A Letter From the President - April
I returned home from Florida this weekend after a whirlwind few weeks. This month saw me in Florida and California for two-year-old sales, and then the team joined me in Ocala at the end of the month for our second annual kickoff event to unveil the new class of two-year-olds. This year we had nearly fifty people at the event, and everyone had a great time getting up close and personal with the new babies.
The excitement has really only just begun. Attending the auctions is both exhilarating and exhausting. You can study the films and watch the horses for only so long. In the end, it's how the horses perform on the track that will determine how well we did our job.
One thing that sets us apart is the extra diligence we do while acquiring our horses. We bring Dr. William Baker down to the sales to review the horses, and he follows up with digital x-rays of the horses we purchase. To have someone of Dr. Baker's stature and expertise working exclusively for us is a tremendous advantage. His sole purpose is to help us find the soundest athletes, and he comes with no other agenda. He's an unbiased participant that will prevent us from buying the wrong horse. I can tell you that in the past, we have turned back a few horses because they did not meet Dr. Baker's stringent criteria. Those are horses that we have prevented Partners from purchasing. If we find one or two horses a year that we don't feel meet our high standards, then his involvement is worth it.
In the auction world, I believe we are facing a market correction. I saw a lot of pinhookers sweating over the past month. Over half of the horses cataloged in the OBS Sale went unsold. The average was down less than ten percent compared to 2006, but the buybacks and withdrawn horses better reflect the relative strength of the market. As a buyer, we were more aggressive because certain consigners let horses go at a reasonable price. At the same time, with fewer horses going through the ring, many of the top horses had more players bidding. Perhaps the biggest coup of the month for us was our purchase of a brilliant Storm Cat colt at the Barretts sale. Storm Cat is the most expensive stallion in the world. To offer a colt like this to our Partners could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
While the sales dominated much of my focus, we continued to sizzle on the track. We led nine different horses to the winner's circle in March and scored ten wins, a great accomplishment by any standard. A pair of comebacks highlighted the month. Mr. Component returned from a layoff to score right off the bench at the beginning of the month and then completed a bookend by coming right back to win again on the last day of the month. Moon's Halo also returned with an eye catching score at Gulfstream Park. Moon's Halo has a world of talent, and you will hear much more from him this year.
Speaking of horses you will hear about, our graded stakes winning filly Dream Rush will likely return to the starting gate this month. She spiked a fever less than a week before she was scheduled to run her last race and that forced us to rearrange her schedule. We are tentatively looking at either the Beaumont Stakes(G2) at Keeneland or the Comely Stakes(G2) at Aqueduct for her next start. Rick Violette believes that Dream Rush is a champion caliber filly, so we want to manage her carefully. It is difficult to be patient sometimes, but with a horse like this you have no choice but to put your fate in the hands of the racing gods.
The other main highlight for the company was the debut of our new state of the art web site this month. The feedback has been universally positive. It is gratifying to see so many people commenting on the site. Most importantly, I am so pleased that our Partners appreciate all of the new features and enhancements. When we decided to redesign our site we asked ourselves and our Partners what was important to them. We took the feedback seriously. We combined these ideas with a creative vision and a lot of hard work to develop what I believe is a product that is second to none. If you haven't done so already, I urge you to surf the new site and see what it offers for yourself.
Finally, I end this month's letter on a sad note. Something we have prided ourselves on is the sense of community that our Partners and team feel for one another. This month, that community lost one of its members as Partner Russell Horvat succumbed to his battle with cancer. Russell was a huge horse racing fan. No matter how sick he became, he always made a point to tell us how much the horses lifted his spirits. Russ' final horse was Mr. Component. Russell could no longer go to the races, but he always made a point to check on how his horses were doing. Mr. Component won his last race, and I cannot forget what it meant to Russell. To have Mr. Component come back to win again this week only makes me think that he had a little extra help from above carrying him to the wire. His family and friends are in the thoughts and prayers of the entire West Point Thoroughbreds community. Russell will be missed by us all.
Until next month.