Bill OppenheimBill Oppenheim A few weeks ago I was privileged to be included among a panel of speakers at the ITBA Trade Fair at Goffs. It was a heavyweight lineup, too. I’m sure my journalistic colleague and co-panelist Leo Powell, editor of The Irish Field, won’t be offended when I say he and I were rather wondering what we were doing up there on the platform with Denis Brosnan, Chairman of Horse Racing Ireland; Nic Coward and Winfried Engelbrecht-Breges, CEO’s of the British Horse Racing Authority and the Hong Kong Jockey Club, respectively. Needless to say, Leo acquitted himself brilliantly, and the other speakers were as interesting and thought-provoking as we’d expected.

The Trade Fair was sponsored by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, chaired by Joe Hernon, and it was co-ordinated by Eddie O’Grady’s daughter, the excellent Amber Byrne. There were 85 booths, and Goffs was teeming with people. It’s an amazing country, Ireland. It’s the only place I know where, when somebody happens to make some serious money (which quite a few Irish have been doing over the last decade), the first thing they think about buying is a horse. We could use a few dozen more countries like that.

One of the most popular booths at the Fair, by all accounts, was that of the G1 Goldmine pedigree website manned by Australian software developer Leo Tsatsaronis. Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to see the seminar he presented, but there were so many people trying to get in they brought him back for an encore the next afternoon. I was sorry I didn’t get to meet him; there’s always room for good information, and by all accounts the information their website provides is very good. In fact, there’s an interesting review by Nancy Sexton, in Monday’s Racing Post, of G1 Goldmine and the new Blood-Horse-sponsored Truenicks, co-produced by another Australian, Byron Rogers, with Alan Porter. Both products do represent advances in certain respects, as far as I can tell, certainly in the range of the databases they tap into. But, as somebody who also works in the field of pedigree analysis, I’m not convinced that either or both is the Holy Grail they’re being cracked up to be. I’m probably somewhat biased, being a competitor, or at least a rival of sorts, but the truth is I’m not at all convinced this rush to measure and index opportunity, in the one case (Truenicks), or indexing individual crosses, as is cited in Nancy’s article about the other, really are “the answer.” I realize both programs do a lot more, and I’m sure both are very useful tools.

But is “Compton Place over Night Shift” (index 71.93) really a better cross than “Sadler’s Wells over Darshaan” (index 2.26)? It’s simply that Compton Place has had several early successes over Night Shift, from a very small sample size. Sod’s Law, as well as the Law of Averages and the Laws of Probability, virtually guarantee that the next 50 times it’s tried, the results won’t be as impressive. It’s the same sort of rush of fashion as we saw when Believe It had early successes over the Raise a Native line, or when Storm Bird had Storm Cat (in his first crop) out of a Secretariat mare. Storm Cat was a foal of 1983, and in 1987-1988 Storm Bird had three more A Runners out of Secretariat mares, including Summer Squall (whose dam produced A.P. Indy two years later) and Mujadil. I don’t know how many Secretariat mares were bred to Storm Bird in his ensuing 11 crops, but I can tell you how many more A Runners there were bred on that cross: zero. And that’s my problem with measuring opportunity: when the sample size is so small (evidently, too small), early successes may mean not that this is a great nick, but that whatever successes this cross was going to have happened to come early.

I have no doubt success rates drop as the numbers bred on that cross increase, and these raw measurements of opportunity don’t take that into account, since as far as I know nobody has done that research (yet). Moreover, when you consider even ABC Runners are only 8 percent of the population, the odds are stacked against success. It’s no wonder the trend lines flatten as the number of cases increase.

All this is also by way of explaining why we don’t do APEX ratings on freshman sires; those early successes can be misleading. Even doing them on sires with three-year-olds and four-year-olds, we routinely see sires ring up huge early numbers, which then naturally contract as they have more, and more older, runners. The first year A.P. Indy was rated, his A Runner Index was over 9.00. Eventually it has settled to around the 5.00 mark, which is still the best there is. Distorted Humor, whose oldest foals were seven in 2007, has now dropped below 4.00 for the first time.

Significantly, though, even as the numbers (usually) fall, the top sires tend to hold their positions among their “sire classes” (sires with first foals the same year). Consequently, we find with the younger sire classes-in this case, sires with first foals 2003 (oldest four-year-olds of 2007) and 2004 (oldest three-year-olds)-it is as important to look at their total numbers of “A” and “ABC” Runners as at their indexes. So we present eight Top 20 tables in this issue, four each for F2003 and F2004 sires: number of A and ABC Runners as well as the leaders by A Index and ABC Index. In terms of number of A Runners and ABC Runners 2005 2007, Galileo, Broken Vow, and City Zip rank one-two-three on both lists, in that order. The two leaders by A Runner Index are two Florida sires (each with roughly half the number of year-starters as Galileo): Exchange Rate (3.55), who has now emigrated to Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky; and Put It Back (3.42). The latter, who is surely the biggest bargain in Florida this year at $7,500, leads the list by ABC Runner Index (2.23), over two sires whose runners have all been sired in New York to date, City Zip (2.17, now at Lane’s End in Kentucky), and Giant’s Causeway’s little brother, Freud.

In what looks like a pretty salty group of F2004 sires, Coolmore sires Johannesburg (12) and Rock of Gibraltar (10) head the list, perhaps not surprisingly, considering they are the two with the highest number of runners. Darley’s Street Cry (nine) comes next, followed by Officer and Invincible Spirit (eight each), and Orientate (seven). In terms of A Runner Index, the list is led by the unheralded Val Royal (3.62), still only a ,10,000 stallion at The National Stud in Britain, when he gets back into service, followed by Street Cry (3.33), Pure Prize (3.16), Sakhee (2.86), Officer (2.80), and E Dubai (2.72). Johannesburg, Rock of Gibraltar, and Invincible Spirit (all with more year-starters) also rate in the 2.00’s. Invincible Sprit and Rock of Gibraltar are tied for the lead by number of ABC Runners, with 28 each, ahead of Officer and Johannesburg, each with 24; Include (21); Orientate (20); and Street Cry (19). E Dubai (2.17) is tops by ABC Runner Index, ahead of Officer (2.10).

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News