reasons for employing an agent
by Matt Massey
This is Part 1 of a two-part series focusing
on the role of agents or bloodstock agents in preparation for selling and
buying Thoroughbreds for clients. Part 1 deals with selling a yearling for a
client and Part 2, which will run in the July issue of the magazine, will look
at an agents role in buying at auction.
ont go it alone. Look
before leaping into the race. Get educated. Make sure breeding a horse to sell
is something affordable.
The business of breeding
and raising a Thoroughbred horse to sell at auction comes with a myriad of
decisions to make, many of which might have to be made possibly years before
sending the horse through the sales ring.
the risk versus the reward. Understand the process.
For the newcomer, one without any experience in the
breeding business, its important to buy a broodmare with a proven record
on the track and/or proven produce record. For those starting from scratch,
this will be the backbone of their breeding operation. At some point, assess
whether your farm is adequate for raising a young horse or whether that
responsibility will be turned over to a bloodstock agent or agent who can
manage as much as the owner is willing to turn over.
The sellers process also can start with
pinhooking, or buying a weanling or yearling for re-sale.
Understand that raising or buying horses to sell as a
yearling at the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association (WTBA) Summer
Yearling Sale, or at any other public venue, requires patience, great care and
sound advice from someone with experience in the business.
Ultimately, you have to have a product that
somebody wants, said Dana Halvorson, a longtime bloodstock agent based in
Enumclaw. Usually, it takes a long-term investment. Most people want to
do something positive, so if you dont get good information, you leave
yourself open to disappointment.
information process begins with a long look in the mirror and an ego check for
the breeder/seller. Then, go through the interview process to select an agent
after consulting people who are trusted members of the industry, starting with
the WTBA offices or consulting industry directories or publications.
Nominations for the 2007 WTBA Summer Yearling Sale
close on Friday, April 6, with a $125 nomination fee. Upon acceptance into this
years September 4 sale, an additional $450 is required in early June.
There are many decisions, starting with selecting
an agent with the expertise and personality who fits the sellers needs,
which will affect a successful journey from raising to selling.
You owe it to yourself to investigate
things, said Ralph Vacca, WTBA general manager. Have the agent
provide letters of recommendation. References would be one thing I would think
an agent would want to provide. They should have records of what they have
bought and sold. Go to an unbiased professional source.
Call us at the WTBA or call a sales company like
Barretts or Fasig-Tipton. Ask how many horses [the agent] has sold.
An agent can offer his or her most valuable opinions at
many different points during the yearlings growth, including the time and
place to nominate for a sale. Then, once the decision is made to nominate,
conditioning for muscle tone should start 60 to 90 days before the sale.
There are no guarantees about landing a spot in the
WTBA summer sale, but theres a better chance if the proper homework is
done. Success can start with selecting an agent that suits the sellers
Just because you buy a mare and breed
her to a stallion doesnt mean youre going to get in the sale,
Whether the horse has what it
takes to get accepted into the sale is the first difficult decision in a long
line of decisions. This is where the experience of an agent and his ability to
arrange help from a full-service agency or a specific contractor can help.
A reason some people use an agent is that they
arent set up to raise and sell their own horses and they dont have
a farm, Halvorson said. They need an agent that can market their
horse, handle it and hire the right people to sell the horse.
An experienced agent provides expertise in pedigree
analysis and conformation, thus giving a recommendation on nominating to a
sale. Some horses just wont qualify and its important to have the
agent assess the horses growth, or in some cases, supervise it or find
someone to oversee nutrition and conditioning.
I can advise them and Im capable of telling
you what youve got, Halvorson said. The sales are a lot more
of a beauty pageant than it used to be. People want future racehorses to look
In this process, (sellers) need
someone to tell them the truth.
suggests that prospective sellers take the interviewing process seriously and
use it as an opportunity to ask important questions when looking for an agent.
I tend to be on the conservative side, as
far as expectations, Halvorson said. I dont want to have
people stunned by what happens. I try to give people all the parameters.
Heres what the worst can be and heres what the best can be. I try
to be realistic. My goal is to position them with people who have had
Seattle bloodstock agent Claudia
Atwell Canouse, who focuses mainly on the buying side, suggests sellers choose
an agent based on documented successes and visiting the agents operation
at a sale.
If Im going to sell a
horse, Id select an agent whos had experience and has been set up
and geared for that, Canouse said. They usually have a better
presentation at the sale. Go to the sale that youre thinking about
entering in the future, whether its the summer or winter sale here or
elsewhere, and see what the various agents have in their consignments.
See how they treat you when you go as a
prospective buyer. Its a good way to get a feeling of whos doing
the kind of job that you would like. You can see how they would present your
Some agents work on the honor system,
meaning they will provide some advice without charge until some work toward
reaching the sale begins. At the time of sale, the standard five percent of the
selling price is due to the agent.
An agent has
many responsibilities in preparing a horse for sale at auction, from advice on
raising and feeding, to boarding, grooming and handling work. Some agents offer
a means to work with young horses to prepare them to become more appealing in
the sales ring.
Babies now go to
kindergarten, said Canouse, also a Thoroughbred breeder. When the
horse is still a baby, and you can still maneuver them, they learn to how to be
handled and how to lead well.
learn how to stand up and pose. They seem to remember those lessons. Then when
they go for sales prep (60 to 90 days from the sale), they can continue those
lessons without a lot of trauma.
says that its obvious when a yearling has been prepared properly for
auction and it will show.
business and the cost of providing the product is substantial, but if you try
to take shortcuts, it will be reflected, she said.
The reward is worth the risk for most.
It can be a really gratifying process,
Halvorson said. Its just like watching your kid grow up. I remember
watching the first horse that I bred and sold at auction run for the first time
at Longacres. I was more nervous than Id ever been in my life. It was
I raised at him our farm
and Id seen him grow up. It was the beauty of watching that baby grow up.
There can be a monetary reward, but its not just a monetary reward.
Matt Massey, a Maple Valley resident, has
covered horse racing in the state of Washington for various publications since
1991, including the Thoroughbred Times, The Seattle Times and the former
Valley Daily News in Kent. Massey was first introduced to the sport of
horse racing when his father, Melvin, was the state veterinarian at Longacres
in the late 1970s.
Thoroughbred magazine, April 2007, page 332.
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