Southern Equine Stables is downsizing, but it’s not in financial peril, according to trainer Eric Guillot, who operates the breeding and racing venture with Mike Moreno.
“We’re good; watch us in the next year,” Guillot said Jan. 12 during the Keeneland horses of all ages sale in Lexington.
Southern Equine has been a prominent player at Thoroughbred auctions in recent years, building a fancy broodmare band with expensive purchases at the height of the market. The band’s members include 2007 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year Better Than Honour, the dam of Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winners Jazil and Rags to Riches (also a champion) and the owner of a world Thoroughbred auction record for a broodmare after bringing $14 million at the 2008 Fasig-Tipton November select mixed sale.
But now Southern Equine is reducing the number of horses it owns in an effort to focus even more on quality.
“We’ve gotten rid of 65 to 70 head in the last six months, I guess, between the deals I’ve done, horses claimed, horses given away, and horses we’re selling here” Guillot said. “At one time we had 282 horses and that’s too many. I want to get down to 130 or 150 head tops and have nothing but quality. The median in this business doesn’t pay. At Louisiana Downs we were the leading owner and for every dollar we made, we spent $3. We made more money in six weeks at Del Mar than we did the whole seven months at Louisiana Downs. You either buy a lot of $5,000 horses and you play the numbers game or you get the rich man’s high end horses like we want to do.
“When you’ve got the numbers that we have and the kind of quality mares that we have, the worst thing you can do is throw good money after bad and take a beating instead of moving on,” Guillot continued. “Every day that goes by you lose more money. If we see two babies or three babies we don’t like out of a mare, we’ll sell her or if we think we can get a big profit for a mare we’ll sell her. You try to get the bottom line as close to profitable as you can and have fun.”
Southern Equine had horses in Four Star Sales’ consignment at the Keeneland January sale. Two of the operation’s highest profile mares – grade I winners Point Ashley and Spoken Fur, both in foal to Ghostzapper – were scratched from the auction’s Jan. 12 session, but they were sold privately the following day to Japanese interests. Katsumi Yoshida of Northern Farm bought Point Ashley for $1 million, and Narvick International purchased Spoken Fur for $500,000 for Symboli Stud.
Southern Equine bought back grade II winner Last Song, who is in foal to Elusive Quality, for $750,000.
Guillot said Southern Equine put some of its better mares in the January sale planning to “swap out and buy other foundation mares to replace them. But the reality was that what we had was better than what they had to offer in the whole sale. We looked hard, but we didn’t see anything that we wanted.”
Southern Equine owns the former Parrish Hill Farm in Kentucky and “we’re fixing it up, remodeling it slowly but surely,” Guillot said. “By fall, we should have our horses moved there.”
According to the trainer, he and Moreno are pleased, so far, with what Southern Equine has accomplished.
“We’ve worked the last five years to put ourselves in this position and get to a point where we don’t have to buy any more horses,” he said. “We’ve done all we needed to do. We’ve got beautiful foundation mares, and all we have to do is pay the stud fees, breed the best to the best, and we’ve got racehorses, good racehorses. The best is still in front of us. We did the right thing.”