fact that Dullahan became a G1 winner is evidence in favor of the supposition that the dam is more important than the sire. The BA group represents higher-value mares being bred to lower-value sires. The AB group represents lower-value mares being bred to higher-value sires. If the BA group has better results than the AB group relative to their respective prices, the supposition that dams are more important than sires is reinforced.

Having explained all that, let us now examine the prices for the two groups.

Group          Foals          Average          Maverage          Price Index

AB                2,238          $33,924            182.13                    1.18

BA                3,460          $30,581             171.71                     1.11

By design the two groups are pretty close in prices. That is because both groups consist only of foals that sold between $20,000 and $50,000 inclusive. AB is slightly higher than BA by all three measures, which is to be expected.

Now let us examine the racetrack results for the two groups. APPPSW stands for average Performance Points per stakes winner, a measure of the quality of stakes winners involved, with the average now being 687.

Group          Foals          Stakes Winners          %          APPPSW          PPI (Result)

AB                2,238                    93                      4.16            650                     1.17

BA                3,460                   138                     3.99            665                     1.15

AB was slightly better than BA (4.16% to 3.99%) by percentage of stakes winners from foals. BA was slightly better than AB (665 to 650) by APPPSW. Taking both quantity and quality of stakes winners into account, AB was slightly better than BA (1.17 to 1.15) by PPI.

So BA was NOT better than AB. You could infer from this that dams are NOT more important that sires.

If you take prices into account, however, BA WAS slightly better than AB. AB had a price of 1.18 and a result of 1.17 (very slightly negative). BA had a price of 1.11 and a result of 1.15 (very slightly positive). If you look at it from that point of view, you could claim that dams are more important than sires. BA had BETTER results than prices. AB was the opposite.

The truth of the matter is that both groups had results that were very close to their prices. It is almost too close to call. It is too close to call it a definitive victory for the supposition that dams are more important than sires. It might be a very minor victory for that supposition, but that is about all.

The safest thing to say is that the assumption that sires and dams are 50-50 is not seriously challenged here. Maybe one is slightly more important than the other, but not by much (say 51-49). If you want to accept the supposition that one is radically more important than the other, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. But that is merely an opinion. It is not a proven fact.

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Hagiography Is No Substitute for History

Last August I was watching the Travers Stakes on NBC. Tom Hammond turned to Jerry Bailey and asked something like: “If American Pharoah wins this race today, does that mean he is the best horse of all time?”

I almost fell out of my chair in a fit of apoplexy. If I had been Jerry Bailey, here is how I would have responded:

“Tom, that is quite probably the stupidest question ever asked on national TV. AP winning this race today proves absolutely zilch. He has been beating these three-year-olds all year long. All he has to do today is beat them again.

“If AP wanted a meaningful race that actually proves something, he should have run against some actual competition in the Whitney or the Pacific Classic. But as it is, AP has nothing to gain by winning this race today and a lot to lose if he should happen to lose it.”

Of course Jerry Bailey did not answer the question thusly. I can’t even remember what he did say, but he treated the question seriously, not with the disdain it so richly deserved.

Then AP proceeded to lose the race at 35 cents on the dollar, by three-quarters of a length to Keen Ice. AP had no excuses that day either, at least with respect to how the race was run, with him on an easy lead through leisurely fractions of :24.28 and :48.30.

AP did redeem himself nine weeks later in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a race which set up absolutely perfect for him after the defections of Liam’s Map and Beholder (both of whom figured to be on or near the lead).

AP ran the race of his life in the BC Classic. He ran his worst race of the year in the Travers. AP was a very good horse when he got things his own way. Under adversity (as in the Travers), he was not nearly as good.

AP was named 2015 Horse of the Year last night, to the surprise of no one. That title was probably inevitable for him (rightly or wrongly) once he won the Triple Crown.

I have yet to see or read any thoughtful appraisal on where exactly AP stands in the pantheon of North America’s greatest racehorses. What has appeared in the media on the subject is essentially drivel of the most fanatically hagiographic nature (a la Tom Hammond).

My intention today is to fill that void. Let us begin by reviewing previous Horses of the Year, dating back to 1936, when championships were first officially conferred.

I present two lists below. The first consists of Horses of the Year I believe were better racehorses than American Pharoah. The second, shorter list consists of Horses of the Year I believe were at least as good as American Pharoah.

Horses of the Year BETTER Than American Pharoah

War Admiral (#13, 1937), Count Fleet (#5, 1943), Citation (#3, 1948), Tom Fool (#11, 1953), Native Dancer (#7, 1954), Bold Ruler (#19, 1957), Kelso (#4, 1960-1964), Buckpasser (#14, 1966), Damascus (#16, 1967), Dr. Fager (#6, 1968), Secretariat (#2, 1972-1973), Forego (#8, 1974-1976), Seattle Slew (#9, 1977), Affirmed (#12, 1978-1979), Spectacular Bid (#10, 1980).

Horses of the Year AT LEAST AS GOOD as American Pharoah

Seabiscuit (#25, 1938), Nashua (#24, 1955), Swaps (#20, 1956), Round Table (#17, 1958), Sunday Silence (#31, 1989), A.P. Indy (1992), Zenyatta (2010).

In parentheses after I each name I listed the year(s) in which they were Horses of the Year. I listed them chronologically in order to avoid the question of ranking. But I also listed their rankings on the Bland-Horse‘s list of the top 100 racehorses of the 20th century.

So these are not MY rankings. The rankings were performed by a panel of “experts” assembled by the Bland-Horse. All in all though I think they did a pretty good job. I found little to quibble with in their rankings.

I listed 15 Horses of the Year I think were better than AP. Bold Ruler was the lowest ranked of them at #19. I listed seven Horses of the Year I think were at least as good as AP. The highest ranked of them was Round Table at #17.

Round Table and Bold Ruler were both foals of 1954 and rivals (along with Gallant Man). Round Table had many admirable qualities: toughness, durability, versatility, and ability to carry weight. But in terms of sheer brilliance, he was no match for Bold Ruler, in my humble opinion.

In listing Bold Ruler among the 15 Horses of the Year I think were better than AP, I was thinking mainly of the 1957 Trenton Handicap. That was the race in which he thoroughly trounced Round Table and Gallant Man and thus earned his Horse of the Year title. If Bold Ruler of the 1957 Trenton Handicap meets AP of the 2015 BC Classic, the former thoroughly trounces the latter, in my humble opinion. That is the main reason I included him on the first list.

As for the second list, Zenyatta has no ranking listed because she did not race in the 20th century. A.P. Indy has no ranking listed because he was not in the top 100. That is a puzzler to me. To my way of thinking A.P. Indy’s Belmont was every bit as good as American Pharoah’s Belmont. Ditto for his BC Classic versus American Pharoah’s BC Classic.

I should emphasize that the lists above pertain to Horses of the Year only. No slight is intended toward horses who raced before 1936 or to some very good horses who were NOT Horses of the Year for various reasons. The #1 horse on the list was of course Man o’ War, and I have no quarrel with his ranking there.

So if I have to put a number on AP, the highest I could possibly rank him is somewhere in the 20s on a list of the top 100 North American racehorses of all time. I think I am bending over backward to rank him that high, to be honest.

“Only my opinion; I could be right or wrong.”

Hagiography is no substitute for history.

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Signifying Nothing

Here are the results for the 11 sires duplicated (4×4 or closer) most often among sales foals of 2008-2111. APPPSW stands for average Performance Points per stakes winner, a measure of the quality of stakes winners involved, the benchmark now being 687.

Sire Duplicated      Foals          Stakes Winners          %          APPPSW          PPI (Result)

Mr. Prospector       5,949                   242                   4.07             683                    1.21

Northern Dancer   4,270                   132                    3.09             777                    1.04

Raise a Native            915                     25                     2.73             601                    0.71

Secretariat                  766                     25                     3.26            589                    0.83

Seattle Slew                563                     19                      3.37           660                    0.97

Danzig                         252                       6                      2.38          1,161                   1.20

Blushing Groom        248                     18                      7.26           424                    1.33

Storm Bird                  237                     12                      5.06           465                    1.02

Buckpasser                 210                       4                      1.90           287                     0.24

In Reality                    205                      11                     5.37           640                     1.49

Fappiano                     167                       9                      5.39         1,273                    2.98

I am going to reserve comment on these results until after I compare prices with results, which are listed in the chart below.

Sire Duplicated          Foals          Price Index          PPI (Result)          Difference

Mr. Prospector           5,949                1.14                       1.21                        +.07

Northern Dancer       4,270                1.09                      1.04                      –.05

Raise a Native               915                 1.02                       0.71                      –.31

Secretariat                     766                 1.47                       0.83                     –.64

Seattle Slew                   563                 1.10                       0.97                      –.13

Danzig                            252                 0.86                      1.20                       +.34

Blushing Groom           248                0.94                       1.33                       +.39

Storm Bird                     237                 0.97                      1.02                       +.05

Buckpasser                    210                 0.87                       0.24                     –.63

In Reality                       205                 1.03                       1.49                      +.46

Fappiano                        167                 1.41                        2.98                     +1.57

Six of the 11 sires listed above had positive results (results higher than prices, the desired pattern). The other five had negative results (prices higher than results, the undesired pattern). That gives you some indication of the unreliability of inbreeding, even when using the most popular names.

As noted in my last post, Secretariat and Fappiano had by far the highest prices and therefore should have had the best results. It did work out that way with Fappiano (price of 1.41 and result of 2.98 for a whopping improvement of +1.57).

That should be taken with a little grain of salt. Almost half of Fappiano’s Performance Points came from Will Take Charge (5,725). Without Will Take Charge Fappiano’s result is 1.49, still better than his price of 1.41 but not as phenomenally better.

It did not work out that way with Secretariat (price of 1.47 and result of 0.83). Secretariat’s 25 stakes winners were not very good ones (APPPSW of 589, compared to the norm of 687).

Mr. Prospector (price of 1.14 and result of 1.21), Northern Dancer (price of 1.09 and result of 1.04), and Storm Bird (price of 0.97 and result of 1.02) all had results very close to their prices (slightly positive for Mr. Prospector and Storm Bird and slightly negative for Northern Dancer).

You might recall from a previous post that there were 60 foals and zero stakes winners inbred 3×3 or closer to Northern Dancer (included in the numbers above). Those 60 foals were pretty expensive. Did removing those 60 foals from Northern Dancer’s numbers above help him much????

If you remove those 60 foals from Northern Dancer’s 4,270 foals, the remaining 4,210 foals still had a Price Index of 1.09, the same as before. (Actually, it decreased slightly from 1.09497 to 1.09006.) His PPI did go up slightly from 1.04 to 1.06. That still leaves Northern Dancer slightly negative, with a price of 1.09 and a result of 1.06. So no, removing those 60 foals did not help him very much.

In Reality appears to have legitimately good results (price of 1.03 and result of 1.49). Ditto for Blushing Groom (price of 0.94 and result of 1.33). Blushing Groom had by far the highest percentage of stakes winners from foals (7.26%). But his stakes winners were not very good (APPPSW of 424, compared to the norm of 687).

Danzig looks good on paper (price of 0.86 and result of 1.20). But more than 60% of Danzig’s Performance Points were accounted for by one horse, I’ll Have Another (4,194). Without I’ll Have Another Danzig’s PPI sinks to 0.48. That is more in line with his anemic 2.38% stakes winners from foals.

Seattle Slew (–.13), Raise a Native (–.31), and Buckpasser (–.63) were all in negative territory. Not much more needs to be said about them.

The oldest of the 11 sires listed above were Northern Dancer and Raise a Native (both foals of 1961), followed by Buckpasser (1963) and In Reality (1964). The remaining seven sires were all foaled in 1970 or later. So I decided to compare the oldest four sires (Northern Dancer, Raise a Native, Buckpasser, and In Reality) with the other seven. Here is how those prices shake out.

Year Sires Born          Foals          Average          Maverage          Price Index

Before 1970                5,600          $54,131             165.14                     1.07

1970 or Later              8,182          $57,905            177.79                     1.15

Totals                          13,782         $56,372             172.65                    1.12

As you can see, the younger sires were slightly more expensive than the older sires.

Here are the results for these same two groups.

Year Sires Born          Foals          Stakes Winners          %          APPPSW          PPI (Result)

Before 1970                 5,600                   172                    3.07            731                     0.97

1970 or Later              8,182                    331                    4.05           677                     1.19

Totals                          13,782                   503                    3.65           696                     1.10

As you can see, the older sires had a price of 1.07 and a result of 0.97 (not good). The younger sires had a price of 1.15 and a result of 1.19 (very slightly positive).

So it appears that when it comes to inbreeding, duplicating younger sires is generally better than duplicating older sires. And the reason for that, no doubt, is that younger sires are generally better than older sires (within the same generation) in the first place.

If you duplicate a name that is a negative influence in the first place, you will get negative results. If you duplicate a name that is a positive influence in the first place, you stand a much better chance of getting a positive result.

This is not rocket science. This is simple common sense. I think what people fail to understand is that the most revered names in pedigrees can be NEGATIVE influences in the first place. They can not seem to wrap their heads around that.

For centuries purveyors of pedigree BS have ASSUMED and instructed their gullible readers that a great name must have a positive influence, no matter where or how far back it appears in a pedigree. Which also partially explains all this fascination with “inbreeding,” most of which, if you really examine it, is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”


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