West Point Thoroughbreds has enjoyed tremendous success at 2-year-old in training sales over the past decade. Juvenile purchases include grade one winners Dream Rush, Awesome Gem, Flashy Bull, Lear’s Princess, and Macho Again and stakes winners Toasting, Empire Dreams, Cajun Spirit, Quality Lass, Quiet All American, Rock Me Baby, Tree of Life, King Congie, Belle of the Hall, Mr. Fantasy, Sunrise Smarty, amongst others.
These sales aren’t for everyone. Critics say the consignors push the horses too hard too fast and others prefer to buy yearlings so they can watch them develop in the program of their choice. There’s no denying that horses being prepped for sales are pushed harder and faster than those who aren’t expected to breeze an eighth of a mile as fast as they possibly can in March.
At the drop of the hammer, it ultimately becomes the end user’s decision about whether to continue pushing a horse to make the races early in their 2-year-old, or to back off and let a horse mature and develop.
“We’ve been buying at the two-year-old sales for over 15 years,” said WPT president Terry Finley. “In a sense, the fact that a horse makes it through the rigorous sales process and vets clean shows shows durability and toughness. Some horses we’ve bought at the sales and sent them directly to their trainers. Other times we've purchased very nice horses but knew they were honed on and needed some time or had later developing pedigrees. Oftentimes there’s no right or wrong answer, it’s just a matter of putting the pieces of the puzzle together and making prudent decisions.”
There’s a case to be made for buying both yearlings and 2-year-olds, and Jeff Lifson blogs about that here, but in this article we focus on 2-year-olds.
We love 2-year-old in training sales and here’s why:
Our team watches the horses on the racetrack, assesses their mechanics, attitude, willingness to train, etc. At a yearling sale, all you’ve got is a walk up and back to assess athleticism. Using computer aided technology, we’re able to analyze breeze videos in slow motion to see which horses use their bodies most efficiently and which horses have the longest, most fluid strides. Jeff talks in more detail about the “breeze show” in his blog.
We have the ability to assess how a horse handles themselves after the breeze show. Are they mentally frazzled or cool customers? Do they appear body sore or exceptionally tired?
With another year of maturity, we find that we’re better able to gauge athleticism and conformation. Do all the parts fit together so to speak? A 2-year-old is a more polished, mature product that we know more about. Knowledge is power.
Historically, there’s less pedigree power at a 2-year-old sale than there is at premier yearling sales like Fasig-Tipton Saratoga and the early days of Keeneland September, which in turn means more value to end users like us.
While pedigree is important, we’re more concerned with athleticism. Take for example 2014 Kentucky Derby runner up Commanding Curve. He was a racy horse by Master Command, who despite being by A.P. Indy hadn’t made much noise as a stallion. Commanding Curve jumped through all of our biomechanical and stride analysis hoops, we paid $75,000 for him, and he has now earned over half a million dollars for his Partners.
NY-bred Empire Dreams is by Patriot Act, who is a well-bred horse, but a rather obscure sire. We purchased Empire Dreams for $35,000 at the 2013 OBS March 2-Year-old in Training Sale after he jumped through every single one of our hoops. He's now a multiple stakes winner who's earned nearly 750k.
There are hundreds of consignors who showcase their horses every year at the Keeneland Sale, impossible to know them all. We’ve built institutional knowledge about and relationships with 2-year-old consignors over the years and know their programs and philosophies. Those factors are important when it comes to buying horses.