The Art of Pinhooking

by | 02.28.2011 | 6:32am

(The major 2-year-old auction season begins at 11 a.m. Thursday with Fasig-Tipton's Florida Sale, held for the first time at the Palm Meadows Training Center in Palm Beach County. The under tack show kicks off at 10 a.m. Monday.)

Some people think there's nothing to it. Go to a yearling sale, buy a few horses, take them to Florida and put a saddle on ‘em.  Teach them to run counterclockwise, run an eighth of a mile real fast, then count your money.

Steve Venosa has heard it all before. “A lot of people think it's easy,” said the Ocala, Fla.-based Venosa, who operates SGV Thoroughbreds. “All I say is, ‘Come join us.'”

Venosa is one of many highly skilled horsemen and women operating out of the Ocala area, buying yearlings at public auction they think fit the profile of what end users are looking for, putting them into training—slowly at first and then picking up steam as the 2-year-old sale season approaches—and trying to get the horses in peak form in time for each auction's public breeze show.

Then, just like the yearling consignors these pinhookers bought their horses from, they keep their fingers crossed when the youngsters enter the auction ring.

“I look at myself like I'm a coach, and I'm managing my players,” said Murray Smith, who operates Murray Smith Training Stables. “These horses are athletes.”

In a business where speed is king, Smith—who made her first pinhook in 1988–has managed to set the standard for fast breezes prior to sales, and her graduates include the 2001 Kentucky Derby winner, Monarchos. But it's not just about whose horse works the fastest in the breeze show.

“Once upon a time you could look at the time trials and know who the sale topper is,” said Eddie Woods, a former steeplechase rider from Ireland who came to Ocala in the 1990s. “But the buyers have become much more sophisticated.”

“Times got faster and faster,” said David Scanlon, the son of the late Robert Scanlon, who started the Scanlon Training Center in Williston in 1989 that David now oversees. “People got so good at getting their horses to go fast, it's made buyers work harder. Finding the good horse is not as obvious.”

“It hasn't gotten easier,” said Nick DeMeric, a native of England who has been pinhooking horses for nearly 30 years. “There are few secrets at the sale these days, with video of the workouts, stride analysis, heart measuring, and bone density. As these 2-year-old buyers have gotten more sophisticated, we've had to become better at what we do.”

“The buyers are less forgiving—on everything,” said Venosa.

Every 2-year-old consignor the Paulick Report interviewed spoke about the importance of building a foundation and taking it slow with their horses, despite the compressed schedule between the time of the summer or fall yearling sales and the 2-year-old auction season. Most of the consignors also prepare horses for the track on behalf of private clients, giving them the luxury of more time.

Eddie Woods says it's gotten easier in recent years to begin training the horses when they arrive from the yearling sales. “For all intents and purposes, they are broken when they arrive,” he said. “Sale yearlings are so much better prepared today.

Woods' sale horses (he has others he is preparing for the racetrack) get a week off upon arrival, then are handled in their stall with tack for a week. After that, they are led under the shedrow with riders aboard for a couple of days, then jog the shed for a couple more. After that, they are ridden for a week in an oval pen,  four to five days in a paddock, and 10 days in a breaking field. “It's about a month before they'll step onto the track,” he said. “You have to learn when to say go and when to say whoa.”

Woods said he tries to decide around Jan. 1 which sale best fits each of his horses. “It takes common sense,” he said. “There's too many horses that end up in boutique sales that don't belong there.”

Nick De Meric's September yearling purchases usually start off right away with a resistance free training method in the style of Ray Hunt, Martin Black and Tom Dorrance. “The horses will be jogging patterns in a field within a week,” De Meric said, “doing figure 8s and teardrops. Then we introduce them to the track and watch closely to help decide which sales to point them to. After that decision's been made, I tailor training to that destination.”

David Scanlon, who has about 50 sale horses in his stable of 140 2-year-olds, said it's a three-week process to get his youngsters prepared for the training track, starting in September. Riders go in the stalls, put on the tack and get in the saddle. “It's rare to find young horses that resist breaking,” he said.

After that, it's into a round pen, where the horses learn turns from their riders and jog in pairs. They are then taken to a large field, do figure 8s, and learn to go into a full canter with a rider up. “The process takes about three weeks,” Scanlon said.

Steve Venosa, who went out on his own after working for Crupi's New Castle Farm for nine years, has an equal number of pinhooks and young horses to train for private clients—about 30 each. “We break and train them the same way,” he said, “except the sale horses breeze earlier. We're not trying to build a better mousetrap, but attention to detail is very important. The smallest thing can make a big difference.”

Murray Smith spent three years galloping horses for Ocala Stud and also worked for Clyde Rice before going out on her own.  “I've learned you've got to be patient,” Smith said. “Don't let them do too much too soon. The bodies of these horses are developing so fast, they want to do more than you should let them do.”

For breaking, Smith's horses are handled in their stalls for two days, walked for three days, spend another three days in a round pen, and then are ridden for 30-45 days in open fields. When they finally make it to the track, it's a three-eighths mile jog there, and they'll do half-mile jog once around the track. “I never train them more than a mile,” she said.

Smith said proper feed of young horses is vital. “The key is a low-starch diet that's easy on their stomachs and is highly digestible,” she said. “I give them a pelleted feed, and I'm very particular about my hay,” saying she gives her horses a mix of 70% orchard and 30% alfalfa.

That good nutritional foundation is critical when young horses start galloping every day. Smith builds them up gradually, and by January they are galloping seven-eighths of a mile. At that point they begin to breeze a furlong at the end of their gallop.

“In January, they'll do an eighth in 15 seconds or so,” she said. “I'll back up four weeks from a sale's breeze date, and try to gradually put a little more speed into each eighth, going from the 15s that first breeze, to 14s for the next, then 13s, 12s and finally 11s.

“But putting those miles jogging and galloping under them in the beginning really helps.”

De Meric agrees. “There's no substitute for long, slow miles,” he said. “I believe in building in small increments. That way, if we see a red light, we see it five blocks away. We start jogging them three-quarters of a mile and then a mile. They'll gallop three-eighths, then a half, then five-eighths. Six weeks before they ship to the sale we'll start open gallops. My horses only breeze once or twice before they leave.

Venosa, like Smith and many other 2-year-old consignors, counts back from the breeze show in hopes of having his horses peak that day. “The breeze show is our one big shot,” he said. “We always hope to make the best sales, but with some horses you have to say that the light hasn't come on yet. That's why we go to every 2-year-old sale.”

Scanlon begins his breezing program six weeks out from the breeze show. “I don't want them to peak too early,” he said.  “Once they go to the track, we pair them up in twos and threes, jogging a couple of weeks and letting them gallop the last three-eighths. We gradually work them up to mile and half gallops before they start to breeze.

“We'll start having them do a two-minute lick (mile in roughly 2:00), and that's when the cream starts to rise to the top. Some horses, like Unbridled's Song, show their talent immediately, while with others, like Afleet Alex, it's not easy to detect their ability.” Both horses were graduates of Scanlon Training Center.

Woods backs up his horses' training six weeks from the time they ship to the sale. “They do a two-minute lick, with an eighth of a mile breeze at the end,” he said. “But if you don't have the foundation when you begin to do the speed work, they can't handle it. That's why we go so slow at the beginning.”

Young horses are not immune from injuries, and bucked shins (inflammation of the front of the cannon bone) are often the biggest problem. Cold, wet weather can contribute to that. Several of the consignors scrape shins to improve circulation and healing, but some horses ultimately need time off and will get pushed back to a later sale or miss the auction season altogether.

Several consignors said their attrition rate is small, saying the biggest side-effect is that horses don't make the sales they'd hope to get them into.

Over the years, said Smith, she counts on roughly 20% of her 2-year-olds not making it to the sale.

“If I've got 25 head,” she said. “I'm hoping for five home runs, five will be somewhere in the middle, five I have to write off as losses, five don't make it, and five I have to give away because of injuries. You know pretty early on which ones aren't going to make it.”

Smith estimates her average cost is $30,000 per horse in expenses, on top of an average yearling purchase price of $50,000-$75,000.  She employs three exercise riders and six grooms. Overall, it's a considerable investment, and Smith, like several others quoted here, has investors in many of the pinhooks. “I've been doing this a while, and I'm convinced I can make money for people,” she said.

Most of the consignors quoted in this article have cut back in the number of 2-year-olds they are preparing for the sales.

“We were the biggest in the game, but have really downsized the last five years,” said De Meric, whose 23-year-old son, Tristan, is now working with him. “He's rekindled my interest in this,” De Meric said.

De Meric has seen the 2-year-old sales evolve from low-end auctions to a marketplace where pedigrees often match the high quality of the athletes being sold. “Nobody was pinhooking horses for more than $50,000 back in the early ‘80s,” De Meric said. “We bought a Danzig at Saratoga for $200,000, and most people thought we were half crazy. But then we sold it the next year for $350,000, and that proved it could be done. “

De Meric said breezing for speed and going solo in the under tack shows—instead of in pairs—had a big impact on the sales. “Fast horses started selling for a lot of money.  That changed the game.”

Not everyone is enamored with 2-year-old sales. Complaints of drugged horses and overuse of the whip in breeze shows led to changes. The National Association of Two-Year-Old Consignors (NATC), formed in 2000, has worked with auction companies to raise the integrity of sales, which now feature drug testing of horses and restricted use of the whip.

De Meric, NATC co-chairman with consignor Mike Mulligan, said the organization has made a positive change in several areas, which has improved the image of 2-year-old in training sales.

“To those who criticize 2-year-old consignors, come spend a day with us,” said Smith.

“We went through a stage where there was too much whipping,” said Scanlon, “but videos helped change that.”

Woods said there may still be a few bad apples at the 2-year-old auctions. “Like any business, there are rogues,” he said. “But what really helps us attain greater credibility is that we sell a good product.”

Two things contribute to that product: raw talent and good horsemanship.

“You make your money when you buy them at the yearling sales,” said Venosa.

But that doesn't mean all horses are treated the same.

“There's a misperception that every horse is on one fast track,” said Scanlon. “Some people don't understand the finesse and individual attention each horse gets.”

  • Watcher

    DId the NATC promise you some big advertising dollars for publishing it’s manifesto “How to Ruin Body and Mind of Young Horses?”

  • Ray Paulick


    I know that you’ve been on a long-running rant against 2yo sales, and I’m not sure what the truth of that is all about.

    From my perspective, I simply felt as someone based in Kentucky for many years I didn’t know enough about how 2yo consignors ply their trade, so I contacted several of them, invited myself to Ocala, and spent a few days observing what they do. It was eye-opening for me to see the level of horsemanship involved. Many of these pinhookers have large drafts of horses for major private clients that are going through the same program as the sale 2yo’s.

    Take a trip down there and learn more for yourself. You might not be so quick to judge.

    And, no, there was and is no deal with NATC or any consignors on advertising dollars.

  • posttime

    I think there is a place for the 2YO sales however maybe it would help if the (first) sales were moved to May or June ??? Has there ever been a study done that indicates how many of the horses sold at these sales make it to the track or win races ??

  • Watcher

    I’ve been to Ocala many times and, beyond that, attended two-year-old sales since 1968. I’ve watched the ravages of sales “preparation,” which you conveniently overlooked in your “observations.”

    Injections of steroids, pain killers, bronchodilators, cortisone, not to mention tapped joints, and other mind/body treatments which contradict your simple view of how “good horsemen” “ply their trade.”

    Even though most auction companies signed on to the watered-down sales code of ethics which bans some of these treatments, there is very little, if any, enforcement of them. When was the last time a 2yo was pre- or post- preview tested? Buyers have been duped for years by the ever escalating abuse most pinhookers employ on their babies. Fortunately, many of them have learned their lesson and no longer buy these burned-out youngsters.

    If you want to understand the truth about the success of two-year-old sale graduate don’t bother reading the NATC press releases. They are not much different than advertisements for the lottery. Study the long term results–starts, wins, earnings–of the highest priced, and fastest previewing horses and you will get the true story.

    And that’s the story you should be printing.

  • Jammer

    There is no reason to have this sale so early in the year because “if the horses are forced to race at 2 – they probably won’t race at 3″…………

    Move it back a few months and relieve some of the pressure on the horses to get ready.


  • Watcher

    Moving back the 2yo sales a few months would only marginally help the horses and the industry.

    It’s the quarter-horse mentality which drives these sales which must be eradicated. Until more buyers understand that the preparation to record a :10 eighth of a mile by a 22 month old baby is far more destructive to developing bones, ligaments and minds than it is predictive of racetrack success, then the insanity will continue.

    When Joe O’Farrell popularized the 2yo sale concept in the 50’s and 60’s babies weren’t required to breeze faster than :12 or :25. Today’s consignors “breeze” their horses in world record times. Where does the insanity end?

  • Dan

    Jammer and Watcher should know. They are so successful in the game. What do they know? These guys are just known for sending out emails knocking the sport. Stick to your emails. Monarchos and Silver Charm Derby winners. It’s always someones fault. Whats the differance buying bad yearlings that don’t turn out.

  • Watcher

    The Green Monkey

  • ratherrapid

    i’d think there are two sides to the story, and that training youngsters like this would indeed take a high standard of care to keep from turning the place into a hospital ward. Watcher, if the horse comes out of the sale injury free, what would subsequent performance have to do with sales prep?

  • SixteenK Claimer

    The mere fact that anyone, including you, can support the repulsive abuse of a 2 yr old in training sale THIS early in a horse’s life is pathetic. You know it and so does anyone else with a 3rd grade education. Just the rich getting richer. Once again Jammer hits the nail on the head. The upper tier of horse racing people are just like our government. Inept and selfish.

  • Watcher

    Veterinarians almost universally agree that a young horse’s joints aren’t fully closed until 30 months of age. Another universally accepted doctrine is that the Thoroughbred has evolved into a lighter-boned, less sound breed. These two factors make the pinhooker’s practice of pushing babies to warp-speed early in their 2yo career a recipe for early injuries/breakdowns. Even if a horse has escaped this destiny it is highly likely to be “speed crazy” as a result of its sales preparation.

    If you are interested in studying the success (starts-wins-earnings) of Barretts March 2yo sale graduates since 1999 write to [email protected] for it’s documented study. It’s eye opening—and bitterly attacked by most pinhookers.

  • maggie the wonder dog.

    Enough Jammer and Watcher. Are you the final word on all things horse racing? I would bet not one of you could put on a run down bandage, standing bandage or walk a horse for that matter. Please limit your response to one answer per article. It gets real boring.

  • Ray Paulick

    There are people who want to outlaw 2-year-old sales and racing, and then there are those who look at scientific fact: that exercising young horses improves their bone.

    I’m finding the same people here who knock 2yo sales are negative on just about everything else in the business. Is there a pattern here?

    By the way, it’s nice to see Watcher and Jammer find some common ground.

  • Watcher

    Maggie, if you don’t like what you read, stop reading it.

    Ray, is that what you learned in Ocala, that pinhookers only “exercise” horses? You wouldn’t be the first journalist who became confused about training horses. Stick to what you know, whatever that is.

  • maggie the wonder dog.

    Watcher one comment yes I will read. Six out of 14!! Real, real real BORING.

  • David H.

    Pardon the interruption, but I couldn’t let Watcher’s statment:

    “Another universally accepted doctrine is that the Thoroughbred has evolved into a lighter-boned, less sound breed.”

    … pass without comment. Genetic evolution takes thousands of years. The bone structures of horses of the early 20th century are the same of those bred in the early 21st century. Without trying to sound mean, the “universally accepted doctrine” you articulate is scientifically fallacious.

    Remember, just because a line of breeding (e.g., Unbridled progeny) may put out fragile horses doesn’t mean the species has evolved. :)

  • patrickl

    I believe Ray Paulick met many pinhookers who are professional, knowledgeable and careful with their young horses – as far as they can be and still make a living. Attacking these individuals is not the solution.

    The industry has been on a decades-long trend which mirrors that of business: maximize the value of the investment, cut costs wherever. Shorter “product development” times. Better to throw out a non-producer sooner; better to get the good ones out of the cost column and into the profit column earlier. That’s how businesspeople think when they lay out $50k+ for an asset. 99% of new owners these days are folks who have made their money doing just that in business.

    The only way to change this (and many other problems) is for the racing industry to step up and re-envision itself from top to bottom. That new vision has to put the horse at its center. That’s where racing started, that’s what we’ve lost. In that context, issues around appropriate development of youngsters can be reveiwed and improved.

    Yes, I know everyone thinks this will never happen. And if it were voluntary, it wouldn’t. But there are other forces at work.

    Paradoxically, the best thing for the welfare of the racehorse could be the decline in the industry – which will soon be forced to change or die. Improved horse welfare is a crucial part of that change. In the 21st century, people are not interested in a sport which is unconscious to bad treatment of animals; a sport where animals are routinely drugged to perform, and the people who do it remain stars. We have to get that into our heads. Look at the societal trends around you. Ask any young person why he or she doesn’t go to the track. “Because they whip the horses.” If we want the 21st century audience to come to track, we have to change.

    All the issues discussed on this message thread form part of that picture, in my view. The question is, can we get going on reform of our own initiative, or do we need to back up to the brink of disaster first? If you love and honor the wonder of the thoroughbred and the glorious spectacle or racing, be part of the change. It will be wrenching, but we’ll all be better for it.

  • Bill Landes

    This was an in depth, frank discussion of how pinhookers operate. I learned a lot.

    A respected source told me that the level of knowledge regarding the care of the equine athlete is at its peak in Ocala at this time of year. This has got to be good for us all.

  • patrickl

    David H (comment #16), you are the one who doesn’t understand the science. NATURAL evolution takes thousands of years. MANAGED evolution is quite different. How do you think mankind produced dozens of purpose-built breeds of dogs?

  • David H.


    Two posts to reply to:

    1) I’m a (relatively) young, new owner. You have no idea how well I fit your vision of proper ownership. In my business, the horse’s best interests come first, and my wallet comes a distant second. I’ve proven that many times over.

    I do not buy light boned horses. Not intentionally, at least. I did accidentally buy a light-boned Sharp Humor filly, but that was due to a confluence of auction mistakes I hope never repeat themselves. I’ve put as much money into caring for this horse as I have any horse I own, and the trainer is bending over backwards to ensure he doesn’t facilitate suspensory issues. I buy sound horses from proven bloodlines from breeders who appear, to the best of my judgement, to practice proper horsemanship.

    The vision of ownership you shared is both practicable and practical. I live it every day.

    2) My comment about evolution was in direct response to the words Watcher used. “The thoroughbred” has not evolved. Some inferior bloodlines have developed, but that is not the same thing (as I tried to illustrate in my last sentence).


    Since I am a hands-on end-user & have both purchased & sold from the two-yr-old in training sales… I understand the primary focus of the consignor (pinhooker)is to get the horse sold! For a profit! That’s it! End of Story! When you purchase from these sales the individuals usually need to be let down…to get over the stress of being in the sale. That’s O.K. because, as the consignors said, they’ve been training steady to get up to the sale! Developing horses is such and individualized process and if each horse is treated that way the chances for success will increase.

  • patrickl

    David H: It’s heartening to hear your approach to owning, thank you for contributing that. Re the evolution, I should have read your first post more carefully and been more specific in my response. Apologies. I think we’re on the same page. Selective breeding for speed at the expense of all other genetic traits in the thoroughbred can only have one outcome over the long-term. How to create a policy framework to manage that is a very thorny issue.

  • Watchwatcher

    watcher/jammer…you guys couldn’t qualify to do the most menial jobs in Ocala, and yet you put down Ray for finding out just how professional these people are. The most negative thing about Ray’s site is that he continues to let you post.

  • Watcher

    I know how to inject a needle into a horse. That ability alone qualifies me to work in Ocala.

  • Rachel

    Interestingly, New Bolton has a study about the detrimental effects of long slow gallops this early in life…they advocate short speed for bone strength and development and say that with long slow gallops the bone never develops enough to withstand speed work…
    Scrape the shins to promote healing…instead of giving them time to grow up.
    What meds & steroids are legal for training?
    What records come with the 2 year-old? Complete medical & ownership? All of my imported dogs come with complete ownership, training, competition and medical records.

  • Ray Paulick


    Please share a link to that study. Who was the author?

  • GMJ

    the amount of jealousy by some is incredible. my hats off to the people in ocala who prepare these horses for the sales and the track. they are real pros.

  • Watcher

    Developing bones NEED stress to properly remodel. It’s no secret that long gallops build wind but not bone, because they don’t sufficiently punish bones.

    So, the question is not IF speed should be asked of young horses, but HOW MUCH speed, and when.

    Breezes of :12 seconds for babies create just as much opportunity for bone remodeling as an all-out :10 second workout–without the same deleterious effects on ligaments and mind.

    Most of us recognize that common sense is the real answer to preparing young horses. In our hearts I think most of us also realize that only greed causes most pinhookers to prematurely push these horses to speeds they will never have to emulate in races.

  • Watchwatcher

    Yeah, Bob Baffert, Demi O’Bryne, Buzz Chace, Jess Jackson, John Sadler, and countless other “real” horsemen have been influenced by watcher’s gibberish.

  • Cris

    Good article. Very informative and I found information I can use while training my own horse. That does not mean I intend to scrape his shins or push him to do 11 sec. panels. Information should be taken in the spirit it is given. If some people had their way others would never see, read, hear anything that was not their opinion and nothing could be learned. I personally think two year old in training sales should be held much later in the year so this process would start later allowing knees to close etc.. If the sales started later more horses would make it to the sales and to the track a healthy horse.

  • Equine Vet


    I think Rachael is referring to Dr. Nunamaker’s studies of the role of exercise in modulating metacarpal remodeling/developmnt of periostitis (bucked shins). The articles aren’t available in full-lenght form online, but this is an overview of his work, I believe.

  • Ray Paulick

    Equine Vet

    The “Science of Horse Training” blog has a link to the published article pdf…

  • voice of reason

    psssssst. let’s not mention what yearlings are put through in “prep”.

  • Act 71

    Ray, exercising 2 year olds does improve bones according to the research. What about tapping an ankle with depo medrol to keep the joint cool through the sale?

  • Joe

    Before discussing if slow or fast exercise is more beneficial at two, we should be discussing why a sales company like OBS allows drugs to conceal lameness and boost speed over distances that cannot predict equine talent over Thoroughbred racing distances. It only proves how well consignors can speed-up babies into hazardous Quarter horse-like strides.

    OBS warns its consignors that only one cortico-steroid is allowed (how many baby joints are being injected, how many times with that one cortico-steroid?), only two NSAIDS are allowed, no bronchodilators are allowed WITHIN 72 HOURS of an under-tack show (and we wonder why babies drop dead?) and no Class 1 and 2 drugs are permitted ON SALES GROUND.

    Of course, post-breeze random testing is at the sole discretion of OBS.

    Consignors need to be reminded that the following warm and fuzzy practices are banned: shock wave therapy and radial pulse wave therapy, electrical devises and practices that intentionally conceal material effects or chronic lameness, internal blister to knee or other injections to knee intended to conceal true conformation.

    Those who want to dummy-down the TC series to make it easier to win with today’s toxic horses are wrong. Horses, including two year olds sold at breeze-sales need to be protected against preventable injury and toxicity that are caused by commercialism taking precedent over integrity, safety, longevity and breed improvement. Racing can’t have it both ways. Horses and the whole of racing are at the losing end of the 10-second pinhookers and 20%+ win trainers. They may be laughing all the way to the bank but this is no laughing matter.

  • Ray,
    I like the article and the people in it.

  • Watcher

    Well stated, Joe.

    The answer to your question about OBS is simple: pinhookers run the sales company.

    Here’s the OBS board of directors:
    Mike O’Farrell (Ocala Stud)-President
    Francis Vanlangendonck, Barry Eisaman, Carl Bowling, TOny Bowling, Niall Brennan, Thomas Chiota, Nick de Meric, Brent Fernung, Mike Mulligan, John Penn, Steven Silver, and Eddie Woods. Most, if not all, of these directors pinhook. Is it any wonder that, as you say, “OBS allows drugs to conceal lameness and boost speed over distances that cannot predict equine talent over Thoroughbred racing distances?”

    OBS has led the way in the exploitation of two-year-olds in training. The others–Barretts, Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland–have chosen to follow suit to remain competitive.

    There’s not a leader among them. If there were all forms of drugs and deceptive procedures would have been banned AND HIGHLY POLICED.

  • All the opinions expressed are interesting, and perhaps you’d also like some data, I have a large study of what happens after the sales to the two year old auction horses that shows the fastest ones actually very strongly statistically significantly have more starts by the end of their three year old year than the slower ones from the breezes. And win more money by the end of their 3 yr old year. This counter-intuitively suggests (as real data versus passionate opinion often does) that they are not ruined by their blistering breezes, but rather actually do better than the ones that were coddled with mild speed displays. No, it’s not what I expected, but I will share the study and data from over two years’ auctions and thousands of horses with serious inquirers like you, Ray. And, yes, I am aware of the “abuses” of medications at auctions, but does anyone think that doesn’t also go on at the racetrack anyway with any kinder results? In other results, the “slower” breezed youngsters have to contend with the same racetrack vets eventually and most of the abusive practices are awful for a horse of any age. And the knees open or not sort of argument is biomechanically not an issue really, even though, again, intuitively, one might think it would be,

  • PS — Ah, on data again –I did read the CTBA Watch study he referred to on Barretts horses that breezed very fast and what happened to them. I read it all carefully. It’s own data actually disproves its conclusions. Really. That study’s author seems to have an axe to grind rather than an analysis to present. In fact, his own data actually shows the opposite of what he concludes. That is, that data shows the fastest breezed horses at Barretts auctions did much better as a group in starts and earnings than any other group he identifies on any other criteria.

  • caroline

    Jeff, it’s interesting and I believe it not least because if it weren’t true presumably rational buyers wouldn’t systematically be spending the dollars they do to buy fast workers.

    However, it is not unbiased as evidence about the consequences of the two year old in training regimen for longevity, start frequency, and racing success of an arbitrary yearling. There is clearly severe selection bias in your sample – you’re looking at the most successful surviving graduates of any such program.

    It’s not clear to me that people are arguing (intuitively, passionately whatever) about the dis-merits of an extra second or fractions of on a work at a sale.

  • Watchwatcher

    No response from watcher regarding the facts presented by a professional buyer, Jeff Seder. watcher would rather spew slanderous remarks about people he will never know. (They wouldn’t let him muck stalls in their barns.)

  • Tinky

    This has been an uncharacteristically productive thread. partickl has provided some unusually interesting perspective, and now we have Jeff Seder offering a seemingly staunch defense of the sales.

    Caroline is right, of course, to point out that Seder’s argument is limited. Even if it is true that the faster breezers hold up well as a group (and I’d need to see the data in order to be sure), that only speaks to a subset of the population that participates in 2yo sales.

    Obviously, in order to seriously study the production of sales horses, it would be necessary to compare their records with those that were not pushed into such accelerated work schedules. Seder’s study reveals nothing about that.

    Furthermore, to deduce that because the faster breezers do better on the racetrack, it is therefore preferable to breeze young horses fast, is questionable. While cardiovascular systems obviously play an important role in success at such sales, athleticism does too. So, as a group, the faster breezers are undoubtedly a more athletic group than the slower ones. That athleticism would clearly contribute to both success and (relative) soundness on the racetrack, and may indeed play a far greater role than any differences in bone remodeling.

    Also, if it is indeed the case that the faster breezers outperform at the races, and that they do well both in terms of production and soundness, then why aren’t studies proving this being trumpeted and disseminated by those promoting the sales?

    Here’s my guess: for the same reason that individual consignors do not reveal their comprehensive records, but instead highlight only the anomalous successes.

    Seder used the phrase “counter-intuitive”. Well it would be deeply counter-intuitive to believe that those invested in such sales would not be using every available, potentially powerful marketing tool at their disposal. So, let’s see the evidence.

  • Watchwatcher

    Tinky, there was indeed a study done a few years back (I’m sure Ray can find it)that showed that 2-year-old sale graduates out-performed all other categories, including horses not going through sales at all. The problem, of course, is that the juvenile sale population may by its nature be athletically superior to begin with. The study did, however, debunk the myths spread by goofballs like watcher and jammer. Nobody really wants to promote these studies to buyers simply because MOST horses fail to earn their way regardless of where they come from. The game is more like trying to win the lottery when it comes to picking out the superior runners. The juvenile sales have always been a way for buyers to take some of the guesswork out of the equation. That’s why Jeff Seder and Bob Baffert have been so successful at it.



  • #35…ty…

  • Watcher

    The CTBAboardwatch study is available in PDF form to anyone who requests it. Just write to

    [email protected]

    Mr. Seder is the only person I know who interprets the data in this study as supportive of fast works. Hundreds of readers have sent comments to us stating the contrary.

    Decide for yourself. Send us an email and we will shoot it right back to you.

  • Tinky

    Unfortunately, this thread is on its way to being lost in cyberspace. But having reviewed the Barrett’s information, I find Jeff Seder’s earlier, related assertion to be absurd on its face.

    Here’s a brief summary of three years’ results:


    Of the top 19 fastest 1/8th mile works, a grand total of two horses earned more than their sales (or reserve) prices. Two. Three of them started 10 times or more. 11 of them started three times or less. (All through their 6yo seasons)

    Of the top 19 fastest ¼ mile works, a grand total of three horses earned more than their sales (or reserve) prices. Four of them started 10 times or more. Seven of them started three times or less. (All through their 6yo seasons)


    Of the top 33 fastest 1/8th mile works, a grand total of one horse earned more than its sales (or reserve) prices. One. Six of them started 10 times or more. 17 of them started three times or less. (All through their 5yo seasons)

    Of the top 10 fastest ¼ mile works, a grand total of one horse earned more than its sales (or reserve) prices. Three of them started 10 times or more. Two of them started three times or less. (All through their 5yo seasons)


    Of the top 20 fastest 1/8th mile works, a grand total of zero horses earned more than their sales (or reserve) prices. Not one. Four of them started 10 times or more. 10 of them started three times or less. (All through their 4yo seasons)

    Of the top 12 fastest ¼ mile works, a grand total of zero horses earned more than their sales (or reserve) prices. Not one. Four of them started 10 times or more. Five of them started three times or less. (All through their 4yo seasons)

    While data is provided for the 2008 sales as well, the information only pertains to racing through the end of 2009, so the results are not sufficient in my view.

    How Jeff Seder – or anyone – looking at the summarized results above, could argue that it is somehow good for horses to not only be wound up for such sales, but to work as fast as possible, is a mystery.

    I’m not interested in whether or not the faster breezers do better as a group than the slower ones, as that doesn’t address the fundamental question of whether or not horses benefit by being wound up for such sales at all.

    Every serious horseman knows the answer to that question, and it is only those who benefit directly from such sales who claim that it is somehow beneficial.

    Finally, as I mentioned in my earlier post, there’s a good reason why such numbers are not disseminated. I’d like to see equivalent numbers for the East Coast sales, but am not holding my breath.

    (Please note that I chose the number of horses in each category to assess based on a natural cut-off based on times. I made no effort to cherry pick, and am quite sure that the results would have been substantially the same give or take a couple of horses in each group.)

  • Watcher

    The sudden silence from Florida speaks loudly.

  • Tinky, you apparently are no statistician. Your comments on my study and on the Barretts study were also incorrect. Just because a small percentage of the fast breezers earn a lot of money does not mean that percentage isn’t higher than all the other groups of racehorses you may choose to segregate and follow from that Barretts auction. If you wish to contact me through Ray Paulick and provide proper credentials, I will send you a copy of my proprietary work. I believe it did not have the biases or limitations you assume. And, by the way, I did not defend the two year old sales. I’d prefer they were held later. I just reported data on them.

  • Tinky

    Jeff –

    Either as a defense of your earlier assertions, or an attack on my my recent post, that was a remarkably weak response.

    First, unless you have done a serious and thorough study of the racing careers of many 2yo sales graduates AND yearlings, then you cannot possible be in a position to judge their relative merits in terms of soundness. In your post #38, you only addressed fast versus slow breezers. Therefore, unless you have also studied yearlings vs. 2yo sales graduates, my criticism is both accurate and valid. It’s also revealing that you dismissed my criticism without being at all specific.

    Next, I posted a clear, concise summary of salient details relating to three consecutive auctions. The notion that it is necessary to be a statistician in order to interpret those statistics in a meaningful way is laughable.

    For some perspective, here’s a slightly different view of the same data:

    Of the 113 fastest breezers at those three sales, seven, or 6.19% earned as much or more than their purchase or reserve prices.

    24, or 21.2% raced more than 10 times

    52, or 46% raced less than three times (including quite a few unraced)

    89, or 78.7% raced less than 10 times

    Now, given that you obviously fashion yourself an expert at interpreting statistics, please do us ll a favor and explain how this data might suggest that winding horses up for 2yo sales and breezing them fast is a good idea.

    Finally, the fact that you are only wiling to share your data with “properly credentialed” people speaks volumes. Generally speaking, when that happens, there are no WMDs to be found. But hey, there are plenty of Government agencies that would applaud your approach.

  • Matt M.

    “Some people think there’s nothing to it. Go to a yearling sale, buy a few horses, take them to Florida and put a saddle on ‘em. Teach them to run counterclockwise, run an eighth of a mile real fast, then count your money.”

    Ray…. this article was much more appropriate 4-5 years ago. I don’t know anybody who thinks pinhooking is even remotely easy. The yearling sales barely have a pulse…. it’s not 2005.

  • Watcher

    Using the same on-line tools we utilized in compiling our 1999-2008 Barretts study, I quickly reviewed your two-year-old purchases for the last ten years, as well as their subsequent racetrack performance.

    Do these names ring a bell:

    MIND ERASE ($400,000 purchase KEE ’06) 17 sts/2 wins, $55,000

    FLORESTA ($335,000 purchase KEE ’06) 11 sts/2 2 wins, $58,000

    MORPH ($150,000 purchase OBS ’03) 9 sts/no wins, $31,000

    WHETSTONE ($150,000 purchase FT 03) 16 sts.2 wins, $40,000

    MAGIC MESA ($150,000 purchase FT 10) Unraced

    BUSHWACKED ($130,000 purchase OBS 09) 13 sts/3 wins, $43,000

    RUNNING BOOK ($120,000 purchase FT 07) Unraced

    These were your top seven purchases, for a total outlay of $1.45 million, and earnings of about $226,000.

    Congratulations! You did better than most buyers at Barretts, according to TINKY’s tabulations.

    Of course, you made several dozen other purchases. Should we discuss their cost/earnings?

    I dont know if you are buying for yourself or clients. Apparently one or all of you have very deep pockets.

  • voice of reason

    Could you imagine if these guys ran their numbers on Yearling Sales with the same intention of proving how “harmful” the prep of young horses can be! Hahahaha. The numbers are twice… no, thrice as horrific. Very funny stuff.

  • Tinky

    A follow-up.

    First, as I have been traveling while contributing to this thread, I did make a couple of errors in the Barretts numbers that I posted. Here are corrections:

    In ’07 the number of 1/8th mile breezers used should have read 18, rather than 19. The number of 1/4 mile breezers should have read 14, rather than 19, and six of those started three of less times (rather than seven). The reduction of six from the total number of horses referenced changes the 113 number used in my subsequent post to 107.

    These mistakes, while regrettable, are trivial, and do not in any way alter the thrust of my argument.

    With that out of the way, consider this:

    After excluding the horses in my sample groups that never made it to the races, I calculated how many total starts the various elite breezers made. Given that the data did not include racing beyond 2009, I chose not to use the ’07 results, as it would not have been fair. I did use the ’04 results, instead.

    The group of elite breezers totaled 83, and they made a total of 561 starts. Those are total number of starts, not starts per year. It works out to an average of 6.7 starts per runner.

    Now bear in mind that when the Grayson Jockey Club study was done a couple of year ago, it found that the average number of starts per year for runners was 6.7. That is PER YEAR. What you see with the results above is that the fastest breezers at the Barretts sales for those three years, on average, made a career total number of starts that is identical to the average number of starts that a typical runner makes in just one year!

    It is true that a few of those horses may have added to their totals after 2009. But the youngest were then six-year-olds, and I highly doubt that the basic numbers would change to any significant extent.

    I challenge any proponent of the two-year-old sales to reconcile such damning numbers with the notion that it is somehow good for horses to participate in such sales as they are currently constructed.

  • Watcher

    Since the Fasig Tipton 2yo sale begins on Thursday I thought it might be timely to study the cost/earnings of juveniles sold at this sale since 2005 by at least one consignor.

    How about Hartley/DeRenzo?


    Six horses catalogued, one scratch, two RNA. Total sales: $2.775 million. Total earnings: $200,000. Top earner: IMPELLING (Forestry), a $725,000 sale which earned $56,000.


    Eight horses catalogued, one RNA, seven sold for $20,350,000. Total earned: $403,000. This, of course, was the sale in which they “sold” THE GREEN MONKEY for $16 million, and a STORM CAT filly for $2.2 million. Together, they won one race and $22,000.


    Three horses were catalogued; two were scratched; the remaining colt sold for $800,000. He started 16 times, won once, earned $29,000


    Seven catalogued, four scratched, one RNA. The remaining two sold for $1.525 million; they earned a total of $203,000 in 19 starts.


    Six catalogued, three scratched. Three sold for $900,000. Two were unraced, the other won two races in three starts, $104,000

    TOTAL: 16 two-year-olds sold by Hartley-DeRenzo for $26,350,000. Collectively they earned $939,000.

    I claim no proprietary rights to this information. Feel free to distribute it with my compliments!

  • Watcher:
    What are stats on Murray Smith and Wood?

  • Watcher


    I don’t know, but as promised, CTBAboardwatch will compile this information on ALL BARRETTS CONSIGNOR before distributing it to our 4,600 readers.

    It won’t be pretty.

  • ratherrapid

    watcher, possibly you’d enlighten me on those stats. Is your position. e.g. that Hartley DeRenzo is responsible for the subsequent training and success of their sales horses. What do they have to do with the fact that Todd Plecher caused some sort of (well documented) back injury to the Green Monkey? How does a 2 yr. sales grad that smokes a :10.1 furlong suddenly turn into milk toast in the bar of trainer Mr. X. Etc. Etc. How do racing stats relate back to the sale unless you can document cause and effect?

  • caroline

    I don’t know whether this will make any sense in the debate over interpreting these statistics or not, but here is an example of how I think statistics can be misinterpreted.

    Last year, CEDNF data was published/leaked from Equibase. It showed, among other things, that the CEDNF rate for horses who had their first start as a 2yo was lower than that for horses that had their first start as a 3yo, 4yo, 5yo, 6yo, and 7yo in the sample of horses racing and suffering CEDNFs in 2009. In 2008, horses who had their first start as a 2yo had a lower CEDNF rate than those that had their first start as a 3yo, 4yo, 5yo, 6yo, 7yo and 8yo among those racing and suffering CEDNFs in 2008.

    What is the conclusion?

    Apparently, that racing horses for the first time at age 2 means they will have lower CEDNF rates than if you start horses for the first time at a later age.

    Hmm. Maybe, maybe not? Maybe horses that race for the first time at age 2 do so because on average they are more mature, sounder, and more athletic at that age than horses that race for the first time at a later age. (In addition of course, statistics for horses that never make it to the races at any age because they are not suitable to do so for a variety of reasons are unavailable).
    In other words, the sample of horses whose first start is at age 2 is disproportionately weighted towards horses with characteristics which predispose them not only to racing earlier, but also to lower rates of exit (CEDNFs) from the population at any age. That doesn’t mean that racing more horses at the age of 2 will produce lower CEDNFs. I feel the same way about the sample of horses that are able to work fastest at two year old sales; they may arguably go on to dominate other groups that make it to two year old in training sales in subsequent racing performance, but that is not necessarily “because” they’ve been worked faster in training nor should it be used as prima facie evidence to support a practice of doing so in other horses.

    It seems to me that in an era where horse shortages are being cried from every corner, every effort should be made to figure out how to improve the rate at which young horses make it to the races successfully (breeding, raising, training, etc.) because they are sound and healthy and athletic enough to do so and also the rate of longevity and frequency of athletic activity once they are there. The statistics presented both informally in the original article and in subsequent posts are not very reassuring.

  • Tinky

    Caroline –

    Your example and questions raise at least two important points, to my mind.

    First, I can’t speak for others, but my criticism of the 2yo sales should not be confused with any extreme notion of when horses should begin training or racing. My strong contention is that the extreme pressure – both physical and psychological – that is put the young horses that are targeted for such sales, is clearly damaging on balance.

    I have been around those horses, as well as the trainers and consigners, for a long time. None of them believe that it is an ideal way to develop young stock. Even those who make their livings through such sales never put the same, accelerated pressure on horses that are heading to the races.

    When the average runner makes between six and seven starts per year, and the average elite 2yo sales graduate barely makes more starts in its career, no advanced degree is needed in order to discern a real problem.

    Having said that, your parsing of the stats that you presented is correct. While it is widely accepted to be a good thing to put some pressure on young horses, thereby contributing to bone development, etc., it is also true that interpreting your numbers requires nuance. Horses which don’t make it to the races at two often have suffered from multiple, or more serious setbacks than intrinsically sound animals.

    So, while you are definitely on the right track in terms of the need for nuanced interpretation of statistics, I have yet to see a compelling defense of the 2yo sales as being a positive route to the races. And, as mentioned more than once already, if there were powerful statistics to back up such a claim, I seriously doubt that they would be kept private.

  • Watcher


    In response to your questions:

    Q: Is your position. e.g. that Hartley DeRenzo is responsible for the subsequent training and success of their sales horses.

    A: No

    Q: What do they have to do with the fact that Todd Plecher caused some sort of (well documented) back injury to the Green Monkey?

    A: Very little.

    Q: How does a 2 yr. sales grad that smokes a :10.1 furlong suddenly turn into milk toast in the bar of trainer Mr. X. Etc. Etc.

    A: As Tinky has pointed out, the fastest previewers average 6.7 lifetime starts–the same as the YEARLY average for the entire TB population. Clearly, warp-speed training is at the center of the sale horses’ short racing careers

    Q: How do racing stats relate back to the sale unless you can document cause and effect?

    A: We’ve documented cause and effect more thoroughly than anyone else, in my opinion.

    Now, I have a question for you.

    Why do you suppose The Blood-Horse, TB Times and Daily Racing Form refused our pre-paid advertising of our complete Barretts’ study?

    Moreover, why do you think the TB press won’t publish it’s own studies of these facts?

  • M-D

    To Jeff S & those who require “proper credentialing:”

    To your absurd & non-falsifiable demand for “proper credentialing,” I offer you this:

    Hoist yourselves on your own pitards!

    Tinky & others who devote themselves to systematic consideration & analysis of the data are sufficiently qualified to offer their analysis & interpretation (of the date 7 their analysis)–&….

    …to be the recipients of your august analysis & report.

    Why do you not make it available to the general public, if for no other reason than to bless & enlighten us all &…

    …lead us out of the darkness of the caves of our ignorance & lack of “proper credentialing!”

  • smitty

    Selling horses is all about the dream.Letting customers see the horse travel with a rider is a very good idea,but why so fast.Why kill the dream by showing that there is a faster horse 2 lots away.Yes you might not hit the huge lick with one but you might sell more of them for less balancing out the total.If you really want to know,I am sure these Pinhookers are not in as good a position finanacially as they make out to be.Somebody needs to take a stand,slow them down,sell more and get better results from the horse in the long run.6 months befor this Fl. sale,alot of these horses were consigned at Keeneland and the likes.If you went there and asked them to jog one up for you,they would think you were crazy.Now 6 months later they are asking them to perform faster than their Sires could at the same stage in their life.Dont make much sense to me.

  • michaelpowerwatch

    Before you give too much credence to “Watcher” aka Michael Power. Look up his background lifted from the search key on

    Decide for yourself.

  • Joe

    Even if speed over one or two furlongs was a reliable indicator, it is hard to judge how fast a baby might be without knowing how genuine or artificial its speed is.

    Adding trainers and distances to breeze-sale/race record stats would be enlightening. Adding owners, jockeys/use of whip per race, veterinarians, tracks, weather and of course detailed medical records from birth, drugs used, weight, breeding, would be essential to discover positive and negative health and safety factors over time including how breeze sales may affect two year olds.

    Fast breezers might be hit by a double whammy. Speed cowboys might get most of them, then drill them hard, race them early and hurt many, thus skewing the stats in favor of homebreds and slow two year olds that are not pushed hard at sales and end-up with conservative, patient owners and trainers.

  • ratherrapid

    watcher, the Barrett’s study is a very useful study, but to relate subsequent lack of success to back to the two year old sales is at best a stretch. that the Barrett’s study is documented, fine. It has to be documented as to cause and effect. All it is now is a general stat study of racing results that probably mean very little since you could get the same study no matter where the horse originated. pure stats can be twisted in a number of ways which might be the reason for Blood horse et al. rejection. Nevertheless, I agree the stats are an eye opener.

    What i believe is that the sport need be careful these and other sales gain owners instead of losing them. Year 2000 six sales grads with their new buyer layed over at blue ribbon while i was there in the ship in barn. looked like a hospital ward.

  • Watchwatcher

    Magazines refusing ad money? Undoubtedly because you couldn’t come up with a credit card that would pass.

  • Watchwatcher

    Note to the knockers. Just watch the best buyers in the world compete for some very well prepared 2-year-olds tomorrow. They obviously see something you don’t.

  • Those best buyers in the world are spending $500k+ on a 2 year old who will go on to earn a tenth of that price back on average. Whenever a horse has to be fast on a specific date problems are bound to arise – that is the nature of the game.

  • Tinky

    ratherrapid –

    “to relate subsequent lack of success to back to the two year old sales is at best a stretch”

    Please. The stretch would be to assume that the notable fragility of those sales graduates was due to a wide variety of unrelated issues, and that it was sheer coincidence that they all happened to have been wound up to breeze as fast as possible early in their 2yo seasons.

    “It has to be documented as to cause and effect.”

    By your standards, it would be a stretch – to use one of countless examples – to claim that Vindication gets unsound horses. After all, there’s no direct, causal connection, right? I mean, perhaps they are, as a group, abused in early training and when they reach the racetrack. Or perhaps they are all allergic to hay, and no one has yet uncovered that subtle key.


    Give us break.

  • In the referenced CTBA Barretts study, Baffert and Zayat spent $5,060,000 for fast breezers and went on to realize $1,237,000 in earnings.

    Right in line with the Lukas at Auction stats if I recall.

    Of course, I’m not giving them credit for any residual earnings at stud, but I am also not counting training fees and vet bills as costs either.

  • ratherrapid

    #71 the only standard that counts is scientific accuracy. Whether the Green Monkey was hurt by his breeze or by Plecher or something else would be the general Q asked of all these. Would you agree with that. Identify the cause of the lack of success. I am other than any fan of these early sales. Yet, they have been going on for years with a lot of survivors, and early 2 year olds have been breezing fast since the days of Preston Burch.

  • Tinky

    “the only standard that counts is scientific accuracy. Whether the Green Monkey was hurt by his breeze or by Plecher or something else would be the general Q asked of all these. Would you agree with that.”

    I really don’t have any idea what you could be thinking. There is roughly zero possibility of tracing the causes of injuries in racehorses with “scientific accuracy”. Every horse that is injured might have kicked the stall the previous night, or might have had a pre-existing, microscopic tear, or might simply have taken a bad step, etc.

    This whole industry is about pattern recognition, not “scientific accuracy”. In other words, interpreting patterns can lead to reasonable, and valuable conclusions, but attempting to explain results of breeding, training or racing, with “scientific accuracy”, isn’t possible.

    Science can obviously shed light on certain aspects of racing and breeding, but there are for too many dots (i.e. variables) in horses lives and careers for science to be able to connect them accurately.

  • Satch

    For evaluating the buyers, it would be interesting to determine the “alpha”, which is a standard used to evaluate mutual funds. The “alpha” determines how much true value the investor/buyer provides, rather than just dumb luck of market movements.

    This dialog has proven interesting. Thank you, everybody.

  • calder owner

    This is a very lively back and forth in this post. Jeff Seder and the people at eqb do a great job at breaking down the video at the 2 year old sales and his points in this posting are well taken. Alawys thought it was funny how one of there documented videos back several years ago pinpointed all the flaws of one very high ranking blood stock agent who bought horses out of a maryland sale with all kinds of flaws. That blood stock agent today is still one of the main players and will again be front and center tomorrow for a major partneship signing there tickets. I buy on a regular basis out of the obs sale in April looking for a diamond in the rough. After 11 purchases finally found one two years ago and is still running today knock on wood loudly. The dream in all of these sales is to find the good horse. They come from all sales and at all prices. I would agree if you take the fastest workers and the biggest sale prices that many will not make it but i think that points more to the speculative nature of buying horses either as yearlings or as two year olds. The thing that is great coming out of a two year old sale is that you can watch them travel and if they come out of the sale sound there only a few months away from the races but again luck will play a huge part of it. When you think of the 2 year old sales purely from a business. The consignors have to work these horses hard to prepare them for the sale. Most of you complaining about this would do the same thing if that was your business and the climate demanded you do that to get the most return on your investment. Not saying its right but thats the way these sales work. If you have a smart bloodstock agent or trainer working the sale for you they will spend more time on how they travel than they would on the time.

    Good Topic and some Good thoughts by most.

  • caroline

    Tinky – re #61 – yes I wasn’t trying to substantively connect the two year old breezing issue with that of first racing start. The post was purely intended to illustrate that interpretation of the statistics must be nuanced when sample selection (bias) issues are present.

    Just want to clarify another number and maybe get a source from you if you have one? 6-7 starts per year is a simple average across horses of all ages and characteristics for a specific sub-sample of years?

  • Watcher

    Caroline, you may be interested in reading the CTBAboardwatch longitudinal study of Barretts’ fastest previewers 1999-2008. We’ve received many requests for it from others who have been reading this thread but I don’t believe you were among them. Just write to:

    [email protected]

  • caroline

    Thanks Watcher – I think I may already have seen a summary, but I’m pretty certain I don’t have the full report. I’ll shoot you an email.

  • ratherrapid

    is there any thought or movement to scheduling these 2 yr. old sales a little later, and, what would be the objection. seems to me, whatever, per Calder owner informative post, reasons that the early sales exist, they have the appearance of young horse abuse, and, given the stats presented on the thread, are these sales contributing to keeping owners in or driving them out due to questionable purchasing?

  • NoAgendaHere

    There were approximately 3,000 yearlings sold at Keeneland September averaging $65,000. How many of these horses will make money over their lifetimes?

    You guys must all be a lot smarter than the multimillionaries buying these 2yos…or maybe you just have too much time on your hands.

  • Tinky

    Caroline –

    “6-7 starts per year is a simple average across horses of all ages and characteristics for a specific sub-sample of years?”

    That is correct, to my understanding. I will add the following:

    The average number of career starts (per starter, not foal) is now at around 16. That number is interesting on more than one level. First, it is around two and a half times the number of starts made, on average, by the three year sample that I used of elite breezers at Barrett’s.

    Even if, for arguments sake, the horses in more recent sales, and/or those which have come out of East Coast sales, have started more frequently than their West Coast counterparts, it is highly likely that they, as a group, will also fall significantly short of the industry average.

    Another aspect of the 16 starts number which is fascinating, albeit deeply sad, is that stallions which stood from 1970–79 produced runners which averaged 29 starts! The best of the group (in terms of durability) were producing runners that averaged 40–48 starts during their careers. Today, the best are producing runners that average in the low 20s.

    That decline is shocking in its rapidity, though the 2yo sales are only one contributing factor. Promiscuous and stupid breeding (i.e. breeding to sell, rather than breeding to race) is the main culprit.

  • Google Act 71

    Tinky is a good debater.

  • Equine Vet


    I could not agree more with your comment on the contribution of breeding to this problem.

  • Watcher

    Equine vet,

    Could you expand on your comment?

  • Perplexed

    #82 – Half of your sample are fillies and those that aren’t able to perform consistently at a level above claiming are going to be retired to the breeding shed (the wisdom of who gets bred and who doesn’t is for another discussion). Whereas fillies who are lesser bred/physicals are not likely to go thru 2yo sales and are more apt to keep running dropping down in the ranks for perhaps years. Thus the number of starts being made by half your sample are business decisions, not necessarily an indictment of the rigors of 2yo sales.

  • Equine Vet

    Tinky pointed out:

    “Another aspect of the 16 starts number which is fascinating, albeit deeply sad, is that stallions which stood from 1970–79 produced runners which averaged 29 starts! The best of the group (in terms of durability) were producing runners that averaged 40–48 starts during their careers. Today, the best are producing runners that average in the low 20s.”

    I remember mentioning this in speaking at the first Equine Summit in Lexington. I guess I can pose it as a question (or two)here.

    How frequently are we today selecting bloodstock at the 29-40ish lifetime starts level (in some sense this could be equated with soundness over a traditional servicable life-span)?

    At what age and after how many starts are we transferring stallions into breeding programs?

    To what degree are horses with careers shortened by injury/unsoundness (which in some cases may be the result of conformation issues or other limiting factors that may be partially or in some cases significantly heritable) then put into the breeding population?

    These are just two points posed in a rather simple fashion, and in reality one could consider them in regard to different sub populations within the breed, but at the end of the day, these breeding practices do have implications. It is a complex topic-probably not easily handled in short answer posts!

  • Watcher


    Have you read the CTBAboardwatch study? If you haven’t send an email to us and we will shoot it right back to you. Thus far we’ve received over 35 requests for it from readers of this forum.

    If, after studying it horse-by-horse, I think you will recognize your fallacious reasoning.

  • Tinky

    Perplexed –

    There are nuances to consider, and you have touched on one. But the same dynamic holds true in the context of the broader population, as the fillies that are entered in the 2yo sales, as a group, do not carry significant value (based on pedigree) as broodmare prospects. Their broodmare values would rarely exceed the tags in mid/high claiming races – races in which they could earn real money (assuming some ability).

    Few would likely be retired for business reasons after a two, three or six race career – providing that they were still sound.

  • Perplexed

    I have never purchased or sold at Barrets…but I have been involved in the decision to retire a number fillies. The reasons as to why are varied and to an outsider they would be nothing more than guess’s.
    The idea that only a “few” would be retired for business reasons is unlikely to me (but then I am guessing) but a study that has so little input or knowledge of or from the study subjects is inherently flawed, especially one that seems to have been started with the findings its looking for already in mind.

  • Joe

    Very interesting.Tinky, equine vet and all thank you! To what extent do you believe that the following factors contribute to runners making fewer and fewer starts: official introduction of Lasix and bute on race day, widespread use and abuse of therapeutic drugs for non-therapeutic purposes, dangerous substances and practices, growth of the “claiming game”, loss of ethical, caring owners and trainers, commercialism/greed replacing quality breeding and horsemanship?

    Basic common sense needs to be used because scientific studies without total transparency re. equine health and medical and medication records from birth can only offer superficial results.

  • Watcher


    Perhaps you wouldn’t be perplexed if you actually read the study! Far from fulfilling any bias our study is purely objective: Time, name, selling price, starts/wins, earnings, yearling price, buyer and seller.

    write to [email protected]

  • ratherrapid

    i have owned and trained about 14 horses since 1985. for whatever it’s worth, of the two or three that actually suffered serious injuries each injury was attributed to rider error (translate–trainer failing to control rider), and none to “genetics” or “breeding”. I have seen zero evidence of unsound legs or unsound anything in any of the horses I have bred or purchased at Keenland/Faisig Tipton Lexington. My latest purchase has some of the soundest strongest legs I’ve seen. Nor do I see any credible evidence that “breeding to sell” has anything to do with soundness other than the questionable prep those yearlings receive. The above posts continue to ignore the 4000 horse English study attributing injuries as 95% environmental and 5% genetic.

  • Tinky

    Joe –

    There is no doubt that the promiscuous use of medication has weakened the breed in the U.S. That is, along with short-sighted breeding practices, the most important factor in my view.

  • Tinky

    ratherrapid –

    We race on tracks that are essentially the same that they were in the 1970s

    Horses are trained very much the same way that they were in the ’70s

    Veterinary technology has consistently improved throughout the past 40 years

    Breeders increasingly bred to sell, as opposed to breeding to race, throughout the past 40 years

    Stallion prospects which broke down early in their careers were increasingly accepted (if not ushered in) throughout the past 40 years (i.e. soundness was markedly de-emphasized)

    Stallions that consistently passed on negative traits (e.g. Storm Cat, etc.) were heavily promoted anyway, as long as they were fashionable, and produced big incomes

    The average starts per foal and starter have plummeted throughout the past 40 years.

    Your explanation for this set of facts is that horses break down for “environmental” reasons, and that it has very little to do with genetics.

    It really boggles the mind that you have been in the business for 25 years, yet have failed to notice what was happening right in front of your face.

  • Tinky

    News flash:

    At the Fasig-Tipton sale today in Florida, by my quick count 152 of the 240 horses catalogues were either withdrawn, or failed to meet their reserve,

    In other words, 63% of the horses which were wound up and sent to THE elite 2yo in-training sale weren’t even sold.

  • Tinky

    More Fasig-Tipton news:

    Of the horses that were sold, EQB (Jeff Seder, from earlier in the thread, founded the company) bought four as agent for an aggregate $1.295 million.

    So, should we take at face value his claims and interpretations based on his “proprietary” data?

    You be the judge.

  • Watcher


    Care to hazard a guess how many of the 152 RNA/outs will make repeat appearances in another 2-y-o sale, with another one or two warp-speed workouts (i.e. “breezes” according to the pinhookers) under their belts?

  • Tinky

    watcher –

    That’s a good point. I certainly won’t hazard a guess, but that repeat sale ‘syndrome’ has been growing in numbers in recent years.

    There is little doubt that such repeated pounding (physical and psychological) isn’t good, though some might argue that the survivors are pretty damned tough.

  • Watcher

    Tinky, in reading today’s results I noticed that Jeff Seder bought an Unbridled’s Song colt for $330,000.

    The seller? Hartley/DeRenzo.

    Given their respective “past performances” as seller and buyer (as posted earlier), what is the probability this poor critter will ever see a starting gate?

  • caroline

    Ratherrapid – I don’t know what is meant by environmental. Can you clarify what that means? Can you post a link to that study?

    UC-Davis necropsy studies which have been ongoing for maybe more than a decade now (?) show that the vast majority of catastrophic injuries are associated with pre-existing injuries. I’ll try to find the links. There have been studies here showing other strong associations – frequency of works within a given time period, for example, and toe grabs of a certain length the use of which was in principle altered by law. Of course, that is just the California dead horse population.

    British studies have shown a very strong correlation between pre-existing tendon damage and catastrophic injuries and they have programs in place to try to deal with that I believe.

  • ratherrapid

    Caroline–environmental in the study referred to injury causation. the study can be googled. they tried to find injury causes such as training negligence which i feel fairly sure accounts for about 75% of all injuries. So, Storm Cat is an unsound Stallion tinky. Is SC unsound because of genetics? Or, because his trainer fails to know how to train without injuring his horse. If a Stallion Prospect breezes for some fool such as some on this very OP and get’s hurt, is that genetics that make the horse a poor prospect or merley the victim of another idiot? I seem to recall Storm Cat as racing in the early ’80s. Genetics must have already been changing, eh? And, while training methods are hardly uniform, I’d say prior to the fathers of soft training, Woody Stephens and Lukas, training and racing was far more rigorous in the 70s than now. Additionally, if anyone has one iota of evidence that “drugs” is weakening the breed present it. Tink, by my eyeballs they are breeding much better horses these days.

  • caroline

    Thanks Ratherrapid – I tend to think that, indeed, training negligence is an important factor (I simply don’t know enough about genetics to say much on the breeding issue). The correlations of catastrophic injury to a variety of training/care and custody factors support that conjecture, I think.

  • Tinky

    ratherrapid –

    You have packed so many delusional assertions into one paragraph that I hereby nominate you for a special Eclipse award.

    I am not going to waste time correcting all of your bizarre assertions. However, I will highlight the most hilariously misguided:

    “…the fathers of soft training, Woody Stephens and Lukas”

    I’ll be keeping an eye out for the sun rising in the West tomorrow morning, too.

  • caroline

    Tinky, I will call you as soon as I see it rise.

  • caroline

    Tinky, on a more serious note, I thought you might be interested in some stats from the BHA published on its website. I was looking for starts per horse, annually, and of course because the seasons are segregated in Britain into roughly half flat and half jump you really can’t compare with US annual stats although I’ve seen people try to do that of course…

    Anyway, here’s a link to all kinds of interesting stats on British horse-racing (and again, beware, they are segregated into flat and jump). If you also look at breeding stats on the website, about 5400 GB foals in 2007 which would have been 2yos in 2009, the last year of data on racing(although, shockingly, more than 12K bred/foaled in Ireland) which gives you an idea of attrition there prior to first start.,%20Races%20And%20Prize%20Money.pdf

    Also other stats available at that website on breeding etc.

  • Tinky

    Caroline –

    Thanks for the link. There are a number of reasons why horses start fewer times per year in the UK than those in the U.S., and you are correct to discount any superficial comparisons.

    Horses which race in the U.K. race longer and stay sounder than their U.S. counterparts for many reasons, as well. I’ve long believed that a significant factor is the natural break given to most of them over the winter. This point actually dovetails with ratherrapid’s contention that “environmental” factors are major contributors to breakdowns. I do believe that even if horses are trained by sensitive horsemen, training and racing year-round has a real negative impact on soundness. The European runners are generally given breaks over the winter, and any minor issues, which can of course become pre-cursors to breakdowns, are given the chance to heal naturally.

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