Ask a lifelong participant in the horse racing industry what got them into the game, and the answer will likely involve an initial success that hooked them for good – perhaps a winning bet or a favorite horse turning in a big effort.
For a sextet of Central Florida-based thirtysomethings, that first taste of an industry high was a surprisingly profitable weanling-to-yearling pinhook from their first try in the marketplace on Saturday at the Fasig-Tipton New York-Bred Yearling Sale.
Three couples – Colby and Britney Herring, Raymond and Meagan Gladwell, and Caleb and Paige Douglas – partnered on a weanling Tapizar colt purchased for $13,000 last October at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Fall Mixed Sale. On Saturday, the colt sold to bloodstock agent Jacob West, Mike Repole, and Dave Portnoy for $105,000.
The colt had the third-lowest initial price of the catalog's 75 horses that were first bought as weanlings, but he nearly finished in the top-quarter of overall highest prices in what was a record-breaking renewal of the New York-Bred sale.
“We were videotaping the thing so we'd have a good memory of it,” Caleb Douglas said. “We were thinking anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000 would be a good day for us. When it kept climbing, we got excited and my heart was beating. When it went over $100,000, it was awesome. It was a great experience.”
The seeds for the partnership were planted by Douglas and Raymond Gladwell, both firefighters in Williston, Fla. Gladwell is the son of Jimmy and Martha Gladwell, both horse people for more than four decades, and he's the brother of James Gladwell of Top Line Sales, giving him an in-road to a wealth of Thoroughbred industry knowledge.
“He's been talking to me about it over the years, and I started going to some of the sales, learning more about the business, and what to look for in a horse,” Douglas said. “When we started doing that, I started getting interested in investing and maybe turning this into a business. It's been a blessing from the start for us.”
They brought their wives into the fold – Paige, a nurse, and Meagan, the owner of a printing service – along with longtime friends Colby Herring, a construction company owner, and Britney, also a nurse.
James Gladwell traveled to upstate New York to inspect weanlings at the sale and advise on purchases. The group landed on the modestly-priced Tapizar colt and Gladwell signed the ticket under Douglas' name.
The colt is the second foal out of the winning Storm Creek mare Vonn Nez. The page wasn't filled with black type, but the dam was a full sister to Grade 1-placed stakes winner La Nez.
A horse has to come together physically in the months after the initial purchase in order to command the kind of price the colt did at the New York-Bred sale, but his stock also saw a boost from the top side of his pedigree when Monomoy Girl, also by Tapizar, emerged as this season's leader of the 3-year-old female division, winning the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, and two other Grade 1's this year.
“When we bought the horse, Tapizar wasn't that popular,” said Torie Gladwell, wife of James Gladwell and co-owner of Top Line Sales. “Monomoy Girl hadn't proven herself yet, and ever since they bought her, they've been Monomoy Girl's biggest fans. They watch every race of hers and cheer for her every time she runs.”
James and Torie Gladwell prepared the colt for the sale, and offered him at the auction under their consignment. Factoring in the colt's development, the rising stock of his page, and the added value of being a New York-bred, his reserve was set at $49,000, with the plan to keep him to race if they couldn't hit the price.
Heavy rains in Saratoga Springs have been consistent throughout the summer meet, and it came down hard on Saturday – so much so it nearly turned a happy story for the group into a much more frustrating one.
“Their flight was delayed two hours, then they had to go to their hotel, check in, change,” Torie Gladwell said. “They got here at 6:45 and he's about 30th in the ring. We're texting them telling them they're in the ring, but they made it just in time.”
Douglas described his pinhook in the hours after the transaction with a command of the bloodstock language and its idioms akin to someone who'd been there before, even throwing in the cliché “ticked all the boxes” to describe the colt's progression. It was an impressive show of poise beyond his experience in the industry.
“What stood out to us from the very start was his athleticism, just how he carried himself,” he said. “He had a long and loose walk. The key about the horse was he never gave us any problem. Not one injury, not one hiccup the whole time we were prepping the horse. It was a great first experience. Obviously, I know they don't all go like that.”
It was an eventful night, and there hadn't been much downtime since leaving the airport in Florida, but a big score in Saratoga can't go uncelebrated.
After dinner and drinks, the group returned to the sale grounds to meet up with the consigning Gladwells before returning to town to further revel in their achievement. The sale ran late into the night, and the merrymaking just as long, but most of the group was back to the Top Line shed row in the morning to see their horse off – the kind of turnaround that again showed constitution beyond their status as Saratoga rookies.
“We all three put our cards on the table and told our waitress to pick one, because we didn't care who bought it,” Douglas said about the post-sale dinner. “Colby got the short end of the stick on that one.”
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