10th Feb 2012
Richard Griffiths in the Racing Post has risen to the challenge to try to discover the missing measure for success which we are currently overlooking or undervaluing. At the Irish National Stud we stand a statistician’s dream horse Big Bad Bob, recently highly praised (again) by Bill Oppenheim, one of the first to discover his outperformance. It is fair to say that Ger Lyons was the very first, though there are a few others who will claim that prize.
I have heard it said that the “sample size” is too small to be accurate in the assessment of Big Bad Bob. Three crops, consistently successful in the proportions achieved by the small first crop but the absolute numbers are small. By the way, he is chock-full for 2012 so I am not on a selling mission here, just thinking out loud.
If the sample size is so critical, why then do we collectively REDUCE it all the time by focussing only on the annual results? The stallion tables are nearly always by calendar year. Every horse created by either a sire or a dam gives us a clue to the merits or otherwise of the genetic package and amount of it which is transmitted to the offspring. For that reason the entire sample should be retained in the analysis as career stats are built up.
The reasons we do it differently include the need for a degree of obsolescence – it is as if we need the middle-aged horses to shuffle off and make room for the “NEW, IMPROVED” model being launched. But another reason is the “broodmare effect”. There is a degree of intuition in assessing the success of the sire relative to the type of mares which the sire receives at the various stages of his career. By packaging the results of the stallion by crop, we can guess whether the results are attributable to the sire or reflective of the mares. All stallions careers are influenced enormously by the shape and quality of the mares they serve.
Early last year, Jocelyn de Moubray wrote a piece identifying the difference in behaviour by breeders relative to yearling purchasers. He postulated that the breeders are more guilty of narrow thinking when it came to sires than the yearling purchasers. This was borne out at the October Two Sale where the top hundred or so yearlings were sired by 28 stallions, only five of whom were represented by more than two yearlings. In other words, a well conformed yearling from a reasonable family could command a decent price almost irrespective of sire. Stand outside the stable of a yearling by a “cold” sire and you will disagree with that, but look at the results and you see that the breeders are in more control of the outcome than they think. The mare matters, too!