Attrition (Age of Sires)

I promised some details on prices and results by age of sires for sales foals of 2008-2o11. Some theoretical observations first though. In a theoretical world, youngest sires should have the lowest prices, and prices should increase as age increases.

Why???? Pretty simple actually. Because no matter how good a racehorse a sire was, he should not be considered a good sire until he proves it. Or rather, until his progeny prove it by winning races (especially the best races, stakes races).

Unfortunately, the real world is quite different from the theoretical one. The chart below summarizes prices by age of sires.

Age          Foals          Average          Maverage          Price Index

4-5           1,963         $63,369             193.88                   1.26

6-7           11,775        $35,359             140.69                   0.91

8-9           10,131        $30,963             120.95                  0.79

10-11         7,493        $42,915              145.73                  0.95

12-14         7,113         $55,681              167.51                  1.09

15-19         5,313        $64,284              179.29                  1.16

20+            1,774         $80,875             186.90                  1.21

If you ignore the two youngest groups (4-5 and 6-7), the prices do follow the theoretical model. The 8-9 group is the cheapest (average of $30,963, maverage of 120.95, and Price Index of 0.79). Prices increase uniformly from there, with the oldest group (20+) being by far the most expensive with an average of $80,875, a maverage of 186.90, and a Price Index of 1.21.

The first fly in the ointment is that the youngest group (4-5) is actually quite expensive, with an average of $63,369, a maverage of 193.88, and a Price Index of 1.26. The Price Index is actually higher than that of the 20+ group (1.21), though the average is lower ($63,369 compared to $80,875).

That might seem contradictory, but what it really indicates is that the 20+ group hits a lot of home runs (prices of $500,000+) but also strikes out a lot (prices of less than $10,000). The 4-5 group does not hit many home runs (lower average) but does not strike out much at all (higher maverage and Price Index).

The vast majority of foals in the 4-5 group were by first-crop sires. Many sires race through age three, go to stud at age four, and have their first foals at age five. A very few sires go to stud at age three and have their first foals at age four and their second crop of foals at age five. Those are the exceptions to the rule. For purposes of this survey, let us stipulate that the vast majority of the foals in the 4-5 group were by first-crop sires.

Why should first-crop sires have such high prices???? They are all unproven as sires. I am tempted to say that it makes no sense at all. It also has been suggested to me that pinhookers have a great deal of effect on these prices.

But before I make that statement it is a good idea to examine racetrack results as well, which are summarized in the chart below. APPPSW in the chart below stands for average Performance Points per stakes winner, with the benchmark now being 696.

Age          Foals          Stakes Winners          %          APPPSW          PPI (Result)

4-5           1,963                   95                     4.84             801                    1.65

6-7           11,775                 388                    3.30             676                    0.95

8-9           10,131                297                     2.93             719                    0.90

10-11         7,493                289                     3.86            698                    1.15

12-14         7,113                262                     3.68             655                   1.03

15-19         5,313               168                      3.16             715                   0.96

20+            1,774                  48                      2.71             663                   0.76

It is a good thing that I did not make that statement, because as it turns out, the 4-5 group more than justified its high prices with racetrack results. It had a Price Index of 1.26 and a PPI (result) of 1.65 (by far the best of any group in the chart above). Those 1,963 foals sold for prices about 26% above average and produced results about 65% above average.

This is very puzzling. Perhaps the only explanation is “fashion.” For some reason first-crop sires are considered the height of fashion in the crazy world of selling young, untested horses. First-crop sires receive the best mares they will ever receive (unless they really hit it big) in their first year at stud.

The second fly in the ointment is the 6-7 group. Prices drop drastically from the 4-5 group to the 6-7 group (average from $63,369 to $35,359, maverage from 193.88 to 140.69, and Price Index from 1.26 to 0.91). They drop even more from 6-7 to 8-9 (average from $35,359 to $30,963, maverage from 140.69 to 120.95, and Price Index from 0.91 to 0.79). Prices then increase uniformly from 8-9 through 20+, as previously noted.

What the heck is going on here???? The only explanation I can offer is the aforementioned “fashion.” First-crop sires are considered the height of fashion and receive the best mares they will ever receive (unless they really hit it big) in their first year at stud.

But when the next year comes along, all that is forgotten and the next crop of first-year sires is the height of fashion, and the original group of first-crop sires slides slowly (or maybe not so slowly) into market oblivion.

A lot of sires do have excellent first crops, then not much else afterward, for whatever reasons. A striking recent example is Uncle Mo. His first crop was two-year-olds of 2015 and included seven two-year-old stakes winners (and 20 overall). Included among them was 2015 champion two-year-old and 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist. Uncle Mo got off to a great start at stud.

His second crop (two-year-olds of 2016) has been an entirely different story, however. So far it has produced ZERO stakes winners. That pattern has been entirely uncommon for a lot of sires.

An opposite example was Secretariat. His first crop was no great shakes. But his second crop included General Assembly and Terlingua. That pattern is not as common as the first pattern though (great first crop, not so great afterward).

That first pattern partially accounts for the slide in prices from 4-5 to 6-7 to 8-9. Prices then turn up with the 10-11 group. By then the original group of first-crop sires have enough progeny on the racetrack to determine their true worth as sires. Some will  make the grade. Most will not. The former will have a lot fewer sales foals by age 10-11 or will have completely dropped out of the pool of sales sires, having been banished to some other (cheaper) locality.

It is the process of attrition. The truly good sires survive. Some even thrive and start receiving even better mares. Prices for their progeny perk up from the doldrums. But most sires do not survive this process of attrition, and their removal from the pool of sales sires causes prices to perk up for the remaining (surviving) sires around age 10-11.

So as much as I would like to criticize the adulation of first-crop sires, the numbers do not back me up. I cannot blame anyone for dealing with the world as it really is rather than as it ought to be. I cannot criticize sellers for favoring first-crop sires. Their progeny sell really well. I cannot criticize buyers for favoring first-crop sires. Their progeny perform really well (even better than their prices indicate they should).

But what about the prejudice AGAINST sires in the 6-7 and 8-9 groups???? Is it really justified???? In order to answer that and some other questions, the relationship between prices and results is summarized below.

Age          Foals          Price Index          PPI (Result)          Difference

4-5           1,963              1.26                        1.65                      +0.39

6-7           11,775             0.91                        0.95                     +0.04

8-9           10.131            0.79                         0.90                    +0.11

10-11         7,493            0.95                         1.15                    +0.20

12-14         7,113            1.09                          1.03                   –0.06

15-19         5,313            1.16                          0.96                  –0.20

20+            1,774            1.21                           0.76                  –0.45

As you can see, the 4-5 group has a difference of +0.39 (price of 1.26, result of 1.65). That is by far the best of any group. The 6-7 and 8-9 groups are actually not too bad relative to their prices. The former has a price of 0.91, a result of 0.95, and a difference of +0.04. The latter has a price of 0.79, a result of 0.90, and a difference of +0.11.

The 10-11 group is even better than 6-7 or 8-9. It has a price of 0.95, a result of 1.15, and a difference of +0.20. From there it is all downhill though. The 12-14 group has a price of 1.09, a result of 1.03, and a difference of –0.06. The 15-19 group has a price of 1.16, a result of 0.96, and a difference of –0.20. The 20+ group has particularly dismal results, partially due to Storm Cat and A.P. Indy, as I noted in my previous post. It has a price of 1.21, a result of 0.76, and a difference of –0.45.

So when it comes to age of sires, it is not quite as simple as younger is better. If you were to graph the differences above, it would be a wavy line, not nearly a straight one. Nevertheless, it does appear that older is not better, especially for the bottom three groups (12-14, 15-19, and 20+) in the chart above.

On the other hand, perhaps this is NOT a universal truth. It may have more to do with this particular marketplace and all its peculiarities (and pinhookers).

I started out this research trying to determine if a chronological bias exists and how strong it really is. Evidently it does exist and is pretty strong, strong enough to affect the results of examining a distant name in pedigrees and how often it occurs, a name such as Phalaris, La Troienne, or Nearco. The last of those three will be the subject of my next post.

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