Chances are, you read the title of this article and immediately assumed it would go the way of so many forum threads complaining how the sim tools trick you into thinking your horse likes mud, or that they are awesome, or that they will never fail to breed the next superstar, particularly when sent to this A+ nick stallion here. When in reality, your horse still ended up running well on a fast track, or sucking it up on race day, or throwing glorified stable ponies (or as Johanna Stk jokes, a stable full of eventers.)
But that’s not what I’m going to say. The sim tools are deceiving you, but that’s not how they’re doing it. The sim tools are tricking you into thinking you know what you’re doing.
When you’re finally installing that shelf you’ve had in your closet for ten months and you want to make sure it’s not going to embarrass you in front of your visitors, you will likely pull out a level - a tool that will tell you either “yes, that’s straight on the wall” or “no, that shelf is as crooked as your soul.” You have a plan for that shelf and it’s a specific plan - not “I would like this room to look less like I live in a cave” but “I’d like to put a shelf on this here wall and I would prefer it not look like something out of a Tim Burton movie.” Enter the level, which helps you achieve that very specific goal.
The sim tools are used in the exact same way. They help you evaluate whether that thing you are trying to do there is going to work. Trying to run your lawn ornament in the derby, for example. Is that going to work? Mary Weather says probably not, because she’s not a freak - but don’t despair, because she’s a solid source of income and could always improve with racing experience!
Is that turf sprinter/dirt router cross going to work to create an all-star all weather miler? Eliza Doolittle can tell you something about that cross so it doesn’t turn out like that coyote ugly incident in college. Think of her like your drunken breeding wing man.
Eliza can tell you a mare has some pretty good breeding potential but does she tell you whether that potential lies in dirt, all weather, turf, sprint, mile, or short or long route? Nah bro. That blue hen mare who keeps disappointing you might be blue hen at synthetic and you’re trying to breed a dirt sprint champion. Not gonna work.
You know what keeps you from making that mistake? Knowing the blood lines. Doing your research. Noticing that hey, this horse has a brother that ran like a freak on all weather. Maybe this disappointing broodmare doesn’t want to be throwing dirt babies at all?
Or hey, my mare actually had her best effort at a mile as a prep for route races, then sucked it up for the rest of her career. Maybe she had a freak slide in the miler department? Will it translate in the breeding shed? Maybe I should take a closer look at her pedigree to see if there’s any hidden speed I didn’t realize was there!
And as I’ve said before, Mary Weather can tell you all day long that your horse has talent, but unless you can figure out at what, you’re still going to be disappointed in your horse. She’s not gonna tell you that, because that’s your job and, ultimately, figuring that out is how you play the game. None of these tools make up for knowing your horse manure.
You know why Steward-breds are at such a premium? Because she figures this horse manure out for you! She tells the owners how to race the broodmares she wants to keep, so you can look at them and go, “Oh hey. That broodmare is a long router.” And then she breeds them to a derby-type dirt router so you have a pretty good idea that she thinks that mare is going to produce derby-type dirt router foals. And what do you do? You buy the foal and work and race it over a classic dirt route distance. Dang, that was easy.
(Or you could run it over a short route, get frustrated when it loses, and throw it on the sales page for me to buy, which I actually prefer. Shout out to all the easily frustrated rich players out there!)
What does the Steward know that you don’t know? A clue, it’s not the secret numbers behind the horses. She knows what Eric Nalbone, Susie Rydell, Laura Ferguson, and other long-time sim players know - the bloodlines. The history. The way crosses work together, sometimes successfully and sometimes not successfully.
You have to know that your mare is the kind of turf sprint mare that likes five furlongs best and if you want to produce a foal that’s going to be competitive at the 5.5 or 6 furlong Steward’s Cup races you might want to lengthen her out by crossing her with a turf sprinter that likes 6 or 7 furlongs best. You have to know your mare’s pedigree lends itself to short route speed and then burnout after 1 3/16 miles, and if you want a classic distance router you might have to cross her with a longer plodder type who never stops running.
You have to know these things, because otherwise Eliza telling you ‘yeah that will work’ doesn’t help you. You don’t know exactly what will work because you weren’t trying to do anything specific with that foal except hoping that crossing good with good would get you good. What kind of good, you have only the vaguest idea, and when racing comes around and Mary has told you that the horse will run super well, you will be trial and error at getting it to run well.
Maybe you will get lucky and run that turf sprinter at seven furlongs at least once when she’s confident enough to win and has the right amount of rest. And maybe the race will favor her and she will win. The light bulb will go off and you will realize what you’ve been missing all along.
But in all likelihood, you won’t. Probably, you will run her over the same distance against the same type of company twice, maybe fiddle with the equipment, and then put her on the sales page for a dollar. Then I will buy her, ship her to Alaska, run her at six or seven furlongs and pick up a few thousand dollar checks every two weeks until someone thinks she’s amazing and claims her from me. (Shout out to all the easily frustrated poor players out there!)
In short (too late), using Mary Weather or Eliza Doolittle as a gauge for how your plan will work out when you haven’t got a plan is like putting a level up to the wall until it’s perfect and then expecting a shelf or wall support or dirt router to magically appear there fully formed and nailed to the wall. That’s not how it works. Like any tool, you have to know what you’re doing with it to get the best outcome.
So if you don’t know why that stallion nicks better with your mare than that other one, you don’t really know what you’re doing. You just know how to read a level. And in this case the level is in English, so, no brownie points for you.
But despite their general non-helpfulness in breaking down the game for you, Mary and Eliza can tell you where to look. All you have to do is follow up.