I had the pleasure, honor and privilege of being part of the University of Arizona Equine Sciences consignment to the Arizona Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association sale this past Thursday. It’s one of those rites of passage for U of A Equine and Racetrack Program students. The three days we spent at the Horseshoe Park and Equestrian Center made me think about Thoroughbred sales, racing in general, and my role in it. So, a few thoughts…
- It takes a team to buy a horse. You don’t want a dozen people weighing in, but making that decision on your own is risky, to say the least. Find people you like and trust, personally and professionally, and go from there. Besides, the wins will be sweeter when you can celebrate with your team.
- You can be at Newmarket, Deauville, the Northern Horse Park in Hokkaido, Saratoga Springs, Lexington, Ocala or Queen Creek, Arizona, it doesn’t matter: if the horse doesn’t tick ALL the boxes, it’s going to fall through the cracks. The auction ring is judge, jury and executioner, and it is ruthless and unforgiving. Sure, as a buyer, you can a find a bargain here and there, and yeah, there’s been a horse or two go through who’ve brought more than they were really worth, but the message is clear whether the particular sale’s average is $5,000 or $250,000: you had better have the goods, there is NO margin for error.
- For me, sales evaluation starts with pedigree, but it doesn’t tell the entire story. If you’re the Dosage Profile type, you may be surprised to know that the yearling from the U of A consignment who brought the most money had by far the lowest number. Having said that, there was a filly I really liked, with a page FOR DAYS from another consignment, and she was the sales topper. Pedigree gives you a road map, but then you have to navigate the course.
- There is nothing like a yearling by a hot young stallion in the auction ring. It’s the ultimate in buying and selling with anticipation of the future, whether it’s the sales price for the seller, or the racetrack possibilities for the buyer. With older stallions, we have a pretty good idea what to expect, but if his first crop is only two-year-olds, and they’re white hot on the racetrack, both buyer and seller are leaving the ring with Cheshire cat grins. After all, it’s a game where we buy and sell futures.
- Finally, a little personal note. I bonded with one of the U of A mares in the weeks before the sale, and then when we were at the sale grounds. She was a big girl, 16.2, 16.3 hands, four-years-old, expecting her first foal next spring. I led her to the sales ring, as another incredibly gorgeous Arizona sunset went on over the horizon behind us. The sale was coming to an end, and there was a peaceful, content feeling to the moment and I almost welled up, to be honest. I was just really happy and proud. Proud of the group of students for what we had accomplished that week, getting horses ready for the sale; of myself, for deciding to come back to school after ten years to pursue a career in an industry I love, and of the spirit of horse racing. Because the dream is still alive. The dream is alive whether you’re at the Saratoga Select yearling sale or the Best Little Sale in the West. I was doing some quick math in my head while leading my mare to the ring, and while I could probably afford her sale price, her monthly board may not work for me right now, more like next summer after graduating. So, I kept my hand down while she was in the ring. The hammer dropped, I led her back to our barn, and then her new owners came to pick her up a little while later. And wouldn’t you know it? They were the current version of my Dad and I from 25 years ago. They’ll have fun picking out her next dating partner, they’ll have to wake up before the sun comes out to take care of her and her baby, but the dream of being in the game continues. Good luck Tizadorabelle, it was fun getting to know you, maybe I’ll see you a little further down the road.