From the Horsemen’s Mouth - By Evan Hammonds

Spend some time at any Thoroughbred sale and there’s no telling what you will hear. The recent Keeneland November sale left us with an earful. The following are some select sound bites.

  • Whether the sale was good or bad for any particular seller, the overall mood was pretty solid. High-end mares and high-end weanlings brought high-end prices. The dispersal of the Conquest Stable horses in the middle of the sale buoyed prices through Book 4. Once Book 5 got underway, the mantra was “trade” from Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales operations.

    “The most important thing is we have horses here that will be going to different parts of the country and different parts of the world,” he said. “That is the most important part of the Keeneland November sale.”

  • From a true Kentucky hardboot: “I’ve been fortunate in my lifetime to play a rich man’s game, and the way I see the stud fees going and the price of mares, you’re going to have to be pretty sharp to compete.”

  • The average price of a weanling fell 11.8% year over year, from $76,437 to $67,434. The numbers smooth out a bit, considering at last year’s sale three War Front weanlings brought $3.2 million, $2.6 million, and $2 million and three other weanlings brought seven figures. This year a War Front colt brought $1.45 million and a colt by Tapit sold for $1.05 million.

    At this month’s venue the leading first-crop sire by average was Will Take Charge; his 18 weanlings sold averaged $128,444 off a stud fee of $30,000. Cairo Prince, a son of Pioneerof the Nile, also did extremely well. He had 19 weanlings sell for an average of $91,421 off a stud fee of $15,000. He sold one for $120,000 in Book 5 to bloodstock agent Steve Shahinian, who was buying for Harvey Clarke, who owned a piece of Cairo Prince when he was on the track.

    Showing the scope of the action in Book 5, Shahinian said of his purchase: “I went back to look at him four times. I thought I could get him for $100,000, but every time I went to see him other players were looking, too. I told Harvey we might have to go another bump, and we did.”

  • Ran into a friend who follows the business but is not a participant. However, his boss has recently entered the game, purchasing a chunk of a major stallion prospect. The guy said he speculated his boss would make more money over the next five years from stud fees than he would at his “real” job.

    Those who have been around for a while can see where this is going. I’m not sure what kind of “real” job this gentleman has, but we know his way of thinking is not in the “real” world of the Thoroughbred game.

    The history of the sport is littered with the names of folks who speculated early that the horse business was a way to profits.

    About the only horse out there that would have the edge in pulling it off would be California Chrome, who has earned $8.1 million this year.

    Horses of this nature are as brilliant as Halley’s Comet...and come along about as often. To expect any profit from forward earnings in any Thoroughbred venture is pure folly.

  • Which leads us to…

    “Now you have to be a dreamer and an optimist. If you are not an optimist, you shouldn’t be in this business.”


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