Anna and I spent Tuesday afternoon at the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association Yearling Sale at the Sales Pavilion at Emerald Downs. There were close to 200 yearlings up for sale. It always amazes me that these magnificent youngsters are only a year old and haven’t gone into training yet. Many of them are only halter broke and have not had a saddle placed on their backs nor been ridden yet. They will be saddle-broken and go into training in the spring. Truthfully most of them are about a year-and-a-half old. Thoroughbreds have their birthday on January 1st no matter when they were born. We have part ownership of a young filly who was born in early April. She will be one year old this coming January 1.
The sales pavilion is very comfortable. It has sloped seating with theater seats. The sales ring is raised so there is good viewing. Potential bidders were able to view the yearlings the previous day. The managing partner of Horseplayers Racing Club had the assistance of three trainers and a veterinarian to view potential purchases. The auction crew was very professional. One person described the yearling and its breeding and ancestor’s earnings. Two auctioneers each took long sessions at calling the bids. Three persons caught the bids from the audience. A young man and a young woman took turns bringing the yearlings into the ring. Many of the young horses gave a resounding neigh when they found themselves in the sales ring.
Needless to say we enjoyed the afternoon very much. But we did not bid on any horses. If horse racing is the sport of kings, it is also a sport for people with deep pockets to support it. We feel fortunate to be able to share ownership of several horses with others who could not do it alone. It would be fun to follow the careers of some of the horses auctioned, but many of them have not been named as yet so that will be impossible. But it was a joy to be able to see so many beautiful horses up close.
During a break to get a brat for lunch, I ran into Jason Beem, the race caller for Portland Meadows in Portland, Oregon. He is quite active on the Emerald Downs Fan Forum, a bulletin board for the track. As such, the rest of us get insights from an insider who is not an owner or trainer. I had met him briefly a couple of years ago but it was nice to introduce myself to him again and have a very pleasant chat.
Unfortunately the economy has taken its toll. The bids were dismal. We were in attendance from Hip # 1 to Hip #99. Only four or five horses brought bids between $30,000 and $60,000. Maybe ten or so were in the mid-teens. And many were in the very low thousands. I’m sure breeders especially are moaning that the end is near. I know of one breeder who is getting rid of much of his breeding stock. For the moment, it is sad, but with the recovery of the economy will come the recovery of the thoroughbred industry.