Fee Follies (Cont.)

Shoemaker said the first question she'll ask a client is whether he or she is breeding to race or sell. "If they are breeding to race, I'll ask them where they plan to race, because that can determine whether grass racing is an option. If a mare is being bred to race, I may recommend breeding her to a sire who may be unfashionable at sales but can produce runners. If they are breeding to sell, I'll usually move them toward a first- or second-year sire, because that's what the market wants.

One of the most important factors in planning a mating and appraising the value of a mare is conformation, Shoemaker said. "Good conformation can add 25% to 30% to the value of a mare. People are overlooking conformation and putting too much emphasis on things like nicking. But that's just one part of a big puzzle."

"Too many people are buying off a computer," White said.

White said he will usually breed to stallions who raced and won as 2-year-olds, and does his best to steer commercial offspring of young mares into the hands of good trainers to give the family a jump start. He doesn't send unproven mares to unproven stallions and avoids sending older mares to old stallions.

By following those guidelines, White and other breeders hope to improve their chances of turning a profit in the auction ring and producing a top-class runner. But even with that, White said there is one thing every breeder needs. "Take all your damn Ouija boards, and just give me luck!" he said.

Luck is something even Albert Einstein probably couldn't explain.