By Bill Oppenheim
At the end of 2014, Coolmore's Galileo had finally ascended to the top of the list of North American and European sires by A Runner Index, with a 4.09 rating (8.18% of his 1,822 year-starters 2008-2014), just slightly ahead of Claiborne's War Front (4.02). Now, halfway through 2015, War Front (3.98) has edged ahead of Galileo (3.93), who is actually tied for second with Spendthrift's Into Mischief (3.93), among 459 North American and European sires with 175+ year-starters 2009-2015. Because APEX (Annual Progeny Earnings IndeX) ratings, like the average-earnings index, are compiled using annual earnings, a horse is counted as one year-starter for each calendar year in which it runs, and similarly it can be counted as one 'A Runner' (top 2%) earner every calendar year in which it reaches the 'top 2% earner' threshold. These Midyear 2015 APEX statistics were calculated by The Jockey Club Information Systems (TJCIS) through racing of July 5, 2015, in the U.S., Canada (North America), the U.K., Ireland, France, Germany ('Europe'), and Japan.
Mark Twain did not originate the expression, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”, but he certainly popularized it. But numbers are actually neutral; often it is the assumptions made in determining the numbers, or the ways in which they are stated or applied, which are misleading or prejudicial. So it's important to reiterate that APEX figures are determined by calculating the frequency with which a sire gets runners that figure in the top 2% (4%, 8%) of earners, in each of the jurisdictions noted above, in each of the previous seven years (now 2009-2015). Though based on earnings, about the same percentage of horses become A Runners as become listed or graded/group black-type winners (about 4%).
It may be surprising to some that War Front still rates at the very top of the North American and European sire tree: after all, in 2014 he ranked #37 on the TDN General Sire List (click here); thus far in 2015, he ranks #31–which is precisely why calculations like APEX are necessary. Claiborne Farm, as everybody knows, does not cover huge books of mares with their stallions: War Front has averaged about 65 named foals per crop, whereas Galileo has more than double that. Naturally, in terms of progeny earnings lists, horses like Galileo who have bigger crops are at an advantage. With eight A Runners thus far in 2015, War Front continues to act like a throwback to his sire, Danzig, at stud. Galileo is nothing short of amazing considering the number of foals and runners he has, and of course it will be interesting to see how Into Mischief fares as his numbers proliferate. That won't happen this year, though: his 2-year-old crop is in the thirties, but he does have more yearlings of 2015 than he's had foals in his previous five crops combined.
The other relatively new name in the top ranges of this list (he comes in at #9) is WinStar's Pioneerof the Nile (3.32), sire of course of America's first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, American Pharoah. The current knock against him is that American Pharoah is his only graded/group stakes winner this year. That is true, but what is also true is that Pioneerof the Nile now has nine A Runners, including three Grade II winners, from his first crop of 86 foals (now 4-year-olds), and his second and third crops (3-year-olds and 2-year-olds of 2015) included 58 and 61 foals, respectively. An A Runner Index of 3.32 does not support the mutterings that 'Pioneer' is some kind of one-hit wonder. Even if they haven't done it this year, Cairo Prince and Social Inclusion, just to name a couple, have done it. That's what counts.
Besides Pioneerof the Nile, two other F2011 sires with their first (Northern Hemisphere) 4-year-olds and 175+ year-starters figure among the top 50: Gilltown's Sea The Stars (2.12), of course, and, notably, Coolmore's Fastnet Rock (2.56). He has four GSWs this year, six A Runners in all, among his Northern Hemisphere 3- and 4-year-olds, including G1 Epsom Oaks winner Qualify and G1 Pretty Polly S. winner Diamondsandrubies. Among F2010 sires with their first 5-year-olds, besides Into Mischief, Hill 'n' Dale's Midnight Lute (2.41) and Lane's End's Curlin (2.34) make the list. And no fewer than eight sires with first foals 2009 (first 6-year-olds 2015) rate among the top 50–actually, there is a tie for 50th between two F2009 sires, Cheveley Park's Dutch Art (2.06) and Coolmore Ashford's Scat Daddy (2.06).
The top F2009 sire by A Runner Index right now is Morristown Lattin's Dark Angel (2.55), who is not only the leading NA/EU sire of 2-year-olds right now (17 2-year-old winners, including three 2-year-old Black-Type Winners) but is surpassing his own sire, Acclamation, in siring older runners. Three of Darley's big intake of F2009 sires are among the eight: Kildangan's Teofilo (2.45) and Darley Jonabell's Street Sense (2.44) and Discreet Cat (2.32). Also among the top 50 are Germany's Gestut Auenquelle's Soldier Hollow (2.16) and Calumet's English Channel (2.08), as well as the two mentioned above who are tied for 50th, Dutch Art and Scat Daddy.