When it comes to evaluating talent in young racehorses, Becky Thomas of Sequel Bloodstock has repeatedly proven she possesses an eye for equine athletes.
Having sold graded stakes winners Officer, Creative Cause , Kafwain, Habibti, Rightly So, and Super Ninety Nine , just to name a few, Thomas relies on a combination of homebreds and pinhooks to power her successful 2-year-olds in training sale consignments.
Thomas, who also owns Sequel Stallions in Hudson, N.Y., estimates 40% of the horses she sells at juvenile auctions are horses she bred, with horses she bought as yearlings accounting for the remaining 60%.
"The primary thing I look for in yearlings is athleticism," Thomas said. "I look for a good walk. It's difficult to get a true two-turn horse that is strictly suited for classic distances and get some speed in them for the sales. I need horses that can show some turn of foot."
When it comes to deciding which sales to enter, Thomas considers a variety of factors, including potential buyer familiarity with pedigrees.
"Since I only sell horses that I train, and a lot of them are horses I bred, I know each horse," she said. "I have many months to experiment, gauge ability, figure out precocity, which horses may like turf, and which sales they should be entered in. Fasig-Tipton tends to attract a large contingent of international buyers, so I consider horses by turf sires for that sale. If I have a half sister or brother to a horse that was successful in a particular region or a dam that is familiar to buyers in California, Kentucky, Florida, or Maryland, I want to place that horse in front of buyers in those places.
"Also as a breeder, I try to get New York-breds so that they can be raced in New York to take advantage of the great Breeders' Awards program there."
In 2013, Sequel Bloodstock ranked seventh among consignors in gross sales, selling 39 of 46 head offered at public auction for $4,725,000. Among the promising prospects sold through her consignment last year is Ari the Adventurer, a Kentucky-bred filly from the first crop of Pioneerof the Nile .
Ari the Adventurer sold for $350,000 to Barbara Banke's Stonestreet Stables at last year's OBS selected sale of 2-year-olds in training in March after working an eighth of a mile 9 4/5 seconds at the under tack preview. Thomas acquired the filly for $52,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September sale.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Ari the Adventurer won her career debut at Belmont Park by 6 3/4 lengths last July. She shows a steady string of workouts at Stonestreet Training Center in Summerfield, Fla., near Ocala, in preparation for a return to the races.
Also exiting last year's sales for Thomas was Garen, a maiden special weight winner Feb. 17 at Santa Anita Park. The son of Street Cry (Ire)—Quendom (ARG), by Interprete (ARG), is a half brother to 2006 Horse of the Year and champion older horse Invasor, and he sold for $235,000 to Rockingham Ranch at Barretts last May.
Perennially among the leading consignors of 2-year-olds in training, Thomas is bullish on the upcoming juvenile sale season.
"Based on phone calls and visits to the farm and the current strength of the market I think we're going to see another big leap forward this year," said Thomas. "My level of confidence is based on the amount of interest being shown. There is a serious demand for our product. We've watched the market really take off.
"Essentially, you can look back at the yearling market last July," she added. "Following a strong 2-year-old season, the July market for yearlings was good, not outstanding. Since then, the market has continued to gain momentum, and it carried right through to Keeneland September and into October. If you look at the mare market, mares in all price ranges are finding good homes. We're rebounding as an industry."
In addition to breaking and training youngsters at her Ocala facility, which features a five-eighths mile dirt training track and 88 stalls on 105 acres, Thomas also operates Sequel Stallions. The 230-acre stud farm in New York is home to Darley stallions Desert Party and Emcee, as well as Forty Tales, Freud , Mission Impazible and Noble Causeway. The stallion farm is managed by Wally Burleson.
"I have an outstanding management team at the farm," said Thomas. "The team gives me a lot of confidence.
"To stand the stallions we have is a lot of fun," she added. "I'm blessed to have a wonderful relationship with Darley. They have given us breeding stock to die for."
Thomas breaks and trains runners for numerous clients, including Mary and Chester Broman and longtime Japanese client Taki Murayama Bloodstock.
The Bromans' homebred Artemis Agrotera, winner of the 2013 Frizette Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park, is currently with Thomas at the Florida training center getting ready for a 2014 campaign. The daughter of Roman Ruler has enjoyed a freshening since finishing fifth for trainer Michael Hushion in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Santa Anita.
"She's like a Queen Bee," said Thomas. "She enjoyed 60 days of sheer turnout. When I started getting her ready again, I still gave her a couple of hours out. Now she trains, gets a bath and rolls out in her paddock. She jogs off to the end of the field and just stands there and admires the property like it's hers. You can't do that with all of them once they go back into training, but you can with her."
With the 2-year-olds in training sale season getting underway March 3 at Barretts Equine Ltd., Thomas is ready to present to buyers her latest crop of juveniles. She is taking 10 head to the Barretts sale, and has especially high expectations for a couple of colts—hip 41, by Desert Party, and hip 85, by Line of David.
"I just love our Desert Party colt," she said of the youngster she acquired for $75,000 from Clarkland Farm, agent, at last year's Keeneland September sale.
The Line of David colt is out of the Mr. Greeley mare Beer Baroness and is a half brother to Ria Antonia, winner of the 2013 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Thomas bought the colt from Mill Ridge Sales for $55,000 at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton July sale.
"Talk about pride of ownership, we bought him because he is out of a mare we bred, and she's a half to Behaving Badly, a grade I winner we bred."
For Thomas, on the eve of another season of 2-year-olds in training sales, the satisfying payoff resides in the opportunity to breed and sell nice racehorses.
"It's very rewarding," said Thomas, who expects to have horses in all of the major 2-year-old sales this year. "We're like proud parents anytime they breeze and sell well."