The X-Ray Files: David Ingordo

David Ingordo | Keeneland photo

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The TDN sat down with bloodstock agent David Ingordo for this second offering in a series presented in cooperation with the Consignors and Breeders Association (CBA). Through conversations with buyers and sellers, the series looks to contribute to the discussion on radiograph findings and their impact on racetrack success.

Bloodstock agent David Ingordo, whose resume includes such superstars as Zenyatta and Flightline, has a stockpile of experience and a team of trusted veterinarians to work with when he travels the sales grounds looking for his next future champion. For Ingordo the all-important vet work is just one part of the puzzle and utilizing it properly helps him to determine when he's getting a bargain and when it's time to walk away.

“The radiographs are one of many tools that we use once we are deciding if we are going to buy a horse or not,” Ingordo said. “Obviously, we inspect them on physical, and then we look at the pedigrees and then we decide if they make the short list. If they make the short list and they jump through a couple other hoops–do they fit whatever trainer or owner I'm working with–then we make that decision to move forward and turn the vetting in to the vet we use.”

Over the years, Ingordo has developed trusting relationships with vets like Dr. Keith Latson, Dr. Nathan Chaney and Dr. Jeff Berk.

“They are all really practical veterinarians,” Ingordo said. “They understand what these horses are going to do. One of the strengths, I feel, with our vets looking at radiographs and interpreting what they tell us is we tend to be forgiving from a practical standpoint. You have to remember, it's a very subjective game. I try to use people that I find their observation and subjectivity is in line with mine and the clientele that I represent and what our goals are.”

At the end of the day, the vet report represents a risk-reward quotient for Ingordo and his clients.

“The X-rays are just part of the puzzle,” he explained. “You have to know how that piece fits when you are buying a horse. If people want a perfectly clean horse, that's fine, that's their prerogative. They're going to pay for that because, if it's a good-looking horse with pedigree and clean X-rays, they top the sales a lot of time. That doesn't mean it's a bad thing, but if you are willing to be a little more forgiving, which we try to be, and you have experience with certain issues–Dr. Latson was great. He would say, 'David, on the racetrack, I've seen this issue 100 times. And my question would be, 'How many times was it limiting in the horse's soundness or their performance?' And he would say, 'Never.' 'Great. I'm in. I'll buy that one.' Or he would say, 'This is one we saw a lot of unsoundness with.' I would ask what is my percentile. He said, '60-40 to be unsound and then once we do the surgery, you have a worse chance of it recurring.' Ok. That's not for me. That's what I need to know.”

Knowing what he can and cannot accept on a vet report has often allowed Ingordo to buy horses at a bargain price.

“We take a lot of chips out,” he said. “At the 2-year-old sales, let's say, they work well and they chip an ankle. It's a garden variety P1 and they are clinical, they have a little pressure in there, and the horse should bring $300,000-$400,000, but because people don't want to give it the time, I can get it for half-price. And the horse is never going to have any residual issue there, best I can tell going into it. For a $2,000 surgery and 60 days stall rest and turn out, which the horse probably needs anyway. What the heck? That's not a bad thing for me.”

On other issues he deals with, Ingordo said, “A lot of sesamoiditis makes me want to scan a horse. If I scan them and that sesamoiditis isn't causing any tears or strain or there are no problems where the ligaments and the suspensory branches attach into the sesamoid, I will probably give that horse 60 or 90 days off and have a perfectly sound horse. And I will probably get a discount. That's ok for me. But if I scan that horse and I find tears, I am out. Because I have had bad luck with that.”

Knowing what issues are acceptable risks with a racehorse prospect should, theoretically, be the same criteria used for pinhooking prospects, right?

“One of my greatest pet peeves in this business is when a vet tells me this horse is OK race, but not to pinhook,” Ingordo said. “I understand what people mean by that, but it isn't a good way to describe it. Every horse is ultimately meant to be a racehorse. I don't care if you buy it for $1,000 or $1 million, the goal is to get these horses to a racetrack, run them around in a circle, bet on them and hopefully get your picture taken because your horse is faster than your competitors. So when I hear that, I understand what they mean and I will call it shorthand. If you are racing this horse and there is no more scrutiny on it from potential future buyers, then these little–I call them jewelry on their X-rays–they have a little old chip that is rounded off, they have some sclerosis here that looks like it's healing, they have an OCD that they didn't take out, but it's not on a weight-bearing part of the joint or doesn't communicate, or they have an OCD somewhere that isn't articular–the horse has a good chance of being racing sound and he's going to be ok. If you have to take this horse and resell it and it performs with a fast time at the 2-year-old sales or grows up to be some Adonis and everybody is going to come vet the horse, people could have differing opinions if this horse is 'clean.' I joke when you pinhook you have to find a horse that the most inexperienced person that has money can approve, so you get the most buyers on that horse.”

He continued, “I love a homebred that is a really good individual that you know he won't pass the commercial market standards on X-rays. What's wrong with him? Little B.S. stuff, but he's never been lame a day in his life, his joints have never blown up. He's been sound, he trains every day, he eats every day, he does everything right. Those horses usually stand up and they would have gotten killed by the scrutiny of the commercial market. Everything needs to be a racehorse and I think we need to remember that, as an industry. That's the ultimate goal.”

For the best way to back up the accumulated experience of what issues hinder performance on the track and the anecdotal evidence of racetrack success stories who had 'failed the vet,' Ingordo envisioned a quixotic research project.

“We have an amazing opportunity to get all this data,” he said. “If you just took the September sale–it's a huge population, it's an annual event–there are 5,000 every year and if you did a 10-year study, just on September yearlings, that's 50,000 horses that go from the most expensive horses sold in the world down to $1,000 or one bid horses and you would see all up and down the ladder. You could rate them, almost say these have a good chance of making the races, these ones we would say have super limiting X-ray findings and then follow those and classify them, these are stifle issues, these are ankle issues, these are hock issues, these are knee issues. I think you could start to draw some really good conclusions. If someone wanted to do that. But that's a massive, massive undertaking.”

Click to read last week's The X-Ray Files with Tom McCrocklin.

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