Bloodstock & Markets - The Kids Are Alright

The next generation of de Merics makes its mark on the auction industry.

Nick and Jaqui de Meric have been major players in the yearling-to-juvenile pinhooking game in Florida for a long time, and it looks like the family name will continue to be prominent in the Thoroughbred marketplace for years to come. The de Merics’ children, Alexandra and Tristan, have followed their parents into the auction business and are already enjoying success at a high level.

Alexandra de Meric and Brandon Rice, who are a couple professionally as well as personally, acted on behalf of an Irish pinhooking partnership in selling a War Front filly for $275,000, which was the highest-priced horse during the opening session of this year’s Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. spring sale of 2-year-olds in training in April. Then, on the fourth and final day of the auction, Tristan de Meric enjoyed a big moment of his own. A colt he purchased for $22,000 as a yearling named Macho Rocket topped the sale when he brought $850,000.

“It’s immensely gratifying,” said Nick de Meric of his offspring’s accomplishments. “With all parents, raising children is an ongoing challenge and education. You get blindsided, you get curveballs, and then you see them maturing into competent young professionals. That they have embraced the same life we chose for ourselves is a source of great joy for Jaqui and me. We try to contain our pride and keep it to ourselves, but sometimes it just bursts forth. It’s really great.”

In a recent development, de Meric, who used to market horses under his own name, started using “de Meric Sales” to identify his business.

“The reason for that was because I wanted to introduce the next generation a little bit and because with my kids coming of age, the dynamics have changed,” he said. “Back in the early days when Jaqui and I were getting started, she was home with the kids keeping an eye on things and I was off on the road as we divided our resources and covered as much ground as we could. It made more sense for me to be the front man while she was working behind the scenes.

“But now,” de Meric continued, “Tristan is becoming more and more involved in the decision process of the business, and he’s my assistant with the training. The new name is more of an inclusive umbrella. Ali (Alexandra) is doing her own thing with Brandon Rice and more power to them. I’ve gotten to know Brandon really well outside of his profession as a horseman and I have all the regard in the world for him. I would love nothing better than to have him for a son-in-law.”

Alexandra de Meric, 25, left high school when she was 16 and completed her studies with the aid of a home-schooling program. She also traveled widely, working at horse sales in Europe, Japan, California, Kentucky, and New York.

De Meric eventually decided to attend the University of Tampa after her father offered to buy a house and put it in her name if she graduated.

“Taking time away (from a traditional education path) was a huge benefit for me,” Alexandra de Meric said. “When I did go to college, I was ready to be there. I majored in business management, and I would think to myself for short periods of time that I might go the corporate route and wear a suit. But everything they taught me I was able to apply to the horse business. When I would come home to my parents’ farm on the weekends and put my hands on a horse, I would realize that the horse business was what I knew and what I loved and where I needed to be.”

De Meric and Rice, who also is a member of a well-known family of horsemen, focus on yearling-to-juvenile pinhooking. They worked with nine young horses this year while based at Woodside Ranch, a Florida farm owned by Rice’s parents, Bryan and Holley Rice.

“We both do all the breaking, and we both ride every day,” de Meric said. “This is only our second year in business together, and we really feel like we have found our niche. We’re not hugely interested in the mare or stallion side of the business, and we don’t see ourselves taking off and going to the racetrack right now. It’s the riding, really, that we enjoy. When it comes down to it, what’s important to us is the molding of the young minds of these horses and getting them ready to where they can handle anything that is thrown at them later in life. We’re not looking to swing the doors open and suddenly have 50 horses in training because we like to be hands-on with our babies, but we’re definitely open to new clients coming our way.”

The $275,000 War Front filly, which breezed an eighth of a mile in :101⁄5 prior to the OBS spring sale, was purchased by Buzz Chace, agent for Jayeff B Stable, and represented a significant pinhooking score for the Irish partnership that owned her. The dark bay or brown 2-year-old was an $80,000 purchase at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling auction. Out of the stakes winner Tappin for Gold (by Pleasant Tap), the filly is a half sister to the winner Johnny Two by Four (by Yes It’s True).

“The two main guys (in the partnership) were Willie Browne and Jim McCartan,” de Meric said. “They approached us to break the filly and train her and prepare her for a sale. They kind of let us decide what to do, where to take her, and what she needed. We pointed her in the direction of OBS in April and felt that she did very well there.”

While de Meric is busy with her own pinhooking ventures, she is available to help her family. In May she joined her brother and father at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds in training to work in the de Meric Sales consignment.

“I galloped horses and then showed them,” she said. “I also played the ‘daughter role’ and made sure dad was eating and putting on sunscreen.

“We’re definitely a close-knit family,” she continued. “If there’s something we’re excited about and want to share, or if we get in a sticky spot and need help, there is always an outlet where someone else can jump in and be a partner. The family network definitely is much used and appreciated.”

Tristan de Meric, 24, has a weanling-to-yearling pinhooking operation in addition to assisting his father with yearling-to-juvenile pinhooking prospects. The younger de Meric purchased Macho Rocket at the OBS winter mixed sale in 2010 and planned to resell him at a yearling auction later that same year. But after thinking about it some more, de Meric decided the son of Macho Uno would stand out more at a juvenile sale.

“Macho Uno was a little bit cold as a sire last year when the yearling sales came around, and he (Macho Rocket) was always so athletic that I thought we could make a little bit more money selling him as a 2-year-old,” said de Meric, who owned the colt in partnership with his father and a friend, Jackson McKay.

“He probably was a horse that could have been successful at any 2-year-old sale we entered him in,” Tristan de Meric added. “But we decided to put him in the spring sale, and it all came together. Everything went perfectly.”

Macho Rocket, who was offered by de Meric Sales at the spring auction, worked a quarter mile in :202⁄5, sharing the auction’s fastest time for the distance with a Yonaguska filly named Cameo Lady. Donato Lanni, in the name of Hill ‘n’ Dale Bloodstock, purchased Macho Rocket for Frank Fletcher Racing. Produced from the winning Wild Again mare La Defense, the colt is a half brother to stakes winner Quelle Surprise (by Slew Gin Fizz).

De Meric and his wife, Valerie, who used to work for Florida-based pinhooker Eddie Woods, have a baby daughter, Elizabeth.

“I was around the barn from when I was a baby,” said de Meric of his history in the Thoroughbred business. “When I went to high school, I got separated from the horses a little bit and spent several years away from the barn. I had all kinds of plans of how I was going to do anything other than horses. But by the time I graduated, I was begging to get back involved and I’ve been working at the barn ever since.”

De Meric never has regretted choosing the same profession that his parents did.

“I really enjoy learning everything I can from them; they’ve taught me so much,” he said. “When we’re breaking the yearlings, I’m right there with my mom, and when they go to the track, I’m training them with my dad. It’s really nice to be around your family all the time. It’s very rewarding.”