How I Got My First Horse, A Ringman's Intuition Etc.

The select selling season for 2-year-olds in training has come to an end and, as usual, I've ended up with a lot interview material from sale coverage that I never was able to use in my stories. There's also stuff that I've gathered for features that never saw the light of day. This blog gives me a chance to pass some of it along. Read and enjoy.

Kip Elser, on the $560,000 Speightstown - Five Star Holding colt that his Kirkwood Stables sold at the Keeneland juvenile auction: "I knew he would sell well, but Lisa Shelbourne, who rubbed him here for me, was probably smarter than anybody else. She handles horses in the ring for Keeneland, but she took her shift off to come up to our barn and lead him down there. She took off her green jacket, put on a blue jacket to take him down, and then had somebody hold him in the chute so she could put on her green jacket and handle in him the ring. That was really cool. Lisa was more confident about him than anybody else."

Lynne Boutte, who sold the $1.2-million Price Is Truth (by Distorted Humor) for Barry Schwartz at the Fasig-Tipton Florida select juvenile auction, on how she got her first horse: "When I was 11, my parents said if I wanted a horse I had to earn it, so I started my own gardening business. I weeded gardens for a $1 an hour; I would do anything you wanted in your garden for a $1 an hour. I had earned $450 by the end of the summer, my parents matched it, and I went and bought my first horse. He was a strawberry roan riding horse."

Trainer Mark Casse on Polytrack (which horses in the Keeneland juvenile salework over): "It just amazes me how horses get over it; they're so much more comfortable going across it. I think that's one reason why it's safer.

"When they put in Polytrack at Woodbine, I was kind of not sure of it. Today, I'm more positive about it than ever. Horses don't get as tired over it, and horses get hurt a lot of times when they get tired.

"Palm Meadows (Training Center, where the Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training is held) is a great track as far as dirt goes. But the horses struggle with it. Here (at Keeneland) they just move over it with a lot more grace, I think. Polytrack is so much like turf and horses bounce over the turf."

Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland director of sales, on the shrinking pool of select sale juveniles: "It's smaller for several reasons. One of the reasons is the supply situation in the Thoroughbred market has changed (and dropped). We're down to a foal crop of 30,000 for this crop (of 2-year-olds). A very major factor is that the RNA rate for the September (yearling) sale last year was 20% (actually 20.8%), so you don't have those breeders' horses that didn't sell last year in September coming back (into the juvenile marketplace).

"The 2-year-old consignors are a very professional group of people. They have a pool of capital that they spend. They don't drop their criteria for quality so what they have to drop is their quantity (as foal crop size declines and becomes more in line with demand, which causes yearling prices to rise). All these factors come together and you see a smaller number of horses in the 2-year-old market."

 Hanzly Albina, an advisor to Black Rock Thoroughbreds' Steven Marshall, on Thoroughbred industry newcomers' need for advisors: "If you're in this game, you need the proper advice and you need the proper advisors. They are as important a component as any other component in the game. You wouldn't build a skyscraper without an architect, and it's the same thing with horses. You can't go in there at s public auction, throw a dart, and expect to have any success. You need to be connected with the right people who are going to do the right things by you.

"Advice in our industry is one of the cheapest commodities and it's also the most valuable commodity. You can make so many mistakes with a good horse and turn him into a mediocre or poor horse. But with the proper advice, you get the good horse to be a good horse. I think new people in the business need to recognize that. They need to get a person, check them out, and then be loyal to them. They need to make sure they (their advisors) understand the whole program, lay out their expectations and goals, and have their advisors or agents or whatever you want to call them, do the same. They're going to enjoy the experience immensely more than someone who doesn't do that."


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