(Originally published in the March 24, 2012 issue of The
Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and
the bottom of the column.)
For a bloodstock agent, Peter Bradley sure seems to own his share of stakes winners. The latest in the impressive parade is Dayatthespa, a City Zip filly who took the Herecomesthebride Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park March 11. In addition to selling horses, selling seasons, planning matings, and pinhooking, Bradley also puts together racing partnerships, which has resulted in him having a piece of stakes winners Wake Up Maggie, A True Pussycat, Tears I Cry, Saffron Dancer, grade II winner Pyrus, and grade III winner Gino’s Spirits.
“That was a good one,” Bradley said of the last named. “About a half hour before she went through the ring, my buyer decided he was out, so I got on the phone and made the mistake no bloodstock agent should ever make—I told Tom VanMeter I’d take a piece of her myself.”
Bradley honed his eye for horses early on. He grew up on a cattle ranch near Sacramento. His mother bought three Welsh ponies for Bradley and two siblings, but before long the operation grew to include a 150-stall show barn and a riding academy. Bradley got his fill of the equine world.
“I decided at age 13 I hated horses,” he said.
While attending the University of California-Davis, though, Bradley relented. He traveled to Kentucky with California agent Rollin Baugh and bought a couple of fillies to pinhook. The fillies turned a profit so he figured this was an easy game, an opinion that lasted until he tried repeating his success a year later. After graduating, Bradley pursued in earnest his racing education by first becoming an assistant trainer to Gene Cleveland at Santa Anita Park. He had his hands on Princess Karenda, who won the 1981 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (gr. I). After more than two years Bradley decided to head back to Kentucky to acquire a broader overview of the business.
“I figured I’d stay five years,” he noted. “That was 30 years ago.”
The education proved far-ranging. Bradley became farm manager at Fred Seitz’ Brookdale Farm, then took a job at Cromwell Bloodstock for three years before moving on to Lane’s End Farm, where he was in charge of private sales for seven years. Finally, he started an agency with Neil Bowden. When his partner headed home to Australia, the business became Bradley Thoroughbred Brokerage.
“It seems everyone has a niche,” said Bradley. “But I’ve tried to broaden things out a bit. I’ll sell about 150 seasons a year and also do matings, which is a good bread-and-butter business. When the mare business was rolling, we probably sold 30-40 mares a year off large farms to sophisticated buyers.”
In partnership with Nick de Meric for some 15 years, Bradley pinhooked top horses such as Dream Rush, Belgravia, and Lone Star Sky. Now Bradley partners with Eddie Woods, and that arrangement has been thriving at recent sales. At the Barretts sale earlier this month, an Indygo Shiner colt sold for $330,000 out of Woods’ consignment on behalf of a venture led by Bradley, who bought the colt for $37,000 as a yearling.
Then there are the racing partnerships. Dayatthespa caught Bradley’s eye at the 2011 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s March sale of 2-year-olds in training, but she was withdrawn from the auction. The following day he made a deal with Niall Brennan to buy her for himself, Steve Laymon, Jerry Frankel, and Ronald Frankel. She won first time out at Saratoga, and shortly after Bradley got a call from trainer Chad Brown.
“I think you made a mistake,” Brown said. “You bought a nice horse.”
Bradley, who works out of his Lexington office, also put together a group that bought a half-interest in Aldebaran, who “disappointed us by running second in four grade I races. Except the next year he became a champion.
“I like putting together racing partnerships. It takes a lot of money to race horses, so I keep a small percentage and try to find like-minded people and put together groups that can have some fun and understand there are more hard times than good times, but persevere and get as much enjoyment as we can out of the good ones.”
Bradley lists a number of people who have helped him along the way, starting with when he was coming up with hunters and jumpers.
“Everyone in that world is always looking for a balanced horse,” Bradley noted. “So I learned that at a young age. Then, Gene Cleveland was a great horseman and taught me a lot. (Trainer) Dick Lundy was a superb horseman. I sold horses to Elliott Walden, and he taught me more about the horses after I sold them than I knew before. I was lucky enough to sell horses to Bobby Frankel, so I got to listen to him pontificate. You can learn so much from everybody in this game. You have to listen in order to keep learning about your trade.”