Commentary: TVG Has Another Winner in Keeneland Sale Show

By Catesby Clay Jr.

Until TVG's show "The Sales" aired on July 1, the best way for a buyer to prepare for a sale without visiting the farms selling yearlings was to sit down with a sales catalogue and a sales supplement. This all changed with TVG's new program, a preview of the Keeneland July 2001 selected yearling sale. It highlights the yearlings offered at this sale like no advertisement or pedigree page could ever do.

TVG profiles each horse, with a film clip of the yearling covering the upper left corner of the screen. Each yearling is shown standing in a conformation pose, then shown from a side view while walking as well as a head-on view. These give the audience a standard view that one might actually see when looking at a yearling in person. A running line below the yearling on the screen gives details about the sire and the first dam, similar to a ticker tape for stocks. A two-cross pedigree covers the lower left-hand corner. The upper right-hand section shows the yearling's hip number with more details about his sire and female family below the hip number. A smaller screen on the bottom right hand corner provides race replays for the sire, dam, or sibling of the yearling and also propaganda from some of the yearling's consignors.

The two-hour show profiles 63 yearlings from the Keeneland July sale that TVG thinks are "standouts". Commentator Frank Lyons highlights his top 10 picks at the end of the show, and Jeff Lifson presents two reports from Kentucky. TVG also intersperses the program with sales statistics, racing footage of past Keeneland July graduates and relatives of the profiled yearlings, and interviews with connections of the yearlings.

This viewer liked what TVG did with its graphics but found it difficult to concentrate on the yearlings walking when there was so much other information on the screen. To get the full benefit of looking at each yearling, one should tape the show and rewind once, twice, or even three times to see the yearlings walk.

Commentators Caton Bredar, Todd Schrupp, Lyons, and Lifson worked well together. They did have some factual mix-ups such as saying one dam was a grade I winner, when she was only grade I placed, but they knew most of their material.

Lifson added news segments on the art of bidding at Keeneland and on the recent Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome. The features were insightful and broke up the monotony of watching yearling after yearling. Lifson's report on bidding was a light-hearted piece with details on how D. Wayne Lukas bids with his right foot.

Schrupp and Bredar mostly commented on the pedigree of the yearling and at times mentioned conformation, but former trainer Lyons provided the majority of the commentary on that subject. He even gave a top 10 list of his favorite yearlings. Lyons accentuated the positive and didn't pick apart each yearling, nor did he shy away from mentioning questions he had about the yearling or its pedigree, such as one 13-year-old dam not having produced a stakes winner or one yearling being hard to handle.

TVG also did an excellent job when it broke to its commercials. It showed former champions like Alysheba, Winning Colors, Sunday Silence, and others being sold at the Keeneland July sale, then switched to the finishes in their greatest races.

TVG has produced another successful program. It brought exceptional coverage to Kentucky Derby preparation with its show "Works" from Churchill Downs, and now has done the same thing for "The Sales." If you haven't seen the show yet, get your tape out and record it on July 14 at 10am-Noon ET / 7am-9am PT. While this preview helps whet the appetite of buyers, it will be a real treat for fans or buyers to revisit the show after these yearlings start racing next year. Then they can see how these top draft picks turn out.

Catesby Clay Jr. is managing editor of TBH MarketWatch, an industry newsletter for Thoroughbred investors published by The Blood-Horse Inc.