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A Rebuttal

By Dave Astar
Astar Thoroughbreds

An article by Sheila Williams (Hay, Oats and Water: Yearling Sales) really caught me and several other Minnesota horse men and women off guard. Ms. Williams comments regarding the MTA yearling sale conditions may have been well intended however, it seemed Ms. Williams was questioning the integrity of Minnesota yearling sale consigners. This is unfortunate and inappropriate. I know many of the fine consigners at the auctions, who frankly have done more to support the Minnesota thoroughbred industry than just about any other group. They should be applauded for their efforts, and not have their integrity publicly questioned two weeks before their annual yearling sale.

As you may or may not know, I have purchased more horses from the publicly held Minnesota Thoroughbred sales than anyone over the last six years. As a result, I assume you would consider me credible and I hope you would find my experiences bidding and purchasing in Minnesota to be somewhat more contemporary than the solitary 1989 Kentucky experience Ms. Williams related to in her blog commentary.

First and foremost, many of the Minnesota consigners are the finest people I have had the pleasure to meet in my life. My business has taken me all over this country and I have lived in some 15 locales. Simply, the honesty and integrity of Minnesota horsemen and women is exceptional. Their work ethic is admirable and they do an excellent job preparing their horses for the rigors of a public sale. I have never found them to not answer any question that I have asked at a sale. Those buyers who know how to ask the right questions, and properly evaluate yearling potential, have been well rewarded in Minnesota as evidenced by the continuing list of successful Minnesota Thoroughbred Association sale graduates.

Personally, I have had some public auction success which I believe is a direct result of the hard work consigners put in to caring for yearlings I have been fortunate enough to purchase. From our first stakes winner (The KB Kid), to our 2-year-old winners this year (Supreme Warrior, Ice Rocket and Silver Senorita), we feel fortunate to have first discovered these fine individuals presented at MTA auctions. I am not alone and as you know both 2007 2-year-old champions (A.J.Bakes and Wild Shifter), were presented at the prior MTA yearling sale.

I do agree with Ms. Williams that ongoing improvement in sale transparency and adoption of repository based health information would help buyers. Nevertheless, buyers who simply look at a yearling’s physical conformation to make a purchase, without evaluating such mundane items as nicking, birth order, in depth pedigree analysis, past comparative foal success, physical growth potential, and real racing (not show) conformation, will be less successful than others. Good buyers also often pay for veterinary analysis including scoping, x-rays and tests.

In closing, good horse people know full well that it takes one good horse in the barn to support another six or so. That is the kind of performance variation that exists, and has existed for years, in the thoroughbred business. Consequently, an individual data point or an occasional experience means little. Buyers need to understand the extreme variation that exists in horse ownership and if they do, there is possibly no better place in the country to make an honest fair priced purchase of a thoroughbred than at the MTA public auctions.