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Robert's Blog – August 2014

Robert's latest blog from Kentucky

Greetings everyone, I'm into the final leg of the Sunline International Management Scholarship currently at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky, USA. I've been here for about 6 weeks so far and have been busy working on the farm preparing yearlings and at working at sales here in Kentucky and 800 miles away in Saratoga, NY.

I arrived in Lexington, KY late on Friday 11th June and the first thing that hit me was the heat. Even though it was nearly midnight it was still near 30 degrees and muggy, a bit different to what I experienced growing up in Southland. I caught a taxi to my apartment 25 minutes away in Nicholasville where I meet my new roommate Sebastian before heading off to bed. I had the next day to catch up on some sleep and settle in.

Sunday was my first day of work and I had arrived in time for the Fasig Tipton July Sale in Lexington. The sale is usually has 2 sections, yearlings and racehorses, but this year Taylor Made were consigning a dispersal of breeding stock and weanlings for a Melnyk Racing. I was tasked with helping with the mares (including one with a foal at foot), showing and grooming as well as normal sales duties. The sale began on Monday morning and went right through into the evening, concluding about 10pm, over 400 lots in one day! The top price of the day was a 2yo Speightstown filly consigned by Taylor Made. She is a full to a G1 winner and had won her only start impressively, catching the eye of Three Chimneys who purchased her for just over $1m US.


Taylor Made Stud offer the complete package, adjustment, foaling, weaning, yearling prep and also stand 7 stallions, the most notable in recent history was Unbridled's Song who unfortunately passed away last year. Owned and operated by the Taylor brothers, sons of Joe Taylor who had a big hand in the growth and success of standard bred stud Gainesway, the farm has developed from humble beginnings. Starting in the 70's as an adjistment farm for broodmares, the reputation for the care of horses grew and 2 years later Taylor Made offered their first yearlings at Keeneland. Their reputation continues to grow now as Taylor Made set new land marks in sales and consignment. Total sales for Taylor Made are well over US$1.5b, not surprising as they have been leading vendors at the Keeneland September sale for over a decade. There is a lot more info on the Taylor Made website, take a look if you're interested

The following day after the July sale was my first at the farm. I have been working at the Yearling Complex barns, home to 26 sales yearlings as well as 13 broodmares, 3 stallions and a handful of non-sales yearlings, quite a mix. I met with the Barn manager, Marshall, one of the next generation of the Taylor Family and my new co-workers whom all hail from Mexico or Guatemala. Spanish is spoken predominantly (I'm the only one who isn't fluent) and I must admit I found it a little overwhelming at first but quickly adapted and everyday am picking up a little more of the lingo. I arrived right in the early days of the yearling prep, with a few of the sales yearling having only just arrived on the farm.

The 26 sales yearlings in the yearling complex consist of 7 fillies and 19 colts. In addition Taylor Made is preparing about 80 or so more yearlings over in the Eagle Creek Barns. The working day starts at 6am everyday (with one day off each week) usually finishing around 4pm with the yearlings being turned out later in the evenings to avoid the sun, between 6.30 and 7pm. Through the course of a normal week they are usually hand walked 2-3 times and put on the walker at least 3 times. They are also given a good wash and given practise standing up and parading.

The exercise takes place in the mornings beginning around 8am, after we have finished mucking out and brought the yearling in from the paddocks. Afternoons are reserved for grooming and odd jobs that need to be completed with other horses or around the barn. I have been given 3 colts to groom with my pick of them being a Congrats colt, who initially looked a bit disproportional but has really grown into himself over the last few weeks and strengthened up noticeably. Vets and farriers are around often as well as clients or potential buyers who come to view not only the yearlings but the mares and the stallions. Last week the Taylor Made management crew, consisting of about 10 people, come by to view each of the yearlings and complete appraisals. This will be repeated once the yearlings arrive at the sales grounds also. There were a lot of different opinions floating around but the contrasting ideas are good as they offer different perspectives on each of the yearlings and who may be interested in purchasing them which hopefully helps set a more accurate estimate on the achievable sales price. This lot of yearlings are all headed to the Keeneland Sale starting in a couple weeks and finishing about the 21st of September.

I have been enjoying my time on the farm, the yearlings are generally quiet and easily managed, but so am I when it's 35 degrees and humid. As always I have been picking up new ideas and methods on the management, education, preparation and handling of horses. It's also been good to experience and learn a little about different cultures from the South Americans at work and my housemate Sebastian, who comes from Uruguay.

I was grateful to be given the opportunity to head to the Saratoga sale in New York (the state, not city) as only a handful of guys from the farm were asked to go and it's the premiere yearling sale on the calendar. Sebastian and I rode up in the back of the horse float with 4 yearlings that were each given a box space and left loose. We left about lunchtime on the 31st July arriving at Saratoga Springs about 6am the following day. Not the most comfortable ride with the noise and temperature dropping through the night but it has to be done!

Parading started the next day (Saturday) with the sale beginning on Monday. Taylor Made had about 20 yearlings under their banner each with their own groom. I was put in charge of Lot 71 (Hip 71 here), a grey Unbridled's Song colt. We were told to look after our horse as though it was our own and each charged with the grooming, showing, feeding and management of our horse. The first couple days were flat out showing with up to 6 parades happening at any one time. Like most sales, clients would generally examine the whole offering before selecting the ones they like and returning for additional looks.

On Saturday we finished a little early (about 4pm) and headed over the road to the Saratoga Racecourse which was in the middle of hosting a 6 week racing carnival. The feature on this particular day was one of the highlights of the whole carnival, The G1 Whitney Stakes, a Handicap over 1m 1f (1800m) on dirt for a stake of $1.5m US, taken out by the 4yo Ghostzapper colt, Moreno. It was a good couple hours out with top racing, a healthy crowd and perfect weather.

The sale began 7pm Monday evening with about 80 lots going through. Unfortunately my colt was passed in at $135,000 after not coping all that well with the sales environment over the previous days. After working the next day I was given the evening off to go and enjoy the sale. Its definitely a bit different to Karaka with the men turned out in suits and ties and woman sporting cocktail dresses, a real chance to dress up and been seen and enjoy the recently refurbished and exquisite sales buildings and grounds. Obviously the full bar and catering facilities attract a good crowd of people too making for an almost party atmosphere, similar to a good twilight race meeting back in NZ. Again the fillies had it over the boys with the top 3 lots selling between $1m and $1.25m all girls, 2 by Tapit and the top lot a War Front who seems to do no wrong at sales time. Taylor Made's top lot was an Unbridled's Song colt selling for $700,000. There was a little Australian interest with Lonhro being represented by 2 colts (his oldest crop here in the USA), one passing in and one purchased for $75,000.

The sale concluded that evening and the following day Sebastian and I were back on the truck heading back to the farm in Kentucky. The sales continued however with the New York bred sale on Saturday and Sunday where Taylor made consigned a small number of horses.

It's hard to believe there's only about 4 weeks until I'm done at Taylor Made and head back to England to start at Highclere Stud. I've been trying to keep busy on days off. One Sunday Sebastian and I joined noted equine photographer Asuncion Pineyrua and visited the stallions at Lanes End before having a tour of Coolmore's Ashford Stud where I got to meet The Diamond One's sire, Tale of the Cat.

Not long now until the 2 week long Keeneland sale and end of my time here. Nice to see the racing at home starting to pick up again as the Hawkes Bay carnival approaches leading into the huge Melbourne Spring with the Kiwi's looking to have a few good chances over there. Don't forget the photo blog either, the link is below. Hope everyone is well, Adios Amigo!!


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