Werk Nick Rating®

What is the Werk Nick Rating®?

The Werk Nick Rating® can best be described as a reflection of the effectiveness of crossing the two sire lines from which a stallion and broodmare descend. Our nick rating is not a guarantee that specific individuals will succeed or fail on the racetrack since some "A" nicks will never win a race and occasionally and "F" nick will win a stakes race. But it has proven to be a very reliable indictor over past 20 years in a business where looking for the exception instead of the rule is a formula for failure.

An important thing to remember is that while an "A" nick created from breeding a weak-pedigreed or badly-conformed mare to an equally deficient stallion might improve the chance for success of that particular stallion and mare, the overall probability for success is still minimal compared to that of higher quality individuals from the same sirelines.

To breed or purchase a thoroughbred based solely on the nick rating would be as ill-advised as breeding or purchasing a thoroughbred based solely on conformation or dosage, etc., only. The overall evaluation of potential purchases, as well as the planning of matings, is a complex proposition. With the many factors deserving consideration, it is unreasonable to expect just one to be sufficient. Consequently, an above-average nick rating must be kept in proper perspective since there are other factors that must be considered when deciding a mating or considering a prospective purchase.

Do nick ratings change?

Nicks can and do change with the addition of new SWs. Werk Thoroughbred Consultants adds all unrestricted SWs eligible for blacktype by International Cataloguing Standards to our database weekly and we recalculate nicks to reflect those new SWs monthly.

The variant is a calculated index on which the nick rating (letter grade) is based. The table below shows the variant scale used to assign a nick rating:

The Werk Nick Rating® Scale

Werk Nick Horse Variant
A++ Superior +1501
A+ Superb +500 to +1500
A Outstanding +150 to +499
B+ Very Good +100 to +149
B Good +50 to +99
C+ Acceptable +16 to +49
C Average -15 to +15
D+ Weak -16 to -34
D Poor -35 to -49
F Unsuccessful -50
0 SW Zero Stakes Winners 0 SW


In measuring the success a particular sire or sireline has had with a specific broodmare sire or sireline, our proprietary system compares the success of these two lines together against the success of these lines with the population as a whole. It then calculates the percentage of deviation from the norm, either positive or negative. That percentage is the variant, and that variant determines the nick rating. Here are some examples:

Example 1: Blushing Groom-line stallions have sired 2.50% of the SWs produced by Dixieland Band-line mares. So, is this a good cross, bad cross, or the norm? In this example, the cross is the norm – pretty much what you'd expect. Blushing Groom-line stallions have sired 2.25% of all SWs, so Blushing Groom line stallions sire 11% more SWs when bred to Dixieland Band-line mares than they do with the population as a whole. The Werk Nick Rating® is "C."

Example 2: Sadler's Wells-line stallions have sired 29.89% of the SWs produced by Darshaan line mares. Is this a good cross, bad cross, or the norm? Well, this one is obvious -- Sadler's Wells-line stallions have sired 1.90% of all SWs, so Sadler's Wells line stallions sire 1476% more SWs when bred to Darshaan-line mares than they do with the population as a whole. This equates to an "A+" nick. In fact, this cross has resulted in 28 SWs to date, eight of them G1 winners, including multiple Champion on two continents – High Chaparral.

A word of caution: Any variant between +150 and +499 is an "A" nick, and we consider the vast majority of all "A" nicks as indistinguishable except by reference to how specifically the rating relates to the cross at hand. For example, an A+ based on the cross of a Darshaan mare with Sadler's Wells himself would generally be regarded as more reliable than the cross of a Darshaan mare with a son of Sadler's Wells. This is why we indicate what cross provides the basis for the nick rating just below the nick rating itself on our reports.

Another word of caution: Extremely high variants are often the result of a small sireline population crossed with a small broodmare sireline population with which it has had success. This is a reflection of a smaller sample size and does not necessarily represent a mega-nick.

What does "0 SW" mean?

Our system requires a minimum of two unrestricted stakes winners (SWs) from a cross to qualify for a Werk Nick Rating®. "0 SWs" indicates there have been no unrestricted SWs within a generational distance deemed appropriate to the two sire lines involved, as determined by the sireline analysis that provides an important part of the expertise that goes into the assignment of nick ratings (see How far back do you go to assign a nick? below). There are two possible reasons why no stakes winners have resulted from the cross: 1) the cross has not been tried, or 2) the cross has been tried and has proven unsuccessful. More often than not, "0 SWs" is an indication that one or both of the sirelines are obscure or dying sirelines without much, if any, representation in the SW population.

What does "1 SW" mean?

Since we require at least two SWs to determine a nick rating, when the program has only found one SW when it reaches the limits of the sirelines involved, it calculates the variant and displays the nick rating based on the "1 SW." The "1 SW" can also indicate a lack of long term success or a lack of opportunity.

How far back do you go to assign a nick rating?

Our nick ratings are derived from a systematic analysis of sireline pairs that have been combined in tail-male descent to the sire and dam of qualifying stakes winners. If the sire and broodmare sire have not been combined in the production of at least two stakes winners, then, in accordance with a search protocol, the system drops back along the sire and broodmare sire in search of stakes production. In principle, the system might search as far back as four generations along the sire line of the sire and/or dam, but only very rarely does the system go back that far. Obviously, the farther back the system must go, the less reliable the nick rating will be. Most of the time, stakes production has occurred within the first two or three generations, and at other times the search is prevented from going back that far by a comprehensive sireline analysis that prevents the system from yielding a nick rating that would be too far removed to be of any value. This sire-line analysis constitutes an important part of the system since, in effect, it establishes rules for the assignment of nick ratings, based on the peculiarities of individual sires and the lines from which they descend and that descend from them. The WTC staff reviews, researches, discusses, and updates this sireline analysis annually in light of new information and emerging trends in the development of all relevant sire lines.

The generational distance at which a nick rating is assigned is an extremely important variable to the reliability of the nick rating. That is why our nick rating reports provide a notation indicating at what distance qualifying stakes production from a given cross has occurred. For example, when A.P. Indy is crossed with a Mr. Prospector mare, the expression "based on the A.P. Indy-Mr. Prospector cross" is printed just below the nick rating. That same notation might appear under the nick rating for a cross involving a son of A.P. Indy and a paternal granddaughter of Mr. Prospector. In that case, the nick rating must be considered less reliable, on principle, than the former case, precisely because the sire and dam are separated from the relevant stakes production by greater generational distance. In fact, our system does not know whether that nick rating is less reliable or perhaps even more reliable. This is where consideration of other factors, such as the conformation of the sire and dam, how typical they are of the sire lines from which they descend, etc., should come into play.

Why didn't we design the Werk Nick Rating in such a way as to use all foals bred from a cross as the measure of opportunity?

The most common criticism of the Werk Nick Rating is that it ought to compare the frequency of stakes success with the frequency of foals that are bred from the cross in question. From a statistical standpoint, this seems a reasonable expectation,and it could be done very efficiently by means of sampling the annual foal population, which is the population survey approach preferred by statisticians. However, such an approach, if applied to the Thoroughbred population, would inevitably find itself comparing apples and oranges. The reasons for thisare explained by Roger Lyons in an article titled "The Werk Nick Rating and its Critics" (TeamWerk 2005, pages 13-15). In it, he describes the surprising consequences of such an approach. After reading this article, you will understand exactly why the frequency of foals bred from a cross yields a misleading picture of opportunity.

What does the A+++ ("Triple Plus") mean?

The A+++ or "Triple Plus" is not just another nick rating. Nick ratings ranging from F to A++ are determined by the frequency of SWs from a cross as measured by the "variant," just like an academic letter grade. Each grade covers a certain interval on the scale. The Triple Plus is designed in such a way as to represent only the most elite crosses.

The Triple Plus is partially determined by the variant for the cross, in the sense that only A, A+, or A++ ratings can qualify for the Triple Plus rating. In order to qualify, however, a cross must meet certain qualitative criteria beyond a certain frequency of SWs.

While WTC bases all its nick ratings on unrestricted North American stakes and blacktype-qualifying foreign stakes, a Triple Plus cross must be represented by a minimum number of stakes winners, by a minimum proportion of G1 and G2 stakes winners, and by a least one G1 stakes winner. This means that crosses rated "Triple Plus" are more likely than other nick ratings to yield runners of the highest class.