Letters to the Editor: Josh Stevens


Josh Stevens | Fasig-Tipton

I'd like to respond to Mark Taylor's comments regarding removal of repository X-rays for the later books of the Keeneland sale. First off, I have to give Mark and all of the 'Taylor Boys' credit for always looking forward and trying to innovate in this business, they have been leaders in this business for as long as I can remember. As an agent who manages portfolios for breeders as well as a buyer of racehorses, I understand both sides of the fence. Often times, as a buyer, you feel like you can't afford any nice horses and as a seller you often feel that no one wants to buy your horses. Truth is, competition is heavy for the top horses and it is lacking on middle market horses. I've seen plenty of top horses that have defects on their reports still bring a premium because when you're competing against top buyers, you have to expand your criteria in order to buy the athlete you want.

I was told early on to 'buy the athlete' and I live by that. No matter how a horse vets, at the end of the day, it's either an athlete or it isn't. No vet can tell you when a defect will affect a horse's performance. They are looking at a still picture in time with no idea which direction the defect is heading or if the horse is clinically affected by the defect. Plenty vets have told me, 'this may affect this horse, but I can't tell you when.' It's up to my buyer and me to decide if the risk is worth the reward.

I will say this; very rarely do our horses stop running because of defects I buy them with. Bone bruising, fractures, knee chips, tendons, suspensories, and throats are typically the culprits. I've had them all on 'clean' horses. I've seen no correlation between a clean X-ray sheet and horses staying sound. I believe that a 'clean' horse is just as likely to suffer a career-ending injury as a horse with comments on their sheet. Outside of a few significant defects I won't touch at the sale, I buy athletes and don't worry about the rest. My vet is a tool in my kit to gauge risk before we make a purchase and help to decide what we are willing to spend given the risk, but I work with my clients to understand vet reports and how little they actually affect the horses performance.

I believe removing the repository would have a negative effect on the middle market and seems like more of a deterrence to commerce when we need to be creating more middle market buyers. I think the perceived 'pickiness' of buyers is created by a lack of competition for middle market horses. I'm hopeful that the increase in purses the last couple years will incentivize more buyers to jump back in and with increased competition, we will see buyers broaden their horizons in terms of vetting.

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