By Sid Fernando
Jim Squires, an eminent but controversial author and a breeder of a Kentucky Derby winner, published a piece in the New York Times today that took an uneducated swipe at nicks. You can read it here.
Mr. Squires is well known for taking on issues in the business and is entitled to his views, of course, but it’s unfortunate he didn’t research the concept of nicking—which has been around since racehorses were bred—before slamming it in front of millions of readers.
“Seth Hancock once told me that you can proceed at your own risk if you ignore nicks,” said major breeder John Greathouse to me at the Fasig-Tipton February sale. And this is why we furnish John—and many of the major owners and breeders in the country—with nicks for sales and matings.
Nicks, however, are only one piece of the puzzle. I would suggest that Mr. Squires read the post below, published here on February 16, 2009. It’s yet another plea by the late Jack Werk, who did more than anyone to develop and promote the widespread use of nicks through the Werk Nick Rating, to use common sense when evaluating nicks. They are only a tool, he’d tell clients over and over again, just as speed figures are—only a tool and one piece of the puzzle to a handicapper.
Indeed, here at WTC Inc., we will frequently suggest matings and select “Best of Sales” for horses that have a range of nicks, from C to A+++, based on other factors in the pedigree, including the dam’s production record, her female family’s affinity with sires, and the depth of the family, among many other considerations.
Planning matings is really not as simplistic—and breeders are not as stupid—as Mr. Squires makes them out to be.
Below is Jack’s article:
February 16th, 2009
Our Nicks and Your Common Sense!
By Jack Werk
Every year around the start of the breeding season, I make a mental note to remind breeders who call in that the Werk nick rating — as important a tool as it is — is just one piece of information in breeding decisions. Now, with this blog going at full steam, I can actually get it off my chest in one shot. Here’s my annual advice about using nicks: Use common sense, folks!
One of my favorite examples to demonstrate this is the Storm Cat/Rahy nick, which is an A+ Werk nick rating. There have been 12 unrestricted SWs on this cross, including 7 Graded SWs. Storm Cat’s best son, the G1-winning Coolmore stallion Giant’s Causeway, is bred on this nick, as are G1 winners Sophisticat and After Market.
The success of this nick meant that a lot of Rahy mares started going to sons of Storm Cat, too. Now, here’s where the common sense comes into play. Everyone knows that Rahy is a small stallion and tends to get smallish horses, too.
Now, let’s take the Storm Cat stallion Storm Boot (now deceased), who was also a small horse, as an example. The Storm Boot/Rahy cross is an A Werk nick rating, but the physical match between the stallion and the mare would have to be a major consideration, certainly for the commercial market that demands big yearlings. I would not advocate breeding a small mare by Rahy to a smallish stallion like Storm Boot, even though our rating, based on the performances described above, is sound. A larger mare, sure!
The bottom line here is that we stand behind our nicks – we’ve been doing this for 20 years – but YOU stand next to your mare, and as a breeder you need to use our tools with your good sense. That’s the only way we can help you increase your probability of producing a better racehorse!