There is a popular thread on the betfair breeding forum regarding ‘sires in form’. Forumites diligently monitor and report upon those sires who are having the most winners in a particular month. Thus far in July Royal Applause has had 18 winners, ahead of Bahamian Bounty and Kheleyf. Every month seems to see different sires go through hot streaks and then revert back to normality. So is there an explanation for these streaks, can they be predicted and can punters profit from them?
1.The most likely explanation for these winning streaks is simply that they are random events. If you toss a coin thousands of times you would expect to regularly get sequences of successive heads or tails. Clusters are to be expected in any random pattern. Sires suddenly producing lots of winners is just a random clustering event that cannot be predicted.
2. Ground Conditions. Many stallions produce offspring with definite going preferences. If we have an unusually wet summer and the ground is heavy then it would be no surprise to see a sire like Efisio sire lots of winners. Similar logic would apply to firm ground stallions. Interestingly if ground conditions were the explanation then we would expect to see fewer such ‘hot streaks’ on the all-weather where ground is not as variable.
3. Linked to trainer form. Many trainers have favourite stallions and will have a disproportionate number of the offspring of those horses in their stables. Aidan O’Briens stable is full of Montjeu’s Galileo’s and Danehill Dancers. When Ballydoyle goes through a purple patch then Montjeu, Galileo and Danehill Dancer have lots of winners. Michael Stoute trains for Cheveley Park and he would have lots of Pivotals and Mediceans and other trainers also have there favourites usually dictated by budget. When the stable is in form then the sires popular with that trainer would be also expected to have plenty of winners.
4. Linked to opportunity. If a sire happens to do well with stayers and there are lots of staying races during a period then it is logical he will do better during that time. Similarly a sire whose two year olds need at least a mile to be seen to best effect won’t get many two year old winners before the Autumn. What appears to be a sire going through a ‘hot streak’ is in fact simply that his offspring are finally getting an opportunity to run at their optimum trips.
5. Trainer perceptions. One Cool Cat had a great start with his two year olds from March-June. Trainers expected his offspring to be precocious and accordingly had them ready to run early in the season. Conversely few trainers had their Sulamani two year olds ready to go early in the season because naturally trainers would have viewed them more as needing time. The trainers perceptions determined the training of the horses. These perceptions meant that One Cool Cats offspring were ready to run and mop up the early season two year old races which are typically somewhat easier to win.
6. Time of Year. It was famously said of the offspring of Ribot that they were better with ‘the sun on their backs’ and it is likely that due to maturation issues some sires have offspring that are better earlier or later in the year. Springtime could see winning streaks for sires who sire precocious two year olds and conversely for sires whose offspring improve with age. The logic here is that the horses would be having their first runs of the new season but they would still be running off ratings achieved when they were too immature to show their full potential.
It is impossible to be definitive as to the reasons why sires seem to undergo sudden hot streaks. I think there is some truth in all of the above explanations. Accordingly I propose a new all-embracing theory that I modestly call Sheahan’s Theory.
6. All of the above-cycles and the handicapper. In statistics it is believed that over time everything regresses to the mean. A typical stallions offspring might win 15% of the races in which they run. If that sire goes through a ‘hot streak’ in which his offspring win 25% of their races in a month, it is still likely that the average at the end of the year or period under review will be close to the long term average. However within racing there is another factor which quickly ends winning streaks namely the work of the handicapper and of fixed penalties. If a horse wins he will be penalised by the handicapper and will have to improve to win again. If lots of two year olds are winning maidens, next time out they will find themselves competing in higher class conditions or stakes races or alternatively carrying a lot of weight in nurseries. Unless the horse has improved they will not win next time out and indeed they will probably need a few unsuccessful runs before dropped by the handicapper back to a winnable mark. A random cluster of wins by the offspring of a stallion could be followed by a lull when all of these horses ran next time out under penalties until the horses were dropped by the handicapper. It is then possible for them all to come good again in a cluster later in the year. These factors would be reinforced by ground/trainer or opportunity issues. For example imagine the offspring of stallion X are best as three year olds with firm ground over trips in excess of 12 furlongs. When they ran early in their three year old days they would probably be competing over 8-10 furlongs. When stepped up in trip we would expect more of them to win and this could be amplified by suitable ground. This period might be their hot winning streak. If it was a wet summer they would be inconvenienced and they would also be running under penalties after the hot streak. We could expect many to struggle to win over their next few runs and the handicapper would drop them again. Come late August the combined effect of the drop by the handicapper and perhaps an improvement in going could see another hot streak. In racing nothing is as random as it seems….