Consignor Cary Frommer made headlines in 2016 when two Uncle Mo colts she purchased as yearlings – one for $90,000 and another for $150,000 – brought seven-figure prices at the 2-year-old sales, the first going for $1 million at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale and the second for $1.3 million at OBS in March.
Earlier this year at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale Frommer did it again, selling an Uncle Mo filly for $1.5 million that she purchased for $250,000 as a yearling, and getting $1.1 million for a More Than Ready colt bought as a yearling for $235,000.
Frommer's sale graduates have proven themselves on the racetrack, too, with Joyful Victory and Bradester both Grade 1-winning millionaires, and G2-winning Trappe Shot having having gone on to a stud career at Claiborne Farm.
The following interview with Frommer was originally published in condensed form as the “Back Ring” in the print newsletter, the PR Special, being distributed at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in training at Timonium, Md.
How did you get started in the horse business? I was a horsey girl. I started with hunters and jumpers, then went on to showing. When I told my dad I didn't want to go to college and wanted to work with horses, he sat me down and said you've got to figure out a way to make a living. The only decent way I knew was the racetrack. I started at some farms in Virginia, then went to Middleburg Training Center. I got my license as a trainer around 1978.
If you weren't in the horse industry what would you be doing? I have no idea. I wouldn't be a brain surgeon or rocket scientist, I know that. From the time I was young, I was just focused on doing something with horses. I never had a Plan B.
What gives you the most hope about the business? Horses inspire people. They are so majestic and inspirational. That's what we really have to show the world. How much fun racing can be. I see new people coming in, and as long as they are handled respectably and not mistreated, I think they'll develop the passion that those of us who work around the horses all have. The business side is so up in the air, I don't know how the coin is going to land.
If you were named the all-powerful commissioner of racing, what is the first thing you're going to do? I have to say, I'm not the person that has the answer to all this. I've thought about it a lot. I know the pitfalls, where we're going wrong. It's a difficult situation to fix with all the competition from other gambling and the bad reputation that racing gets – for good reason at times. I just do the best I can day after day and hope there's always someone to sell my horses to, and that depends on the success of the game.
What can the game do to attract more owners? Whenever there's a Triple Crown winner, a fun winner of the Derby like there was this year, it inspires people to get involved. It comes down to the publicity we get from our big races. The back stories from those races are wonderful, but we have to have more of it. No matter what, you have to admit that racing people are an interesting group, from top to bottom.
What's your favorite part of the sale process, from the time you start looking at yearlings to pinhook until the hammer falls? Doing the last look at my short list. I've taken out all the chaff and I'm just looking at horses that caught my attention for one reason or another. I'll second guess myself; it's that trying to locate the diamond in the rough and then finding it. When I find one I really want – a special horse – it gives me a feeling like nothing else.
What are the advantages of being based in Aiken, S.C., versus Florida, where the majority of pinhookers are? The advantages are we have real seasons. The horses get a coat in the winter. Their whole system is much more normal than being where it's warm year-round. They are meant to go through those changes. The Aiken training track is second to none; it's the best surface of any private training track anywhere. The disadvantages are that we do occasionally get bad weather and delay training until the sun comes up and warms the track up, so we have late days of training. And it's kind of off the beaten path. The track itself is fighting for survival, mainly because of its location.
Do you have a pet peeve at the sales? I would like to tell trainers, and I have told them, to walk through your own barn, take out your best horses and look at them. Look at how they're built, how they walk. Look at everything you like and don't like about your best horses. When you go to the sale, don't hold those horses above your best horses. They don't have to be perfect. This isn't a horse show, these are racehorses. It's not a conformation class. Those people with crooked racehorses in their barn will mark sales horses because they toe out a little. Sale horses are sometimes held to impossible standards. To get to where they are, these horses answer so many questions, as opposed to me buying a horse off the page. You get to see how fast they are, how fluid they are, their attitude, but you've got to put aside some of the show horse stuff.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you? I was the only girl in the family, and from the time I was little my father always told me to go on and live your dreams. He said to see how far your dream will take you. He just wanted me to know that between men and women the only difference is in your mind. You can overcome any problem. He was ahead of his time, especially for a military man.
Who's the best racehorse in your lifetime? I was a little girl when Secretariat was around, so that's the standard everybody was held to forever. But I was as excited as I could be about some of the horses lately, like American Pharoah and Arrogate. In my lifetime, that's what brings in an interest in the sport. I cried when American Pharoah won the Belmont, the Triple Crown. That was so exciting to me. It's such a hard group of races and I'm glad they haven't changed it. It's meant to be hard.
Do you have a favorite racetrack? I've never been to any of the California tracks and never been to Oaklawn. But Saratoga is pretty hard to beat.
Tell me something people might not know about you. A lot of people don't know that I used to gallop horses. I actually used to be pretty good at riding. When I train I use the info I learned while riding for Hall of Fame trainers like Mack Miller. I've learned from everybody I've ever worked for. I tell my riders what I want, what I expect from them. I used to ride and I loved it. It was my life. I hold my riders to higher standards. But a lot of people who have worked for me I feel like I've learned from. I'm always receptive to learning.
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