2004 APEX RATINGS
by Bill Oppenheim
According to APEX (Annual Progeny Earnings index) ratings covering the years 1998-2004, Storm Cat (5.63) was the Northern Hemisphere's top sire during that time span, edging out A.P. Indy (5.14) and Danzig (4.99). Because APEX ratings enable us to cross continents, we are actually able to compare the world's top sires against each other; the results have always been revealing, not least because they demonstrate what an exclusive club "the world's top sires" really is.
In fact, in each of the last seven years, one of those three – Storm Cat (2003-04), Danzig (2002), or A.P. Indy (1998-2001) has been the world's top sire, measured by the APEX 'A Runner Index'; and in every one of those seven years, these three sires have been 1-2-3, in some order. All three of them, never out of the first three for seven consecutive years.
Moreover, the three-quarter brothers Sadler's Wells and Nureyev have been fourth or fifth every year, except in 2002, when Pivotal (his first four-year-olds had raced that year) edged out Sadler's Wells for fifth spot (that is a harbinger of future events: the runes tell me Pivotal will really be a World Top Five sire just about as soon as a space opens up).
But they're an aging bunch of superstars, aren't they: Nureyev is dead, Danzig retired, and, as we enter 2005, Sadler's Wells is 24 and Storm Cat 22. A.P. Indy, at 16, is unreservedly the top sire under twenty in North America – but, as we shall see shortly – he's been pretty disappappointing in Europe. In the next few years, one development we can expect is, as book sizes and numbers of foals have increased, the index figures for the top sires may fall. Now the top five sires all have A Runner indices over 4.50 (9% A Runners to Year-Starters); in five years' time, the top figures are likely to fall to around 4.00, or even lower.
APEX THEORY AND HISTORY
APEX ratings, which are indices, work a lot like the average-earnings index, in that they are computed on an annual basis, and are earnings-based within specific racing jurisdictions. The average-earnings index adds up all earnings by all runners in a year or season, and establishes the average earnings per runner. Then the runners for any sire are added up and divided by his number of runners, and his average is divided by the overall average to arrive at an index figure, where 1.00 equals average. A cumulative average-earnings index repeats the process for all relevant years to yield a career figure.
The average-earnings index was a huge advance over leading sire lists which simply consisted of progeny earnings, but there is one practical flaw with the average-earnings index: one huge earner can distort the average for a sire, and therefore his index, beyond credibility. The APEX method evolved from precisely such an occurrence: when Spend A Buck won a huge bonus for winning the Kentucky Derby after winning the Jersey Derby, his second-crop sire, Buckaroo, suddenly became about the leading thoroughbred sire of all time. On a lesser scale (lesser because young sires now have so many runners, so the superstar doesn't distort it quite as much), something similar has happened with Elusive Quality. I'm not at all saying the $5-million bonus shouldn't be counted as earnings – of course it should – but it does illustrate how one massive earner can distort the figures. Obviously in progeny earnings terms, but also in cumulative average-earnings index (3.36), Elusive Quality comes out the best of a really salty group of sires whose first foals were born in 2000, and were four-year-olds in 2004. But when you look at their APEX A Runner indices – which measure the frequency of siring top earners, the perspective changes: Elusive Quality (1.97) ranks only ninth in this hot sire group; top dog by this standard is Distorted Humor, with a 4.26 A Runner Index. Don't get me wrong – Elusive Quality is definitely a top sire; but in terms of consistency of production at the top level, he does not rank first in his sire class.
What we call the 'A Runner Index' is the top class indicator in the APEX rating system, but it is actually only one of 17 separate indices calculated for each of the 1,023 sires who are (or were) at stud in North America (U.S. and Canada); 'Europe' (Great Britain, Ireland, France, and Germany); and Japan in the time period covered. So, whereas the average-earnings index consists of only one overall number, APEX ratings enable us to look at sires from a number of different angles. Here are the basic premises:
Time Span: We currently collect APEX ratings for a seven-year range. This is one way these figures differ markedly from the cumulative average-earnings index, which calculates a sire's entire career. The seven-year span is especially useful for identifying once-great sires who are no longer the force they once were; for whatever reason, Mr. Prospector ranked between 10th and 15th the last few years he had runners.
What Sires Qualify: Only stallions standing (or who stood) in the countries covered, and who had 10 or more three-year-olds of the last year covered (in 2004, that meant 10+ foals of 2001) qualify for analysis. In other words, we subjectively throw out about 20% of each foal crop because their sires didn't have 10+ three-year-olds that year. The cumulative average-earnings index seems fairer, in that it tallies all runners by all sires in the jurisdiction covered; yet, by throwing out those sires, for those remaining, it does seem that 1.00 really does equal 'verage'.
Class Bands: In each racing jurisdiction listed above (earnings in the U.S. and Canada have been combined up till now, and Great Britain and Ireland are converted and combined), the total number of runners is sorted, top to bottom, by earnings. The top 8% of earners from runners are separated out. The top 2% are called 'ARunners'; the next 2% 'B Runners'; and the next 4% 'C Runners'. Combined, the 8% are called 'ABC Runners'. The total and qualifying runners are then added up across countries to get the overall index. For example, in North America in 2004, 'A Runners' had to earn $106,663; 'B Runners' needed to earn $75,114; and 'C Runners' had to earn $50,740. In American terms, 'C Runners' are horses who are definitely paying their own way (regardless of how much they cost), and 'A Runners' are about the equivalent of what is now pretty universally recognized as Listed Class and above.
Sires are therefore not rated until the year their first three-year-olds are, or have finished, racing. They then have 13 different regional/class ratings: A Runners, B Runners, C Runners for North America, Europe, Japan, and all Regions combined (that's 12), plus a combined ABC Index for All Regions.
A.P. Indy provides a good illustration of how this information works. As I've described above, he is one of the Northern Hemisphere's top three sires, with an (overall) A Runner Index of 5.14. But please note how his figures differ in each region: in North America, where he's had 83% of his runners since 1998, A.P. Indy has 90 A Runners from 773 year-starters, for a 5.82 index. He's had 91 runners (just under 10% of his total) in Japan, for five A Runners, and a 2.75 index. But in Europe, where he's had 69 year-starters since 1998 (just seven percent of his runners), he's had only one A Runner (Mingun, a half-brother to Kingmambo, in 2003), for a European A Runner Index of just 0.72. He is, without any doubt, one of the world's top three sires; but he's been a bust in Europe, and now, of course, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that no one dares send an A.P. Indy to Europe. Even though everyone pretty much knows this by now, it is because we separate these figures by region that we can see it in black-and-white – while at the same time, re-combining the figures into overall totals demonstrates why A.P. Indy is in the world top three.
Age Ratings: One feature of the APEX programming is that it specifies the age when a horse qualifies as an A, B, or C runner. Consequently, we are able to assign sires indices for the four ages (two, three, four, and five-and-up), which can indicate whether the sire's runners have been better at particular ages, or whether they are relatively consistent across all ages. A.P. Indys may not like Europe, but, once they are good enough to qualify as an 'BC Runner', they'll do it at all ages: his overall ABC Index is 2.89, with indices of 2.87 – 2.82 – 2.67 – 3.07 for for his two-, three-, four-, and five-and-ups. But some sires demonstrate a marked proclivity toward either younger or older horses. Danzig is often a serious speed influence, as his son Zieten's age ratings demonstrate: 3.93 - 1.14 – 1.20 – 0.00. By contrast, look at the figures es for the top-five European sire, Machiavellian, who died last year: 0.90 - 1.50 – 3.01 – 3.77. Machiavellian himself was a top-cp-class two-year-old who never even raced after his three-year-old year; the theory always was that he didn't stamp his stock, and these figures do suggest his runners may have taken more after his more staying-bred mates. Even so, his 3.03 A Runner Index rates him in Europe's top six; so he may not have stamped his 'profile', but perhaps he imprinted something even more important: his 'class'.
Originally printed in the 2004 Sires supplement by The Blood-Horse Publications, and reprinted here with their permission.