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Thoroughbred Yearling Sales And The Games, Scams And Half Truths That Attend Them

Feb 22, 2008
The annual sales for thoroughbred yearlings in Australia and New Zealand are upon us again and as usual there are the attending trainers, bloodstock agents, and staff from the various studs and preparatory farms. Also present will be the ever hopeful owners, some of them veterans of the great racing game, some of them total newcomers who are eagerly looking forward to becoming the proud owners of the next champion thoroughbred.

Horse racing often known as " The Sport of Kings" is great fun, there is no greater thrill than watching a horse you own come first past the post unless you're lucky enough to actually have an animal that wins one of the big Group races, that pretty well puts you into another league.

Thoroughbreds are fantastic animals, beautiful to watch, thrilling to race and unfortunately very expensive. When you consider that traditionally it has been agreed that only about 2 % of catalogued yearlings will eventually pay their way during their racing careers you can see that you need to be extremely lucky or you need some really expert advice.

Well there are some lucky people, but the majority of prospective owners rely on so called "expert" advisors to buy them their champion.

Fair enough you might say but are these advisors really experts? That's a much better question and if you are looking to buy yourself a horse you should definitely have another look at the credentials and the associations of the particular "experts" you might seek advice from.

Ask yourself;

1. What association does the "expert" have with the vendors selling the yearlings. In other words, are they getting a kick back from the vendor to buy their yearlings, or do they own the animal themselves through dummy vendors.

A good way to check the latter is to see if they owned the dam when it was racing,if they did then it's a real possibility that there's still some connection. This is not a rare scenario, so much so that it is often an open secret and those involved think it's perfectly normal to take a commission from both the buyer and the vendor because as they say "everyone does it".

If you stretch a few morals that might be alright providing the animals concerned are sound, but sometimes it's a good way for vendors to get rid of yearlings with faults that would otherwise affect their sales value dramatically. Of course when the horse concerned breaks down in training, the poor old owner is told "that's the risk you take when you go racing" and he has no idea that his very expensive investment was always likely to break down.

2. What's the true success rate of the "expert"?

Ask to be given a written record of the number of yearlings bought by the "expert" and then ask to see their records of the performance of those yearlings.

If you don't do this all you'll be going by is hearsay.

It's a fact that a trainer only needs to have a handful of good runners every season to keep getting good publicity, however over the course of all the sales some trainers may well buy 200 yearlings and with those numbers plus the ones handed to them to train by breeders they ought to get at least some topliners.

The same goes for bloodstock agents, ask to see their records don't just listen to their success stories.

Remember sales records can be checked, hearsay is just much repeated publicity.

3. If you are going to get breeding advice, don't just listen to the usual rubbish of certain nicks and crosses having worked particularly well in the past. Ask the "expert" whether they have analyzed all the failures bred along the same lines. It's easy to take a champion and to say the horse has these particular crosses but that doesn't mean hundreds of totally useless horses don't have the same crosses. The sad reality is that very few so called breeding "experts" have ever done any work on failures.

4. If you are told that a particular stallion is a sensation, again ask how many mares did he serve and what quality were they? Obviously the biggest studs have the biggest advertising budgets and get the best performed mares, the progeny of those stallions should get far more quality performers.Look at the stallion tables to see how many mares,the stallion served,how many winners did he have and how many of those were stakes winners. Then look at the service fee and at how much a yearling by that stallion is going to cost you.

5. Take statements on fantastic confirmation etc. with a grain of salt, an analysis done over a 25 year period showed that the world's most expensive yearlings averaged more than US$2 million to buy and only averaged $200,000 in race earnings. It's a pretty safe bet that all those yearling were supposedly bred in the purple and had superb confirmation. Conversely some of the greatest performers were ugly as sin, small and often had legs that were not totally correct.

When you've asked all these questions ( and a lot more that I'm sure you'll think of as you go through the learning curve ) and you're satisfied with the answers you'll be ready to enjoy a wonderful sport in the knowledge that you have done everything possible and now it's up to fate.
About the Author
Dick Aronson has been involved in breeding,racing and researching thoroughbreds for more than 30 years. Articles on his work in developing a research based software program for selecting thoroughbred yearlings have been published in Hong Kong's prestigious "Racing World" magazine. http://www.consultlink-thoroughbreds.com
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