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Matt's Blog - October 2011

Matt and A.P. Indy
Matt and A.P. Indy

Final Blog
29 August 2011 – 25 September 2011

I simply cannot believe how fast the past 30 weeks have gone by whilst being on the Sunline Scholarship. The friends, knowledge and experience I have gained in all three country's is something I will never forget and am excited to bring what I have learnt into play in New Zealand.

On my days off I decided to visit some of the impressive stud farms around Kentucky, including Three Chimneys, Darley, Ashford Stud, Win Star and Lanes End. Each stud farm had a fantastic line up of sires that are known all around the world for their accomplishments with their exceptional progeny and race records.

I felt very privileged to see such stallions as leading sire of 2011 and resident at the American division of Coolmore Stud known as Ashford Stud, Giant's Causeway (Storm Cat) who stands for a fee of $85,000. I noticed that all of Mr John Magnier's Coolmore operations are very picturesque and operate in an absolute professional manor and a mistake free environment.

My favourite Stud I had the opportunity to visit was Lanes End, owned by Mr and Mrs William S. Farish, Lanes End is located just outside of Lexington in the country side of Versailles. Knowing little about Lanes End I drove through the automatic gates toward the stallion complex to be greeted by smiles from the stallion boys welcoming me into the foyer, where I was handed all my Lanes End reading material on all the stallions and history of the magnificent breeding operation.

As I walked out of the foyer I was greeted by champion sire that has finished his last year of breeding, A.P. Indy (Seattle Slew) who stood his last season at a fee of $150,000. A.P. Indy is a very strong balanced horse with fantastic scope and has power written all over him, he has a great attitude, a big heart to go with it and had a commanding presence in which I fell in love with.

I was very spoilt to be shown around some of the best farms in Kentucky by really nice people, such as Andy Williams, New Zealand graduate from the Darley flying start course and sells nominations for Darley. Each and every stud farm in Kentucky that I visited had their own claim to fame in the thoroughbred industry either the successful race horses that now have become successful sires, or their fantastic brood mares. In Taylor Made's case they developed a reputation for selling quality thoroughbreds.
the entrance towards the stables at Taylor Made Farm
the entrance towards the stables at Taylor Made Farm

Each farm that I have been at during the 30 weeks away from New Zealand on the Sunline Scholarship, I have been very interested to learn about their history. Duncan, Mark and Frank Taylor have always been willing to answer my questions to learn about how Taylor Made started and how they have been so successful since the beginning. The Taylor brothers were raised on Gainesway Farm by their father Joe Taylor who lived and breathed thoroughbreds. Joe Taylor was not just a father to the Taylor brothers, but a mentor and taught them not just to get a job done but do the job to the best of their ability no matter what and have pride in what they do. With all Duncan was taught from his father, he and Mike Shannon started Taylor Made in 1976 for the purpose of boarding mares to send to stallions around Kentucky.

By 1978 Taylor Made had developed a reputation for quality care of each individual horse and client, with such a great reputation they gained a lot of clients and had to expand the 120 acres to over 1,500 acres to this day. Mike Shannon was bought out by Duncan and that was when Ben, Frank and Mark joined their brother Duncan to add to the success that Taylor Made had. After being a long-life friend of the Taylors, Pat Payne joined Taylor Made in 1994 and in 2008 became a partner to the four brothers. Despite the thoroughbred market being so tough in 2008 Taylor Made was selling their quality horses for the right price and still living up to their great name. Taylor Made has sold over $1,600,000,000 in horses since the beginning, over 30 years ago.

Being a part of Taylor Made I very quickly understood why they have so much success with selling their superior thoroughbreds, with 77 Taylor Made graduates wining various Group 1 races, 12 of which Breeders Cup Champions, 86 Group 2 and 107 Group 3, gives buyers that extra bit of confidence from buying Taylor Made stock. Not only such great consignors and boarders, Taylor Made have a good selection of Stallions in their very impressive stallion division, leading their stallion line up is the mighty 17 hand high grey, Unbridled's Song (Unbridled). For a service fee of $100,000 you will be getting a very classy individual with great bone and good size, he puts good size to the smaller mares and his progeny are real stand outs. His stable mates include Old Fashioned (Unbridled's Song) at a fee of $12,500, Northern Afleet ( Afleet) at $12,500, Forestry (Storm Cat) $12,500 and last but not least the new boy Eskendereya (Giant's Causeway) who stands at $30,000.

My final two and a half weeks at Taylor Made was exhausting, the Keeneland September Yearling Sales of 2011. Working the September sales was fantastic, the sale that everyone in the thoroughbred industry comes to from the top agents and trainers to the cowboys looking for a cheap horse to take home, and working for Taylor Made I met them all. The September yearling sales is made up of six books of thoroughbreds the horses are ranked from the best pedigrees and types in Book 1 and slowly works down the line to Book 6. With 4319 yearlings catalogued for the September sales it was very interesting to see the organisation that went into the sales to make sure it ran without any problems. Keeneland is enormous holding 49 barns with 32 stables in each barn, there were masses of room for each consignor to comfortably house their yearlings. Obviously there were not enough stalls to have every horse in at the same time, so consignors had their specific dates in which their yearlings were to arrive onto the Keeneland grounds to ensure the barns they went into were free of the previous yearlings and the Keeneland crew had come in and cleaned out all the stables and were ready for fresh straw to be laid. Keeneland sales ground is also on the same grounds as Keeneland race course and training track, the whole establishment is always kept spotless with the year round staff and security.

The days went buy very fast whilst working at Keeneland, as Taylor Made were one of the busiest consignors. With Taylor Made's superior organisation skills we managed to cut the six book sale down the middle with two different Taylor Made teams. The first Taylor Team was run by Frank Taylor and Tom Ham with a staff count of around 60. The second team which I was a part of was Mark Taylor and John Hall's team and we also had a similar number of staff. In each team there were four different jobs that we were assigned to do for the duration of the sales.

Sales Person, their job was more difficult then it looked, they were given a card of all the yearlings that the client would like to inspect and make sure that each yearling was bought out to the particular show ring looking immaculate and to ensure that the client is informed of each up date to the yearlings family as well as vet reports and any other questions the client has.
The barns at Keeneland
The barns at Keeneland

Quad Leader, each quad houses eight yearlings and the job of the quad leader is to make sure that each yearling that leaves their quad to be shown is looking immaculate and ready to sell. They also have ensure their quad is kept tidy and any yearling that requires attention is to be attended to without delay, the staff that work under them also reflect on the leaders, so being tidy with our shirts tucked in and looking smart is a must.

Groom, there are five or six grooms per quad, and the grooms job is to get the particular horses for shows ready as the quad leader tells them and to keep the general area tidy. Once the yearling is ready to be shown the groom takes them out and passes off to the show person to be shown.

Show Person, my assigned job was a show person, I was assigned a show ring and my job entailed me to receive each horse from the grooms and show to the clients, by the end of the sale I would have clocked up a lot of km's walking. I loved my job because every client that I had shown for I was able to speak to and see where they thought the industry was going in the near future. I am pleased to say that their responses were all positive.

Along with the different jobs assigned to each person there were also three different types of days that we had, Ship-in days, showing days and selling days.

Ship-in day was the easiest and relaxed day if there was one. The main aim to this day was to retrieve all our yearlings off the horse trucks and wash each and every one of them. Only half of the yearlings come from Taylor Made and the rest private establishments, so they arrive at all different times of the day. When we are waiting on the yearlings to fill our quads we all have a big tidy up of our areas and make sure that all the yearlings that have arrived have their ears and bridle paths clipped and manes pulled. When all the yearlings have arrived and settled into their new environment, Taylor Made's farriers's come in and inspects every yearling walking for shoe fitting or refits. Our final task of the day is to show each and every yearling to Mark, John and all the sales people to discuss reserve prices. At 5pm all yearlings are fed and stables prepared with plenty of hay and water ready for the night watch man to take over until the morning.

Show days were always my favourite but also very tiring. We get in bright and early in the morning at 5.15am and all the yearlings are hand walked and washed with shampoo, whilst the straw stables are being mucked out and freshened up with hay and water. Once all yearlings have been washed and hand walked in our designated quads the grooming begins. By the time 7.30am comes around and the sun slowly comes out the Taylor Made area is ready for action, all the horses looking stunning, all the staff in uniforms with full stomachs from our lovely cook Maudy who makes sure we have plenty of food and energy for the day. The clients come in by the truck load and soon enough it is all go, we have every show ring in full swing and I am walking back and forth showing yearlings for the potential buyers, whilst of course having a talk to them as I go. Being a show person was great, I was able to meet some of the biggest and best in the industry and show some very fine individuals by various sires around America. When the day nears the end and the clients have gone home or to the bar, we then feed all the yearlings and rest our legs ready for the next day, our three days of showing John and Mark tallied up the amount of walking we had done, the final number was over 3,500 shows.

Sale days are very busy, the normal start to the morning but as the sale starts at 10am there are two grooms preparing the yearlings that are due to go to the sale ring, with one show person leading the yearling whilst one groom follows with a spare shank and a towel. There is also one groom at the indoor show ring doing the final touch ups on the yearlings before they sell and three sales people are at the indoor show ring with vet reports and information about the yearling for the last minute inspections. Mean while back at the Taylor Made barns there are still clients coming to have their final looks at their potential purchase, if I wasn't leading a yearling to the ring to be sold I would be back at the barn showing yearlings for clients. But yet again the perfect organisation on Mark and John's behalf allows no problems and a stress free environment.
The Keeneland sale ring
The Keeneland sale ring

I thought that for Keeneland sales establishment's sheer size it ran exceptionally well, the grounds were always immaculate, the staff members were very professional and there was always transportation for buyers via shuttle bus or golf carts to get from barn to barn as from barn 1 to barn 49 is a 30 minute walk . With so many passing through the sales ring in the small time frame they had, the buyers knew there was no time for second guessing, before you know it the yearling would be sold. Like Saratoga as I walked the yearling into the sales ring I passed the yearling off to the Keeneland employee dressed in a suit for the bids to start rolling in.

Overall the Keeneland September Yearling Sale defied everyone's expectations. Book 1 proved that with the sale topper reaching $1.4 million on the first night of sales. A stunning bay colt by A.P. Indy saw consignors, Hill 'n' Dale sales agency a fantastic start to the sale. Along with a strong physical appearance that had him stand out from the crowd, his catalogue page only got as far as the second dam. Book 1 offered 191 quality yearlings to go through the sales ring this year, 129 sold for an average price of $353,488 and 27 that sold went for $500,000 or more. Where in 2010 there were 185 Book 1 yearlings catalogued and 127 sold for an average of $348,858 and only 18 made $500,000 or more.

After Book 1 there were smiles all around with a great rise on sales from last year. Saturday 24th September 2011 saw the end of the 13 day "Marathon Sale" with a spectacular rise on sales from last year. 2921 yearlings were sold for $223,487,800 which made this year's sale have a 12.7 % rise from last year. This year's leading consignor was unfortunately not Taylor Made, but Lanes End Farm selling 335 yearlings for $27,437 million, congratulations to Mr Bill Farish and all Lanes End staff for their outstanding result. Of course Taylor Made still impressed with second on the consignors table. It was great to see such good results especially with America's economic climate being in such a bad way at the moment.

Finally I would like to thank everyone at Cheveley Park Stud, Coolmore Stud and Taylor Made Farm for welcoming me onto their amazing stud farms it has been an experience I will never forget. Each stud farm allowed me to learn in all different areas of the thoroughbred industry that I wanted to excel in, Cheveley Park where I foaled down some of the most amazing mares I have worked with, Coolmore Stud where I was working with their magnificent line up of stallions and advertisement section in the offices, and finally my last stop at Taylor Made where I was able to focus all my attention in learning off the best consignors in America and working with their outstanding yearlings.

I do not have words to describe what it has meant to be the 2011 Sunline Trust International Management Scholar. Special thanks to Michael Martin, Sally Cassels-Brown, Shannon Taylor, John Clydesdale and all involved with the NZTBA, particularly Rick Williams, General Manager of The Oaks Stud in Cambridge for making this possible for me.

Keep well New Zealand and go the All Blacks.

Matt Scown