As a trainer, Frank Brothers was known for having a good eye for a horse. Now he’s putting that skill to use as a member of Keeneland’s six-man inspection team, which tries to find the best young prospects to showcase during the early sessions of the September yearling auction.
“I’m probably a bit more forgiving than some people because I’m drawing from my experience of seeing--for more years than I would like to admit--what horses looked like in the paddock and what they looked like in my barn,” said Brothers, who retired from training in March 2009 and went to work for Keeneland earlier this year. “It’s great if everything falls into place physically, but in reality, most of them just aren’t perfect horses. There are flaws that you can live with and flaws that you can’t.”
Horses trained by Brothers after he played a key role in purchasing them privately or at public auction as young horses included 1991 champion and dual classic winner Hansel; 2005 Champagne (gr. I) and Hopeful (gr. I) Stakes winner First Samurai ; 2004 Ashland Stakes (gr. I) winner Madcap Escapade; 1998 Super Derby (gr. I) winner Arch ; 2000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) winner Mighty; and 2006 Darley Alcibiades Staks (gr. II) winner Bel Air Beauty.
“I love a horse that’s balanced because it can make a lot of other things that aren’t perfect go pretty smoothly,” Brothers said. “When a horse is balanced, you don’t see a big, old shoulder with a little rump or a little, straight shoulder with a nice, big hip. Everything blends in and fits together.”
Brothers also likes horses with a smooth, long-striding walk, but he’s careful about dismissing one just because it doesn’t move all that well.
“For instance, some of the yearlings by Pulpit and Giant's Causeway aren’t very good walkers, but they’re still good runners, so it can be a very inexact science,” said Brothers, who trained Pulpit, a grade II winner.
Such knowledge, according to Keeneland director of sales Geoffrey Russell, makes Brothers an asset to the Lexington-based auction firm.
“He’s a very good judge of a horse, and he brings a trainer’s perspective to our inspection team,” Russell said. “Because trainers work with horses day in and day out, they’re a little more forgiving of certain conformation faults. He’s also a truly wonderful person with quality and integrity.”
In addition to inspecting yearlings for Keeneland, Brothers buys horses for Starlight Partners and longtime client Bruce Lunsford, who raced Madcap Escapade, First Samurai (in partnership with Lansdon Robbins III), and Bel Air Beauty. Position Limit, purchased by Brothers for $55,000 at the 2009 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July select yearling sale, captured this year’s Adirondack Stakes (gr. II) for Starlight.
“I love looking at yearlings, and it’s been a lot of fun,” said Brothers of his new job with Keeneland. “Because I’m retired from training, I’ve got some time on my hands, and working for Keeneland helps keep me in the game a little bit. I was honored to be asked to join their team to tell you the truth.”
The Keeneland September auction begins Sept. 12 in Lexington and will run through Sept. 26, with a break from selling Sept. 18.