Buying Wins at the Sales
Since Moneyball, i’ve been largely obsessed with the translation of concepts used in Sabermetrics and wider Sports Analytics into the sport of Horse Racing. In this article we aim to convey a methods utilized in other sports can be applied to thoroughbred analysis, thus allowing for identification of value in the bloodstock markets and sales rings across the UK & Ireland.
We believe that by better understanding of the variables that influence thoroughbred performance that investors can identify and realize greater value opportunities at the sales.
All race data is taken from Flat & All Weather races in the UK and Ireland since 2010.
All sales data is taken from sales in the UK & Ireland since January 2017. This was compiled manually by aggregating sales results across the Tattersalls and Goffs Auction houses together.
What proportion of sires’ runners end up winning at the track?
We will start with the traditional metric, Winners-to-Runners Ratio. WTRR assesses the % of runners from a sires’ progeny that end up winning on the track.
Intriguing aspects, even as we begin, as we see that two “newer” sires in the form of War Front and Frankel top the Winners-To-Runners rankings. War Front displays an impressive record with 68.0% of his total runners hitting the track in the UK & Ireland recording a race victory. Frankel continues to back up his stallion credentials with a 65.7% winners-to-runners ratio and Scat Daddy rounds out the top 3 with a record of 64.4% winners-to-runners ratio. Dubawi is impressive in fourth due to his durability — a 63.8% WTRR over a large sample size of 853 horses since 2010.
Perhaps most impressive is the ability of Galileo and Dubawi to sustain their WTRR after such a large number of progeny have raced. If Frankel and War Front can sustain a similar level of performance when approaching 1000 progeny hitting the track, then they will lay claim to stand with the greats.
In order to bring a comparison between on track performance and value throughout the sales ring, we have also compiled records of all bloodstock purchases across the UK & Ireland since the start of 2017.
The breakdown below shows the average (mean) sales price of progeny going through the sales ring in this time period. This will come in useful later on.
Winners-to-Runners Ratio x Sales Price
In order to bring some further context to the winners-to-runners ratio, and also the opportunity to identify some value, we correlated the WTRR performance vs. the average purchase price of progeny through the sales ring since 2017. Of interest are the horses with a below average sales price, but an above average WTRR. Pay particular attention to the positions of Lope De Vega, Pivotal, Exceed and Excel, Kodiac and Holy Roman Emperor.
A Pearson correlation of 0.529 shows that there is a moderate correlation between Average Sales Price and Winners to Runners Ratio.
Throughout this piece I will use some simple Linear Regression equations to calculate an “Expectancy” level based on the various factors that we will explore.
Due to a necessity to remove outliers for this type of data analysis, as it causes skew, Galileo has been removed from the analysis below. Our Linear Regression model shows the comparison between actual performance in terms of winners on the track vs. a calculated expected performance based on average sales price. All results have then been adjusted to 100 runners to allow for consistent analysis across the sample sires of the different sires analysed.
The top 5 sires delivering “above expectation” in terms of winning runners when compared to average sales price are as follows:
- Dubawi +9.88 winners
- War Front +8.49 winners
- Acclamation +8.15 winners
- Sea The Stars +8.07 winners
- Holy Roman Emperor +7.01 winners
Group-Runners-to-Runners Ratio (GRTR)
The next metric we will take a look at is Group-Runners-to-Runners, answering the question — “what proportion of the sires total crop ended up going on to compete in Group races?”
War Front again leads the table here, with an impressive record of 37.6% of total runners ending up running in Group races in the UK & Ireland. Galileo (34.6%) and Frankel (27.3%) round out the top 3. In terms of value potential, my eye is caught by; No Nay Never (25.7%), Night of Thunder (20.6%) and Mehmas (16.3%).
What proportion of sire progeny runners ended up winning Group races?
Scat Daddy and Galileo head the GWTR field, similarly to the WTRR metric. With impressive returns of 13.3% Group-Winners-To-Runners for Scat Daddy in the UK & Ireland, and 12.00% for Galileo.
Sire Uplift on Mare Quality
Perhaps the holy grail of pedigree analysis is to unearth the influence that the sire exerts over the quality of the pool of mares that they are sent. This is our attempt at answering that question.
The difficult part is gathering the information regarding the quality of the mares that are sent to each sire. In order to rectify this challenge, I have only included “raced mares” that had achieved a handicap mark at the track. This limits the dataset somewhat, but felt like the most reliable method of analysis.
Data prior to 2008 is also out of scope.
As a start, we compiled all of the racing results for female horses back to 2008 and extracted the highest achieved OR by raced mares. This has then been combined with the racing results for all horses since 2008 in order to derive the analysis.
In the diagram below we can see the calibre of (raced) mares by highest achieved official rating sent to the Top 50 sires in the UK & Ireland since 2010. Notice nearly the 30lbs difference between the mare pool between Galileo and No Nay Never. It makes the GWTR ratio performance evidenced by No Nay Never even more remarkable, despite his stock of mares improving markedly in recent years.
If we then correlate the highest achieved Official Rating (OR) of progeny vs. the average OR of the mare pool we can see evidence of the sires that uplift the expected quality of their progeny. Sires with results sitting above the trend line are contributing to an uplift of performance, whereas those below the line are degrading performance when compared to what is expected from their mare pool. Notice the remarkably poor performance of 2015 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles and the over-performance of No Nay Never, Night of Thunder, Mehmas, Champs Elysees and Dragon Pulse. Leading European sire 2021, Lope De Vega, also yields an impressive position.
I hope that you enjoyed reading that piece as much as i enjoyed researching and writing it. For further information please contact me via Twitter @TomWilsonHorses or via email firstname.lastname@example.org