Eddie Woods - Listen to Podcast

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Ron:  Welcome to BloodHorse.com’s Talkin’ Horses podcast.  Today we’re pleased to have sale consignor and agent Eddie Woods with us. 

Eddie’s in the process of preparing for next week’s Keeneland’s 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale.  We won’t spend a lot of time going through Eddie’s background, it’s there on the web site for you to see, but needless to say he is one of the leading consigners of 2-Year-Olds in Training Sales and he is a renowned pinhooker.

Welcome, Eddie.  First of all, can you tell us, what is a pinhooker?

Eddie:  Thank you for having me.  A pinhooker is someone who makes a living just at trading, buying and selling as quick as he can for as much profit as he can.

Ron:  I guess traditionally though you’re trying to buy these horses pretty young and develop them in your way and then improve on them and resell them?

Eddie:  Yeah.  Well, as far as the development and get them to their best to show themselves to their best athletic ability and then move them along.

Ron:  Certainly your record speaks for itself.  Among the horses that you have worked this with have been Big Brown, Midnight Lute and Left Bank, quite good company there.

Eddie:  We’ve been lucky to have some nice horses, yes.

Ron:  We’ve received quite a few questions from people.  Some are redundant and forgive me if we end up repeating; I’ve tried to weed them out in a way that we won’t be repeating too much.

Eddie:  Sure.

Ron:  First of all, this comes in from someone who goes by the name of Septor – In your experience how good a predictor is the manner in which a yearling walks to his later action, like a gallop, or later, to his level of racing performance.

Eddie:  A yearling has to have a good walk to be a good middle to long distance horse or they’ve got to have that athletic swing.  The sprinters, the really, really quick horses, they can maybe not have quite as good a walk and get away with it, but most of the good middle to long distance horses are real good walkers.

Ron:  What are you looking for in that walk?  What do you like to see?

Eddie:  You’re looking for a swagger.  They’ve got a bounce, they’ve got a swagger and their tail  pops from side to side, they have good overreach as their hind legs cross over the footprint of their front foot by quite a margin and they’ve got a very… just a very rubbery look to them.

Ron:  The next question, Steve from St. Louis – and we have quite a few questions along this line – When you attend the sales, does your process begin blindly by just starting to walk the shedrow looking for individuals or do you identify the pedigrees in the catalog first which interests you?

Eddie:  We identify more with, not so much the pedigree, but the sire power that maybe we’ve had some luck with or that we feel doesn’t work for us and we start with that and we work on from there.

Ron:  Then I guess when you’re able to call the horse out to take a look, a conformation.

Eddie:  Yes.  Yeah, we go in there and after that it’s a gradual process and we’ll have looked at a horse two or three times as far – no, three to four times prior to bidding on them.

Ron:  Do you vet everything that you intend to buy or bid on?

Eddie:  For the most part we will have a vet do an endoscopic examination on everything, as in look at the throat and if there are x-rays in the repository which there are mostly anymore, we will have the same vet look at those.

Ron:  Jenny H. and Kate the Great want to know – Do you think pedigree is more important than conformation or do you just have to balance the two?

Eddie:  I think conformation is number one.  Getting them both together is the golden goose.  We try and balance the two.

Ron:  From Brian Hawkins – What conformation or abnormality that typically scares away some buyers have you found to ultimately be of little racing consequence?

Eddie:  Curves on the hind legs.  We’ve had a lot of good horses that have had curves and we go ahead and take care of them and at the end of the day they mean nothing.  Curves and splints, they fall into the same category. 

Ron:  By taking care of them, a little bit of surgery?

Eddie:  No, no, no.  Just rest them, do whatever we need to do.

Ron:  So you’ve had good luck with that?

Eddie:  Yes.

Ron:  On the other hand, what conformational abnormality do you consider a no-no in purchasing a horse to pinhook?

Eddie:  Horses that are pretty much back at the knee.  Yeah, that’s a big no-no for us.

Ron:  Is it pretty universal, do you think, among most guys that go to sales and do what you do that if you’re back at the knees they toss you out?

Eddie:  Yeah.  No, we’ll go with little slats with the knee and what have you but if it’s something that’s pretty badly back at the knee, it doesn’t matter what he looks like or how he’s bred or anything like that, you just don’t go with it.

Ron:  Next question is from Gene Liddy – Is there room for a little guy in the pinhooking business?

Eddie:  Always.  You know you see so many cases as in like say they have a sale that’s following Keeneland here at the April OBS Sale where there’s 1,300 horses cataloged. There’s a lot of horses in there that cost less than $10,000.  They all will make a profit, but if someone worked hard in the year buying the yearlings and everything like that and took the horse to a nice open sale, if they’ve done the job right, they will make a good profit.

Ron:  I’ve got several questions here from people that are really wanting to get into the pinhooking business.  Is there any kind of secret formula for getting in to pinhooking or do you have to be an agent of another kind of horses first?

Eddie:  Well, for those that have been in it (sales) before it shouldn’t be that difficult, even though it would be a step away from what they’ve probably normally been doing and you’re probably maybe buying a different kind of horse what they would normally buy.  At the end of the day though what we’re all trying to do is buy athletes – horses that look like they can run. 

From a person who’s been in it before in the horse industry, the preparation thing is a little different from getting a horse ready for a sale and ready for the races.  Getting them ready for a sale is different from getting ready for the races and you kind of have to adapt to that a little bit.  For  those who haven’t been in it before and would like to test the water, the best thing they can do is do their homework pretty well, look up a lot of results, look up a lot of buying and selling and see who consistently has got all the horses to the sale and has had a big percentage show up in the breeding shows and everything like that.

Ron:  Next question – actually, the next two are kind of related – from Dan – It is my opinion that there is far too much reliance put on pre-vet exams in the purchasing of young horses.  Clearly, there are certain flaws that can be overlooked but it appears the vet process has become too critical and minor flaws are reason to discard the horse.  What’s your opinion on vet exams and how much weight you put in them?

Eddie:  I couldn’t agree more with his statement. People are casting aside horses for very minor issues that are really of no consequence -- that would be both customer and veterinarian for that matter -- and in some instances we have some very professional and knowledgeable veterinarians who add up all the facts and say “yes, he’s not perfect, he’s got a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a bit of the other, but it all really means nothing at the end of the day and it most likely will not affect this horse in any way.”  Nine times out of 10, if you find something that’s perfectly squeaky, brand new, honestly clean, the sucker probably can’t run anyway.

Ron:  Just too perfect, huh?

Eddie:  Yeah.  Now, there’s so many good horses out there with all kinds of little things and you just have to be very sensible and not overly analytical about it and just use common sense.

Ron:  I guess also having a pretty longstanding working relationship with your vet or vets and they what you’re looking for and that you’re willing to live with and as far as how much weight they put on those defects.

Eddie:  Well, we go with that all the time. We  put a lot of stock in what our veterinarian says.  What we also have to do when we’re buying is to handicap and think what someone else’s veterinarian is going to say.  If we weren’t comfortable with what our vet said and comfortable with all the information he gave us with regard to the little issues that we were going to have to go with, we wouldn’t be buying the thing in the first place.  Even though we’re quite comfortable with some issues, some of them we even have to step away from a pinhooker point of view because they’re going to bite us the next time around.

Ron:  Well, sure I guess yeah, you have to look at the – on down the road as far as even though it’s something you can live with, you have to be thinking about whether or not somebody else will be forgiving of it also.

Eddie:  Quite.

Ron:  The next one is from Richard, kind of along the same lines – When you are looking at yearlings, how much of an importance do you put on scoping?

Eddie:  The scoping is huge.  If a horse can’t breathe, he can’t run because he either can’t get oxygen and get air in. If he can’t get air into them lungs that creates oxygen in the blood, he has no stamina whatsoever and he can’t be an athlete.  Hence, they have to be able to breathe very well.

Ron:  From Dennis (Dennis may be a friend, I don’t know) but Dennis says – Did you get your good looks and happy go lucky nature from your mother or from your father or from both?

Eddie:  Oh, we’ll go with both on that one.

Ron:  Keep them both happy, right?

Eddie:  Exactly.

Ron:  Next question is from Abigail – Many people are debating size in the thoroughbred who is racing.  Does it really make a difference if one horse is smaller than the other?  How does it affect their ability to win or lose how big or how small they are?

Eddie:  I don’t think it does at the end of the day.  There have been too many good horses at both ends of the scale.  I think there is such a thing as too, too small, like tiny, and there is a thing as in too, too big like just massive enormous. There are lots of really big horses out there that have been very good and lots of small horses and, in particular, little fillies, can be deadly.

Ron:  Do you think a lot of people go to the sales and think that if a horse is a pretty good size -- they’re more striking looking -- it may help their sales value because people think that they really are so good looking that it’ll be a better runner?

Eddie:  There’s no doubt.  You know what I mean?  Big strapping and imposing looking, flashy looking horses that just got that bit of kind of, I don’t know, they’re eye candy, you know what I mean; they catch your eye right away.  Those horses are always very popular.

Ron:  Next question comes from Steve – Just curious to know how you guys keep these 2-year-olds sound.  At such a young age when their bones are not completely developed, is there a certain training regimen that you use to keep them from bucking shins and otherwise injuring themselves?

Eddie:  You use a lot of common sense and we don’t go nearly as hard on them as some people think we do for all those reasons.  Shins are something we get and you just you know hope you don’t get too many of them and you hope you don’t get them too badly but for the most part, you just go along at a steady pace and try not to do anything too stupid or too aggressive.

Ron:  Eddie, you have an incredible eye for a horse.  My question regards one of your sale graduates, Midnight Lute.  He is an incredible horse proven by his two Breeders’ Cup Sprint victories.  How do you think his first yearlings will do at the sales this summer and fall?  And I guess my question is have you seen or heard much about them?

Eddie:  Yes, we’ve heard plenty of about them and we’ve seen several. They look like good looking horses.  He was a magnificent looking creature, probably one of the best looking horses we’ve ever had.  Tom McGreevy bought him as a yearling and buys a very good horse and this was just another one that he got, and if he shows anything remotely like he looks himself that’d be beautiful.

Ron:  Let me go ahead and ask you my question.  What are you anticipating for the upcoming Keeneland Sale based on the other 2-year-old sales that have transpired so far and what you’re hearing back from your barn?

Eddie:  I think we’re going to see… you know with the select sales is we’re getting very use to anymore, very much the same thing all the time.  It’s that the good horses sell well and there’s really nobody there for the others.  Some of the good horses are going to oversell.  You just always hope you have one of them, and that’s just the way it’s going to be. 

I think when we go into the sale that follows that up, the April sale here in Ocala, the things are just spread out a little bit so we get a different kind of buyer and they feel they can compete on any day at the sale. In the boutique sales a lot of the people are a little nervous about trying to buy in there because they feel they can’t be competitive on the top lots because of some of the heavy hitters that come and buy it themselves, so they’re inclined to sidestep it and wait for the open sales where they can just feel they’re a bit stronger themselves.

Ron:  Would you say the boutique sales are not really a good barometer of where the 2-year-old market is, that you need a sale that has a much more broad base of a price ranges?

Eddie:  The good sales are a good barometer for the top end, you know like what the market can sustain and everything at the top end.  For across the board thing, no, they don’t get it done.  When we get through the OBS June Sale and even the… the numbers seem to change greatly. The clearance number, the clearance rate, always goes up in percentage wise and everything like that, the scratch numbers go down.  There’s just more people there to buy those  horses so yes, to answer your question, yes, the boutique sale is a tough one to gauge any market on.

Ron:  Seth from Wisconsin wants to know – Do you think the pinhookers will be supporting yearling sales this year as they normally have and where do you see the yearling market this year?

Eddie:  I think the pinhookers will support the yearling sale as we always have.  I think there was a little bit of tampering has been done in the last four or five – say four years ago there was some tampering done and we’ve kind the maintained the  level now where the pinhookers are buying and I can see that just carrying on through. 

The yearling sales, I think it’s going to be very much more of the same, just like we did in the last couple of years of the yearling sales. Better horses -- again like at the 2-year-old sales -- sell well. If you’re in the lower parts as far as quality goes and everything like that, it could get very ugly on you.

Ron:  Next question is from David – Do you think too much is made of the fast workout times of 2-Year-Olds in Training Sales and how do you work your horses?

Eddie:  I’ve been cutting away from that a little bit.  The buyers we have are pretty sophisticated anymore and they don’t hinge everything on the times.  That used to be the case once upon a time.  Now, if they’re very nice horses and they work really well and gallop out well and make a great video and everything like that, they’ll stick with that horse anymore. 

As far as our own horses go, we try to get it somewhere in between.  It’s great if something goes really, really quick, that’s always a bonus, but you’ve got to be careful where you’re trying to get them all… trying to make them all go really, really quick, which they can’t do anyway. You’re inclined to do a little bit of damage, so you just kind to have to… you know sometimes forgive it… so you have an animal in good shape to sell.

Ron:  I guess even with all the preparations there could be that horse that just jumps up and runs in really fast time, you can’t control that.

Eddie:  No.  Some of them really, really quick horses are really, really quick horses.  You can’t make them be really quick but you can stop them from being really quick by overdoing it.

Ron:  Gerald Tuttle would like to know – What conformation and pedigree differences would you look for in a steeplechaser prospect versus a classic race prospect?  I guess he’s asking this because of your background as a steeplechaser from your native Ireland.

Eddie:  Some of the better steeplechasers they’re a bit short in the hip and everything and the really good steeplechasers are inclined to look like good mile and a half turf horses.  You know what I mean?  They got a big old shoulder on them… versus your classic kind of horse who will have a bit more hip and a little bit of a tighter top on them and just not have that kind of all day look to them.

Ron:  I guess one thing you would look for in a steeplechaser and a mile and a half turf horse is a horse that can quicken down the lane there at the end when everything closes with a rush.

Eddie:  Yeah.  Well, that’s very much like  the start of grass riding anyway.  You know what I mean?  Once you go back to grass sprints like they’re exciting races to watch because there’s always horses closing from somewhere and it’s nothing to see a blanket finish in any kind of a good grass race, and that’s basically a lot of the horses styles of running and that’s the way you have to ride them.  The steeplechasing thing is the same thing; we’re dealing with basically a lot of the same pedigrees anymore.

Ron:  Right.  I always wondered why anybody wanted to be on the lead in a long turf race you know.  I guess somebody has to have to lead though, right?

Eddie:  Someone’s got to be in front and some horse is (there) because they need a pace.  They don’t have enough speed to finish like the other horses, like them horses with that great kick and come from behind.  Some of the horses that come from behind are a little limited in how far they want to go and hence, they have to ride them that way and they just hope for one kick and get a good finish out of the deal.

Ron:  Eddie, is there anything you would change about the current way we sell horses in the US both a yearling sales where you’re a buyer and then a 2-year-old sales where you’re a seller. Are there any changes you could see that we need in the format?

Eddie:  I don’t think so.  I think in recent times we’ve tweaked the format somewhat to where we’ve gotten away from the two breeze shows back to one which was the original way once upon a time. We had stepped it up to two and it didn’t really work.  So we’ve addressed that.  I don’t think there’s much of a way of tweaking it too much.  What we need in the whole industry is we need more customers, and how we go about getting that, I’m not quite sure.

Ron:  Do you think the sales companies are doing a good job as far as promotion but maybe even then it’s still just the same preaching to the choir, so to speak?

Eddie:  There’s a lot of preaching to the choir.  Our business is a very old fashioned business and once upon a time not that long ago everyone could relate to a horse.  You had a horse in the backyard or your neighbor had a horse and someone in town had a horse or horses.  We’re evolving past that and people don’t relate to the horse like those people that are now 50 years old and above do and with modern technology and videogames and all that stuff, the horse is a bit of a novelty and it’s a bit of an old fashioned thing and it’s really hard to keep people involved with it.

Ron:  Right, and I don’t guess there’s really any way to change people’s behavior so that they become more one on one with the horse in this day and age.

Eddie:  The one thing that may help but it’s going to hurt in some aspects, it will make certain parts stronger and some parts it will end, and that’s the boutique race meetings.  They survive really well.  Saratoga. Keeneland. Monmouth put up a good effort there this year with their very fancy high dollar meet and it worked really well; all their numbers were up and everything like that.  Unfortunately for the everyday fellow, that looks like the way we’re going to have to go, and that’s not good news for everyone because that’s going to really hurt the small guy.

Ron:  As far as cutting back on the amount of racing and just make it more special, I guess, rather than an everyday thing.

Eddie:  Exactly.  By cutting back it’s got to be more special; hence, we’re going to need nice horses, we’re just going to need very good horses because that’s all that’s advised.  When you need very little of anything, it’s the very best.  Our whole industry is dependent on gambling, and a greater part of it is now dependent on subsidized gambling from the internet and lottery machines.  In other words, we can’t support ourselves; we need a third party to support us. 

At some point in time the states are going to change legislation where as a track you don’t have to have a live meet to have a video poker machine because the actual live meet is eating up so much of their profits, and they’re going to get strong enough where they’re going to be able to get that done and then it’s going to get remarkably ugly for everyone.  So we need to be in a spot to be able to handle that before it happens.

Ron:  You’re thinking if we take action now, go ahead and cut back on the amount of racing we have, have special meets that seem to really bring out people who are betting a lot, maybe make it more self sustaining by a limited race meets all over the country rather than even just at the Saratoga’s and the Keeneland’s.

Eddie:  It’s something we need to look into, yes.  I don’t think we have to jump right into it but it does need looking into.

Ron:  I think it makes a lot of sense.  Sure.  Sure.  Next question is from Courtland Sims –   You sold Vallenzeri who is a very high profile horse, son of Azeri who had been a record yearling buyback, when you sold him as a 2-year-old, did you do anything different as far as prepping and getting that horse shown in exactly what you did or you just handle him the way you would any other horse in your consignment?

Eddie:  No, he was really just the same as all the others, the same preparation, just the same attention to detail, the same everything.  The horse’s name is now Take Control, no longer Vallenzeri.  He looked like a superstar.  We thought he was a superstar.  He’s had some little soundness issues apparently.  To answer the question, no, he got prepped the same as all of the others and he worked in the middle of the show with the others. He was a special horse and I think if he ever got right, we’ll see him as a very special horse again.

Ron:  Looking forward to that.  Pete M. asks – Do you think buyers buy a horse because of the horse or who the consignor is?  It seems to me that some consignors – the bigger consigners –  are able to get a premium over the smaller ones at the sales.

Eddie:  I don’t think the consigner affects anything.  I think that’s a misconception to some extent because the bigger consigners have more horses and have access to more clients and, in some cases fortunately for us, when you’re big people want to sell with you because they’ve perceived that you’re big and everything like that.  So we get better stock and we get bigger numbers; hence, it looks like we’re selling better than the smaller guys.  The smaller guys could one day show up with a really nice horse, that thing is going to sell really well anyways.  So who’s selling the thing doesn’t affect anything; it’s just a misperception from looking in.

Ron:  So the horse sells itself.

Eddie:  It does.  Yeah.

Ron:  Coming down to the end here, the next question is from Iowa who just wants to know – What are the current restrictions and guidelines on medications that a horse can have at the sale or are there any medications that are allowed now at the sales?

Eddie:  Like we’re going to sell in Kentucky today or preview in Kentucky today, and we’re on the racing (medication) guidelines.  We can’t use any more or any less than what, say, they would use to run tomorrow at Keeneland.  They’ll test us and they test us hard. 

In Florida, we also have the same thing; it’s not quite on the racing thing but the state has serious laws in Florida, probably the toughest in the country as to what kind of medications your horses can be on when entering a sale ring or entering a breed show. 

California also where we sell, it’s also under the – for all intent and purposes the same as race day medications.

Ron:  It’s pretty closely watched then.

Eddie:  It’s very much watched.  One upon a time, where people thought we had done whatever and used whatever it was to get it done, I mean you know it was all rubbish.  Fortunately the NATC (National Association of Two-Year-Old Consignors), which is a strong unit,  addressed the issue pretty well and made people more aware of what actually happens in the 2-year-old business and the testing was something that we encouraged.

Ron:  Yeah, and you mentioned the NATC, they certainly have played a big role as far as everyone’s learning curve and just adding a lot of credibility to the entire sales experience, I think.

Eddie:  The NATC gave a great education to people who were somewhat ignorant and somewhat led astray as to what we might be doing at the 2-year-old sale.

Ron:  Eddie, thank you for your time.  As you can tell from the questions that we’ve asked here there’s a lot of interest in what you do as a pinhooker.  Obviously, you could tell a lot of people want to go into that.  I guess you make it look easy.  People seem to think that think that they all want to be pinhookers now.  Any parting words here for somebody who wants to be a pinhooker?

Eddie:  I think maybe I didn’t answer the question as best I should with the question related to that earlier on.  Some people might be better off just easing on in there and getting with somebody and taking a piece of a horse or pieces of horses or getting in some of these partnerships or whatever… and just kind of sitting back and watching how it happens but being involved at the same time.  Yes, it’s a tough industry to make money in, it’s a great industry to make money in because when it goes right you can make a lot.  But that’s (partnership) a soft way of going in where you can just get the idea about how things go.  Hell, it’s a great business and horses are the greatest thing in the world.

Ron:  It’s just like anybody maybe who is trying to get their feet wet in even just horse racing, enter into it in a softer way till you learn the ropes, and partnerships are a good way to go.

Eddie:  Yeah.  We’ve seen a lot of very wealthy people come in to our industry.  You know what I mean?  Going on the diving board and went in at the deep end of the pool and they come out of the shallow end pretty quick.  They attacked it, there was no plan, there’s no fence to the thing and you can’t attack anything that way and hence, you’ve got to ease on in here and see how it goes.

Ron:  Yeah, you can’t just throw a lot of money at it and expect to succeed.

Eddie:  You can’t buy it, if you know what I mean.  You can’t buy the power of our industry because there’s too many things get in the way.  I firmly believe someone has to be lucky.  You have to be lucky to begin with.  If you’re strong in finances and you ease your way in and you just gradually buy nice horses and feel your way around, it will work really good for you.

Ron:  Great.  Hey listen, thanks for your time.  Good luck here in Kentucky.

Eddie:  Thank you.  I appreciate you having me.

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