A lie told often enough will eventually be passed off as truth.
On that basis I like to look at some common truisms and interrogate and quantify just how true they are. One such truism which I interrogate in the following article is the influence of Pivotal as a damsire. I’d looked at this several times before for my own personal reasons but felt it was appropriate to give over some time to a deeper dive and in so far as my findings are of interest, share them with you for your own reading pleasure.
Who is Pivotal
By Polar Falcon, thus tracing back to Northern Dancer, Pivotal was bred and raced by Cheveley Park Stud. In total Pivotal raced six times under the care of Sir Mark Prescott. He finished 9th on debut in a Newbury maiden in October of his 2yo career and before the three week anniversary of that debut had passed he had returned twice more to the track. He broke his maiden at Newcastle on his second start and followed up in a conditions race at Folkstone to complete his 2yo career. On return at 3 he won the Kings Stand (then a Group 2), finished mid division in The July Cup and on his sixth and final start he led in the final stride of The Nunthorpe to depart to stud as a Group 1 winner.
Pivotals career at stud commenced in 1997 at £6,000 before ascending to £85,000 for both 2007 and 2008. His fee was reduced to £40,000 over time and he was listed as private from 2019. He remains on active, but limited, duty at Cheveley Park Stud where it seems he covers 20 or so mares per year.
Throughout his time at stud Pivotal has been an outstanding source of success with no less than 30 Group 1 winners. Kyllachy, Captain Rio, Brando, Maarek, Excellent Art, Lightning Spear, Sariska, Peeress, Halfway To Heaven and on and on and on. Countless tough sprinters and myriad fabulous fillies in the distinctive silks of Cheveley Park.
However, when you mention Pivotal the conversation tends to move with ease towards his prowess as a damsire. Farhh is consigned to a distant memory, the recent international exploits of Addeybb borrow none of your breath and you’d probably have to bump into the owner of Final Approach in The Boars Head public house before you’d learn that Pivotal has sired the winner of The Country Hurdle at The Cheltenham Festival.
Hs exploits as a damsire are well founded. Dual classic winner Love is the most recent advert. Cracksman, Magical, Advertise, Mayson and on and on and on.. I’ll include a table of his best performers at the end of this article for your reference and we will step through them based on the sire before then.
However, for all the conversation and conjecture it seems the best way to understand his influence as a damsire is to quantify it in numbers. There are several ways of approaching this task but I have chosen to use Racing Post Ratings (RPR). In each instance I will take the maximum RPR achieved by each horse out of a Pivotal mare and use that as the measurement value.
What I then do is look at population data of the sires that have had a Pivotal damsire cross and compare that to the subset within which are racehorses ex Pivotal mares. For the purpose of this work I have taken a look at all races in UK and Ireland from Jan 1st 2010 to the present day.
Now that I have hopefully explained my methodology the best starting point is to look at the total population as a means of explaining it in practice, which should be much easier.
- My starting point was to identify runners ex Pivotal mares and extract their performance ratings.
- I then identified the stallions represented in that cross and extract the performance ratings of their runners. This gave me the benchmark for comparison
- In the period there were 974 individual runners ex Pivotal mares
- Those 974 runners were by 242 different stallions
- In the period under consideration those 242 stallions had 46,974 individual runners
- That gives me 2 comparison groups, 974 runners ex Pivotal mares, 46,000 runners ex other mares.
- The 974 had a average maximum performance rating of 73.95
- The rest of the sample (46,000) had an average maximum performance rating of 70.67
- So a racehorse ex a Pivotal dam was on average 3.28lbs or 4.64% better than the general population.
That’s an uptick not to be sniffed at however, while it is meaningful it is still a reasonably blunt form of analysis. We do know that not all fools are made equal so the next step is to understand what nicks perform better than others. I am going to set a minimum of 5 crosses by a sire to allow it to fall into analysis, I will however, take a cursory glance at those with 4 or less at the end and pick out anything of interest within that group.
I will break this analysis into 6 Groups
- Double Digit Upgrades – Nicks that give double digit upgrades in terms of raw lb’s performance or % over the base of the stallions performance
- Meaningful Upgrades – 3lb or more of an upgrade
- The So Whats – those that hang around the mean and are +/- 3lb performance differential
- Meaningful Downs - -3lb or more performance that don’t fall into double digits
- Double digit downgrades – double digit downgrades in either raw lbs or % from the stallion base
- The smalls – the collective of stallions that have 4 or less crosses.
Tables and Column headings
At the risk of boring you to death here is a short explainer of the columns and what the data contained within means exactly. Remember, I am examining only from Jan 1st 2010 to present and the data is only from that period.
- Sire – well I hope you can work this one out by yourself and if you can’t I really want to know how have you managed to read this far?
- # Runners ex Pivotal Dam – The number of runners by the sire listed on the left which are out of a Pivotal mare.
- % Pivotal - % of that sires runners which are out of a Pivotal mare.
- RPR ex Pivotal Dam – The average maximum performance rating of the runners by the sire who are out of a Pivotal Dam.
- # Runners ex Non Pivotal Dam – the number of runners by the sire out of non Pivotal mares.
- RPR of Non Pivotal Dam - The average maximum performance rating of the runners by the sire who are out of a non Pivotal mare.
- Variance (lbs) – the differential, in pounds, of runners out of Pivotal mares vs non Pivotal mares. A positive number represents a Pivotal upgrade.
- Variance % - the differential represented as a %.
Group 1 – Double Digit Up
I am going to start with a truthful generalisation here. Pivotal performs best with stallions who are speed influences. The performance of FastCompany (+19.6lb / 29.7%) and Monsieur Bond (+18.6lb / 32.8%) is close to astounding and in the case of Fast Company there is probably only a handful of unraced horses on the ground who will represent that nick again.
- 5 of the 7 Fast Company nicks are winners and those 5 have all achieved a rating of 87 or more. 3 break the 100 barrier with Downforce peaking at 111 above Flashcard (110) and Taqdeer (105)
- 3 of the 6 Monsieur Bond are winners with Felix Leitir topping the charts at 106.
- Kodiac (+8.7lb / 11.8%) has the largest amount of runners on the ground with 11 of the 17 being winners. The top 2 performers are siblings – Atletico (107) and his much more famous younger sister Fairyland (112). This is of course a family I have an enormous soft spot for as the other sibling to these two performers ran in my own silks and gave the Now Or Never partnership some great days with Michael O’Callaghan and in doing so provided the legendary Kieren Fallon with his final Group Race winner. These are all out of Queenofthefairies who is of course a ½ sister to champion 2yo Dream Ahead.
- Recent Commonwealth Cup scorer, Golden Horde (117), is the best performer for Lethal Force (+13.4lb / 20.7%) and is one of 10 winners from 14 representatives of that cross. Lethal Lunch (104) and Flavius Titus (104) are the other star performers on that cross. 8.2% of Lethal Force runners were ex Pivotal mares, the 3rd highest (guess the no.1 – most should get it)
- Showcasing (+12.8lb / 18%) has 5 winners from 7 runners the most famous of all being Advertise.
- Dansili (+10.7lb / 13.4%) has 9 winners from 11 runners and counts Nassau Stakes winner Winsili (116) as the best performer.
- Dalakhani (+10.3lb / 13.4%) has 7 winners from 11 runners and counts Coronation Cup winner Defoe (122) as his top runner.
- Frankel has 10 runners, and 5.2% of his runners are ex Pivotal mares. This is clearly one of the best crosses. Frankel has the highest performance rating of all the sires in the sample at 87.9 so for Pivotal to influence that by +9.8lbs / 11.1% up to 97.7 takes quiet some doing. 8 of the 10 are winners, whilst one of the non winners is a 92 rated lightly raced 3yo who will move the dial from 8 to 9 before long. The best performer on this cross is of course the all-conquering Cracksman (131).
- Slade Power (+9.2lb / 13.7%) and Harbour Watch (+8.8lb / 13.8%) both have 4 winners from 5 runners. Raffle Prize (113) is the only standout performer of note.
- Equiano (+7.5lb / 12.1%) had 8 winners from 14 runners with none of them breaking the 100 barrier.
- Kheleyf (7.5lb / 11.4%) had 4 winner from 8 with Joey’s Destiny (101) creeping into 3 digits.
- Haafhd (+6.9lb / 10.6%) had 5 winners from 9 of limited note. He himself showing plenty of signs of being a broodmare sire worthy of closer attention.
- Camacho (+6.7lb / 10.3%) is the final sire in the elite group with 3 winners from 5 runners.
That may seem a little repetitive and laborious but as they were stallions in the elite group I felt each were worthy of note. I will be more selective on further commentary.
Group 2 – Meaningful Upgrade (3lb+)
This looks an awful lot like good sires being made better, which of course is no mean feat and serves as further endorsement of the prowess of Pivotal as a damsire. The obvious starting point here is with the Daddy of them all, Galileo.
Galileo (+6.7 / 7.8%) is the 2nd highest base ranking of the benchmark group and of course is 2nd only to his own son, Frankel. 25 runners have represented this cross. 19 of the 25 runners are winners and 12 of them break the 100 barrier. The subplot here is that the best runners are of the fairer sex as 7 of the 12 to break the 100 barrier are fillies, each of which is worthy of mention - Magical (123), Love (122), Hydrangea (119), Rhodedandron (119), Hermosa (115), Peach Tree (104) and Flattering (104) complete that list of 7 fillies. I figure not many could pick the best colt/gelding from the Galileo/Pivotal cross but it is Gospel Choir who was out of Group 1 winner, Chorist.
7 of the 9 Dubawi (+7.8lb / 9.3%) are winners with the best runners, Intimation and Prince Eiji, being rated 110 apiece with the former being the only stakes winner from this cross.
Exceed And Excel (+7.2lb / 9.7%) is the surest source of winners with 19 of the 22 runners recording a victory but only Pepper Lane (111) and Marenko (105) break the 100 barrier. Perhaps somewhat disappointingly for such a strong nick, Marenko appears to be the only stakes winner.
With 28 runners Invincible Spirit (+3.1lb / 3.9%) just creeps in at the bottom of the table. 21 of the 28 are winners and Mayson (121) is the best of the group.
Oasis Dream (+3.1lb / 3.9%) has the same stats as InvincibleSpirit. They are eerily similar in profile in terms of performance numbers but just 13 of the 24 runners by Oasis Dream recorded a victory with Dreamfield (113) recording the highest performance rating for finishing 6th in the July Cup behind U S Navy Flag having previously finishing 2nd in the Wokingham when recording (111)
Amongst the others on the list only Lawman (+4.7lb / 6.7%) earns a mention through the exploits of his St Leger winning son, Harbour Law (116). 13 of his 18 runners have recorded victory.
Group 3 – The So Whats.
This group is most noteworthy for volume over performance along with some power stallions being average matches at best for a Pivotal mare.
Dutch Art (+1.9lb / 2.6%) is the stallion with the most exposure to Pivotal mares, which is hardly surprising given that they have both been lifetime residents of Cheveley Park Stud. This combo had 67 runners in the period under review and Pivotal mares accounted for 13.5% of all Dutch Art runners.
A few power stallions appear on this list with influence akin to the shrug of the shoulders as Pivotal lends little to no weight to what were surely highly anticipated matings. Dark Angel, Iffraaj, Sea The Stars, Lope DeVega and Shamardal are the biggest names in this group
Group 4 – Meaningful Down (-3lb or worse)
There are only 4 stallions in this group and the one that sticks out is Kingman (-3.9lb / -5%) which has been represented by 5 winners from 9 runners with Roseman (117) the only one to break into 3 figures. Having won a listed race last autumn he has plied his trade in Grade 1 races ever since so it is likely a matter of time before he becomes the first stakes winner for this cross. I’d have little doubt that Kingman will have plenty more opportunity to correct the record in the near term and it will be interesting to watch this relationship with interest.
Group 5 – Double Digit Down
You don’t want to be in this group but as it happens there is little of note. Tamayuz (-7.8lb / -10.8%) and Bated Breath (-7.5lb / -10.5%) are the only ones on meaningful active duty. Considering that it seems that Pivotal performs best with speed it is surprising to see how poorly Royal Applause (-14.7lb / -22.1%) performed.
Group 6 – The Smalls
The theme here is young stallions with limited data performing well when exposed to Pivotal mares. Night Of Thunder is the supersire in waiting and with 1 runner and significant upgrade the next runners from this cross will be closely scrutinised.
The interesting thing for me was a few sires which are struggling commercially might have a life off this cross. Ivawood, Muhaarar, Brazen Beau and Gleneagles fall into that category. Muhaarar is an interesting sire as his runners are getting better with time and distance – it’s likely he is misunderstood – he was likely a miler who ran over 6f.
Kodi Bear and Mehmas are the first season sires showing upgrade but there is a long way to go in the story of both those sires.
The ever dependable Starspangledbanner shows significant upgrade from 3 runners again pointing towards the need for speed to reap the best from the cross. Sea The Moon and Bungle Inthejungle also get a tick. Sea The Moon looks like making into a very significant sire while Bungle Inthejungle is a solid source of good and fast runners from his first crops and we now await his more expensive crops in the coming years in anticipation of him moving up levels.
The most disappointing cross is Dandy Man with 1 meaningful runner from 4. This flies in the face of the theory that a fast stallion operates best with Pivotal but as we know, thankfully, this is art not science.
That’s a wrap
So there you have it folks. The chatter is, as we already knew, very well founded. Pivotal is certainly a damsire of vital and critical importance. No matter how good, it seems he can make it better. Some are better than others, some are disappointing, many more are to be followed with keen interest. To finish, for your perusal I have included below a table of all runners ex Pivotal mare rated 100+.
If you spot any mistakes please let me know. If you've got some feedback for me I would be delighted to hear it.