Dueling Nick Ratings – Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong?

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Dueling Nick Ratings – Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong?

This past Saturday, January 23rd, Gulfstream Park hosted the Pegasus World Cup. It’s always a day of great fanfare, pageantry, lofty expectations and a lot of money on the line. That’s why the results of the feature race were so amazing to me. Not so much the horses themselves nor their connections. It was in the way the results read in one of the major thoroughbred dailies.

Be it in the movies or in everyday life, I like to see the underdog prevail. Success by the perceived underdogs in the racing and breeding world seem that much sweeter. Such was the case in the Pegasus World Cup.

The picture above of my social media post was meant to capture and celebrate the underdog in the commercial sense. It goes to show that a good horse can come from anywhere, regardless of stud fees, sales prices or nick ratings. By no means was I trying to belittle either stallion. I was just painting the picture of how our commercial perceptions get in the way of the actual horse most of the time. In fact, for the money, I may be the biggest fan of Tapiture on the planet!

The feedback to the post was incredible. The overwhelming majority of the comments were a “gang-tackle” against nick ratings. However, there were a few detractors in the minority.

It was very quickly brought to my attention that the other nick rating system, the one not listed in the results of the particular daily that I read, had an A+ nick rating for Knicks Go. I verified the comment and sure enough, they were correct.

So one nicking system was saying that Knicks Go is bred on an A+ nick and the other says he is an F nick. Not knowing anything about anyone else’s upbringing but I can most definitely say about mine, an A+ on my report card would get me a five dollar bill and an F would get me a severe beating!

Two total extremes. Why the disparity between the two? Unfortunately, a lot of people are willing to take a nick as the holy grail and will spend obnoxious amounts of money in blind faith. Back to the initial question, who’s right and who’s wrong?

TrueNicks has the A+ nick rating for Knicks Go. This is based on the cross of his sire, Paynter, over the broodmare sire line of Northern Dancer, his sons and his grandsons. That’s getting way back in time in the attempt to paint a favorable picture of any one particular horse or future generations blindly bred that way hoping to live up to the lofty nick.

Two of Paynter’s 16 stakes winners from 417 foals of racing age are bred on this cross. That’s 12.5% of his stakes winners. A fairly impressive number but we need to go back 4 generations to just paint a favorable picture of two stakes winners? The other Paynter stakes winner is out of a Storm Cat mare which, in my opinion, is a night and day difference from Knicks Go’s broodmare sire, Outflanker.

eNicks has the F rating for Knicks Go. This is based on the cross of his grand-sire, Awesome Again, over the broodmare sire line of Danzig. There have been eight stakes winners produced from this cross. By sires Daaher, Awesome Patriot, Awesome Again, Awesome Twist, Paynter, Ghostzapper and Toccet out of broodmares by Dayjur, Defer, Riyadian, Outflanker, Tilt the Stars, Langfuhr and Polish Numbers. I’ve never hear of some of these stallions!

I try to remain neutral on nicks because they are just an everchanging report of history and only examine sire-line to sire-line. To me, they can be a useful tool to point you in a general direction. But, they’re just that, a tool. The more tools you can throw into the toolbox that come to the same conclusions the better. If I can perform my independent work and produce a desirable nick rating that gets everyone all warm and fuzzy, then that’s just a bonus!

I prefer to focus on the direct female families and all the female families of the sires that make up an existing pedigree or a proposed mating. When I designed the matings of Animal Kingdom and Mor Spirit, I think the nick ratings for both were a C. I’m not sure if those have changed over time. But, I’m happy to say that I didn’t allow a nick rating or any type of commercial rationale sway my thinking in who the right stallion was for the particular mare in question.

All that said, I still don’t think that I can answer the initial question – who’s right, who’s wrong? If nicks are your thing, choose wisely!

Whether you are new to the game, experiencing more losses than wins or just looking for a new approach, I am confident that I can help you breed or buy a better racehorse. To find out more about OPTIMAL Matings and how they can help your program, please subscribe to my Blog/News page HERE to receive future information on complimentary mating recommendations, sales short lists, stakes winner pedigree analysis, news on personal client success and any other random thoughts or ideas that I may have. Also, receive a complimentary copy of my report “Blind Luck or Designed Luck? – How A Kentucky Derby Winner Was Bred” sent directly to your inbox.

For inquiries or more information about Shepherd Equine Advisers, please contact Clark Shepherd at 859-321-6618, or by email at clark@bloodstock-agent-ky.com.

I would love to hear any comments or questions that you may have. Please submit them below. Maybe we can address them in a future post!

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I am a thoroughbred bloodstock agent and sales adviser. I help like-minded owners and breeders challenge the status-quo of commercial speculation by breeding or buying better racehorses via extensive pedigree analysis, physical evaluation and results-driven experience. To find out more about how my services can help your program, please contact me at 859-321-6618, or by email at clark@bloodstock-agent-ky.com.

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