The horses in the Feb. 26 Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training don’t get to walk on a glamorous red carpet, but their consignors aren't complaining. They would rather have the rubber mat that the auction firm's officials rolled out this year at Calder Race Course.
Made of interlocking pieces like a jigsaw puzzle, the 10-foot wide mat was designed to give sale horses some relief from the hardness of the asphalt and concrete surfaces found throughout much of the Calder backstretch. The mat is an inch thick and approximately 500 yards long, according to Fasig-Tipton's director of marketing, Terence Collier, and it runs from the barn area to the chute where the horses enter the track to train.
"I absolutely love the mat," said consignor Tony Bowling. "I think it’s the best thing Fasig-Tipton has ever done. My main problem with having the sale here is all the asphalt. It's so hard on our horses. Just walking back and forth to the racetrack sores them up. My horses have done so much better this year with the rubber mat out there."
Collier declined to reveal how much Fasig-Tipton is spending to purchase, install, and maintain the mat, but he described the cost as significant. It will remain in place until after the auction.
"We've had a lot of feedback from consignors over the years that during the course of training and going to the track, it (the hard surface) stings the horses' feet and shins," Collier said, "so we got our stable manager, Daren English, to work with a supplier and we purchased the mat at a considerable expense and installed it. It's reusable and virtually indestructible. We put it down just before the horses arrived, and it's been very popular. There has been unanimously favorable feedback from the consignors."
One seller, Don Graham, called the mat "a great idea," and another consignor, Hoby Kight, said it was "a blessing."
In addition, to protecting the sale horses' feet from the asphalt and concrete, the mat is less slippery than those surfaces, according to consignor Dean De Renzo.
"It's been a big help, huge," he said. "The horses aren't slipping and sliding. If they spook at something, they can get some grip, and they just bounce along on it when they're going to the track. I wish Fasig-Tipton had done this10 years ago."
Seller David Scanlon also has been pleased with the mat.
"I give Fasig-Tipton a lot of credit for trying to really accommodate consignors and make things good," he said. "It’s tough here with all the concrete, and any little break you can give the horses by taking them off it is great. I thought Fasig-Tipton did a good job in trying to solve that problem."
Added New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace: "It was an expensive investment for Fasig-Tipton, but it will pay off in the long run."