first-time buyers on bargains
and buying agents
by Matt Massey
he promise is recognized well
before a yearling Thoroughbred steps into the sales ring.
The homework is done. The hope runs deep. The selection
process is in full swing.
For many West Coast
owners, the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association (WTBA) Summer Yearling
Sale is where those dreams begin. Recognized nationally for its reputation for
turning out talent at bargain prices, the WTBA Summer Yearling Sale offers
plenty of value for the dollar in many instances.
For every sales-topping buy, theres several
significant victories for those spending smaller coin. Take for instance,
Washington-bred Peterhofs Patea, an $11,500 WTBA summer sale yearling buy
in 1989 who went on to earn a WTBA sale-best of $623,367.
The next Peterhofs Patea could be available at
this years WTBA Summer Yearling Sale, which will be held on September 4
at the Morris J. Alhadeff Sales Pavilion at Emerald Downs. This is where the
opportunity to buy a star of the future will present itself.
I think you get more bang for your buck from the
Washington sale than any other yearling sale in the country, said Claudia
Atwell Canouse, a Seattle bloodstock agent known for her success at all types
of Thoroughbred sales. The statistics will tell you that. she said.
All the horses that go through the summer sale, most of them earn almost
twice what (owners) pay for them. I think you can get a lot of value at the
In a recent The
Blood-Horse Market Watch study of major North American yearling sales from
2000 through 2004, Washingtons summer yearling sale more than held its
own statistically in many significant categories.
The WTBA summer sale ranked No. 1 in runners to the
racetrack, with 87 percent of the buys getting to the races, and No. 2 in
percentage of winners at 66 percent. Of the 26 sales studied, WTBA summer sales
ranked fourth in stakes winners with 7.1 percent and sixth in stakes runners at
18 percent. The WTBA summer sale also ranked in a tie for second in average
starts per runner (17).
WTBAs average sale
price of $18,146 during the five-year period puts it 11th among the 26 sales.
The average earnings of WTBA sellers during the five-year window was $28,557,
to rank 15th.
The numbers also point to
affordability and the ability for buyers, owners, trainers and agents to find a
diamond in the rough.
Look no farther than great
WTBA sale-bargain yearlings like Funboy, Fast Parade, Grillhouse,
Jazznwithwindy and Avenging Passion.
Washington-bred Funboy ranks No. 5 among WTBA-sold
earners with $478,180 after going for $3,200 in the 1992 WTBA Winter Mixed Sale
as a yearling. Grillhouse, a New York-bred who is still racing in 2007, made
good on his $8,500 purchase price in the 1998 WTBA summer sale to earn $618,022
to date and rate No. 2 all-time for WTBA-sold runners.
Fast Parade, another talented Washington-bred who sold
for $4,500 in the 2004 WTBA Winter Sale, has piled up $475,013, set a Del Mar
turf course record for five furlongs (54.75 seconds), won a graded stakes in
Canada, traveled to Hong Kong and still owns a bright future at age four.
Modest purchases Jazznwithwindy, who went for $2,500 in
the 1995 WTBA Winter Sale, and Avenging Passion, who went through the ring for
$1,600 in the 1998 WTBA Winter Sale, both yielded whopping returns on
investment. Jazznwithwindy earned $391,739 and Avenging Passion bankrolled
$335,300 before their retirements.
gems, sold at bargain-basement prices, take some luck, in addition to some
You can find some great
horses in that price range of $10,000 to $30,000 and lots of people have done
it, Canouse said about the September venue. To get into the summer
sale, you basically ought to be worth $10,000. Theres a lot of useful
horses sold at the Washington sale, horses that get to the races and win races.
Out of those horses sold here, theyll be an occasional superstar. But the
main thing is you want everybody to get to the races.
Hiring the Right Buying Agent
Most of the time hard work cant be replaced by
luck and it can all start with hiring the right buying agent.
Canouse is a good example. She gets a head start on the
competition, in part, because of her strong reputation and connections to many
breeding farms. Shes done well buying broodmares, two-year-olds in
training, yearlings and weanlings for many years in many locations and knows
her way around a sale.
I try to respect my
clients. They all have things that matter to them, Canouse said.
Im always trying to accommodate the client and get a horse that has
the basic mechanics to become a good racehorse. You can give any of us a
carload of money and we can all go buy a good horse. Im a person
whos trying to do the maximum job for each client. I want the horses to
get to races and earn more than what was spent on them.
Canouse diligently looks at every horse before the
sale, weighing the combination of pedigree, looks, behavior and conformation
into the equation.
I go to most of the major
[Washington] farms about two weeks prior to the sale, Canouse said.
Those horses Im not able to see on the farm, I go see at the
Canouse looks for many things and
listens to her clients, understanding that selecting a good buy at the sale is
due to teamwork.
A team can accomplish a lot
more than an individual, Canouse added. I have smart clients, ones
who know what they want to do. As an agent, you are consistently trying to work
as hard as you can and trying to ferret out the best horse. You want the best
prospects at the best prices.
first international female bloodstock agent based in the Seattle area, has
helped make some significant finds over the years at WTBA sales. For example,
she advised on the purchases of Flying With Eagles and Sons Corona for
owners Dave and Jill Heerensperger.
Flying With Eagles, now standing at stud at El Dorado Farms in Enumclaw, almost
tripled his 1995 WTBA Summer sale-topping purchase price of $120,000 with
earnings of $330,739.
He was a beautifully
balanced yearling and he had a lot of leg under him, Canouse said.
He had everything.
Sons Corona, a multiple stakes-placed winner, turned his $42,000 purchase
at the 95 WTBA summer sale into $264,913 in earnings.
A more recent example of immediate payoff appears to be
the purchase of now two-year-old Danas Beau from the 2006 WTBA summer
sale. The California-bred Danas Beau, who was pinhooked at the sale by
Canouse, broke her maiden in a $40,000 maiden claiming at Emerald Downs for
trainer Frank Lucarelli and owners Ron Schmid and Bob Thompson on May 26 in a
fast time of :51.40 seconds for 4 1/2 furlongs.
Shes eligible for the $300,000
Barretts Sales Stakes at Fairplex Park because shes a Barretts-sold
horse, said Canouse, who bought the filly, originally named Belle Selene,
for $3,200 as a weanling at the Barretts October Mixed Sale in Pomona,
CA. This was a good filly. I dont know why she didnt go for
more. I feel strongly that we need to develop a WTBA sales stakes program like
California. It would be an important addition to the sales program here.
Canouse hopes that Washington can benefit from a
more lucrative stakes program in the future and lure more buyers to the state.
We need all the incentives we can get for
people to buy from the Washington sales, Canouse said. It would be
a nice reward for people who buy here to have a big race to run in
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, July 2007, page 484.
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