It All Starts Here - A Visit To A Racehorse Auction
 By mosquito   •   25th Sep 2011   •   5,836 views   •   7 comments
September 6 was the date of the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association annual yearling auction. Each year, the very best of Washington bred yearlings (plus some incomers form out of state and some mares and older horses) pass through the sales ring at Emerald Downs racetrack, all on their way to new homes. And I wasn’t going to miss it!

I’ve been to sales in the past – many years ago – and I did not expect this to be anything like the big Standardbred sale in Pennsylvania or the mega sales of Kentucky or New York, and it wasn’t. There were only about 200 horses in the catalog – I say only 200, but it still takes a long time to sell them all! A look through the catalog quickly showed that while the best local horses appeared in the pedigrees, this was a collection of horses that might throw out a few stakes winners but wasn’t going to have very high prices or very many household names. Now, that works out great for us. I went there with our syndicate ( and a budget of only $5000 to see if we could get another horse for the club. We also had a horse for sale; the syndicate also has some broodmares and we’d brought a yearling of our own.

The yearlings had been stabled at the track for a few days, available for visitors and viewings. I arrived a couple hours before the sale, with a post-it note in my catalog of the four horses the syndicate manager, Scott, said were possible purchases. He wasn’t optimistic though – with our syndicate, the trainer holds a stake in the horses, and finding horses that everyone agrees upon isn’t easy. I met up with Scott at the first horse, number 7 in the catalog...Scott said they’d already ruled her out, but we got her out to see if I could figure out why. It wasn’t hard, one front led was visibly crooked, although she was a sweet, pretty filly nonetheless. On to the next one.

It was hard to focus on the yearling being shown to me; there were literally dozens of beautiful yearlings being walked, jogged, and presented to potential buyers, every single one of them a horse I’d have loved to have in my stable as a show or riding horse – never mind racing. Scott said two possible horses (lot 31 was one) were very nice, and likely to quickly exceed out budget, but number 102 was a little chestnut filly that he thought might get overlooked because she was still very small - remind you of anyone???

Lot 31
Lot 31

Lot 102 was a little chestnut filly
Lot 102 was a little chestnut filly

She was small, but mainly because her back half had grown faster than her front half. Her sire was very successful, but small, and his foals were characteristically little, but they were certainly fast enough. We looked at a few others just for fun, then went and found our seat in the sales arena.

If you’ve never been to an auction, let me tell you a little about how it works.
First, you don’t bid accidentally. It’s okay to sneeze. There are ‘watchers’ who are looking for your bid and if you accidentally wave to someone or scratch your nose they’ll make sure you really want to bid before they shout your bid to the auctioneer.

The horses walk around in a holding area first, then the grooms hand them over to a handler to bring them into the sales arena. I use the word ‘arena’ loosely, because it’s only about fourteen feet on a side, and when you get a yearling all on its own in there, with the yelling and bidding and the auctioneer calling, it can get a little rambunctious. At most sales I leave amazed that they don’t have horses end up in the audience. Don’t expect to understand a word the auctioneer says. It’s just like on TV - it’s a crazy babble designed to get you confused and excited so before you know it you’ve swapped your house for a horse; which is fine by me, but my husband probably wouldn’t agree.

Sales Arena
Sales Arena

We watched 100 horses pass by, and I was astonished at the consistent high quality from what is a small sale in a state that is, I think I can safely say, not a global leader in thoroughbred breeding. Many sold for as little as $1000, but most did sell. I couldn’t help but think that – if I were in the market for hunters or eventers - that I might just come here first for potential horses.

There were some very beautiful animals selling for very low process!

The top seller passed through the ring at number....Bidding was slow at first, as the big players waited their turn. Once the price passed $50,000, an elderly man sitting right behind me started to bid. Soon it was between him and another man at the other side of the auction hall. Back and forth they went, until the man behind me offer $100,000, to rounds of applause. It didn’t last long – his rival quickly bid $105,000, and sensing that he really must want the horse, the older man backed down graciously. This colt (Lot 68) sold for $105,000. Was he worth it? Time will tell, but he certainly looked it.

This colt (Lot 68) sold for $105,000
This colt (Lot 68) sold for $105,000

Our syndicate’s yearling for sale came up. Scott told me that the price would have to reach $10,000 otherwise they’d bid themselves and buy her back; effectively placing a reserve on her. He said he would be quite happy to keep her, as she was a full sister to the club’s stakes winning horse Winter Warlock, and she looked like she could be just as good. Bidding was slow to get going, and with a bid of $7,000 we had bought her back. He looked pretty happy about that, so I don’t think he really wanted to sell her in the first place; but that’s the downside of syndicates.

Our prospect, the chestnut filly, came up soon. The other two we had liked had each sold for over $30,000, so Scott had been right that they’d be out of our reach. I was incredibly excited – I would only ever have a tiny slice of her, but by now I was already attached, thinking of possible names, and picturing her in our colors in the paddock. My mistake. By the third bid the price was at $11,000 and she was gone. Another auction rule – don’t get attached until the gavel comes down!

There were still another hundred or so horses to go, but I had seen enough. Scott would take our $5000 to the sales in Kentucky later on to see what he could get. I went back to the racetrack stables to visit with Redseasalt (Holy Mama has gone to California to race through the winter) and say ‘good night’ before heading home. When I got back to my car I called my husband and the first thing he said was ‘You didn’t buy anything did you?’. I replied, under my breath, ‘not this time!’ Next year, I’m bringing my checkbook!

If you want to know more about this sale, check out
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All That Jazz  
Loved it! Those horses are super pretty :o
  Sep 25, 2011  •  7,768 views
This makes me really want to get into a syndicate when I'm older ^^
  Sep 25, 2011  •  7,769 views
Stay Untamed  
That sounds like it was fun to see all those horses,especially since some might be famous one day! ) I want to go to one now!
  Sep 25, 2011  •  7,817 views
Carpe Diem  
I must go! I live near Emerald Downs. :)
  Sep 25, 2011  •  7,772 views
Sky Caballos  
i love the photos!
  Sep 26, 2011  •  7,769 views
They are beautiful 0.o
  Sep 28, 2011  •  7,764 views
That's exciting. It all seems so well run, when you get down to it.
  May 3, 2012  •  7,798 views
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