Reiley McDonald has had several partners in Eaton Sales over the years. But now he is the sole proprietor of the Kentucky-based agency that is one of the top consignors in the Thoroughbred auction world.
“I owned most of the company, so it’s the same as it’s always been; I’m just concentrating more on quality and trying to stay away from large numbers of horses,” said McDonald, who bought out partners Archie St. George (who had acquired Tom VanMeter’s interest in Eaton Sales) and Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds.
“It’s been a very smooth transition,” McDonald added.
Eaton has 11 horses cataloged for the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July select yearling sale, which will be held July 12 in Lexington, and eight entered in the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select sale. At Keeneland in September, Eaton will offer approximately 150 yearlings, about half the number as in the past, according to McDonald.
“I’ve been analyzing things for a couple of years and I just think that the mega-consignor business model is kind of flawed in today’s horse economy,” said McDonald of his decision to streamline Eaton’s operations. “There were a number of reasons why I just wanted to run a quality show with quality horses and a lot fewer of them. First of all, expenses are so high. Secondly, I think agents have gutted each other over a period of time, reducing commissions. Meanwhile, the prices for horses have fallen.
“With these huge (consigning) machines,” he continued, “the expense is starting to exceed what you can make. It’s just a simple profit-loss situation. Also, I think selling—really selling—a lot of horses is difficult to do. The people running the show need to be more hands-on. In addition, it’s difficult to get really good help when you have a mega consignment.”
St. George has a consignment at the Fasig-Tipton July sale (St. George Sales) and so does VanMeter, who is the managing partner of VanMeter Sales and is pursuing auction ventures with Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds.