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Bevan Smith's latest blog from the USA - Aug '16

Bevan with American Pharoah

Bevan with American Pharoah
Despite one cancelled flight, one unplanned night in Downtown Chicago and switching planes three times until boarding one that was safe, I finally landed in Lexington, KY – 24 hours later than scheduled, but excited for the last leg of my Sunline Scholarship adventure.

I was welcomed by temperatures consistently in the mid-30s with high humidity. It was a big shock to the body coming from an 'Irish summer. I am single-handedly keeping Powerade in business.

After a quick farm tour of Taylor Made on my first day, it was apparent that this was another massive operation. With over 1,600 acres, the Taylor family's farm boards broodmares, stands stallions, preps yearlings, and delivers foals into the hundreds every year. Then, I was told how many horses we would be selling at Keeneland in September – up to 500! There isn't a consignor in the world that sells this many horses at a single auction.

It was straight to work for me at Yearling Complex C – once the home of Triple Crown hero American Pharoah. Taylor Made was chosen to prep the champ and consign him in the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Select Yearling Sale where he was bought back by his owners for $300,000 - I bet that is one horse the owners are glad they retained!

It is a bit surreal working in the same barn that a Grand Slam* winner was raised in. The people that I work with tell me stories of him as a yearling, making me feel closer to a legend of the track.

A majority of the farm staff are Hispanic, creating a language barrier. I have some trouble understanding what they are saying and they have a few troubles as well, mostly with pronouncing my name. For the first few weeks, I was just known as 'bro', a word I think my predecessor Benji King used a lot.

In the morning, we muck out first thing, a great workout to start the day. The day to day work involves putting every horse on the walker, washing them daily, grooming and treatments. All yearlings are turned out at night, usually at 7:00 pm.

The yearlings we prepare are offered at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale and Keeneland's September Sale. I was lucky enough to get the call to go to Saratoga, which led to a cool 16-hour trip in a horse float (or horse van as they call them over here), travelling in the back with the horses. I was literally travelling cattle class, but I wasn't complaining. I was going to the famous Saratoga that I had heard so much about.

Saratoga is considered a boutique sale and attracts yearlings with early birth dates, but also a standard of quality. One horse at the Sale broke seven figures and the average price for the Sale was $292,115.

Taylor Made had 24 horses at the Select Sale in Saratoga. I was a bit shocked when I was told I had one horse to look after. I did everything with this one horse; from showing it, feeding and mucking its stall out. It was a big change from back home where I am used to running around like a headless chook, going from one horse to another, trying to keep up.

I was thoroughly impressed by Taylor Made in the way they look after their clients. They offer so much information and make a point to be on hand to everyone that comes to look at the horses. They are great sales people and it became quickly evident why they have become the largest sellers in the world.

From all accounts, we had a very good sale – the bosses seemed very happy. There were no star seven-figure horses from our draft, but an even bunch of horses that took a lot people's eye and attracted good competition.

Besides the high caliber horse flesh, Saratoga is also famous for its social scene. Located in upstate New York, Saratoga attracts a large population for the summer and big crowds attend the race meetings. With a convergence of horse-loving people, there is always someone to have a drink with.

After 10 days in Saratoga, I am back in Kentucky now, gearing up for the big one – three weeks of selling at Keeneland. On each horse's box (or stall as they call it over here) is their Hip Number (Lot number). To give some perspective, the highest Hip Number in my barn is in the mid-4000s.

Driving around the outskirts of Lexington, it is amazing to see all of the picturesque and famous farms around the area - farms steeped in history such as Claiborne Farm, Lane's End, Gainsway, Three Chimneys, along with farms that are making a presence in the Southern Hemisphere such as WinStar, Spendthrift and Stonestreet.

On my first spare day, I headed out to Coolmore's Ashford Stud for a farm tour and to meet the stallions. The big attraction was American Pharoah, and what a star he is. He has the most extraordinary demeanor and handles his many visitors like a true professional.

I also saw the champion sire Giant's Causeway, former shuttler Declaration of War, young sire Shanghai Bobby and my favourite, Uncle Mo – an imposing individual who has made an incredible start to his stallion career, siring this year's Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist.

A future Taylor Made stallion and active racehorse that everyone knows is California Chrome, who is part-owned by Taylor Made. He not only won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness as a three-year-old, this amazing racehorse has trained on to be fantastic at four, and now, five years old winning major races like the Dubai World Cup which secured his spot as North America's number one horse in earnings with over $13.2 million. It is great to see a champion entire train on and race as an older horse. I am sure that Taylor Made will reap the rewards when he finally retires to stud as he has gained a cult following by people proudly known as 'Chromies'.

As with the UK and Ireland, I have met incredible people and made great contacts. The thoroughbred industry truly is global. It has been great to see old friends and make new ones.

I prepare myself for the next month and I am excited at the challenge and all the fun that Keeneland will bring.

*The Grand Slam of American horse racing consists of four races; the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, and the Breeders' Cup Classic. American Pharoah is the first horse in history to win these four races.


Taylor Made yearlings at Saratoga

Taylor Made yearlings at Saratoga


 

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