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News: 15 May 2013


John Flood writes... Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics is a phrase that describes the persuasive power of numbers. Mark Twain popularised it but the original origin of the phrase has been attributed to many.

I wonder who in racing folklore should we attribute the most common way of analysing sires statistics? i.e. The Leading Sires table by prize money earned by their progeny during the current racing season only (LSTBPEBTPDTCRSO, for want of a deservedly annoying acronym).

It has always baffled me how anyone could or should rate a sire’s achievements solely by looking at the above mentioned ‘leader board’. Yet, for years this seems to be the only leader board that matters to people given that it is the leader board that is most frequently published by media and in a lot of cases it is the only leader board ever published.

Through my discussions with others, different reasons for this have been put forward. One perhaps cynical viewpoint is that a Sires Table portrayed this way is very much in favour of the sires who have the most runners in one season and historically the biggest advertisers with the various bloodstock racing press are the studs with the most mares covered and hence the most runners….you get the drift. Another more simplistic viewpoint is that in racing, all leader boards are viewed for the current season only. i.e. Leading Jockey, Trainer, owner etc. and that at some point a leading stallion table was introduced and for no other reason it was based on the same credentials i.e. current season totals only.

I don’t claim to be the only person with a strong opinion on this topic as John Osborne has spoken many times about this subject and holds strong views about how Stallions achievements should be portrayed and analysed on a lifetime basis and not just over the current season. John’s Views can be found here.

John and his flat counterparts of similar views can count themselves lucky though, whilst they may disagree with the level of press and importance one certain sires table gets over other ‘more relevant’ tables – they at least have access to other tables through the various promotions companies that supply these statistical services.

On the other hand, in my experience, it is next to impossible to obtain any National Hunt Sires leader board, other than the above mentioned. Any promotional company I have contacted do not supply National Hunt statistics.
-The Racing Post database groups sires earnings by season only and annoyingly the progeny results featured within each sires page include some French results but yet not all French results, which completely distorts the total figures and there is no way of filtering results to include UK and Ire only.

-The Irish Field who receive their statistics from Weatherbys, just include LSTBPEBTPDTCRSO in their weekly paper.
-Thoroughbredinternet.com have a reasonably good Jumps Stakes database with a simple search feature, but again it has limitations. i.e. It is purely a database of stakes results and doesn’t do any ranking of sires by stakes performers etc. Another limitation I have found with it, is that Graded Handicaps in UK are included, whereas Graded Handicaps in Ireland do not feature.
-EBN doesn’t feature any NH statistics.

I strongly feel that the publishing and resulting reliance on such a narrow set of statistics has a big part to play in the increasing fickleness of the National Hunt market. It is totally biased against young sires with their first runners on the ground and also sires who haven’t covered large books of mares i.e. If a sire isn’t featuring high up on the ‘Leader Board’ he is automatically assumed to be underperforming. This assumption is made without knowing how many foals of racing age they have on the ground, how their winners/runners ratio compares with other sires etc. etc.

Conclusion

What I would like to see made available for National Hunt breeders would be statistics that cover a stallions lifetime achievements as opposed to just the current season and these statistics would include the following: number of crops of racing age, number of registered foals to date, number of runners, number of winners, number of non-winning placed horses, number of stakes winners, number of stakes placed horses etc.

The web is the ideal platform to drive this system as it is real time and can be interactive with users based on what criteria they want to see. And for anyone suffering withdrawal symptoms, they can even look up LSTBPEBTPDTCRSO!
Feeding from this platform, paper publications can then publish whatever ranking tables they choose. Whilst not expecting these publications, who have obvious space constraints, to publish pages upon pages of statistics, one would hope that different tables would be featured on a rotational basis.

All views welcome

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