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 Editorials

Thoughts from our editor, Joe Clancy. For archived editorials click here.

The stuff you think about at a horse sale that get a little monotonous after awhile…

If I were designing a sales pavilion, I’d look hard at the English/Irish versions where the horse for sale gets the opportunity to walk while the auctioneer rat-a-tat-tats through the bids. It’s always going to be a foreign environment for a horse, but the ability to walk has to help. Horses in the rings at Tattersalls and Goffs or wherever else, look calmer, a little less agitated by it all, and buyers get one last chance to see them walk. 

American sales tend to have an auctioneer and an announcer high above a small ring where a horse is expected to stand or – frequently – walk/spin in a tight, unnatural circle. The horses look unnerved, harried, out of place as the action swirls around them. I feel a little bad for them, especially when one kicks the wall, steps into the decorations around the ring or rears up while looking for a way out. 

Fasig-Tipton Midlantic’s ring in Timon­ium includes a decorative rope supported by black posts that proved not quite enough to contain one spooked yearling who flattened a few posts and delayed the sale 20 minutes or so while repairs were made. Everything worked out fine, but it’s a wonder that doesn’t happen more often. 

Like many things, it’s nobody’s fault; it’s just the way it is or has been. But if anybody’s building a new sales arena – or remodeling an old one – think about it. 

Oh, on a similar vein. Do the horses get a chance to school in the ring before a sale? Trainers do it all the time at the racetrack. They take a horse to the paddock, let him/her stand awhile, then head back home. The idea is that the horse figures out that the paddock – although new – isn’t such a bad place. Then again, maybe horses wouldn’t go within 10 yards of the building if they’d been in it before. I don’t know. But it would be interesting to find out.

 Is there a better way to get inexpensive yearlings into the racing world? I know, I know, it’s an auction, a marketplace, they bring what they bring, all horses deserve a chance to shine, you never know what might happen, yeah, yeah, yeah. But those $1,000 yearlings take time to sell too and watching auctioneers try to wring bids in $200 increments out of people can be tortuous (and I love horses and horse sales). 

This idea isn’t totally mine. It hatched from a conversation with another somewhat overwhelmed witness who would probably deny it, and then took flight as the what-ifs bounced around two brains looking for something else to think about other than English-accented quips from Terence Collier.

At the lower level, is there another way to do this?

Maybe. 

If you’d sell your yearling for $2,500 or less – yes that’s an arbitrary number – would you be willing to put said yearling into a lottery (not sure what else to call it) that splits revenue between a worthwhile charity and the owner/breeder? If you’d buy a yearling for $2,500 or less, would you pay for a ticket that guarantees you a horse without being able to choose it?

Stop laughing. Pick up the magazine you threw across the room. I’ll wait . . . 

Oh, you’re back. Thanks. Where were we? 

As an example, the Fasig-Tipton Mid­lantic sale in October included 51 horses who sold for $2,500 or less. They’re by Tapizar, Animal Kingdom, Super Ninety Nine, Imagining, Central Banker, First Samurai, English Channel and so on. Surely there are some diamonds in among the rough. In the lottery format, would-be buyers pay $2,500 for a ticket that guarantees them a randomly assigned horse with $500 to charity (Thoroughbred aftercare or retirement perhaps) and the rest to the seller. 

The move would require somebody to identify yearlings as lottery horses and cost Fasig-Tipton a small amount in commissions, but would also shave approximately two hours off the sale and create a fun (and funny) way into the game for some people. The whole thing could happen at a party of some kind, raising awareness and celebrating the idea. And nothing would stop you from buying multiple tickets or trading among your friends.

Eventually, lottery horses could be eligible for bonuses based on racetrack earnings or gain entry into a restricted stakes of some kind. And away we go. Remember where you heard it first. Or don’t.

 Finally, what about figuring out a way for some live racing on the track at Timonium? Maybe restrict the card to graduates of the sale, but it would add a bit of something to it all. Run a four-race card the first day of the sale (two for fillies, two for colts/geldings).

Yeah, yeah, I know, none of this will ever work. But it’s fun to think about. And I can always go back to watching horses go through the ring.

 

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