Sound and Fury

This series on sires in the fourth generation of all weanlings, yearlings, and two-year-olds sold at public auction in North America in 1999-2002 has finally concluded. Some final thoughts are in order.

Occasionally I have been known to do a composite of a group of sires (add all the results together and divide by the total number of foals). That is a somewhat time-consuming process. This time around I decided to do a short cut and simply list the medians for all 20 sires in this series by position.

P1     P2      P3     P4     P5     P6     P7     P8     Totals

0.84  0.77  0.91  0.84  0.93  0.94  1.06  1.11     0.99          Price Index

1.02  1.00  0.93  0.87  0.99  0.96  0.98  1.05   1.03           PPI (result)

Note that the prices are positive (above the average of 1.00) for only two of the eight positions, P7 and P8. That is partly a function of medians. Only a few of these 20 sires really specialized in the male line (P1), for example. The majority of these 20 sires struggled at P1. Therefore, the median for P1 is a lot lower than the composite would be.

The same argument holds true for the other five positions with negative prices (P2 through P6). Some sires specialized at those positions. Most did not. Only at P7 and P8 were all 20 sires expected to be good, based on their prices.

Only three of the eight positions (P1, P2, and P8) showed positive results (above the average of 1.00) by PPI. An interesting dichotomy. All the sires the market thought would be terrible at P1 and P2 evidently were not all that bad at those two positions. The market did not do a very good job of correctly interpreting male lines.

P8 is the only position with both positive prices (1.11) and results (1.05, lower than prices). As I have explained before, this is a simple function of supply and demand. These 20 sires showed up least often at P8. Therefore, they SHOULD have been most valuable at P8. They were most valuable at P8. They had the best results of any position there, but the results were still below prices. So the market got the direction correct but the magnitude wrong at P8.

From time to time I have commented on the chronology of these 20 sires. Only three were born before 1950: Nasrullah and Princequillo (both foals of 1940) and Tom Fool (1949). Seven were born in 1960 or later: Northern Dancer and Raise a Native (both foals of 1961), Buckpasser (1963), Secretariat (1970), Tom Rolfe (1962), Never Bend (1960), and Damascus (1964).

The remaining ten were all foaled in the 1950s: Nearctic and Bold Ruler (both foals of 1954), Native Dancer (1950), Nashua (1952), Hail to Reason (1958), Turn-to (1951), Intentionally (1956), Ribot (1952), Prince John (1953), and Sir Gaylord (1959).

I thought it might be interesting to compile a composite of the total results for these 20 sires based on when they were born. The results are as follows:

Years Born          Price Index          PPI (result)

Before 1950               0.98                      0.81

1950-1959                  1.03                       1.02

1960 or Later            1.03                        1.17

The market did not pay much attention to this factor of chronology. The oldest group was priced at 0.98 and the other two groups at 1.03 each (actually, if you want to get technical, the youngest group was slightly more expensive than the middle group, 1.033 to 1.027).

The PPIs (results) showed quite a wider range. The oldest group was 0.81 (well below its prices of 0.98). The middle group was 1.02 (just a hair below its prices of 1.03). The youngest group was 1.17 (well above its prices of 1.03).

The overall Price Index for all 20 sires was 1.03 (1.0255, if you want to get technical). The overall PPI (result) for all 20 sires was 1.06, slightly higher than its prices of 1.03. All in keeping with my repeated observation that after four generations average is par for the course. A little above average by prices. A little more above average by results. Emphasis on the “little” in both cases.

OK, enough numbers. Time now for some more foolosophical observations.

“Spectacular Bid has the best pedigree in the world. He is by the sire of Spectacular Bid out of the dam of Spectacular Bid.”

Grover G. “Buddy” Delp, trainer of Spectacular Bid (a $37,000 Keeneland September yearling), was very colorful and quotable. His detractors called him “brash” for grandiose statements such as the one above.

(Although I do not recall Delp asseverating before the 1979 Belmont that it was a “foregone conclusion” that his trainee would win that race and the Triple Crown. Bid finished third in that Belmont, behind Coastal and Golden Act. Delp offered some excuses afterward, but all trainers do that. I am aware of only one trainer who was STUPID enough to talk about “foregone conclusions” in reference to the Belmont. That was three years ago, in 2008, and of course it did NOT happen as this trainer predicted.)

At any rate, I always liked that Delp quote above and thought that it contained more than a grain of truth. It reminds us that pedigrees are all about racetrack success. If it succeeds on the racetrack, it is a good pedigree. If it does not succeed, it is not (all in terms of probabilities of course).

A pedigree can be downright ugly and still a “good” pedigree. The opposite is also true. Pretty is as pretty does.

A “good” pedigree is one that has a much better than average chance of producing a good racehorse. Spectacular Bid was thought to have only a moderately decent pedigree when he sold for $37,000 as a yearling. Then he hit the racetrack and proved that actually his pedigree was worth a lot more than that. Then we went to stud and reinforced the notion that even the greatest racehorse do not necessarily make great sires.

I think most people understand that even the greatest sires are not as good after two generations as they were in the first generation, not as good in the third generation as in the second generation, etc. But very few people seem to understand how this occurs or to what extent it occurs. Or what a crapshoot it really is.

Very few people have actually tried to put a number on what actually happens to the results of sires as they recede back through the generations. Which is one of the reasons I did this series (as well as its counterpart on the third generation), to create some numbers that tell you pretty much what to expect after three or four generations. What you should NOT expect is for great results to continue indefinitely regardless of the generations.

I think the biggest mistake people make in evaluating pedigrees is basing that decision on names in pedigrees (going back however many generations they feel is appropriate and looking for combinations of different names or duplications of the same names) rather than on the individual sire and dam. At times it almost seems to me like a WORSHIP of names in pedigrees.

Computerization has exacerbated this problem by making pedigrees (especially DEEP pedigrees) much more accessible to all people. When I first started studying pedigrees 45 or so years ago, five crosses were hard to find except in stallion registries. The three cross was pretty much the standard. Then the four cross became the standard. Now the five cross is pretty much the standard, and many people love to go back even farther than five generations and concoct drivel about what they find there and the significance they blithely imagine there.

As pedigrees expanded from three to four to five generations and more, people just naturally assumed that every name had to have some significance. I can even relate somewhat to that false assumption. People love names in pedigrees for many reasons. Some because they remember the actual horses attached to the names. Some because they have read the histories and learned about the actual horses that way. Some simply because many of the names are so attractive, so full of sound and fury.

Just remember the other part of that Shakespeare quote: “Full of sound and fury, SIGNIFYING NOTHING.”

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One Response to Sound and Fury

  1. Pingback: Rasmussen Factor, Natalma, Conclusions | Boojum's Bonanza

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