Brand Conscious

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Your name is your brand. This is particularly true for the consignors, buyers, and breeders of Thoroughbred horses, but a relatively small percentage of industry professionals recognize it. I know this because I’ve just spent three days matching up buyer and consignor names for The Blood-Horse MarketWatch’s annual yearling season preview study. The preview includes the performance records of yearlings previously offered at public auction and compiled by buyer name and consignor name. Before this study can be run, however, more than 13,000 names have to be reviewed and some of them combined. Here’s why.

Each variation of a consignor’s or buyer’s name gets a separate identification code in The Jockey Club database. This means the buyers "Robert Smith, agent," "Bob Smith, agent," "Robert Smith," and "R. Smith" all get individual records even though they represent the same person. A misspelled name, for example, "Hobert Smith," also gets a separate record. I try to determine whether R. Smith and Robert Smith are the same person by scouring records on the Web, comparing buying histories for each variation of the name and contacting the sale companies. Even this research doesn’t always provide a definitive answer so the records don’t get combined. What this means for our fictitious buyer is that he may not get listed in our study because the number of horses bought under the individual variations of his name fall below our minimum threshold of yearlings purchased, which was 24 in last year’s study. We use a minimum because the study includes data from multiple years, and we want to focus on the most commercially active buyers and sellers.

Let’s say the records under each variation of Robert Smith looked like this:

Robert Smith, agent; 7 purchased, 5 winners (71%), 1 stakes winner (14%), 1 graded stakes winner (14%)

Bob Smith, agent; 15 purchased, 9 winners (60%), 1 stakes winners (7%), 1 graded stakes winner (7%)

Robert Smith; 10 purchased, 8 winners (80%), 3 stakes winners (30%), 1 graded stakes winners (10%)

R. Smith; 8 purchased, 4 winners (50%), 3 stakes winners (37.5%), 1 graded stakes winner (12.5%)

None of this would appear in the study because the number of horses purchased by each entity falls below the minimum. If the buyer signed "Robert Smith, agent" for all his purchases, however, then the record would appear like this in the study:

Robert Smith, agent; 40 purchased, 26 winners (65%), 8 stakes winners (20%), 4 graded stakes winners (10%)

Frank Stronach, who has been named North America’s leading breeder for six consecutive years, realized the importance of having all his horses under one name nearly a decade ago when he covered the cost of having The Jockey Club amend the registry so all the horses he’s bred are under one name — Adena Springs. Not everyone can afford to have records amended in The Jockey Club database, and changing sale records is tricky anyway because the names in the catalogs and on sale tickets is the "official" record. So, I have some recommendations that are easy to implement.

1. Decide on a name and use it for all sale transactions. Don’t buy some horses in your spouse’s name and some in your children’s names just so they show up in the results for that particular sale. Don’t switch between your name and your farm/business name.

2. Be consistent in using that name. If you want to include your middle initial, then include it every time.

3. If you buy or sell a lot of horses with partners then consider identifying yourself as an agent each time. If you must include the names of partners or clients, then consider: Robert Smith & Partners (T. London) or Robert Smith, agent (J. Blanchard). This at least provides a common thread to the partnerships. Eric Mitchell


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