Anne M. Eberhardt

Breeders' F-T July Goal: Survive and Advance

It's all about staying alive to fight another day.

The Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July select sale, which kicks off its two-day run July 13 in Lexington, is the first major auction of the 2010 yearling selling season and people will use its results to get an early gauge on the health of the market for young horses. But even if this year’s overall yearling sale statistics stabilize or grow a little bit, commercial breeders still are going to have another difficult year making money after huge price plunges in 2009 because of domestic and international economic crises.

Stud fees paid to produce the latest crop of yearlings were set prior to the 2008 breeding season when the Thoroughbred market was still strong and breeders’ expenses remain high even though the value of their stock has declined dramatically since then.

According to Mark Taylor of Taylor Made Sales Agency, many commercial breeders are approaching their business in the same way that college basketball teams approach the NCAA Tournament.

“Survive and advance. It doesn’t matter how ugly it is; as long as you can survive and advance, you’ve got a chance to keep going,” Taylor said. “The breeders who survive the 2010 yearling market and come out intact are going to be positioned to get back into a profitable situation moving forward because the stud fees have gotten lower, costs have come back into line a little bit, and the foal crops have contracted so the competition they will sell against will be smaller.”

Some commercial breeders, like Brereton Jones of Airdrie Stud, have adjusted to the marketplace’s struggles by emphasizing racing more in their Thoroughbred operations.

“We’ll be realistic with our reserves and if the buyers are realistic with their bids, then we’ll do business,” said the former Kentucky governor. “But if they (the buyers) aren’t realistic, then we’ll have another one or two horses that go to the racetrack. This industry has got problems right now, but I believe in this industry. We’re racing more than we ever have and, quite frankly, we’re having more fun than we’ve ever had. We decided to bite the bullet and pay the training bills, and we’ve been blessed.”

Among Jones’ homebred runners is Biofuel, who was a Canadian champion in 2009. She has won two Canadian stakes in 2010 and finished third in the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I). Others include 2010 Sands Point (gr. IIT) and Appalachian (gr. IIIT) stakes winner Check the Label and No Such Word, who captured the Honey Bee Stakes (gr. III) and Delaware Park’s Go For Wand Stakes this year. Trickmeister , bred and raced by Jones in partnership with Airdrie general manager Tim Thornton, scored in this year’s Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park.

Baccari Bloodstock’s Chris Baccari, a weanling-to-yearling pinhooker, also has found success racing. He purchased Brickyard Fast, a son of the young sire Sharp Humor, for $70,000 as a weanling at the 2008 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Last year, Baccari tried to sell the colt at the Keeneland September yearling auction, but said he ended up taking Brickyard Fast home after a high bid of only $32,000 because the colt “had a little defect on his radiographs.”

Brickyard Fast broke his maiden by 10 lengths in June in his second career race and then finished third in the Minstrel Stakes at Louisiana Downs in July.

“I’ve got a partner who wants to roll the dice, so we turned down a crazy amount of money for him,” Baccari said. “The game is supposed to be about having a horse to race and a lot of people forgot that” when the auction business was booming.

“I do try to sell my horses,” Baccari continued. But if they don’t find new homes, that auction experience is good preparation for the racetrack.

“The horses get a lot of handling and seasoning at a yearling sale,” Baccari explained, “so, when they go to the track, they are a little more advanced because they’ve had the opportunity to be around so many new things. I really don’t think it (taking them to a sale and not getting them sold) is that much of a waste of money because when I put the tack on them, it’s a lot easier compared to a wild horse that’s been outside all the time.”