by | 11.17.2010 | 12:46am
By Ray Paulick

March 11, 2009: Fasig-Tipton cancels its fall yearling sale, scheduled to begin Oct. 26.

April 1, 2009: Fasig-Tipton reinstates the fall yearling sale.

What they said then: “A sale should be viable for consignors, buyers and lastly for the sales company. The feedback we are getting from our constituents indicated this was not the case of the October yearling sale. This was also the majority position at our advisory board meeting in early March.” – Dan Pride, Fasig-Tipton's chief operating officer.

What they are saying now: “Responding to input from several October consignors and buyers, Fasig-Tipton has reinstated its Kentucky fall yearling sale, which will be held at Newtown Paddocks, Lexington, on Oct. 26, 27 and 28.” – Fasig-Tipton press release

“We certainly value the feedback that our customers shared with us. One of the main goals of the company will always be to listen and react to what is important for our customers.” – Fasig-Tipton chairman Walt Robertson.

So what happened in the three weeks between the time the sale was cancelled because “constituents” said it was not viable and it was reinstated because of feedback from buyers and consignors? Who were those “constituents” polled about the original decision to cancel?

Fasig-Tipton, under its new ownership and a retooled management team (the addition of Dan Pride is the main difference), wants to focus on the auctions that bring in the most money: the 2-year-olds in training sale held recently at Calder, the Saratoga August yearling sale, and the November mixed sale. The Dubai-based owners are investing significant money on capital improvements and marketing to that end. However, the company cannot risk alienating some of the bread-and-butter consignors who have been loyal to the July and October Kentucky yearling sales, which may not be as glamorous or profitable but are an important marketplace for breeders.

By cancelling the October sale, Fasig-Tipton was shooing breeders of more than 1,000 horses over to the other side of town to the tail end of Keeneland's September yearling sale or forcing them to incur shipping expenses by offering them at the Fasig-Tipton Eastern fall sale in Maryland. Neither was a positive public relations outcome for Fasig-Tipton.

The flawed decision sounded awfully similar to what happened in December when the Breeders' Cup board outraged many breeders with a decision to cut out the stakes supplements that have been part of the Breeders' Cup program from the outset. That decision was reversed in a matter of days. This one took a few weeks for the complaints to percolate high enough to get the attention of Fasig-Tipton's management team. Both decisions smacked of elitism, suggesting not enough attention was paid to the grass roots or “blue collar” breeders who don't get elected to boards of directors. Both reversals were justified and proper.

Lessons learned.

Copyright © 2009, The Paulick Report

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