With our man John Motaung, riding his socks off at the Ready to Run sales in the USA at present, articles on these programmes are especially relevant right now. TDN asks leading personalities about their views :
Liberation Farm Owner Rob Whiteley:
My hat is off to the pinhookers and two-year-old sale consignors. They do a damn good job for the most part, while lodged between a rock and a hard place. Quite a few pinhookers possess some of the keenest eyes in the business, and they show tremendous horsemanship in getting a number of their hand-picked babies to the sales in one piece. Yet, the current obsession with speed makes their job extremely difficult and defies common sense.
Asking a young, developing horse for a maximum burst of speed on a given day in February or March (and putting him or her through such a demanding preparation) doesn’t prove much, and unnecessarily risks ruining the horse. I believe we need to turn back the clock to the days when we let the babies show themselves under a strong gallop. (I think Frank Stronach has this one right when he conducts his entire private sale under something close to a two minute lick.)
I think also that we are selling trainers and other real horsemen short when we suggest that they can only tell a good horse by the time it takes them to go an eighth or a quarter. This game is all about having an eye to see athletic, fluid motion, and about inferring quality and competitiveness in an untried horse. It is not about cheap speed. Real pros used to have no trouble picking out the stars when they were galloped, so where did we blow the turn? Do we really think that Richard Mandella or Mike Ryan needs to watch a horse go in 10 flat to see that it’s a promising race horse? What time did Afleet Alex or Monarchos or Stevie Wonderboy work in when they were two-year-old sales horses? Go look it up.
Making astute selections involves discerning how a horse moves motion analysis, and he did quite well using horses at a gallop. Even the contemporary stride analysis folks at DataTrack, Equix, or EQB don’t require intense speed, because you can’t hide inefficiencies of movement. Furthermore, individual stride analysis can still be performed meaningfully with horses galloping strongly, because an individual sale horse’s score or profile is relative to all of the other horses in that sales group.
In short, and for many reasons, speed is our enemy. Training for intense speed causes too much attrition. It’s hard on pin-hookers who bravely make the investment, and it’s obviously hard on the immature horses.
At the end of the day, are we really happy selling only 35 percent of the two-year-olds catalogued for a sale? So, what will fix this dismal reality? It’s time the consignors, buyers, and sales companies sat down together and figured it out.
Juvenile Consignor Nick de Meric:
I think that history proves annually how effective our method of marketing two-year-olds is: the results speak for themselves. Year in, year out, graduates of two-year old sales outperform industry percentages, breed statistics and their own pedigrees. They consistently perform at the highest levels of competition. However, the steady progression towards rewarding extreme workouts in breeze shows has resulted in a potentially unhealthy preoccupation with sprint speed.
It is a truism to say that good horses tend to work faster than mediocre ones and by definition have naturally higher cruising speeds. Nevertheless, it is also true that a horse that can work : 11 flat, a distinctly moderate time in today’s breeze shows, six times in a row has just set a new world record for three-quarters of a mile. It does not follow that every horse capable of a superfast workout for an eighth of a mile will be stakes quality if he remains sound, just as not every horse whose top speed is significantly slower than the fastest works has no chance of being better than an average performer, though plenty are, in both categories. For me, it is all about how they do it.
This trend has resulted in preparation methods that tend to favor tremendous speed over short distances. This is not always in the best interests of the animal’s long term athletic future. Preparation for the track tends to place less emphasis on this kind of speed, if the truth be told.
In recognition of this, sale companies have sought to mitigate its effects, while still providing a suitable stage upon which two year olds can perform for buyers’ evaluation. Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland changing their format to a single breeze show and OBS’s significant investment in the synthetic Safetrack all help to reduce the risk of injury and promote a sounder product. As sellers, we should applaud these initiatives and do our part to present our customers with horses that are not overtrained when they are purchased and which continue to perform well at the track, as they have for decades.
Regarding uniformity of medication rules, embracing an intelligently conceived industry standard for the sale of two-year-olds would doubtless be a positive step, but until racing jurisdictions and state laws offer the same parity, it is difficult to envisage this becoming a reality.
From its very inception, the Thoroughbred breed has been developed on an annual cycle, including mating, foaling, yearling and sales and the racing of two-year olds as early as March and April. Spring to early summer, therefore, is the only viable time to build any excitement for marketing them to buyers who hope to participate in juvenile races.
Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News