Talkin' Horses - Live Discussions

Tommy Eastham and Mark Toothaker: Owners, Legacy Bloodstock

Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Partners Tommy Eastham (far left) and Mark Toothaker run Legacy Bloodstock, which had its first public consignment in July, 2005, with their primary focus being on Thoroughbred auctions nationwide. Based in Nicholasville, Kentucky, the company has been prominent in the Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton sales, including over 200 horses cataloged at the former's September yearling sale.

Eastham is a native of central Kentucky, and grew up working on horse farms. In 2001 he went to work for Taylor Made Farm, where he started as a Barn Foreman in the yearling complex. There he worked with such champions as Ashado, Value Plus and Smokey Glacken. Following the September sales, Tommy was promoted to Assistant Director of Public Sales, where he put in charge of marketing and recruiting, as well as budgeting and organizing.

Toothaker is originally from Van Buren, Arkansas. Mark has been involved in the Thoroughbred industry for most of his professional career. He has more than 20 years experience in the Thoroughbred industry and has worked for trainers such as Joe Cantey, D. Wayne Lukas, and Gerald Romero. He owned and managed Tooth-Acres Farm in Lavaca, Arkansas and most recently, Mark has managed Liberty Farm, which sold gr. I winner Kip Deville and multiple stakes winner Huckie. He has also been involved in several pinhooking ventures. He joined Legacy at the end of 2006 and since that time he has assisted the company in selling the sale topping yearlings in two consecutive sales.

Lexington, KY:
Thank you all for your time. Could you please explain your thoughts on the commission structure surrounding sale consignors, i.e. do you feel it is ethical for a sales consignor to sell on a flat fee, Obviously, I am not talking about a minimum, but for an example I am talking about the ever so popular race mare that comes directly off the track.

Eastham/Toothaker:
I am sure there are some consignors who do this from time to time but we still believe in the carrot out in front when its a win/win for the client and us. I just know for us we try to fight for every dollar and when you are being paid a percentage instead of a flat fee it motivates us to make the extra call and go the extra mile for the client. Flat fees take the salesmanship out of the equation and turns the consignor into a person who will just lead'em and feed'em.

Arcadia, CA :
Why do horse buyers pay Bloodstock agents 10% of the purchase price to the agent who advised them to buy the horse? Personally, I don't understand why a buyer wouldn't just pay a flat fee to the agent considering the horse has never actually run in a race and unlike other athletes there isn't much to base the racing ability of the horse on other than some 2 furlong works. The agent for The Green Monkey was probably paid $1.6 million and that horse can't beat anybody.

Eastham/Toothaker:
We work on the seller side of the business but I'm sure some agents get paid that but that is not an area we work in. It is too hard to try and run a consignment and look at horses for clients as well we just believe we would be doing our clients an injustice so we stay away from trying to do both.

Versailles, KY:
What is the biggest challenge is setting up a sales company and how difficult is it to recruit horses when you compete against the bigger and more established sales agencies?

Eastham/Toothaker:
There are lots of challenges starting a business but the biggest is putting together a great team. We have worked very hard to put together a great team in our office as well as the best show people available. We know you only get one chance to make a first impression. As far as competing against established sales agencies we feel we offer them (our clients/customers) something that they can't get anywhere else and that is salesmanship on the shedrow.

Versailles, KY:
Is there a lot of competition amongst yourselves? Do you have disputes? Who wins?

Eastham/Toothaker:
It is very competitive but not many disputes between consignors that I know of.

Lexington, KY:
Do you feel like having a mare fetal sexed at the sales is really an advantage to selling a particular mare. Colt or Filly? Congrats on all your success in such a period of time.

Eastham/Toothaker:
It is almost getting to the point that if she is carrying a colt it is announced but if not announced she is carrying a filly. That is not fair because we have a lot of clients who do not do it under any circumstance but when you tell someone it's not been done there is still that little hint of doubt in some cases. We are very humbled when we look back on last year and very thankful for anyone who allows us to work for them.

Lexington, KY:
What is your take on Jess Jackson and his task force? Should things be left as they are? It seems strange to me that with all this preaching about integrity and so on he now looks a little foolish for accepting money to settle his court case. Since this big eruption have things changed for people like you who are trying hard to sell horses?

Eastham/Toothaker:
I think Mr. Jackson has made some changes to the good; it has cleaned up the hidden money in the game which is great. You only have one reputation in this business and the cleaner we can all make it the better for everyone.

Mt. Sterling, KY:
This question is for Mark. With a last name like Toothaker did you ever think of being a dentist or floating teeth?

Eastham/Toothaker:
I have not but my cousin Randy Toothaker is Dean of Dentistry at the University of Nebraska.

Cape Girardeau, MO:
I am a avid Bloodhorse reader and huge fan of racing. Could you please explain to me the "buy back" term used at auctions? Does an owner actually have to buy back his horse so he is that much more in the whole on that particular horse? AND Why do stud farms offer certain stallions for a "Private Fee" some seasons? They may have been $100.00 last year, Private this year and then back at a published price the next. I think a example of this would be Giant's Causeway. I "believe" this was his case a year or so ago.

Eastham/Toothaker:
The term buy back or RNA (reserve not attained) means the horse did not sell but the owner does not have to pay that price. They will have to pay the Sales company their portion(5%) and usually a commission to their agent. A private fee just puts the ball back into the stallion owner's court in allowing them set the fee on a mare to mare basis and negotiate the price with each accordingly.

Springfield, PA:
What roll does the consigner perform in the selling and buying at horse sales, and what does an agent do for either the seller or buyer at sales?

Eastham/Toothaker:
Speaking on the seller side which we do the consignor is responsible for getting the seller the most money possible. We first make sure the horse is entered into a sale where the horse can bring its optimum price; second we work on marketing the horse through print, internet, and at the sales ground.

Lexington, KY:
Do you think it is important for a prospective buyer at a public auction to know the identity of the owner of horse in the sale and, if so, why?

Eastham/Toothaker:
I don't believe it is a big deal. If I am buying a car I don't care who owns it just whether I like it or not. I have rarely ever been asked who owns a horse and if I am it makes me suspicious of their intentions.

Pilot Point, TX:
How do you guys decide which yearlings would be better sold in regional markets such as Texas. Would the Pleasant Tap yearling you topped the recent yearling sale in Texas with have brought more or less at Keeneland in September?

Eastham/Toothaker:
We always try to get a horse to stand out whether it is Texas, July, or which book at Keeneland. You always want to be the star, in the case of the Pleasant Tap colt he was the best La bred yearling colt I had ever seen so we pointed him to Texas where we go with most of our La breds but he would have sold well whatever sell he was in.

Zuber, FL:
What do you charge to sell a yearling with you? Are there day rates and minimum commissions? What breaks do you offer?

Eastham/Toothaker:
We are not the cheapest consignor in Kentucky but we offer the best value. What you get with us are two guys who are not only horseman but salesman as well. We are not afraid to try new things when it comes to marketing. We had been putting our updates on a card but a lot of times we were finding them on the ground, so we went to Murray's Restaurant and worked a joint marketing deal with them to offer anyone who takes one of our update cards a free drink or appetizer at the restaurant. Hopefully anywhere someone turns in the horse business they will see Legacy we want to be the best and we want our clients to be proud that they use Legacy and feel like that we went above and beyond their expectations.

Lexington, KY:
Thanks for taking my question guys. I was wondering what it takes to develop a broad range of clients interested in selling horses nationwide. Do many of your clients hail, from areas such as Texas where you attend the sales?

Eastham/Toothaker:
We are fortunate enough to have clients coast to coast but we do have a strong following in the Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana area as well as Arkansas where Mark is from. In developing clients the best way to do it is face to face which requires a lot of travel.

Lexington, KY:
What do you say to a client who what price their horse will sell for before it enters the ring, and your estimate doesn't come anywhere close to what the horse actually brings? This is a big problem with agents...it appears that agents will tell you anything to get your business, and just shrug their shoulders when the job doesn't get done.

Eastham/Toothaker:
We try to always lean on the conservative side of our appraisals which sometimes costs us business for the reason you stated above. We try to stay involved with the horse we are selling to see how they are progressing so we can give a realistic appraisal to our clients. You can pump a person up to get there business but at some point you have to pay the piper so it is easier to be truthful from the beginning.

Pismo Beach, CA:
How bad is the battle with your competition to get those "eye candy" horses to sell? or do the horses come to you?

Eastham/Toothaker:
It is very competitive for the eye candy horses; we are just now starting to get people calling us instead of vice versa.

Louisville, KY:
When you have horses going through the ring, are you both actually there watching, or are there more pressing issues?

Eastham/Toothaker:
Anyone who has been in the back of the ring when one of our horses comes through has been double teamed by us. We are very aggressive when our horses are going through the ring trying to pick up anyone in the back who might have missed the horse at the barn.

Dallas, TX:
What percentage of your time do you spend traveling? I'm looking to get into the business and was wondering how you both balance family life with being on the road? Do you anticipate your children following your line of work? Thanks.

Eastham/Toothaker:
We spend a lot of the time on the road locally visiting farms all year round but hit the road out of town Feb to June. We both have 3 children so we try to not be gone more that 5-6 days at a time on recruiting trips. We are working hard to build Legacy into our legacy in the horse business and it would be great if one or more of our children would follow in our footsteps.

Birmingham, AL:
Off-beat question but I have for about 30 years thought there would be a market for buying "niche" claimers in one part of the country and shipping where that class isn't as tough. $5000-10,000 are very tough in Tampa in the winter and would easily win elsewhere that range and a bit more. $15-25,000 racing at Churchill and Keeneland in spring are tougher than almost any of the same class anywhere else. Is it viable as an idea for a racing partnership? Other than a very few big outfits you would have to spread your horses out with a number of trainers thus the partnership idea. Any input?

Eastham/Toothaker:
Just in general we have had clients claim fillies out of New York and California and take them to Iowa and Oklahoma and get those mares black typed. It sounds like something that could work claiming out of tougher markets and going to easier spots. One old rule I was taught on the track though is the bottom is the bottom whether it's New York or Remington.

Albuquerque, NM:
I have a colt whose Sire is "Indies" from A.P. Indy - Dam is Busy Bunny - The linage of this colt is, in perspective, the same as any colt born in Kentucky - Why are all trainers -other than in Kentucky - unable to believe that any one of our high bred colts can make it to the Kentucky Derby?

Eastham/Toothaker:
Good horses come from everywhere, look at Kip Deville, we were standing his sire Kipling at our farm in Lavaca, Arkansas, and he was able to sire a Breeders Cup Winner. Keep up the faith because you never know.

Enfield, CT:
First and foremost, thank you for taking our questions. As an avid sales enthusiast and small breeder, I have noticed your quick rise as prominent consignors to the yearling and breeding stock sales. How did two relative newcomers acquire such a large clientele? Do you have any association with larger more established agencies such as Taylor Made?

Eastham/Toothaker:
Although Legacy is a fairly new company we have been preparing for this for 20 years. What I mean by this is that we both started at a young age in the business Tommy working on KY farms and myself working on the racetrack then later having our own farm. Having been in the business that long you make contacts and build relationships that carried over to what we are doing with Legacy. Another reason is we are both very competitive and we really push each other to get out of our comfort zones. As far as any other associations we are independent Tommy and I solely own the company. Although we have been contacted by several others about teaming up, it just lets us know someone is watching.

Mt. Sterling, KY:
My folks ran a used clothing consignment in Mt. Sterling called "Wear It Again Sam!" Well, we've been run out of business by ebay and the internet. Do you fellows fear that sooner or later EBay will start trading in horses and such?

Eastham/Toothaker:
When in Arkansas I use to sell a lot of lower end mares on the internet with a pedigree and a couple of pics. I don't believe that will be the case on any horses of real value on a consistent basis. This is still a business where people like to get a good look themselves and I don't see that changing a whole lot in the near future.

Montpelier, VT:
How does a person get his foot in the door if he wants to become a bloodstock agent? Can you find entry level positions? Thanks for your time!

Eastham/Toothaker:
In Tommy's case he worked for Taylor Made in my case I had my own farm and sold at a lot of the regional sales around Arkansas. Most agencies are always looking for up and comers who want to work and learn.

Nicholasville, KY:
What is your thought about what needs to be done in the market to get the numbers down at the sales and to mares bred to stallions?

Eastham/Toothaker:
It is free enterprise but as you see in a lot of the stallion ads more and more farms are advertising a limit on mares accepted to a stallion's book. The breeders are being heard loud and clear that they are tired of coming to sales and competing against a 100 by the same sire.

Davis, CA:
Kentucky, as an international center of the thoroughbred industry, still has a solid breeding stock and yearling auction market. Those same markets in California, however, have seen steep declines, and the only strong market in California is for the "ready made" horse and/or the claiming market. Do you see more regional markets going in the direction that California has evolved (or rather, devolved)?

Eastham/Toothaker:
My experience in the Tex./La. market is the closer they are to races the better the sale. The yearlings in both of those markets are solid but the breeding stock is still very weak and has a ways to go.

Waller, TX:
What do you guys think about the southwest region market since you've had success there with Kip Deville and the highest price at the last yearling sale in Texas?

Eastham/Toothaker:
We love the Texas sale it has been great to us. The Louisiana bred yearling market keeps improving and all Texas needs is a little help to let them compete.

Brewerton, NY:
I have been thinking about purchasing a racehorse. I know some of the bloodlines also. What is the best advice you can give to somebody just getting into the thoroughbred racing industry?

Eastham/Toothaker:
The main thing is to surround yourself with someone who has a proven track record buying racehorses. This business can be costly to learn on your own.

LAST UPDATED: 12:54 P.M. (ET)

Editor's Note: BloodHorse.com moderators retain editorial control over Talkin' Horses discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests; guests may decline to answer questions. Opinions expressed by guests of Talkin' Horses are those of the guest and do not represent the opinions of Blood-Horse Publications, its employees, associates, or affiliated organizations. Guests, dates, and times of Talkin' Horses discussions are subject to change.