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Matt's Blog - August 2011

Arrival to Taylor Made Farm
16 July 2011 – 28 August 2011

Saturday the 16th of July, my third and final leg of the Sunline Scholarship brought me to the United States of America on the very accommodating flight by US Airways. As I landed in Lexington Kentucky, or otherwise known as the Bluegrass State, I was thinking about all the great things I will be learning in another country and state that thinks so highly of the thoroughbred as we do back home in NZ.

I stepped out of the customs area with a massive grin on my face knowing that soon I will be learning off the best in thoroughbred sales in the country, Taylor Made Sales, who has held the prestigious title of world's number one ranked sales agency nine of the last ten years. As I awaited my baggage to arrive off the carousel, Taylor Made yearling manager, John Hall approached me with a welcoming smile and firm hand shake. Whilst John and I left the cool, air-conditioned airport, talking about what I will be experiencing at Taylor Made, I was hit by heat I have never experienced before, the humidity levels were through the roof. Before John took me to my new home for the next ten weeks, I had a quick tour of the nine separate divisions that make up Taylor Made including, the Stallion Complex, the yearling divisions, Eagle Creek and Yearling Complex, the broodmare divisions, Bona Terra, Springhouse, Ivywood, Whitehouse, Casey and Mackey Pike, which covers roughly around 1200 acres of beautiful, rolling land just outside Lexington.

Shortly after my tour I arrived at my new house for the next ten weeks whilst I am situated at Taylor Made. John introduced me to my new house mate and broodmare manager Levi Dunlap, who welcomed me into his home and one part of the house got my attention instantly, the luxurious air-conditioning unit that runs through every room, I knew this would be a life saver, especially after working in the 40 degree humidity.

Having a great sleep in Sunday and the day off, I was very eager to start working and learning the ways the best consignors prep their yearlings for the sales. Monday morning at 6am I met with one of the yearling division managers of Eagle Creek, Cesar Terrazas who I will be working for during my placement. Later on in the morning I was taken to the main office to meet with Cathy Welch, who took me through my induction which consisted of a lot of paper work and signing and a video of how Taylor Made operates, and finally issued with my uniform before heading back to Eagle Creek to begin the Taylor Made experience.

During my first week I was learning the day to day routine and constantly meeting managers and the owners of Taylor Made, Pat Payne and brother's, Mark Taylor, Ben Taylor, Frank Taylor and Duncan Taylor who was also the co-founder of Taylor Made. John Hall always made sure I met all the bloodstock agents and buyers that come to see the wonderful selection of yearlings that are prepped under the eye of the best in the business.

My day at Taylor Made is a very busy and eventful day this time of the year, where yearling sales are the prime focus including the two most important yearling sales, the Fasig-Tipton sales in Saratoga, New York, and the Keeneland September sales in Kentucky. At 6am I arrive to one of the three barns at Eagle Creek, Barn C, and there I meet with my work colleagues to begin the day. One person from each barn goes and gets the tractor to begin mucking out and bed down with fresh straw each of our designated barns. This time of the day is the perfect time for mucking out as the temperature is around 20-25 degrees Celsius, where by lunch time the temperature is around 40-45 degrees.

With each barn ready for the yearlings with fresh straw, hay, water and the correct feed in the stalls by 7.30am, we are then picked up by Cesar to start bringing all the yearlings in out of the paddocks into the stalls for the rest of the day. Each day the yearlings are exercised, either by hand walking, going on the walker at a trot or for some select yearlings they visit Mill Iron Farm to a privately owned swimming pool. Each and every yearling at Taylor Made is treated as an individual and is fed and exercised as they are needed to be to have them looking the best they can by sale day. Once the yearlings have finished being exercised we wash and groom every yearling so their coats are gleaming ready for shows to possible future owners. Lunch time is from 12-1pm and I usually stay at the barn to have lunch with my work mates, mostly Mexican or Guatemalan they were all helping me learn Spanish whilst I taught them English.

After lunch if we are not busy showing our spectacular line up of yearlings by some of the best sires around the Bluegrass State, we practise showing the yearlings, usually ten minutes per horse to make sure they are standing perfectly and that they walk with determination and stride out. I found that by doing this with each of the yearlings, they learn to respect their leader and never step a hoof out of line. After the practise shows, we then have a tidy up of the barn, make sure all the yearlings have full buckets of water and then the horses favourite time of the day, feed time, once they here the feed barrow exit the tack room all the horses get extremely vocal until their dinner is in the feed pots. When the clock strikes 4pm, it is time to go home for a break until 7pm where all the yearlings are taken out to their designated paddocks to graze the lush pastures of Taylor Made.
The Fasig-Tipton auditorium
The Fasig-Tipton auditorium

The Saratoga, Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearling Sale, owned by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, was my first experience working a sale in America and I couldn't believe that I was working for the best consignor in America, at the number one ranked yearling sale in North America by percentage of Grade one winners, Graded Stakes winners and Stakes winners sold from horses offered. On the 4th of August I met with four work colleagues and the yearling managers to begin loading the 11 yearlings that have been involved in the sales preparation at Taylor Made for the last couple of months. Two massive horse trucks arrived at the stud at 2pm where we begun to load the yearlings into their partisans with a biscuit of hay and bucket of water, followed by myself into my very own section of the trailer for the next 16 hour journey to Saratoga, New York. We pulled into the sales ground at 6am on Friday morning, and after a long and very hot journey I was ecstatic to be out with my feet firmly on the ground ready to start the day.

The first day, ship in day, was very quiet, the main aim is to have all yearlings consigned by Taylor Made were safe in their new stalls with hay and water, correctly fit their new leather sale head collars. We prepped 11 yearlings at Taylor Made and met 7 more classy individuals at Saratoga to be put through the ring by the best of the best. No horses were shown to clients on ship in day, but when the yearlings were settled into their new surroundings they were shown to the Taylor brothers, Pat Payne and the managers present at the complex to discuss as a team what they think each yearling will be worth in the terrible financial way that America is in. Once all the horses were inspected and thorough notes were taken, having 19 staff and 18 yearlings each of us were given our own horse to look after, which includes, making sure the stable is always clean and tidy with hay and water, wash the yearling every morning and show to all the clients.

My yearling to look after throughout the sale process was hip number 87, a dark bay filly by War Front (Danzig). War Front was leading second crop sire and has eight stakes winners, including 3 Graded winners. My filly's dam, Brilliant Thunder (Thunder Gulch) is the dam of seven foals to race, including four winners one of which a Stakes winner. The page on my filly was an attractive one, but when people came to see her they would always be back for a second and third look. I was felt extremely proud of my filly in her appearance and attitude, her and I were showing most of the day and even though she was getting tired in the heat, as soon as I would give her a couple of pats on the neck and give her the "c'mon girl" she would get her second wind and walk out with her fabulous stride and show herself off like a professional. My filly had a phenomenal walk, very good bone and great balance, she stood out from a crowd and looked like a filly that could run.

I was fortunate enough to be showing my filly for some of the best in the industry, including my friends from Coolmore Stud M.V Magnier, Paul Shanahan and Demi O'Byrne, and I spent time with bloodstock agent Tom Goff, who I met in England with Chris Richardson. I also had my first encounter with the owner of Fasig-Tipton and Darley, Sheikh Mohammed and alongside him his right hand man, John Ferguson. All the big names and faces came out to inspect yearling from all different consignors, and as Taylor Made having the great reputation as they do I was able to see and meet them all. Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion

With the economy how it is at the moment I did not know what to expect when it came to sale day. As this sale was only for a select group of yearlings, with the best pedigrees and conformation there were only 160 yearlings catalogued for the two nights and 132 were to enter the sales ring. The first night of the Fasig-Tipton select yearling sales commenced at 7pm on the 8th of August and the second yearling to be sold set the standard for the sale with a purchase by John Ferguson, by Darley's resident sire, Bernardini (A.P. Indy) for $625,000. We were all feeling very confident about the money flying around auditorium, and with Taylor Made having seven yearlings going through on the first night we were very excited. Hip number 56 came around courtesy of Taylor Made Sales, a bay colt by Darley sire Medaglia d'Oro, sire of Grade one winning filly and horse of the year, Rachel Alexandra. The young colt is a half brother to Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver and has a page that is full of impressive black type. When he entered the sale ring everyone went quite while the auctioneer started hyping the colt up, the bidding started at half a million dollars and rapidly rose to one million. We were all standing in front of our television set at our barn waiting for the hammer to finalise the sale when suddenly John Ferguson raised the colt to 1.2 million dollars. The hammer came crashing down with an exceptional sale to top the first night. All of us back at the barn burst into a cheering state, we were so loud I am sure the farm back in Lexington could have heard us, it was exhilarating to be a part of it all.
Matt's filly
Matt's filly

The final day and night of the sales saw the Taylor Made team with smiles all around at such a great sale on the first night. This time it was my filly's night to shine, a reasonably quite day ensured my filly to have plenty of rest for her and my big night. Whilst my filly was getting prepared for the sales ring, I was freshening up with a tall glass of water, a fresh light blue shirt and my Taylor Made Sales tie, I must say my filly and I were looking very smart and ready to show off to the potential buyers. My hip number was called over the loud speaker to invite me to the sale ring, and off we went. We walked into the undercover show ring surrounded by people gazing their eyes upon the three yearlings in the show ring, one of which being mine. In the centre of the show ring was a special place sectioned off by solid, polished post and rail timber with some very familiar faces, faces of the top trainers and agents getting the best view of each horse parading. The next step was to be let into the holding area, an area three meters squared where we awaited the call to venture down the lane to where my filly had her last touch up, making sure she looked immaculate before stepping into the sale pavilion to be sold. The hammer went down on hip 86 and it was time for my filly to be sold. The giant solid timber door was pulled open and revealed the magnificent sales pavilion, there was no seat spare and the walls covered in magnificent paintings and photographs, it looked amazing. I passed my filly over to the show man dressed in a suit and tie who takes each and every yearling through to be sold. I was able to follow my filly into the sales ring and watch the sale process unfold. The bid spotters were scanning the crowd for an opening bid and suddenly $50,000 was called, it went up and up, next was $100,000 then $150,000 and finally $175,000 and the hammer was dropped, she was sold. I was happy with the money she made, as were the Taylors, my War Front filly did extremely well and I was glad to put her in her stable with fresh hay and water for the night. Over all Taylor Made had another exciting and successful sale, doing what they do best with a great team and I was very pleased to be a part of it. For the final night we all went out for a victory cigar and drinks, a great way to end a great sale.

After a massive night out to celebrate the successful end to the Fasig-Tipton yearling sales in Saratoga with a great rise from last year's total average of $275,551 to this year's $319,340 total average. I was very surprised to see that the sale went so well and so was Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning describing it as "a damn good horse sale". It was time to journey back down to Lexington to prepare ourselves for the marathon of sales, the Keeneland September Yearling sale, where Taylor Made is one of the biggest consignors, selling around 400 yearlings.

The Fasig-Tipton sales ground in Saratoga has 11 different barns, and each barn has a section of showing area with both grass and fine stone to parade the horse on. The only fault is that three of the 11 barns need to cross a busy road to get to the sales ring. The indoor parade ring has non slip rubber floor surrounded by solid timber and granite leaners and each corner of the parade ring has a television informing everyone on the updates of the horses going through the ring. The sales ring has two auctioneers on the podium at once above the horse being sold and each isle in between the seats has a bid spotter and one extra bid spotter outside the holding area in front of a television on a radio through to the auctioneer in the main pavilion. The sales ground has ample food and drink stands and the corner of every barn there are coolers with complimentary bottles of water for everyone, which was great on the scorching days. Over all I thought for the room Fasig-Tipton has to work with it has a great set up and proves to work very well.

Being very busy for the last half of my stay at Taylor Made, I will be able to send only one more blog. My final blog I will be sending when I am back in New Zealand at the end of September. I will be writing all about Taylor Made, the Keeneland sale, my various stud visits around Kentucky and summing up the time I spent at three of the best and well recognised studs throughout Europe and America.

I imagine there are many top quality foals around New Zealand that have graced the lush pastures with many more to come, I am looking forward to seeing the offspring of last year's first season sires when I arrive home. I would like to wish all the Stud owners and managers good luck for the start of the 2011 breeding season.

Once again, keep well NZ and I wish the All Blacks the best of luck for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, I will be seeing you all soon.

Matt