"I like big butts and I cannot lie" -- it's a line from an old rap song, but it's also something that seems to run constantly through the minds of yearling buyers as they look at young horses. They want big butts, big bodies, and big muscles, seeking an ideal that was made popular by Hall-of-Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
They really don't care for small colts. And if a filly is small, it's the kiss of death - at least that's what numerous consignors have told me. And these yearlings aren't necessarily pony-sized or equine midgets; they just aren't as big as some of their peers. It's not always genetics. Some were just born later in the foaling season and haven't had enough time to grow; they'll eventually catch up with their larger foal crop members.
Because of those shopping preferences, it's nice when a horse like Mine That Bird comes along to remind us that good Thoroughbreds don't all come in the same type of physical package. He was small as a yearling, according to his breeders, and he's still not physically imposing. But no one - after a Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) victory, followed by a Preakness (gr. I) runner-up finish - is questioning his talent.
Will Mine That Bird change how buyers look at yearlings? Not really. But maybe it will remind them that it they should sometimes be a little more forgiving. And that could, in the long run, help the Thoroughbred breed. Why? I remember a comment by Dr. Larry Bramlage about how the legs of the Thoroughbred weren't designed to support the huge bodies that breeders were trying to get when they planned their matings and preparing their yearlings to be sold.
Banning steroids will help, too.
Next time a yearling walks out of a stall and doesn't catch your eye because of his small size, take a closer look at how he's built. If he's well-conformed, you just might get a bargain and, eventually, a very good racehorse like Mine That Bird.