Giant's Causeway Stallion
Giant's Causeway Stallion

Giant’s Causeway (USA)

(Photo : The Stallion Barn)

Among the most significant innovations

we’ve seen from Bill in the past 30 years,

is a system for the rating of stallions called “Apex”

There’s no doubt about it. Bill Oppenheim is the longest surviving sales and stallion analyst in thoroughbred history; he survives principally because he’s the greatest researcher known to man, and secondly, because he articulates his views with such style.

Among the most significant innovations we’ve seen from Bill in the past 30 years, is a system for the rating of stallions called “Apex, which is a refinement of the previous best method of assessing a stallion’s worth, the Average Earnings Index (AEI). The difference between the Apex system and AEI, is basically that Apex rates the number of high quality horses a stallion produces year-by-year (as well as over the duration of his lifetime at stud), while the AEI simply reflects gross earnings divided by the number of racing progeny, and is therefore liable to distortion by one or two big earners which can skew the figures for any particular stallion.

What’s more, Bill’s system has grown “legs” because it has several additional dimensions to it. Not only does it establish a means of comparing stallions across generations, but it is a potent indicator of the here-and-now performance of a stallion at any given time, as well as a useful tool in identifying up-and-coming young stallions.

For the purposes of this piece, very briefly, Bill divides his statistics into what he calls “A runners” (the top 2% of the breed), “B runners” (the next 2%), and “C runners” (the next 4%), and then he has an index called “ABC runners”, which include the top 8%. Obviously, to qualify as an elite stallion, he needs to be represented by a depth of occupants of all three of these spaces. It should be said though, that any table of statistics like Apex, is simply a snapshot of what is happening to this day, given the parameters established for the measurements. The highest correlation between a sire’s status, the market place and the industry, is probably with that horse’s actual stud fee: Apex figures aren’t really designed to identify that, though it’s surprising over the years how accurate the figures have proven in identifying the top sires, and especially in finding the emerging prospects. Our purpose in providing you with an insight into Bill’s recent findings is to point to the standout stallions of the current generation.

There are a few real standout performers (and no secrets here), these are the leading sires: Coolmore’s Galileo is now the leading active North American or European sire, both by A Runner Index (4.02), and by number of 2006-2012 A Runners (120). That’s really strong, to lead in both categories; not sure even Sadler’s Wells ever achieved that. Darley’s Dubawi has arguably surpassed the Juddmonte brothers-in-arms, Dansili and Oasis Dream, for Europe’s number two spot. Though a triple Group 1 winner (National Stakes at two; Irish 2000 Guineas, Prix Jacques le Marois at three) from the only crop by Dubai Millennium, Dubawi didn’t particularly come out at stud with a big reputation. He was Europe’s number two freshman sire of 2009 behind Shamardal, but once they turned three, and from then on, he just keeps siring good horses. He has a 3.36 A Runner Index, 2.15 ABC, with crops on line from much better calibre mares than he started with.

The young American horse who keeps coming up with impressive figures is WinStar’s Speightstown. Not only does he have a very high 3.51 A Runner Index (he’s always had very good APEX ratings), he is also over 2.00 for both B and C Runners, and so has a massive 2.51 ABC Runner Index, over 20% of his year-starters. Very high; and they have speed, a lot of them; besides, his first two crops of 5-year-olds-plus (foals of 2006 and 2007) have an impressive 4.04 index, indicating soundness. Two veteran American sires who have been the most consistent sires of good horses the last few years: Ashford’s Giant’s Causeway and WinStar’s veteran (age 20 this year), Distorted Humor. Giant’s Causeway was an “iron horse” on the racetrack, and he’s proving a sire of iron horses at stud.

His 110 A Runners 2006-2012 is second only to Galileo’s, but some of his other numbers are equally impressive: he”s had 1,922 year-starters - an average of over 270 a year. He’s had a massive 325 ABC Runners, which is still nearly 17% of his year-starters, thus maintaining an ABC Index of 2.11. He’s America’s top sire of quality in quantity. Distorted Humor runs number two to Giant’s Causeway with 297 ABC Runners, and has an even higher ABC Index (2.29). Giant’s Causeway averages more than 45 ABC Runners a year, Distorted Humor over 42; Galileo, who is third in number of ABC Runners (277), averages slightly under 40, and Danehill Dancer (248) in fourth, averages just over 35. In terms of siring durable, sound, money-making horses, Giant’s Causeway and Distorted Humor have proven to be real standouts.

Another phenomenon which the Apex ratings are able to identify, is the aging sires whose figures have begun to tail off, and this is achieved by maintaining a currency of the figures over a period of seven years, with the first of those seven dropping off each year, and being replaced by the current year. It’s a fact of the industry that affects most of the older icons of the business, two more recent examples being Gone West and Green Desert, both of whom were 2.53 A runner sires for most of their careers, but are now returning numbers, in Gone West’s case, of 1.28, and 1.12 for Green Desert.

There is nothing we know of to explain this, not in genetics and not in the physical specimens we see on the ground among their progeny. We all know that older mares can “tail off” in the quality of their progeny, and there’s a logical explanation for this in the wear-and- tear which the womb’s endometrial lining suffers over the years. It’s obviously a relative thing, and applies more in some cases than in others, but there’s nothing in a stallion’s “seeds”, as far as we are aware, to explain the drop-off in his progeny performances. Of course, we all know we’re in the fashion business, and that older stallions may lose some of their commercial lustre (and hence the support of the best mares), but when you consider that the lofty likes of Sadler’s Wells and Mr. Prospector both suffered the same fate, that on its own is not a complete explanation.

We’ve written to Bill to ask him if there’s anything he’s been able to establish through his research that can shed some light on it, and we will let you know what he says.

Editor’s note: One horse who at a relatively young stage in his career, looks to be on his way to becoming a serious sire of sires, is Coolmore’s Giant’s Causeway, who stands at their Ashford Stud division in Kentucky. He doesn’t have that many sons at stud as yet, but already in Shamardal, Footstepsinthesand and First Samurai, there are signs of some real prospects coming through. Another feather in the cap of the Storm Cat lineage.