Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cinnamon wisdom

Sitting in the press box at the third session of the Keeneland September yearling sale, and it's fair to say that Keeneland's format changes appear to have been pretty effective. Compared to recent years, there was quite a buzz in the arena Sunday night--but of course selling a $4.2-million horse within the first half hour of the sale is a pretty good substitute for lithium for a horseman.

The horse in question, John and Jerry Amerman's first foal by A.P. Indy out of Balance, by Thunder Gulch, looks remarkably athletic for a horse whose exceptional size bothered no one because of the presence of his giantess "aunt" Zenyatta on the page. A.P. Indys rarely possess the rhythmic, swinging walk and dramatic overstep that is a prerequisite for many European buyers, but this colt does, which is why Demi O'Byrne was the underbidder. Rags to Riches, which O'Byrne bought for $1.9-million had it, and O'Byrne doesn't buy horses that don't. His philosophy is why buy a horse to run that can't walk.

Day three is also going better than expected so far. George Bolton arrived from San Francisco by private plane just in time to buy a Smart Strike colt in partnership with Jess Jackson for $1-million. Bolton was Jackson's partner in Curlin, by Smart Strike, during his three-year-old season. There have been seven other horses for $400,000 or more so far today, which is still a hell of a lot of money for a horse that has never had a saddle on his back.

Breeders as a whole will not really be making any money this year because of the massive investment they made in stud fees in 2008, so perhaps it would be good for them--heck for all of us--to remember the wisdom of late Calumet Farm manager Melvin Cinnamon, as related by Dan Rosenberg.

"On my last day at Calumet," Dan says, "Melvin told me, son, in this business when you guess right you're a smart son of a bitch. When you guess wrong you're a stupid son of a bitch. But the thing you have to remember is that you're always guessing and you're always a son of a bitch."


  1. The new format may be helping the prices early in the sale, but it could lead to buyers missing some good horses on Thursday and Friday, just because of the way the Book 2 consignors are spread out all over the Keeneland barn area. With the previous one-day-at-a-time format, a buyer could actually see all the horses for sale on a given day in time to make informed decisions. That's going to be a little hard for the back half of Book 2, whose horses only started showing, in many cases, today.

    TRhe new format also stretches consignors' resources. Many of them had to have three barns working at the same time this week. Unless you're Frank, Mark & Duncan Taylor, whose Taylor Made is doing a super job, that's tough to do well.

    (written from Barn 38, where our team is still doing heart scans at 8 pm)

  2. Steve I had a very similar experience....Went to Barns 30-31 yesterday to look at some horses and Lane's End wasn't showing at all, and Taylor Made was showing only Thursday horses. Keeneland is not wanting to hear that yet, but hopefully enough complaints will get through to them. Not sure what their solution will be though. They are VERY intent on keeping buyers there through Friday.