Friday, August 28, 2009

Let's be honest about it

It has been a difficult month.

The cliché about death and taxes has been too true of late. We've had too much of the former and face too much of the latter on receivables that haven't even been collected yet due to the economic recession, presumably. Time to move on.

Let's see....several recent events that deserve comment.

Yes, the Saratoga select sale was up, but the results were a bit deceiving...though happily so. The catalog—meaning both the pedigrees and the individuals—were at least 30% better than in 2008, but average price rose only 10%. Does that mean that the level of the market was actually down 20%?

Well, that's probably not fair. In a sense it's not even fair to compare the two sales. Fasig-Tipton's new ownership made a new beginning at Saratoga with their renovations to the area behind the pavilion and recruitment of a more international catalog and buyers bench. Consignors sensed something positive was happening and sent better horses with better pedigrees, and more of them.

Saratoga 2009 proved that in a shrinking market a boutique sale could work once again. The line for entries to the 2010 sale is already forming. The danger for Fasig-Tipton will be the temptation to take too many horses too soon. Give it time. Give it room to breathe and grow naturally.

One small incident on the last day of the sale bothered me a bit. Fasig-Tipton put Man o' War on the cover and used his image and reputation in their advertising. There is only one small problem with that. Man o' War was sold at Saratoga, but not by Fasig-Tipton. I knew that at least some FT officials knew that to be true, and when I mentioned the fact to Dan Pride, the company's new chief operating officer, he agreed and pointed out that nowhere in the advertising, etc., did it say that the horse was sold by Fasig-Tipton. He implied that any misconception was in the eye of the beholder and was not the fault of the company.

I like Dan Pride, a fellow Tennessean, a lot. His presence has added a lot of energy and a focus on classy presentation to the company's sales.....but misleading advertising is not classy. Sorry my friend Dan, but I do not believe that kind of advertising is as classy as the product the company aspires to sell.

I like Rachel Alexandra a lot too, and she is obviously a very classy filly. Her time figures and margins of victory have proven that she might be a truly great filly. But the emphasis at this point should be on “might”. The rest of this crop of three-year-old fillies is clearly far short of inspiring. None of the top three-year-old colts have yet faced their elders, so it is impossible to say with any certainty at this point just how much credit she should get for a six-length beating of Summer Bird.

The rush by much of the racing press to crown her as an all-time great, therefore, is a bit embarrassing. Is racing so desperate for heroes that we have to over-hype every good horse that comes along? (For example....Curlin—truly not picking on Jess Jackson here, pure happenstance of ownership) Unrealistic, excessive press is just as bad as no press at all. It sets up the public for one more huge disappointment if Rachel Alexandra ever falls short of those unrealistic expectations.

But if comparisons to Ruffian or even Dark Mirage and Desert Vixen are premature, it is clear she is a very good filly. Racing should certainly take advantage, as best we can, of her brilliance, but, I would offer the same advice to racing's promoters I'd offer Dan Pride (equally unsolicited).

Let's be honest about it.


  1. John --

    Great advice for Dan Pride and Fasig-Tipton AND the racing press. Let's hope they are reading this blog.

  2. John,

    There is a fine line between a very good and a great horse. The latter have to prove themselves, and your assessment here will prove all the more valuable if Rachel Alexandra does make the grade, grasp the laurel, and earn her way into the halls of greatness.

    This afternoon will tell a tale.

    bloodstock in the bluegrass (

  3. Well, yes it will tell the tale to the extent that beating G2 horses like Asiatic Boy, Bullsbay, and Macho Again can tell story. Unfortunately, the older horses, at least the ones in the East look pretty substandard (though not as bad as most of the 3yo fillies). Rachel should win, and I hope she does...the more impressive the better.