Nick Ratings–A Different Can of Worms

“So how come you haven’t written anything about nicks????”

That question was posed to me back in January of this year. I was treating a friend to lunch for her birthday. I answered her question extensively, perhaps too extensively. I will try to boil it all down to its essence here.

I told her that it was not because I actually believe in nicks. Nicks are just as much BS as any other pedigree theory. The problem is how to go about proving that nicks are just as much BS as any other pedigree theory.

Specifically, the problem is getting hold of the original data, the original nick ratings. If I could do that, I said, I would love to take one entire Keeneland September yearling sale, for example, divide the nags that sold into categories by their nick ratings (A, B, C, D, et al), and let the chips fall where they may.

The only problem was that I could not finger out how to get hold of those original ratings. Even if I wanted to pay the exorbitant price demanded for the current nick ratings of these nags, the current nick ratings are irrelevant. What is important is knowing the nick ratings AT THE TIME THESE NAGS WERE SOLD as weanlings, yearlings, or two-year-olds (my preferred mining grounds). That was the true test of reality for nick ratings, seeing if they had any predictive value whatsoever.

In the back of my mind I thought I had seen nick ratings published in some of the sales “cheat books” (buyers’ supplements) over the years. I talked to some people about it. None of the leads panned out.

Then early one Sunday afternoon I was merrily plugging along mining data (now into sales foals of 2008-2011). I saw an ad in the Bland-Horse for their cheat books. “EXCLUSIVE: Auction Edge now includes TrueNicks ratings!” this ad proudly proclaimed. This was the issue of January 2, 2010 (the auction review issue naturally).

EUREKA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Looks like they started including nick ratings in their cheat books for auctions of 2010. So I called up the Bland-Horse the next day. I fully expected them to say that they no longer had any cheat books to sell me from the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale. And that’s exactly what they did say, explaining that all such books were recycled after each sale.

But they also mentioned that they could sell me a link to those old books. So for a measly $10 I procured a link to the cheat books with nick ratings for the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale. HOT DAWG!!!!!! I was in business.

The 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale begins in less than a week, on Monday, September 8. So I have to say that the timing of this post is pretty good. Whether you are a buyer or a consignor, these nick ratings have some effect on the amount of money you pay (in the case of the former) or receive (in the case of the latter) for Keeneland September yearlings.

So without further ado, here are the price breakdowns by nick ratings for the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Nick Rating          Sold          Average          Maverage          Price Index

A                           1,230        $78,281               218.67                    1.12

B                              628        $62,506               192.53                   0.98

C                              529        $58,054               183.08                   0.94

D                              539       $49,385                168.99                   0.86

Not rated                133       $40,518                155.12                   0.79

Totals                   3,059      $64,811                 195.63                  1.00

For the sake of clarity, it should be pointed out that A ratings include A+ and A++, B ratings include B+ and B++, etc.

If you like your numbers to make sense, you should love the chart above. A is higher than B in all three categories, B is higher than C, C is higher than D, and D is higher than not rated.

The overall average for all 3,059 yearlings sold was $64,811. The overall maverage was 195.63. I am treating this is an independent population. So that overall maverage of 195.63 corresponds to a Price Index of 1.00.

Only the A group ($78,281) was higher than the overall average. Only the A group (218.67) was higher than the overall maverage. The other four groups were all below the overall average and maverage.

If you need a translation for this, it means that if you were the consignor of a yearling with a A nick rating, you love this stuff. If you were the consignor of a yearling with a nick rating below A, you hate this stuff. If your yearling had a nick rating below A, you were probably penalized in terms of price received.

These results are probably not at all surprising to anyone. As long as the racetrack results followed the same pattern, everything is hunky-dory. If the racetrack results deviated from this pattern, that is a whole different can of worms. If, for example, A is NOT the best of the five groups in terms of racetrack results, that is an ENTIRELY different can of worms.

Racetrack results (the reality test) are in my next post. Stay tuned.

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4 Responses to Nick Ratings–A Different Can of Worms

  1. ned williams says:

    I can already hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth….”but my nicks are better than the those found in the cheat books.” My reply to the purveyors of nicks, If so please provide your Nick ratings (of the above horses) to Boojum so he can run the numbers and prove your ratings are better predictors of racetrack success.

    • ddink55 says:

      Thank you, Ned.

      Better yet, send me your lists of nick ratings for the entire 2014 Keeneland September sale (after the sale is over, if that makes you more comfortable). And about three years down the road, about 2017 or so (if I am still alive), I will go through the sale again and report on how it all turned out.

  2. ned williams says:

    What could be a more reasonable test?

    Purveyors of Nicking systems please send the info to Boojum.

    However, I am quite interested in the upcoming analysis. Since the nicks were a highlighted feature of the Buyer’s Guide, their value should be (and were sold as) of a predictive nature. Believe me, like many others who have found this site, I am hoping to find some nugget of truth, in the genetic soup, to help me breed a better horse. I have no problems with a nicking system per se, as long it can stand up to the rigor and cold number crunching that is found here. I have my doubts but let’s see the results.
    As you have heard me say many times, anyone can look back into a pedigree and find reasons why a horse is good. It is easy to back into an explanation by using selected horses in a five generation pedigree. California Chrome is a living example of this phenomena. It is amusing to hear people (especially the owners) explain the genetic masterpiece they created. My sense is that “Nicks” are constantly changing to reflect past results. What may be a good “Nick” today may not be tomorrow. Nicking systems seem to have an eerily similar quality of backing into results. Consequently, only by looking at how a horse’s nick was rated at sale time (or at the time a breeder is choosing a stallion) can a true evaluation be made. I am anxiously awaiting two things.

    One: Boojum’s Analysis
    Two: Word from Boojum that he has been provided the needed data for the study going forward.

    • ddink55 says:

      Am posting racetrack results tomorrow morning. Hope you can wait that long.

      Byron Rogers of TrueNicks graciously has provided me with their nick ratings for the 2014 Keeneland September sale. Am about to issue a challenge to other “nickers” to do the same.

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