Rating The Elite

Caption: Galileo (IRE) (Sadler’s Wells-Urban Sea by Miswaki)

It can be a risky practice to reduce stallion performance or stallion ability down to a single number, particularly if that measure is not exact and is trying to describe a sire’s international standing. If we lumped all of Exceed And Excel’s runners into a single set of figures, they would probably underestimate his Australian achievements and overplay his European efforts. That said, if I did want to use a single number, I would not stray too far from Timeform ratings or indeed ratings in general, albeit on a region-by-region basis. Whilst it is true that racing is not a perfect meritocracy where black-type opportunities are perfectly aligned with ratings, they nonetheless are the purest method of ranking racehorses and therefore sires too.

Traditionally, the ratio of a sire’s black-type winners to foals has been a good international yardstick and remains so today, even allowing for the fact that crop sizes have mushroomed, making comparisons across generations problematic. I once undertook a study looking at the relative merits of Danzig, Galileo and Dubawi. Given that Danzig sired on average 40 to 45 foals a season, I chose the best 45 using the dam’s pedigree from each crop of Galileo and Dubawi and not surprisingly their respective ratios of black-type winners were all very similar at around 18%.

As good and trusted a measuring stick as a sire’s ratio of black-type winners to foals/runners is, it still can, and does, disguise some strengths and weaknesses. It is always a very good idea to consider the average Timeform rating of a sire’s black-type winners in conjunction with his ratio. Or as I have done in the accompanying table to include an average rating of a sire’s best horses (his top 5%) from their European crops. Consider for a moment Invincible Spirit and Teofilo. Invincible Spirit sires 8.4% black-type winners to runners while Teofilo is currently averaging 10.3%, yet Invincible Spirit’s elite average rating is 120.2 compared with Teofilo’s 119.3. Therein lies the quandary for breeders. Do they use the stallion more likely to sire a black-type winner or one that is more likely to provide a top-class racehorse like Kingman or Charm Spirit? In fact, these are just two examples of the many often conflicting pieces of evidence to contend with and breeders will probably ultimately make their decisions based on other data entirely. It’s also the reason why it’s always easy to find something good to say about a stallion.
However, for the purposes of empirically evaluating stallions, I’d be inclined to favour the number that describes the quality of a sire’s top horses. After all, that’s how it should be.

When all is said and done, sires that produce good black-type winner ratios tend also to have high elite runner ratings. Galileo, Dubawi and Sea the Stars are the top three by both categories. The previously mentioned Invincible Spirit is a classic case of stallion who can get very good horses, but his overall ratio is lower than the stallions that surround him on the table. That is not to say Invincible Spirit is anything but a top-class sire. You may have noticed he is the first speed orientated stallion on the table with a stamina index of less than 7.5 furlongs for his progeny aged three and older. And we know that at this end of the stamina spectrum the opportunities to sire black-type winners are far rarer than those beyond a mile. Therefore, we can say that the average Timeform rating of Invincible Spirit’s elite runners better represents his achievements than does his ratio of black-type winners.
There are not really huge surprises, no anomalies, when we rank sires this way. To provide some context, it’s worth looking at some of the great sires of the past, those whose first runners were born from 1990 onwards. The best on record is the great Danehill (126.0). Montjeu scored 124.6 while Machiavellian recorded 122.8, marginally ahead of Rainbow Quest on 122.7, while Fairy King posted a score of 122.1. Others above 120 include High Chaparral (121.8), In the Wings (121.8), Peintre Celebre (121.6), Hernando (121.4), Singspiel (120.4), Halling (120.3), Selkirk (120.3) and Cape Cross (120.2).

Published March 2017