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Benji’s Blog – October 2015

Benji's Final Blog

Saratoga Yearling Sales

My much anticipated day had finally arrived - Saratoga Sales, here we come…. We came in and mucked out as a normal day, then brought all the horses in from their paddocks as usual. We were then sent home to get ready for an 18 hour, 1178 mile road trip to Saratoga, New York State in the back of a truck! I went straight to Walmart to buy a deck chair and was given a sleeping bag, and fueled my back pack with snacks!

We came back at lunch time to load all the gear in to the horse truck. The trucks are completely different to any truck I have ever seen, the horses have their own individual little box in the truck with straw as bedding, hay and water. You individually walk the horses up a ramp in to the truck, then through to the individual area. The horses are left loose with the walls built around them. The horses travel very settled and relaxed.

We started loading the horses around midday, loading both semi trucks, we had six fillies in the one truck then six colts in the other. Everything was loaded up, including extra snacks for the horses. We stopped after five hours to get some food for us and give all the horses water. I then experienced my first real American 'truckers' pit stop' for a huge mega sized beef burger, something perhaps not that keen to revisit! We set off again with another stop in 4-5 hours before the long haul to Saratoga throughout the night.
Truck ready to rock ‘n roll
Truck ready to rock ‘n roll

I managed to get quite a lot of sleep since I was wrapped up in my sleeping bag and before I knew it, we were an hour from the Saratoga sales complex. When we got there, there were grooms all ready to help unload the horses, we unloaded the horses and put them in to their stalls. We let the horses settle for an hour before taking their temperatures. All the horses travelled very well considering they had just had an 18 hour truck ride.

We didn't parade the horses until the following day since it wouldn't have been fair on them after such a long trip.

The sales were fairly similar on the whole to the NZB Karaka yearling sales, or any other sales participation that I have ever been involved with; However the biggest difference with regards to being part of the Taylor Made sale crew was that we had a groom per horse! This is amazing, with one person just assigned to a horse, it is your responsibility to look after that one horse, and prepare it up for the parades that day. It makes it very easy for 'The front of house' guys who are directing the parades because you don't need to rush off and go to another horses to parade out. You are available with your horse at all times, after you finish one parade, you get directed to go to another potential buyer for their parade.
Taylor Made Sales Staff
Taylor Made Sales Staff

Not all the horses that were under the consigner Taylor Made were prepared on the farm. Out of 30 horses only 9 were prepared on the farm. It is amazing management from Taylor Made's head staff to have those outside horses to be in the same top condition as the horses that are prepared on the farm. There is a huge amount of research behind the scenes that goes in to each horse to make sure that all the selling points are given out by the 'front of house' to the potential buyers, since a lot of buyers are looking to sell on the horse in the future.
Around the complex
Around the complex

The Saratoga sales are conducted in the middle of the annual Saratoga Springs Carnival, Six weeks of racing, six days a week! Primarily, the races are run on dirt, but there is also grass racing turf and several steeple chase races are run as well. It is a truly amazing place and even with a $10.00 entry the place was fit to burst with spectators.

The sales complex is just three blocks down from the race course so with the races daily you get a lot of people in to look at horses following a day's racing.

The actual selling starts in the early evening going through the night, the atmosphere around the sales is fantastic and there is a good buzz, the bar is full, and the sales ring is packed with everybody having a great time and showing plenty of interest and passion in the horses.

We had a great sale with some very nice horses, it was good to see the sire The Factor, having a good sale with some very nice stock. Newgate Farm, Australia have his first crop of foals.

It was then time to head back to the farm after two weeks in Saratoga. I was lucky enough to have gone to Niagara Falls on the way home. It was unbelievable and amazing to see the huge amounts of water flowing over the Falls. Niagara Falls is where the land borders between USA and Canada. It was a long trip back by road to Kentucky. On our arrival back to Taylor Made Farm, we were then straight back in the September and October yearling sales preparation.
The auction ring
The auction ring

Keeneland Yearling Sales

It wasn't long until we were heading to the local Keeneland sales grounds for the next consignment of sales. Keeneland is also a unique sales ground, since it is both a sales complex and race course. It is a special year for the Keeneland track since it is the first time the Breeders' Cup race meeting will be held there in October. It is a stunningly beautiful track with a one mile dirt track around the outside, with the grass (turf) track on the inside of the race track.

The track's surface was originally a poly track, as soon as they got the go ahead to hold the Breeders' Cup they dug the poly track up and now have dirt down. For the dirt tracks you need a different type of race horse since it is a lot harder to run on than grass. The horses that seem to run well on this service surface are naturally very tough, with a huge amount of strength through their shoulders, even their feet are different. The farrier leaves a lot of toe almost like a scope, also their action seems quite different - more like a choppy action. Therefore it takes a very special type of horse to run successfully on dirt.

There is also some very good grass (turf) races held in America including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile run on the grass which has seen some very good horses, (colts and fillies) win this race.

The September Keeneland yearling sale is divided in to six books. Book One is seen as the better bred horses to book Six, seen as the lesser bred horses. As with all horse sales the more money you spend doesn't always determine the horse's race results. Every sales ground has its stories about horses falling through the gaps and then becoming top quality race horses!
Taylor Made Sales Team Photo
Taylor Made Sales Team Photo

Taylor Made is the biggest sales company in the world selling around 400 horses. It was great to to be part of the very big team and witness how it is possible to sell that many horses in 12 days. The sales management was amazing, we were set up in two teams and all the horses were stabled in to a barn in sale order. One area will house the horses that are all selling on the same day ie. Day One, and the following day's horses will be housed in a different area.

A day started out at 5 am, we came in and washed the horses, as the horses were getting washed a team would muck out the stalls. We usually had two barns, each barn was set up in to two quads, with a quad leader and 4-5 grooms to each quad with a row of 8 – 9 horses. That row was the only horses we had to worry about and make sure they were presented to a high standard. At around 7 am, we would get changed in to our uniform and ready for the parades. It was a very busy sale.

Once the parades were in action, the individual horses were then taken out to the paradingarea by ourselves, where they would be pass toa show person. They would then paradethe horse, and after the parade they would hand the horse back to the groom.

We had many quality horses, and there was one horse in particular that I thought was one of the classiest horses prepped up on the farm – Lot 225, Giant's Causeway colt from Distorted Passion. He was a cracker, big strong colt, but still very athletic, he sold for US$600,000 to Woodford Racing.
Lot 101 sold for $750,000
Lot 101 sold for $750,000

We also sold a stunning More Than Ready colt from Baffled, Lot 101 to John Ferguson for US$750,000.

WinStar Farm

After the sales I had some spare time, so I made the most of being in Kentucky and went for a tour around one of North America's leading thoroughbred racing, stallion and breeding operations, WinStar Farm. They currently stand 26 beautifully bred stallions and have a 'state of the art' stallion complex which can house up to 30 stallions. No expense has been spared, the stallion parade has stage lighting and the large modern client reception area has massive high tech, media power-point touch screen TVs available on the walls, to promote each individual stallion's credentials.
Winstar Farm
Winstar Farm

The property is stunning, and they have two covering areas and lots of dark stained post and rail fencing which is well known to the Kentucky area. The farm is designed to make the day to day running of the operation straightforward, with a huge amount of effort spent on attention to detail
The Winstar stallion barn
The Winstar stallion barn

I got to see the 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharaoh's sire Pioneerof the Nile, he was looking a treat and a very imposing individual. I also got to see Distorted Humor, and my old buddy Congrats who has shuttled to Vinery Australia, this season he had a year off from shuttling. WinStar is also home to my other buddy Champion Sire, More Than Ready who shuttles to Vinery Stud, unfortunately I didn't catch up with him since he had already departed for Australia. Distorted Humor was on the farm when WinStar originally purchased the property, he started out at a stud fee of US$2,500 and now his fee is US$100,000 – limited book!!

Wow, What a Trip of a Life Time!

It was a really fantastic experience to have spent time in America and the Taylor Made team really looked after me. My time on the scholarship was amazing and I had an experience of a life time and would like to thank everybody involved in the Sunline Trust Scholarship and especially many thanks and appreciation to Michael Martin, together with his selection panel, who selected me to go on this journey to England, Ireland and America, it truly was a life changing opportunity. I hope that I may put all my new found knowledge to good use in the future of New Zealand thoroughbred breeding and racing.

I am now working the season on our family's stud Brighthill Farm, where the days are filled with breeding mares and foaling. Soon the yearlings will be coming in for their yearling preparation. I know it's not quite like the glamour of America, but it's good to see the lush pastures of the Waikato again!