Wednesday, January 6, 2010

None of this makes any sense

This will be my last post on sire lists. I promise.

Here's the deal.

Thoroughbred Times's general sire list includes earnings for North American-based sires from the 18 countries for which the Jockey Club database receives complete racing data. According to the Thoroughbred Times general sire list, Giant's Causeway was leading sire of 2009 with earnings of $15,950,453. (Full disclosure: I currently write part time for Thoroughbred Times and was intimately involved in developing the software that produces that list.). Thoroughbred Times also calculates a general sire list for its annual Racing Almanac by North American earnings only. By that criteria, Smart Strike was leading sire in North America in 2009 with earnings of $9,048,551.

The Blood-Horse general sire list includes earnings for North American-based sires for Northern Hemisphere countries--except Hong Kong and Japan (I think....I don't receive the BH print magazine and can't find any explanation online). According to the Blood-Horse general sire list, Giant's Causeway was leading sire of 2009 with earnings of $11,079,918. The Blood-Horse also makes available on their website a leading sire list by North American earnings only. By that criteria, Smart Stike was leading sire of 2009 with earnings of $9,048,551. Like Thoroughbred Times, however, the Blood-Horse uses its list that includes international earnings to designate their leading sire.

The Jockey Club's EquineLine sire reports also report Giant's Causeway as leading sire. According to a Jockey Club representative, they use basically the same criteria as the Blood-Horse "to avoid over inflating progeny earnings because of the purses in Japan/Hong Kong." Okay, so you use earnings from the richest day in Thoroughbred racing--Dubai World Cup day, but don't use Japan and Hong Kong because they "inflate" progeny earnings. Somehow I thought inflating progeny earnings was what sire lists were all about, but never mind.

The Daily Racing Form's sire lists (which, again, I don't see the print version so someone tell me if I have this wrong) list Smart Strike as leading sire of 2009, because their list is based on earnings in North America and Dubai World Cup day only. That's right....not all of Dubai, just World Cup day.

Bloodstock Research's Bloodstock Journal and Brisnet service publishes a leading sire list on their website, but frankly I have no idea what criteria it is based on, because, although Giant's Causeway is listed as the leader, Cape Cross, who stands in Ireland is listed second, and Irish-based Danehill Dancer and English-based Oasis Dream both appear in the top ten.

The NTRA website--which I suppose is as close to an "official" site for Thoroughbred racing information as anything else, at least to the general sporting public--links to this EquineLine list, which, it turns out, is very similar to the Brisnet list, though the earnings totals are different. Best I can figure, Cape Cross, Danehill Dancer, are included because they had a starter in North America in 2009.

Is it any wonder the sporting public is confused by and steadily losing interest in Thoroughbred racing? We can't even begin to agree on how to keep our most vital statistics. By my count we have at least five different ways of counting what should be a simple thing, and, as a result, come up with two different horses as leading sire.

None of this makes any sense.

No other country in the world that I know of includes racing outside their borders in their leading sire statistics. And, yes, when I participated in producing specs for the Thoroughbred Times sire list software, I argued in favor of including worldwide earnings, because that gives the most complete picture of the sire's accomplishments, though, in my defense, I insisted we calculate a North America only list as well.

Sire lists that reflect worldwide earnings keep advertisers happy, because they generally give higher numbers. We have to have those stats, and sire lists based on international earnings (all international earnings--no picking and choosing what countries you use) are a perfectly valid way to look at it. But, ultimately, that should not determine the leading North American sire.

That title should be determined by earnings in North America only. And nobody in the business--that's right, nobody--uses those criteria to determine the horse they call simply "leading sire."


  1. I love it - and agree fully - RIDICULOUS!

  2. John,

    While I had the opportunity for a bit of influence at the Form, I worked to keep them holding the line on official North American stats for leading sires.

    It is so simple, but nobody wants to hear the simple truth. Keep bashing away!


  3. John, It's an issue we've discussed for years, and when I was at DRF we only calculated N. American earnings, as Frank said. It's totally ridic that we don't use that criteria for naming the leading sire, and I've given up about writing about it anymore because of this simple fact: The people who run this business and calculate these lists, etc., are ignorant. They are nice people -- or maybe they aren't -- but that's not germane to the argument; unfortunately, I know some of these people well, especially some of the geniuses at DRF, and I'll tell you straight up there's absolutely no hope.

  4. Trust me Sid, I know that as well as anyone....But then that's never stopped either one of us from bitching has it?

  5. I'm for having two lists ... Leading sire by North American Earnings and Leading sire by World-wide earnings. However, the latter should include ALL world-wide earnings. The decision by DRF to include Dubai on World Cup day only is such a joke.

    At the end of the day, the lack of standardization related to sire lists is just another microcosmic example of disparate policies and procedures across competing entities that mire our industry in malfeasance and mediocrity.

    John .... I don't for a moment believe that this will be your last post on sire lists. And when you finally wrestle this one to the ground, I hope you will address the skewed up (sic)thinking that leads to the publishing ofleading sire lists by Average Earnings per Runner instead of Average Earnings per foal. I understand that it is just a mechanism to make major stallion owners happy and therefore prop up ad revenue, but the research scientist within me abhors the distortion of the true measure of performance.

  6. Rob, I'm happy to say those are exactly the options Thoroughbred Times offers, but I can't get them to publish the North American only list anywhere except the Almanac. I can live with those two lists, but all of the rationalizations for something in between are just silly or outdated or self-serving or....whatever. As for the avg earnings per runner vs. per foal....well duh! Now as soon as they make me supreme poobah, I'll fix that....right after I fix the sire list problem.

  7. Mr Whiteley, it's improbable that "ALL world-wide earnings" will be included, because I don't believe, for instance, "they" collect earnings from Russia or India -- countries where I've seen US-sired horses race. I wonder if the collect data from Turkey, where there are lucrative int'l races with legit black type, or Qatar, where there's now a US$500,000 race.
    For this reason, any int'l sire list will always be wanting, but we can easily compute US earnings and name without equivocation a champion sire.

  8. The whole idea of a traditional sire list is completely archaic in the 21st century.

    In the day when leading stallions all bred similar sized books of mares (or the difference between the truly "big" books and everyone else was much less pronounced) identifying the leading sire by total progeny earnings was of value. Today these lists are nothing more than a numbers game often misleading to breeders and counter-productive to the success and future of our breed. Perhaps these archaic leading sire lists share some blame for the fragile nature of our breed.

    In research that I've done for myself and a handful of friends over the past 10 years I come up with a more useful "Stallion of the Year"tm list. This list assesses a stallions contribution based upon a similar set of criteria as that used to identify leading breeder, owner and broodmare.

    Using this multiple criteria approach (which includes AEI/CI analysis, %SW, %GSW, %Winners/Starters, etc. - overall contribution) Tapit was the Stallion of Year tm last year followed closely by Lemon Drop Kid. Notable - Distorted Humor 7th, Giant's Causeway was 39th, Smart Strike 26th and Danehill Dancer 37th.

  9. Dan Kelliher touches on a point that I have made for decades. Gross earnings lists are significantly distorted by crop size. I have long used stats like the ones Dan lists to find stallions whose performers are better value compared to the stud fee.

    I have long felt that the gross earnings lists are primarily fodder for stallion masters to use in their advertising, perhaps even in the publication whose list most favors their stallion! (Imagine that.)

  10. Mr Keliher,
    A leading sire list by progeny earnings is a "championship," but it's certainly not the major indicator for determining how "good" a stallion is. There are many criteria, some mentioned by Mr Whiteley, others by you, that already exist. Just as in baseball, there are the Bill James stats to go along with traditional stats. However, there's nothing wrong with naming a championship sire, and the fact that the leader would be Smart Strike instead of Giant's Causeway by N. American progeny earnings indicates the nature of things.
    In baseball, the Yankees, as everyone knows, has a huge payroll exceeding $200 million a year, while some small market clubs have $40 million payrolls. Same thing with big books. We know this. And the Yankees don't win every year -- and I'm a fan.

  11. As Dan suggests above, the parsing of which earnings to use really misses the point. Listing stallions by progeny earnings has NEVER been an accurate way to judge their accomplishments. Unless, of course, you believe that Ole Bob Bowers and Skip Trial, to use just two examples, were among the elite sires of their respective generations.

    One can argue about the best criteria to use, but progeny earnings shouldn't even be in the conversation.

  12. Sid,

    My point in claiming the archaic nature of the sire lists is that book sizes have changed the game in a significantly different way than your analogy of baseball. The explosion of book size would be the equivalent not just of the Yankees having a larger payroll but of the Yankees being able to use a larger sized bat.

    If that were the case the Yankees might still not be champions every year but their odds would improve more significantly than just paying players more money.

    Does the press/media not have a role to play in support of positive change for our Industry? If new presentations were offered for "Stallion of the Year" tm crowning a top stallion as champion (based upon meaningful and comprehensive criteria) would mean something. As it stands today it's a meaningless list to breeders and only of value to marketeers.

    In the end are we not supposed to be breeding a sounder, better horse? Would sounder, better horses not offer more competitive races? Could this not have value in the marketplace? Ultimately advertising and stud-farms would follow the breeders towards stallions of substance rather than empty or questionable "numbers".

    I understand that there are traditionalists who like things the way they've always been. Like Bobby Kennedy I prefer to "dream of things that never were and ask why not?"

  13. Dan and Sid, I think an even better baseball analogy would be if the Yankees got 4 outs every inning instead of 3. How many more games would they win that way? And I'd bet Bill James could come up with an answer to that one!

  14. John and Dan,

    Theoretically, with the huge payroll they have vs small market clubs, NY is, in essence, getting 4 outs per inning and bigger bats!

    With its lineup, the Yanks could theoretically have a pitcher with a MLB-leading 23-12 mark and a 5.20 ERA collect a Cy Young, while a "better" pitcher somewhere else could, say, have a 13-9 record and a 1.86 ERA.

    Now, this doesn't even begin to touch the Bill James abstracts, but a smart guy like Dan or you would probably conclude that the 1.86 ERA guy makes him the better pitcher, and you'd probably be correct.

    But I'd have to read the James deconstruction to say for sure! ;)

    Meanwhile, for everyone else, the guy with the most wins wins -- usually -- the pitching "championship." That's probably the best baseball analogy I can come up with, Dan.

    And, by the way, I'm not disagreeing with you.

  15. Carlos "Ned" MooreJanuary 7, 2010 at 3:40 PM

    About 10 years ago, we moved a stallion into Virginia, we were trying to promote him and his Japan earnings were not been counted by the Blood-Horse. I took issue and was told by a now retired editor the following.

    About 20-25 years ago, as computerized worldwide earnings were becoming available, at the suggestion by several top stallion owners in Kentucky, who considered the inclusion of earnings from certain countries could prove detrimental and skew the statistics in a way that it could favor an undeserving horse, it was decided to remove certain countries from the list. The countries left (mainly European) would not be able to seriously affect them. The Breeder's Cup, then in its infancy, in most cases would define the issue.

    Since then Dubai has come on line as many other events and the discriminatory policy has never been properly reviewed. Its a joke! Add this country, subtract another and Bingo!!! You have another winner...

    I would suggest the statistics be based on the logical compilation in three (3) categories. Worldwide Earnings (all inclusive), North American Earnings and USA Earnings. The Stallion Award should go to the winner in the USA Earnings categories, like every other country does within their geographical and political borders. If they can now separate Canadian earnings (it is another country), why can they not be logical...

  16. The waters get a little muddy with sire earnings to say the least. When you are looking at the "leading sire of North America" does the sire have to stand in America or could he be like say Anabaa and exist on the list primarily on the basis of Goldikova's performance in the Breeders' Cup in America?

    Equally, what about shuttle sires? Do you consider the Southern Hemisphere bred crops of shuttle sires or just those foaled to Northern Hemisphere time. What about those Northern Hemisphere foals competing in South America, Hong Kong or Malaysia? Shouldn't their earnings be counted?

    Personally, if you are going to have a list based on prizemoney and want to have the "leading sire of North America" then it should be a stallion standing in North America and the performance of his foals sired in North America no matter where they are foaled or where they race.

    What on earth will happen if AI gets in!

  17. The North American sire list should let buyers and breeders know which stallions are siring foals that do well racing under North American racing conditions, no matter where the stallion is standing. There is vast number of people who don't breed or buy for the international market and don't care how well the foals run in foreign conditions. They run here. They want to know which stallions are doing best HERE.
    Australia and New Zealand each have their own leading sire lists, then, because so many NZs race in Australia, a combined list as well. A home list, a winners abroad list, and a combined list would answer everyone's needs.