If you have not yet read the article, What Does it Take to Win a SIM Race, written and researched by shagfarms I would suggest that you do so now. The article can be found at: blacktypebugler.com/?p=44839 . I will be using the data compiled from that article to support my conclusions and speculations in this article. In broad summary, shagfarms data collects how fast your horse needs to be in order to win a certain type of race. This is the speed (abbreviated SP) of the horse for a given race, roughly equivalent to a Beyer speed figure. However, the SIM SP has one very important difference from the Beyer number, it is relative and not created equal. In the SIM your horse might run one number in a claim then will run a very different number in an allowance and a different number yet again in a stakes. Then again, it might not. Furthermore, you will never know if your horse is effected by what I am calling the class barrier without racing said horse. Despite this underlying hindrance to the speed your horse may run, the data does allow us to determine if a horse has value which is a primary basis in which people base their purchase of real horses. Now value is of course whatever someone will pay for it and we will take this into account. However, as we will see, some horses have no practical value beyond sentimental means and are not useful in terms of SIM value whether that be earning BPs or winning races.
First let us try and define what constitutes value. There are many reasons why people will play a game so I do not pretend to capture what is value to everyone. In general I am going to define value in the following categories:
Black Type Success - You are breeding a horse to win stakes races. If it’s a mare she may not have to win stakes but you want her to produce stakes winners. If a colt, you have dreams of him winning stakes races and the bigger the better.
BP Production - Since breeding for stakes winners is invariably expensive (the best sires cost the most), something has to fuel those breedings. Some of that will be cash, some of that will be BPs and BPs can most easily be earned by horses who consistently are hitting the board, often in claims.
Stallion/Mare Support - Most of us will have favorite stallions and broodmares which we want to use each year. While the offspring they generate may fall into the above two categories, they also carry a certain sentimental weight and their success may have a more general definition – for example, for me I set the bar for a “successful” horse as earning $250,000.
The Random Nature of the Universe - A catch all category which may mean I’m just breeding horses for a contest, or I had too many drinks and bred what?, or I won the horse in a contest or whatever it may be. You have a horse who you aren’t really attached to and just keep entering it out of habit, because you are experimenting or maybe you aren’t even sure why.
Once you have determined which category your horse falls into, you can start making decisions based upon value, and more importantly you will have realistic expectations. Expectations drive your level of happiness. For example, you may have quite high expectations for a Black Type category horse and none for the Random Nature horse. Guess which horse will cause you more grief when you look at the SPs? I believe we are over valuing many of our horses however and expecting them to perform at level one, when they should be at level two (BP earners), however, certain horses, because of their breeding, have a very difficult time earning at level two. The breeder is then at times caught in a catch 22 and may find themselves staring at a paradox, in order to win stakes I must use high value sires but when I use high value sires I often end up with a horse who does not have value.
There is a general perception that I have in the SIM in that players are not getting the results they used to out of their horses. Horses don’t last as long, don’t win as many races and generally are not as successful as they were years ago. It is beyond the scope of this article to determine why that has happened. I found it most striking when looking over the horses for Equinics. These were some of the best horses the major residencies in the SIM had, winners of big time G1 events in their careers and still the majority of those horses had rather poor win/loss records. It seems like it is extremely difficult to race a horse and get multiple, consistent wins when facing top end fields. However, it is not just those graded horses who face these difficulties and here is where we will start diving into the numbers. For sake of brevity I am only going to break down colt data. I find that in general the same thing applies to the filly and mare data. I am mostly using the dirt data sets because I don’t find there to be much deviation based on surface. In general turf races are run a couple SPs slower than the dirt races. The most significant factor is whether a horse is running in a route race or a sprint (or long).
First the good news, it is almost certain that your horse will win one race. You need to run a 69 in a dirt long race as an older horse to break your maiden. There is almost no difference in a low level MC SP of 61.5 and the MSW 69. Even in the dirt route category, the most competitive category in the SIM at all levels and classes, you only need an 83 to win a MSW. That is achievable by all but the most slow horses. However, that number changes quite a bit as a 3yo. For 3yo horses it is extremely difficult to break their maiden. You need an 83, the same number needed to win an older dirt route MSW, just to win a low level MC race as a 3yo. To win a dirt route MSW you need an eye popping 94 (note I am rounding up where appropriate so I don’t have to keep typing decimals). Well that right there alleviates a lot of frustration doesn’t it? You may have a horse who keeps running 91 and losing and you are thinking why can’t I win? Because your horse isn’t good enough to win a MSW as a 3yo. If you have dreams of your horse being a classic contender at 10 furlong or up it is even more difficult to break your maiden, requiring a 96 on the dirt and a 95 on the turf. This is almost certainly attributed to people trying out well bred category one horses in the hopes of making the 3yo classics. The biggest conclusion we can draw from this is that you need to break your maiden as a 2yo or you will almost certainly lose several starts in your horses career trying to win a MSW against extremely fast horses, all of whom are in the same bucket as you.
Even when your 3yo breaks his maiden, the treacherous journey has not ended. A conditional dirt route allowance requires a 101 SP to win, which is higher than the 100 needed to win an open allowance. How can that be possible you ask? I would speculate that is because your 2L,3L and 4L fields are packed with other category one fast horses while the listed open allowance races often have much smaller fields as trainers assume it is easier to win a conditional than an open allowance (and the number tell us it is not). Your horse will need to run a 106 to be a stakes horse, though it is of interest that there is almost no difference between the time needed to win an open stakes and that needed to win a G1. You need a 106 to win an open stakes, a 107 for a G3 and a 109 for a G1 or 2. I feel at the black type level you are only dealing with the class barrier not an actual speed barrier. If your horse is fast enough to win an open stakes it is fast enough to win a G1, the only question is whether or not the SIM will allow your horse to carry his speed over to the G1.
These then are the benchmarks for the prospective category one black type breeders in the most common category routes:
Dirt: MSW 94, CnALW 101, Stakes 106-109
Turf: MSW 91, CnALW 100, Stakes 106-109
If your horse cannot hit these benchmarks than it will not be a category one horse as a 3yo. Now some horses are late bloomers and they will get better as they age. There is also a lot of attrition and many of the 3yos who are hitting these numbers will not be good as 4yos which thins out the competition. You as a trainer have three choices for your former category one horse. Stable him and bring him back as a 4yo when he may have gotten better. Race him and lose a lot. Or enter him in claims. Option one keeps alive the hope that one day maybe your horse will live up to your expectations. Option 2 likely only gets you upset as you trot out your expensive horse and he loses race after race. Option 3 likely gets him claimed because make no mistake, you will have to run him in claims as 3yo starter allowances are just as hard to win as conditional allowances. It takes a 102 to win a dirt route high end SA (think $150K KY SA) which is actually higher than it takes to win a conditional allowance. You see, other people have those horses who can’t win conditional allowances and have already taken this path. Your prospects don’t get much better as we look through claims, it takes a 100 to win a high end claim, a 96 to win a mid level conditional claim and a whopping 90 to win a low level claim. That means there are going to be a lot of horses who simply cannot win races, even claiming races, which means they will have no value in category two either. If you can’t hit 90 you can’t earn BPs, at least not in the prime dirt route distance. Now two factors mitigate this – first, almost every horse I have owned runs faster in claims than in allowance races so getting to 90 in a claim is easier than getting to a 90 in an allowance. And why must we all run in the route zone?
The SP numbers required to win sprint races are drastically lower in sprints than in routes. You only need an 84 to break your maiden in a sprint. That is a full 10 points lower than the route. You only need a 79 to win a mid-level MC. The numbers are far more attainable all across the board; mid-level claim? 89 gets you a win, 7 points lower. CnALW races require a 94 and if you can run a 102, you can be a stakes horse. However, there is a big difference between a 3yo open stakes horse and a G1 variety who are running a 117. However, I believe that number doesn’t tell the full story and is thrown off by sample size. There simply are not that many G1 dirt races and the ones that take place (say the King’s Bishop) are won by one of the best sprinters in the SIM who naturally posts an eye popping time. One year I ran a 115 SP in the King’s Bishop and finished 4th.
Let us now circle back to value. All the numbers tell us that it is extremely risky to breed routers. They require the fastest times, need the most expensive sires and lead to our most bitter disappointments. The value odds are stacked very high against us whenever we have visions of 2000 Guineas or Kentucky Derbys dancing in our heads. Furthermore, if we miss, which we almost certainly will, there isn’t much of a safety net for that breeding to fall back upon. We likely will end up with a horse who is just a bit too slow to win so it will have failed to achieve either category one or category two status and will basically be a money pit. Contrast that with a moderate or low priced sire who has a DS/TS rating (dirt/turf sprinter offspring) who can excel at category two as a BP earner. Of course it is hard for these horses to be part of category three because any horse who is running and more importantly winning, in claims is going to well, be claimed. We have come upon another one of our SIM paradoxes haven’t we? I know I can breed a horse who has a chance to be reasonably successful but I will have a hard time getting attached to it because it can be claimed on any given week or I can breed a horse who has a low chance to be successful and will hang around my barns losing on most weeks. I can tell you from experience that some of my most rewarding horses were these claimer types who went on to post long winning streaks in starter allowances. They were never as rewarding as my black type winners, but when I consider all the failed black type horses I wonder if it was worth the BP and emotional value to chase the gold ring?
There is tremendous value in the SIM, we are just too arrogant/proud/dreamers to make use of it. Looking at older horses in dirt sprints you need only an 89-107 to win all levels of conditional claims. That seems like you are going to clear your conditions doesn’t it? And you don’t have to get all that much faster to win open claims needing between a 92-108. Contrast that with winning open allowances in routes – you need between a 106-116. Rare would be the 3yo black type horse who after a hard classic campaign can come back and run like that. You could find yourself running 110s each time out and still coming in 6th.
Perhaps we don’t care about value and we understand the risk. We know the numbers and don’t care about the odds. We want to win Race X. You as a breeder would not be alone in shooting for the moon (as a SIM breeder you also act as your defacto auction buyer as well so the breeding cost is more or less your auction purchase price in relation to real word horses). There is nothing wrong with this line of thinking, and I think these numbers help that too. If you go into the purchase knowing you are facing long odds and an uncertain difficult future for your horse then you will be less inclined to be disappointed. You also now know thanks to this data that there are areas of racing where you absolutely can succeed for much less cost and will likely earn far more value should you choose to pursue that agenda. A well run stable likely will have a mixture of elements with the BP earning horses supporting the cost of the high profile lottery tickets. Just remember, it isn’t the horses fault if he keeps losing, you are the one who bred him and he faces a perilous road if he is to become a black type router. I wonder, if we as SIM players ever will reverse this trend? What if people started breeding sprinters, would the SP needed to win sprint races go up? And what exactly is driving these soaring SPs in the route category?
No doubt those of you so inclined will form your own analysis of the data which shagfarms has provided for us. Habits may be difficult to break but having access to information leaves the breeder with a wealth of past historical trends. There is a healthy dose of both buyer beware and untapped opportunity for anyone who wants to follow the numbers.