When Carl McEntee founded Ballysax Bloodstock in January, he did so with his family in mind – both past and future generations.
The veteran horseman debuted the consignment wing of his operation during this year's Fasig-Tipton July auctions after four years as director of sales and bloodstock for Darby Dan Farm. With a couple of sales under his belt and an active yearling season ahead of him, McEntee said he was happy with the momentum his new business generated, but his day-to-day routine on the grounds is largely the same as it always was.
“It's the same guy,” he said, “just a different shirt.”
For McEntee, that shirt mattered a great deal.
The Ballysax Bloodstock logo stitched into it was designed to ensure each detail paid homage to the sixth-generation horseman's parents, Phil and Belinda McEntee. The elaborate cross that immediately draws the eye is a replica of the one that stands in his father's graveyard. The elder McEntee died in 1998, when Carl was 18, but he remains his son's greatest influence as a horseman.
McEntee's childhood home was in Ballysax, Ireland, just outside of Kildare, and even the font used to identify the company was a nod to his roots. The letters next to the cross were set in Meath typeface, which shares the name of his father's home county in Ireland.
“I'm pretty sure dad's looking down on me, and hopefully he's proud,” McEntee said after his last horse went through the ring Tuesday.
Ballysax Bloodstock sold all four horses it offered on Monday during the Summer Selected Horses of Racing Age Sale for revenues of $264,000. Leading the way was the $142,000 Into Mischief filly Breaking Beauty, who went to CRC Stables.
Continuing the family ties, the first two horses offered by the Ballysax consignment were previously owned and trained by Carl's brother Paul McEntee.
At the following day's Kentucky July Selected Yearling Sale, McEntee sold four of six horses for $152,000. The most expensive was a Point of Entry filly who went to Jerry Durant for $75,000.
McEntee was happy with the numbers coming out of the sales, but his biggest takeaway came before a horse set foot in the ring.
“I had my eldest daughter here, Amelia, who is 10,” he said. “She was helping me do cards, and as a dad, to help bring the next generation up, that was probably the most special moment for me at the sale. I was so proud of what she did, but it reminds me of going to the sales and training with my dad. It was a special moment for me as a father.”
McEntee, 38, and his wife Rachel have three children, also including 6-year-old Chapel and 4-year-old Finley. As the business continues to grow, McEntee said he'd like to buy a small farm, not only to bring up his own horses, but to give his children the same foundation in horsemanship his father afforded him.
“Working on the ground, you have to learn an awful lot about this game, and I think you have to do every job in this industry before you get to the next level,” he said. “I think so many people try to jump ahead, and you need a solid grounding, just like you need a solid grounding on a yearling before going to a sale.”
Horses consigned by Ballysax Bloodstock are boarded and prepped at Forever Spring Farm in Danville, Ky., which is owned by Dr. David Williams. He and Hank Nothhaft of HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing are also partners in the Ballysax operation. Forever Spring Farm is managed by Matt Jackson, who first met McEntee when they were teenagers.
“We've been friends since we were 15, so he preps my horses and does a lot of the prep and boarding work for me,” McEntee said. “He'd do it the exact same way I would do it, so that's really comfortable.”
McEntee said Ballysax horses would remain at Forever Spring Farm regardless of any future farm purchases he might make.
The July sales were the primer for a busy season ahead for the Ballysax operation. The consignment has one horse at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale in August, then 40 to 50 pointed toward the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. McEntee said he had another 100 or so horses to sell after that.
Fortunately, McEntee is no greenhorn when it comes to managing the hectic schedule that comes with selling horses. He was born into it.
“It's just a hustle and grind,” he said. “This game is really a relationship business. Everyone has different commission rates, but at the end of the day, if you're friends with the people that you sell with and you have a good relationship, you can ride the drops and the highs, and people stay with you because there's a personal relationship there, and that's something I've truly proud of.”
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