Canterbury Park, Shakopee, Minn logo

Hay, Oats and Water : Yearling Sales

By Sheila Williams

I took a look at the Conditions of Sale for the upcoming MTA yearling sale today. I have never purchased a horse at auction. I have always privately purchased lightly raced fillies, with the exception of two claiming disasters on geldings.

I don’t like the thought of bidding on an animal that a man has judged by walking around the yearling once or twice.

I can read pedigrees. I can do the research on pedigrees. I can get advice about the baby’s conformation from agents or a good trainer that I trust and respect, but nevertheless, I think I am relying solely on the consignor’s reputation.

The Minnesota Thoroughbred Association’s Conditions of Sale are patterned on Keeneland’s Conditions of Sale, said Kay King, of the MTA. But like the 38 different sets of rules of racing in 38 racing jurisdictions, there are a lot of differences.

The way I see it, in Minnesota, I will know whether the yearling is male or female, whether he is a ridgling. I will see his coggins certificate, verify he is not a wobbler, and whether his vision is poor, or he is a cribber.

There is no repository at this sale. So there is no place to learn whether the baby has had joint surgery, been blistered, had abdominal surgery or upper respiratory work. Ms. King said no one ever asks for a blood test.

I guess if I see a big, muscular yearling with a deep voice, I would suspect he has been given anabolic steroids to increase his appetite and muscle mass.

Barretts Equine Ltd. has made a good move by prohibiting the sale of weanlings and yearlings treated with exogenous steroids this year–but only for 45 days preceding the sale. Do the yearlings shrink within that 45-day window? What are the long-term effects of such a practice–particularly for breeding prospects.

Industry leaders like the Kentucky-based Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and the California Horse Racing Board are moving toward more “transparency” in selling horses. I like that buzz word. But to date, “transparency” is only a buzz word.

Maybe even more important is asking the MTA to adopt TOBA’s recommendations of TOBA’s “Sales Integrity Task Force.” These recommendations made by many of the game’s heavy weights were created to address the concerns of Kentucky House Bill 388.

My only experience with a yearling came the spring following the 1989 Breeders’ Cup. This was the greatest day of racing I have ever attended. Not only did Sunday Silence defeat Easy Goer in the Classic, but Prized winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf made me a life-long believer in Neil Drysdale’s unbelievable horsemanship.

With Eddie Delahoussaye wearing the green shamrocked silks of Clover Stables (now Team Valor), Prized nosed out Sierra Roberta in a magnificent effort.

By Kris S., out of My Turbulent Miss, I too, wanted a Prized.

A phone call from my trainer brought me out to meet my potential Prized. Unnamed–by Kris S. he was a dark bay, ebony really, this yearling was well-muscled, good bone, a beautiful length of neck with excellent shoulder angulation. He was trotted back and forth for me several times.
His price was $25,000, and I set out to find some partners and my vet. We passed on this handsome boy for one reason. The vet found he was full of phenylbutazone.

Another Minnesota horse owner was interested in the same yearling. Catching me at the ATM machine (where else) on a Thursday afternoon, he asked me what our vet found.
I told him to pay me the $200 it had cost me to vet out the colt and I would share my information with him.

He bought the yearling on his trainer’s advice, and off they went to California.

I watched the yearling’s two-year-old debut at Hollywood Park. His next out was a $25,000 maiden claiming event. In both, he was outdistanced by the field. As far as I know, he never raced again.

Luckily, I didn’t rely on the consignor’s reputation. It took a blood and urine test to dodge that bullet.