This is the season for the major Thoroughbred yearling auction sales - first Fasig-Tipton in Lexington, then Saratoga, then Keeneland, with lots of lesser spots in between.
I bought my first horse at public auction in 1967, and have bought well over twelve hundred since then. I'm fond of saying, "In the horse market I am not spectacular but I am steady." Only a handful of people have bought as many horses at public auction as I have, and - after a while - you begin to take the auction scene for granted.
But think of what spectacular theatrics it is - the heartbreak, the elation, the gut-busting drudgery, the fatigue, the sheer adventure of it all. Every thirty seconds at a horse sale another drama is being played out.
The sales companies are remarkable in orchestrating the promotion, execution, and follow-up in selling hundreds of horses, dealing with hundreds of sellers and hundreds of buyers -and retaining their sanity. They do all of this with the flavor of a genial host at a cocktail party.
Both Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton are remarkable organizations - each with a different personality. I once wrote, "If Keeneland is to the sales scene like King Arthur and the Round Table, Fasig-Tipton is Robin Hood and his Merry Men." I'm equally fond of both organizations.
The consignors at sales work like dogs, smoothly coordinating the showing of obstreperous and cranky horses hundreds of times daily, often in steamy, enervating weather.
The biggest by far is Taylor Made in Lexington. They employ scores of blue-shirted men and women, heavily laden with sophisticated electronic communication equipment as they dart back and forth between various zones skillfully showing horses. The four brothers that run Taylor Made bring a new meaning to the word "hustle."
At the July 2008 Fasig-Tipton Yearling Sale, I bought six horses, but came home with five. I liked a smooth looking filly at the barn of a relatively new consignor with whom I was really not very familiar. I had a veterinarian inspect the x-rays of the filly at the sales repository. Then - as is my practice - I interrogated one of the consignor principals about the animal. He said, "She's fine. No problems at all." I bought her. But when I had her vetted after the sale we discovered she had paralysis in her breathing apparatus. This warranted my rejecting her, in keeping with the sales conditions. This consignor would have done well to have warned me off this individual…an example of one of the aforementioned "dramas."
I love the sales and look forward to going to them, to the excitement of the sessions, but I'm always very happy to leave. I would not do without this aspect of the horse business, but it is not an exercise for boys in short pants or folks short on stamina.
This is Cot Campbell, and this is my view.