The Bull Lea Quartet (Storm Cat, Alydar, Nijinsky II, and Roberto)

Two posts ago I remarked:

“So the four principal sources of Bull Lea in modern pedigrees are Storm Cat, Nijinsky II, Roberto, and Alydar. And there are other sources as well.

“With those four sources, I feel pretty certain that Bull Lea would hold up well to a statistical analysis. . . .”

I decided to investigate this matter, to see if Bull Lea holds up at all under statistical analysis and how much of that success (or lack of it) is attributable to the quartet of Storm Cat, Alydar, Nijinsky II, and Roberto.  So I examined the 45,562 sales foals of 2008-2011 and noted down how many times Bull Lea shows up through this quartet, as well as through other sources, and their prices and results.

First a word of explanation. I use the term “foals” in the charts below, but “presences” might be a more accurate word. I count each presence as a foal (and multiple presences as multiple foals).

For example, Alydar has a double dose of Bull Lea (his dam is 3×3 to Bull Lea). Therefore, each presence of Alydar is counted as two foals (ditto for stakes winners).

A more extreme example is Afleet Alex, who carries five crosses of Bull Lea. A hypothetical foal by Afleet Alex out of a mare with Alydar in its pedigree would count as seven foals. Or possibly more if the mare had even more Bull Lea in its pedigree (ditto for stakes winners).

Prices for the quartet and for all other sources of Bull Lea are summarized below.

Source                    Foals          Average          Maverage           Price Index

Storm Cat        13,102     $52,412         164.59             1.07

Alydar              8,798       $46,691         156.22             1.01

Nijinsky II        14,280      $50,454         167.04             1.08

Roberto           6,657        $54,245         171.32             1.11

Totals Above   42,837       $50,869        164.73             1.07

All Others        53,139       $41,332        146.58             0.95

Grand Totals   95,976       $45,589        154.68             1.00

Bull Lea showed up 95,976 times in 45,562 foals (about 2.11 times per foal). Of course many foals had no Bull Lea at all, and many foals had three or more presences of Bull Lea.

I was expecting Storm Cat to be the leader of this quartet in terms of accounting for the most presences of Bull Lea. Somewhat surprisingly, he was actually behind Nijinsky II (14,280 to 13,102) in this respect. They were followed by Alydar (8,798) and Roberto (6,657), although keep in mind that the Alydars are doubled, and therefore only 4,399 foals produced his 8,798 presences.

The quartet above accounted for 42,837 presences among 45,562 foals (0.94 per foal). So they did indeed account for a lot of Bull Lea.

A lot, but not the majority, which surprised me. The remaining 53,139 presences (1.17 per foal) came from all other sources of Bull Lea. I was surprised that there was so much Bull Lea out there not through the quartet above.

Some other prominent sires carrying Bull Lea were Dixieland Band (though Delta Judge), Cox’s Ridge (through Best Turn), and Gone West and Conquistador Cielo (both through Tim Tam).

As for the prices themselves, the overall average for all 45,562 foals was $46,418, and the overall maverage was 154.0 (corresponding to a price index of 1.00). The quartet were all above those benchmarks, with Roberto being highest (average of $54,245, maverage of 171.32, and Price Index of 1.11).

Not surprisingly, the 53,139 foals from all other sources of Bull Lea were below those benchmarks (average of $41,332, maverage of 146.58, and Price Index of 0.95). Put all the groups together, and the 95,976 foals from all sources of Bull Lea had prices very close to the norms (average of $45,589, maverage of 154.68, and a Price Index of 1.00, rounded down from the actual number of 1.0044).

Listed below are the racetrack results for the same groups. APPPSW in the chart below stands for average Performance Points per stakes winner, the benchmark now being 701.

Source                    Foals          Stakes Winners          %          APPPSW           PPI (Result)

Storm Cat        13,102           444               3.39          702              1.00

Alydar              8,798             292               3.32          639              0.89

Nijinsky II        14,280            589               4.12          752              1.30

Roberto           6,657             283               4.25          834              1.48

Totals Above   42,837          1,608             3.75           732              1.15

All Others        53,139          1,658             3.12           682              0.89

Grand Totals   95,976          3,266             3.40           707              1.01

Storm Cat (PPI of 1.00) neither helped nor hindered Bull Lea. Alydar (PPI of 0.89) was a drag on Bull Lea. Nijinsky II and Roberto helped Bull Lea quite a bit, particularly the latter, with PPIs of 1.30 and 1.48 respectively). The quartet collectively helped Bull Lea (PPI of 1.15). All other Bull Lea was a drag (PPI of 0.89).

Stir it all together, and the PPI of all 95,976 foals was 1.01 (rounded up from 1.0068).

The chart below details the relationship between prices and results for the various groups.

Source                    Foals          Price Index          PPI (Result)          Difference

Storm Cat        13,102          1.07                 1.00                 –0.07

Alydar              8,798           1.01                  0.89                 –0.12

Nijinsky II        14,280          1.08                 1.30                  +0.22

Roberto           6,657            1.11                 1.48                  +0.37

Totals Above   42,837           1.07                 1.15                  +0.08

All Others        53,139          0.95                  0.89                 –0.06

Grand Totals   95,976          1.00                  1.01                  +0.01

Storm Cat (difference of –0.07) and Alydar (difference of –0.12) were a drag on Bull Lea. Nijinsky II (difference of +0.22) and Roberto (difference +0.37) were very helpful to Bull Lea, particularly the latter. The quartet overall was helpful to Bull Lea (difference of +0.08). All others were a drag (difference of –0.06).

Stir it all together, and the 95,976 foals with Bull Lea in their pedigrees sold for a price of 1.00 and achieved a result of 1.01 for a difference of +0.01. Actually, that figure of +0.01 is a bit misleading. The actual number is +0.0024 (1.0068 minus 1.0044). Rounding the former up and the latter down yields the listed figure of +0.01.

Bull Lea was a foal of 1935. The average Thoroughbred generation is 10-11 years. The foals in this survey were born from 2006 to 2011. Therefore, the prime position for Bull Lea in foals in this survey is the seventh generation.

I decided it might be fun to see how Bull Lea fared by generations. The three charts below summarize simplistically by dividing the sample into two groups: those with Bull Lea seven generations or closer and those with Bull Lea eight generations or farther back. The former (52,344 foals) has a slight majority over the latter (43,632 foals).

Generations      Foals          Average         Maverage         Price Index

4-7                 52,344        $47,589          156.00             1.01

8-11              43,632         $43,458          153.09            0.99

As you can see above, the 4-7 group has prices ever so slightly above the 8-11 group.

Generations      Foals          Stakes Winners          %          APPPSW        PPI (Result)

4-7                 52,344              1,644                3.14           726              0.95

8-11              43,632               1,622                3.72           687             1.07

As you can see above, the 8-11 group has results more than slightly better than the 4-7 group.

Generations      Foals          Price Index          PPI (Result)           Difference

4-7                 52,344            1.01                   0.95                    –0.06

8-11              43,632             0.99                  1.07                     +0.08

In terms of prices versus results, the 8-11 group is significantly better than the 4-7 group (+0.08 to –0.06).

I must admit that I undertook this project more for the intellectual challenge of it than any other reason. I think it demonstrates how “influence” really works.

Bull Lea is not such a “failed sire” as most people think. In terms of prices versus results, he is very slightly positive (+0.01 or +0.0024; take your pick; I prefer the latter number).

I prefer the latter number because it shows what inevitably happens to names in pedigrees. Sooner or later (sometimes a long time later, sometimes a short time later) both their overall prices and overall results converge on the average of 1.00.

Some Bull Lea is better than others. Roberto and Nijinsky II are very nice. Alydar, Storm Cat, and all others are not so nice.

It seemingly defies logic, but closer generations are not always better than farther generations. The reasons for this were discussed two posts ago, in The Seven Corners Conundrum.

All of this has little to do with breeding/buying/developing/racing a better horse (and that is the whole point of the exercise). Sires and dams (first generation) are much more important than any other names in pedigrees, especially names many generations back.

Forgive me if I do not say it often enough. Sires and dams (first generation) are much more important than any other names in pedigrees, especially names many generations back.

Having said that, however, in order to have some fun with pedigrees, sometimes you have to go back many generations to make your point. And the point here is that Bull Lea is actually pretty typical of sires from that long ago (he was a foal of 1935). He has a collective price of 1.0044. He has a collective result of 1.0068.

What inevitably happens to names in pedigrees is that sooner or later (sometimes a long time later, sometimes a short time later) both their overall prices and overall results converge on the average of 1.00.

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