Hundreds of virtual horses are bred every day in our game. For some players, the evaluation process is strictly based on the speed rating. If that number falls below a certain number, off to the vet they go, hoping that that push of a button brings them back a much higher speed rated horse. The entire vet visit program is a topic for discussion another day. Today, I want to focus on breeding and what you should and shouldn't do when you receive your new horse.
We've had many discussions here at the barn about the different styles of breeding that our players have. These styles not only include their breeding strategy, but their evaluation program to determine whether or not the horse stays, gets vetted or even retired.
The first myth that needs to be clarified is that, although certain traits are extremely random, other traits come from the sires and the dams. The 150 sires and dams we have now were picked not just because they are all great horses, but because they have certain common denominators that ensure preferences, in most cases, for the racing surface of dirt. As the game grows and the breeding grows and our players' stables grow, then we will add more sires and dams whose racing surface preferences may be grass or even synthetic. We have to be careful now as giving too much variety on surface preferences dilutes the opportunity to fill up trainer races and trainer tournaments.
Although the majority of horses in the game prefer dirt, a decent percentage of your offspring will run just as well, and in some rare circumstances even better, on turf or synthetic surfaces.
Once your horse is bred, here's our suggestions on what you should do to evaluate your horse. First and obvious, check out his speed rating. The speed rating makes up about 65% of the determination of the horse's overall ability. That means there is 35% (or almost a one-in-three) chance that the speed rating can be misinterpreted. There are many great horses in our game that can out-race other horses whose birth speed ratings are 10, 20, maybe even 25 points higher. The general rule of thumb is if your horse is born with a speed rating of 85 or less, quickly run him at a sprint and then at about a mile against some community horses and see how he performs. Run these tests on a fast dirt track, preferably the tracks we use in the tournaments, such as Aqueduct, Churchill Downs, Belmont Park, Gulfstream and several others. If his speed rating is coming back equal to or less than his birth speed rating, quickly try him in the slop or the soft turf. Again, try him at both a sprint and a mid-distance practice race. Some of the best slop horses and soft turf horses in the game had very marginal speed ratings. In fact, it's not uncommon to see your horse out-perform his speed rating by as much as 35 points or more when running on these racing surfaces. You have to understand that some horses in our game are what we call 'off-track specialists' or 'sleepers'. These specialists excel in certain conditions and far exceed their owner's expectations. Here's a fact: 8 out of the 10 best slop horses never even made one start in their career. They were retired or vetted because their speed ratings were not up to par with what the player was looking for.
Let's assume you've bred your horse with a sub-85 speed rating. You've tested him on dry surfaces and you've raced him on off-track surfaces such as soft turf and sloppy. Maybe he improves in the sloppy or soft turf, but if he's not able to run above 120 on the off-track, then this horse needs to be vetted.
When you vet your horse, all you are doing is going back to the same sire and dam and generating a new breeding at approximately a 35% discount. The color of the horse won't change, the name of the horse won't change, but everything else will change, giving your thoroughbred a second shot at a horse racing career in our virtual world.
Whatever the speed rating is after the vet visit, you want to follow the same exact procedures as mentioned above. If your horse is still poor in performance under all scenarios and he consistently races in practice with sub-100 speed figures, off to the retirement shed he goes. I don't even recommend putting him in an insta-tournament if he cannot surpass consistently the mid-90s in practice.
Let's assume you bred another horse and his initial speed rating is 105. Now, you're in an entirely different situation, and a lot more evaluation has to come into play before you determine what you will do with this horse. When you breed a horse in the low-100s, there are several things you do not want to do right off the bat. You do not want to vet him and you don't want to enter him in an off-track, sloppy or soft-turf tournament, at least not at first. Too many players jump right into sloppy or soft-turf tournaments as their first official tournament for the horse and what happens is, the horse's speed rating is exaggerated because sloppy and soft-turf tournaments in most cases can significantly increase your horse's speed rating. Doing this and entering these tournaments can automatically disqualify you from entering your horse in restricted tournaments later on. Because some of the best tournaments are restricted, you want to be very careful how you play out your horse's racing career, especially early-on.
So, now that you know the two things you don't do, what should you do? Evaluate your horse under every racing condition. Try multiple racing surfaces, different distances and run each condition several times to determine what type of consistency your horse has. Your horse may have been born with a 105 speed rating, but you may find that a certain track at a certain distance will let him consistently run 110 or maybe more. Once all the evaluation is done and you review your horse's racing record that was built up in your game during the practice races, now you need to determine a) are you going to put him in a tournament; b) what conditions should that tournament have; or c) are you going to vet the horse; or even d) do you take a shot in an insta-tournament? This is where the knowledge of the game and the most fun come into play. Just like in real horse racing, good horses can look bad and average horses can look good when racing in the right conditions.
So how do I determine what my next move is? Just like in real life, knowledge is power. Look at all the recent tournaments that have similar conditions to what you are considering. Pay close attention to the winning times and speed ratings obtained to not only win those events but to make it to the finals. Going through all the data may help you find a weakness, which will be your opportunity to place your horse.
Horses with low-100s speed ratings that are fairly consistent are great horses to either race in insta-tournaments or end up in restricted tournaments. Tomorrow I'll get into more detail on how to play the restricted tournament or insta-tournament angles to your advantage. Making the wrong move can ruin any opportunity to get you a winning tournament badge and community points. My next blog will discuss the strategies that can protect the opportunities to win with your horse.