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Bruce's Blog – August 2008

Blog 8 - Taylor Made Farm

It's so hard to believe that I am already half way through the final leg of the incredible opportunity that is the Sunline Trust international management scholarship. There have been so many highlights, so many wonderful experiences, so many top class people, and oh so much learnt in England (Cheveley Park), Ireland (Coolmore) and now the U.S.A. (Taylor Made Farm). I have always been extremely ambitious and excited about what the thoroughbred industry can offer me(and others), and now I finally feel as though I have something to give back to the thoroughbred game, a game that I have found to be truly international. The smile, the laugh, the feeling of excitement, the adrenalin of risk-taking, and the impatient "I cannot wait another second" butterflies of anticipation, these are all universal emotions of humankind that the thoroughbred industry heightens and intensifies for horse people globally. I cannot wait to get my teeth stuck-in(not literally Vlad), to build on relationships and make new friendships, to breed, buy, sell, auction, trade, race, and syndicate winners of ever improving quality, and to share and celebrate my own successes and importantly the successes of others.

Before all that though I need to make the most of my final five weeks at Taylor Made, that, on going by my first five weeks, will be quality (in every aspect) in great quantities given the size and scope of Taylor Made and their successes.

Taylor Made in the Blue Grass of Kentucky

When you arrive in Lexington, Kentucky by air you arrive at the Blue Grass International Airport. Thoroughbreds cover every inch of the terminal walls. This is a thoroughbred state, Kentucky is the world renowned name, racing and breeding thoroughbreds is the game. When you arrive after 11pm, for Taylor Made Farm, in Lexington, Kentucky you are greeted by the warm smile of yearling manager John Hall. We collect my baggage and make our way to throw my luggage into John's truck. It's big, but all the trucks here are huge I later come to find, and he gets into the driver's seat on the 'wrong side' and then takes off down the wide open roads on the 'wrong side'. I sit there quietly, still stunned and obviously shaken by my flight from Chicago to Kentucky where my little 40 seater plane flew through a powerful storm system accompanied by large, sudden 'bounces' by the aircraft, shrieks of terror, and some passengers making 'final supper' cell phone calls to loved ones. It is fair to say that I was happy to be back on solid ground, driving up the 'wrong side' of the road, in the middle of the night.

It's dark, but I can still make out the Keeneland racetrack and sales ground directly opposite the airport. I remember reading the great stories of the private jets being parked up opposite the sales grounds in the 1980's when people from around the globe came to buy the progeny of Northern Dancer primarily, for all kinds of money. Sheikh Mohammed usually arriving first, and the Coolmore team not much further behind. Consignors would look across from the sales grounds, count the number of private jets and then determine what kind of sale they would have, mostly brilliant in those times. Anyway, we make our way past this, down the lovely wide open highway and John begins to point out the stud farms assuming the land on both sides of the highway. We pass the likes of Calumet Farm (think Alydar), Overbrook (think Storm Cat) and Juddmonte (think Empire Maker). Their borders neatly defined by post and four rail fences, in either black or white, and so well maintained, they ride alongside the road continuously through the various stud ownerships. Large, mature maple tree's dot the corners of paddocks or stand over large stone pillar entrances typically with the name of the historic farm engraved. Big American barns, lit up by big American lights and the big round moon, seem to approach us as we drive past; they are all intricately painted and so well kept. I think of the amount of time and money spent weed-eating/strimming under these fence lines, mowing the large grass verges, and keeping the fresh paint on every post, rail and barn side... This is the Blue Grass however I quickly remember, this is the thoroughbred celebrated, and it is immaculate and every inch fitting for this fabulous sport.

John kindly drops me off at my home for the next ten weeks, white house, which is amazingly filled with groceries for me already. I thank John ever so much, wave him down the 'wrong side' of the road yet again, and return to have a quiet chat to myself in the living room. I am in America, big America where I will learn to dream even bigger, aim higher, and push harder at the base of the world's leading thoroughbred consignor, Taylor Made.

The Taylor Made Business- An overview

Taylor Made colours: Maroon and Silver.

Taylor Made was started by Duncan Taylor in 1976. While in college Duncan became a partner with Mike Shannon and they leased a farm on which they began to board mares. This business was very successful (partly because they had seized on the opportunity provided to them by Gainesway who had just decided to stop boarding mares for clients after a decision to become solely a stallion station standing up to fifty stallions at one time) and after several years of continued growth, Mike Shannon's portion of the business was bought out by the Taylors to form the current ownership of the Taylor brothers Duncan, Frank, Mark, and Ben, along with Pat Payne.

Taylor Made has four main profit centres: boarding, public sales, private sales and stallion breeding and syndication. In terms of public sales, Taylor Made has grown to the point that they have been the largest consignors of thoroughbreds in the world since the mid-nineties having put around $1.4 billion dollars worth of thoroughbreds, through sales rings at Keeneland, Fasig Tipton, and Saratoga Springs, New York. The boarding operation consists of nine divisions in Nicholasville, Kentucky and one, named Just The Beginning about half an hour away in the Lexington area of Kentucky. These boarding farms make up around 1600 acres and are only used for the boarding and/or sales preparation of broodmares, weanlings and yearlings. Finally the business is made up of Taylor Made Stallions. Run by Ben Taylor, the farm stands eleven stallions, eight at Taylor made and three; Tiznow(Cee's Tizzy), Speightstown(Gone West), and Sharp Humor(Distorted Humor) in partnership with WinStar Farm. Those resident at Taylor Made are headed by Unbridled's Song(Unbridled) and also include Forestry(Storm Cat), Officer(Bertrando), Half Ours(Unbridled's Song), Master Command(A.P. Indy), Forest Danger(Forestry), Southern Image(Halo's Image), and Northern Afleet(Afleet).

Overall you can see this is a wonderfully successful family business, with the brothers mentored by their late father Mr Joe Taylor who helped build Gainesway into such a successful operation over his close to 40 years there. The customer comes first here and that is evident within the Taylor Made mission statement "Where our customers success is our primary focus" but my favourite ideal of theirs is their belief that their client relationships are more important than the transactions, and believe me most of their most important clients are also great friends.

The future: I have met a few of the next generation of Taylors, all around my age(22) and below, and believe me they are every bit as bright, ambitious, and brilliant as their fathers. I just hope we can attract them to invest in our part of the world... and as I always tell them, 'Slade Made' has a nice wee ring to it J.

I will go further into the Taylor Made public sales business for you after the September sales, probably in my last blog that I will complete on my return to NZ. It really is exceptional the amount of research, technology, and personal time this company puts in, in order to sell each individual horse. I will elaborate after the 19 day(from 1st day 'ship-in') marathon sale that is Keeneland September, the one sale where I am really looking forward to seeing the Taylor Made team in full swing selling over 600 yearlings at the sale itself, and then at their very own RNA(reserve not attained) party straight after the completion of the sale.

Saratoga and us Interns
Taylor Made interns - that's me 3rd from left, at back.
Taylor Made interns - that's me 3rd from left, at back.

Taylor Made, along with its successful business operation, offers a great opportunity for ambitious young horsemen and women, to learn from the very best in the heart of the Blue Grass through either a six or eighteen month internship. Currently Taylor Made has ten interns, nine of which call various states of the USA home, and one, Juan Rodriguez Salto, the next big thing in Argentina. The fantastic thing about the internship for me is that I get to work with other motivated, young horsemen and women with whom you can share opinions and experiences, and ultimately learn a hell of a lot in a short space of time. Taylor Made have also kindly let me join in all of the Intern classes which have been truly amazing. Stand-out classes so far include:

· Mark Taylor's conformation class- I thought I knew a thing or three about conformation until Mark Taylor went through three Taylor Made yearlings with us one evening after work. We evaluated a Storm Cat colt(ex Goulash), a Pulpit filly(ex Glenarchy), and an Unbridled's Song filly(ex Silken Cat) and then Mark went through and discussed what he saw, and what features he felt were important, and what was less important. It was so interesting to hear Mark's thoughts, and so much was learnt on my part. Mark introduced me to aspects of the horse I had never looked at before such as how the yearling's cannon ties in at the base of knee and hock for example, with regard to putting extra strain on the tendon, which I found very interesting.

· Neill Clark-Atlas Farm- being a former Intern, Neill, from Ireland, gave us a class on how he got around to starting his own successful thoroughbred farm from exactly the same position that we found ourselves in, being a Taylor made intern. He talked sadly about hard work... ha-ha jokes, perseverance, learning as much as you can about the horse and identifying and taking the opportunities that present themselves. He also made the point that the only way to make money in this game is to be a part of it, to trade the thoroughbred itself. An absolutely wonderful bloke, his success and passion sent us all off excited about what our futures held... hope really is a wonderful thing.

One of the great treats for the Taylor Made interns is the trip to Saratoga Springs for the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale. This two-day boutique sale of just under 200 elite yearlings happens right in the middle of the racing carnival at Saratoga, so every day after the non sales days we could pop-over the road and usually take in the last 2-3 races, usually the best on the card too. I was lucky enough to catch my first U.S. Gr1 there when the good looking brown mare Indian Blessing (Indian Charlie) impressively took out The Test Stakes for fillies and mares. Saratoga's sale, race day, and the night life were built up to incredible heights and the place ended up exceeding all expectations.

The journey to and from Saratoga was of interest and half the fun of the whole experience. If the 17 hour float trip up there with myself and good mate Danny Carrier in a space the size of a king size bed(slightly longer) was a bonding one, then what do you call the trip home in the same space with Juan, Danny, Mario, Felix and myself.. A real laugh, probably the funniest 17 consecutive hours of my life.
Me, Juan and Danny with the AP Indy Platinum Tiara Taylor Made sales topper
Me, Juan and Danny with the AP Indy Platinum Tiara Taylor Made sales topper

The sale itself:
The sale format itself I thought was fantastic. The sale consists of two night sessions, starting both nights at 7pm, with 100 lots sold each night. The horses selected are of fantastic quality in terms of pedigree and conformation, so all the big buyers are there. Over the years the 'boutiqueness' and quality of the thoroughbreds has moved its way on to the audience who turn up decked out in suits and ties, stunning dresses and high heel shoes. The bar is buzzing, as is the sales auditorium which is covered in horse paintings worth close to the value of the yearlings selling before them. It makes for a spectacular night and a real good time is had by all.

In terms of the sale itself, I was lucky enough to be in the quad(area in which a few people are designated to a number of horses who they look after, show, and groom for the duration of the sale) that produced the Taylor Made sales topper, a cracking A.P. Indy colt out of Platinum Tiara(Cozzene) who ran 2nd in the Breeders' Cup juvenile of her year. He was purchased for $700,000 by Darley. The overall sale topper was a gorgeous black colt by Storm Cat out of Get Lucky a full sister to NZ sires Rhythm and Personal Escort(both by Mr Prospector) and from the family of successful sires Woodman(internationally by Mr Prospector)and Not for Love(Maryland, by Mr Prospector. The colt was purchased by Coolmore for $2,000,000.

My Keeneland Crew- take note and keep an ear out

While I have been at Taylor Made, I have been working in the B Barn of yearling complex, which houses horses for sale at Keeneland September, Book's 1 through 6. I have learnt an incredible amount in terms of yearling preparation with regard to their future racing careers, and who better to learn this from than my yearling manager, John Hall, and my division manager, Tom Hamm, both successful trainers in their own right before joining the Taylor Made team. Veterinary and farriery practices here in the USA, and especially here at forward thinking and innovative Taylor Made, are leap years ahead of what I have ever seen before, and many I am sure will be adopted worldwide in the near future for the benefit of horse, breeder, owner and trainer.

For those of you who would like to follow my yearlings (the group that I groom and look after) through the Keeneland September sale, here are their lot numbers, their breeding and a few conformation comments:

Hip #165 CH C Ghostzapper(Awesome Again) x Defer West(Gone West)-

By the 1st crop sire they are all talking about, this colt is out of a stakes winning Gone West mare that has already left two graded stakes winners. Family of U.S. sire Mining. Top quality colt, lovely short cannons and low set hock. Very well balanced, massive quarters, great forearm and gaskin. Correct and walks like a sprinter should.

Hip #226 B C Giant's Causeway(Storm Cat) x Mambo Slew(Kingmambo)

By a sire in great form at the moment over here, and a first foal of a stakes winning Kingmambo mare. Great size for a first foal and will be in huge demand. Smart colt, very athletic, with everything in proportion. Should sell extremely well.

Hip #979 Br C Dixie Union(Dixieland Band) x Silent Stream

A new recruit I have not been able to retrieve his pedigree yet but I do know that he is by a very exciting sire that leaves very precocious and speedy racehorses and this guy fits the bill to a tee. Very mature, powerful quarters, great bone and great strength through the forearm and gaskin. He is ready to rock and will add to his sires tally quickly. Should sell well.

Hip #1277 Gr C Mr Greeley(Gone West) x Marina De Chevon(Exploit)

By an extremely popular sire from a stakes winning grand-daughter of Storm Cat. Winners throughout family have won multiple races in long careers, giving an indication of great soundness throughout the family. This colt is a lovely clean legged, clean boned horse. Armed with fantastic shoulder, he stands over a lot of ground to go with his great length of reign. Light on his feet when he wants to be, and a do anything for you attitude.

Hip #3165 B C Forest Danger (Forestry) x Dyno Dancer (Dynaformer)

By an exciting 1st crop sire that will get 2yo's. Dam is a half sister to gr1 winner Island Sand(Tabasco Cat) so Storm Cat line has been successful with the family already. This colt is improving all the time, he really is going the right way about things. Has a bit of scope, length, and a good outlook.

A Few Hiccups

The only area that has probably let me down here is my poor knowledge of American racing and my mediocre knowledge of American pedigrees. I pride myself in knowing the current crop of quality runners in every country, their sires and their female families, but my knowledge of American racing I found to be diabolical really. Dirt and turf differences messed me around also. I am however rectifying this through watching the majority of stakes races, reading through the 2007 US sires directory kindly provided by ex intern Audra Tackett, and keeping in touch with world news through the fantastic publication that is the TDN(thoroughbred daily news). Learning, I suppose that is what this scholarship is about anyway. A sire I have fallen in love with over here is A.P. Indy(Seattle Slew x Weekend Surprise(Secretariat)).

He leaves my type of horse... well balanced, robust, athletic individuals with that nice bit of quality, they just flow from head to toe, and at the walk. His champion sire tag speaks for itself and in our part of the world I see Bernadini has arrived at Darley, he must be one of the first sons of A.P. to have stood in our part of the world(Postponed is by A.P. Indy's half brother Summer Squall), so it will be interesting to see how he goes.

Conclusion

Taylor Made has been so good so far it is unbelievable. I have fallen in love with the big, proud, positive, "high fiving", friendly nature of all the American people. They all enjoy success, theirs and yours, and they all have hearts as big as the country they inhabit. Mum I might not be home.. J

BUT don't worry, I do return to New Zealand in October and I have been lucky enough to secure a job as a marketing assistant at our very own NZB (New Zealand Bloodstock). I trust I will learn a lot and I hope I can bring a lot to the position also... if anything this trip has opened my eyes to the fantastic quality of the thoroughbred product/racehorse we produce in NZ, so there is a start anyway. I am really looking forward to it.

For the second to last time, keep well everybody, all the best, and see you all very soon.



Bruce Slade

P.S. My last blog will be completed on my return to NZ in October due to the extreme length of the upcoming Keeneland September sale and my visit to see family in California following the completion of the sale.

P.S. 2. So proud to see Black Mamba win her first Gr1 over here... I yelled our Saratoga house down. Congrats NZ, another great example of our thoroughbreds ability to compete anywhere. I think Happyanunoit was the last to achieve a Gr1 victory here?? I will have to find out.