August 27, 2006
Keeneland is a racecourse and sales company dedicated to providing the highest quality Thoroughbred services in the world, which in turn offers the best potential for a return on investment. Keeneland strives to meet its customers’ needs by offering sales at any level of participation—new buyers are welcomed and given opportunities to learn about the fun and excitement of Thoroughbred ownership.
Keeneland is located on 907 acres in the heart of rolling Kentucky Bluegrass country, and it was established to be a “model race track” to serve the sport in the fine traditions of Thoroughbred racing from around the world. The philosophy and principals that have characterized Keeneland throughout its history remain unchanged. The pristine, park-like grounds were designed in the late 1930's by the landscape architecture firm of Innocenti and Webel to meet the needs of horsemen, and celebrate both horses and Keeneland's guests alike.
Prior to World War II, many Kentucky horse breeders sent their yearlings to Saratoga in New York to be sold at auction. Because of wartime restrictions on rail transportation, the decision was made to sell them in Lexington. The first yearling sale at Keeneland was conducted Aug. 9, 1943. A future Kentucky Derby winner, Hoop Jr., came from that inaugural sale, and a summer yearling sale has been held at Keeneland every year since then.
Today, the September Yearling Sale at Keeneland has become the most popular, most respected, and most profitable sale in the world.
Anyone interested in attending a Keeneland Sale can simply “just show up.” You do not need to buy a ticket, make a reservation, or pay an admission price. Nor do you have to come with any intention to buy. You are more than welcome to attend as an observer—although seats in the Keeneland sales pavilion are reserved for buyers and sellers.
The Keeneland September Yearling Sale has evolved into the world's largest yearling sale. The first two days of the sale generally are considered "Select" meaning that the horses sold in those sessions are inspected and have met the highest pedigree and conformation standards.
Keeneland has cataloged a record 5,161 horses for its 2006 September Yearling Sale, which runs September 11th through the 25th. It is the largest Keeneland catalog ever.
Recent September Yearling Sale graduates include champions Ashado and Stevie Wonderboy; 2006 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Jazil; 2006 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Lemons Forever; 2005 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) winner Artie Schiller; and such Grade 1 stakes winners as English Channel, Germance, Flower Alley, Les Arcs, Brother Derek, Sinister Minister, Malibu Mint, Balance and Wait a While, among others.
The September Yearling Sale has also produced champions, such as 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Real Quiet, 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem, 2003 Vodafone Epsom Derby winner Kris Kin, 1998 Belmont winner Victory Gallop, 1999 Belmont winner Lemon Drop Kid, Azeri, Farda Amiga, Left Bank, Orientate, Johannesburg, Caressing, and Kona Gold.
The Thoroughbreds sold at Keeneland are the best of the best bloodstock, and are proven to be consistently versatile insofar as their ability to race at any track around the world. Historically, other sales offer very good horses, and their select products are competitive at multiple locations. That said, across the board, Keeneland prospects offer the highest quality pedigrees and better breeding characteristics—which, in turn, improves the horse’s competitive ability no matter where it runs.
Though the September Yearling Sale is known for its “high roller” buyers, this sale also offers multiple days of very good offerings for those who are working their way into the sport from the ground up—such as Mojo Racing Partners. While it is true that I could stretch our Mojo dollars at one of the other statebred sales, my consideration about our first runner is for today and tomorrow. As such, buying at Keeneland is a matter of the overall quality of the bloodline; the racing versatility; and potential for the future.
I’ll be flying to Louisville on Wednesday morning, September 20; and I’ll drive directly to Keeneland. (A little over an hour to the east.) Keeneland is beautiful, and as I’ve noted above, the racing facilities; the sales and barn areas; and the surrounding grounds are picture-perfect in every way. All Mojo Partners are welcome to come along for the experience, and I am happy to provide you with directions and a list of area hotels.
As Managing Partner, I am the registered buyer for the Partnership, and I have established our line of credit. I have also made arrangements so that our Runner will be insured the moment the hammer hits the block.
My first day will be spent visiting the auction ring; the holding area; and the barns to evaluate the Thoroughbreds that are scheduled for the next day’s auction. (The horses being sold on the days that I will attend are only in their assigned barns one day prior to their scheduled sale date.) If I have time, I will also walk over to the track to see how the progress is going on the installation of the new Polytrack racing surface and grandstand renovations which are scheduled to be completed by the start of the Fall Meet.
Thursday and Friday will be my busiest days because I’ll arrive early and start visiting the barns of the horses that will be sold the next day. The sales action begins at 10:00 a.m. ET each day. Before standing in the sales ring, the horse enters a holding area where prospective buyers can examine the Thoroughbred before the bidding process begins. At the appointed time, the next Thoroughbred is led to the sales ring. I’ll go into the sales pavilion right before the hip number of the horse that I have “flagged” is led in.
Once in the ring, the auctioneer asks for an opening bid on the fine animal put before the audience. Most yearlings have a “reserve” price (the minimum price which a consignor will sell a horse), and a minimum bid amount (that’s based upon 20 percent of what the auctioneers thinks the horse will bring) could be requested. All bidding is done through various gestures that vary from bidder to bidder. The speed of the auction varies according to the volume of horses sold.
I will only bid up to my predetermined limit. If I happen to be the highest bidder, after the gavel falls, I will make the transportation arrangements for our Runner to be sent to Diamond D Ranch.
Homework and Evaluation
There’s no magic formula for breeding success. In fact, it all boils down to numbers, quality, and luck. Only one out of 38,000+ yearlings this year will win the Kentucky Derby in 2008. Thus, my objective is to find an affordable combination of a successful sire and a successful dam. (It stands to reason that, if you mate a dud sire to a dud dam, then the odds are you’re going to get a dud as offspring. There have been proven exceptions to this line of thinking, of course.)
Keeneland assigns each horse a sale day based on the yearling’s husbandry ranking (sire/dam success and the success of the yearling’s ancestors) and foal date. As we’ve talked about before, success is relative; and the “type” of races that a yearling’s relatives have been successful contributes to its ranking. For example: Winning the Lone Star Oaks is a success; but it is a far different success than winning the Kentucky Oaks. As such, a horse’s dam may have won seven out of eight races, and that is successful at any level; but her sale date will be later if those wins were in Canada, South America, were not stakes races (called “black type”), or were not “graded” stakes—the most prestigious and internationally recognized. Thus, the more black type, the better the success is considered to be in this regard.
I mention foal date because all horses turn a year older on January 1st no matter their actual birth date. That said, a horse that is born in January or February is much more mature (physically and mentally), than one that is born in May of the same year. Unless, the late foal is one hell of a runner, he or she is probably going to need more time to grow into that that body. For those wishing to race a two-year old the following Spring, a May foal yearling probably isn’t going to help their cause. I’m of the opinion that I’d rather have a sound, healthy three-year old that starts coming around late in its two-year old tenure, than one that gets used up early in the year.
The pleasant challenge of selecting the right horse can be summed up in four thoughts: Personal preference about a particular sire; careful analysis of the dam’s racing success and that of her offspring; a keen eye for confirmation; and a lot of good Mojo. As you would expect, I won’t be bidding on horses at random. I will attend the sale on the days that historically offer yearlings that are in our price range. With these dates in mind, I studied the catalog pages and prepared a list of Thoroughbreds that offer sire/dam combinations that are “successful” (for reasons that I explained above) in terms of wins—these are the types of horses that I plan to give my undivided attention.
In my next update, I’ll share with you in greater detail how I am getting prepared to put these things together in my quest to buy our Mojo Runner. I’ll walk you through a catalog page (or two) and cover confirmation basics from head to foot. I’ll also talk about the things that we can live with, as well as the things we can live without.
Diamond D Ranch
August 19, 2006
On Wednesday, I spent the morning visiting the training farm, Diamond D Ranch, where our Runner will be sent directly from the auction to learn how to become a racehorse. I’d like to share with you some information about the farm and a few pics to give you a quick glimpse of the facility.
Diamond D Ranch is located about 60 miles east of Dallas in Lone Oak, TX. The farm/training facility was established by Ed Dodwell in 1981; and since then, Ed's family has race-trained over 100 stakes winners (including graded stakes). Trainers from all over the United States send their weanlings, yearlings, and broodmares to Diamond D for year-round boarding, breaking, training, lay-up (taking a break from the racing action), and race prospect evaluation services.
The ranch is situated on 185 acres, and offers 16 paddocks; seven pastures; three barns with 82 individual stalls; an indoor riding ring; an indoor walking ring; vet room; foaling stalls; and grooming center. Because of the drought and intense heat lately, the place looks like a dust bowl; but I assure you it is a very nice facility. Diamond D features a 5/8 mile circle racetrack (6 1/2 furlongs including the chute) and four horse starting gate. The racing surface is a deep, sandy loam with banked turns, which helps young horses safely strengthen their bones and develop steady fitness.
As soon as you pull into the entry gate, it's obvious that Ed’s family takes a lot of pride in their ranch, and that they pay careful attention to every detail—with the buildings, grounds, and horses under their care. The barns are well ventilated (tops, sides, end-to-end) and very clean. In fact, even though it was 102 degrees outside on this day, inside the barn felt like it was in the mid-80s. The stalls are roomy, and the bedding in each is fresh and plentiful. The walking surfaces in the shed rows are cushioned. The paddocks and pastures are roomy (and offer covered shelters), and all of the riding paths to/from the barns have fences on both sides—which, by design, keeps a young, free-wheeling horse from running astray (and possibly incurring a self-inflicted injury).
An additional bonus is the fact that the staff is very friendly, and happy to take the time to talk about their operation. Ed’s son, Scooter, gave me a nice tour; he was open to all of my questions; and forthright insofar as what to expect with our Runner’s training regimen—which I’ll get into with more detail after our colt/filly arrives at the ranch.
Upon its arrival, our Runner will be in training for 90 days-the cost is $45/day. During this time he/she will undergo a very gentle process of learning how to accept a saddle and other “tack,” a rider, gallop, and workouts that gradually increase the distance covered. At any time during our Runner’s stay we are welcome to visit and watch his/her progress—I’ll be giving you more information about scheduled Mojo visits to Diamond D in the future too.
I certainly enjoyed my visit to Diamond D Ranch, and I hope this short peek into the future is encouraging for you too.
Diamond D Ranch
4509 Diamond D Road
Lone Oak, TX 75453