Video Scopes: Consignors and Buyers Speak Out


Keeneland sales grounds | Keeneland


Keeneland has been actively encouraging consignors to submit video scopes of their horses ahead of its September Yearling Sale and the Consignors and Commercial Breeders Association has endorsed a uniform protocol, which includes a 10-day window for scopes, as a way to help buyers incorporate the technology in their pre-sale inspections. The TDN reached out to both consignors and buyers to find out how they will make use of the technology at the two-week auction. The responding consignors offered a wide variety of plans, with some planning on providing scopes only for horses earlier in the sale, or having scopes at their barn, but not in the repository, while some plan on providing video scopes in the repository for the entire consignment. Buyers seemed to be taking a wait-and-see approach, voicing concerns about the timeframe of scopes and a preference to have their own vets scope horses.

Their responses follow:


Mark Taylor, Taylor Made Sales Agency

We believe that video scopes will eventually become the norm here in America. We actually tried them several times previously going all the way back to VHS tapes! It looks as though technology has improved to the point where they are both logistically possible to gather in a tight time frame and high enough quality where vets will at least use them as a tool.

Our best guess is that very few buyers who plan on spending six figures and up will buy yearlings exclusively off a video this year. We hope that the vets will take the time to watch the videos before or after they do their “live” scope exam. If they do, we hope it will give them more confidence in this tool.

For buyers who make their final decisions in the back walking ring and have historically not done pre-sale scopes, we expect to see them adapt to calling a vet for a video review in the moments before the horse sells. This won’t be a high percentage of people, but some will take advantage of this new available information.

We have not put pressure on our customers to do video scopes this year. We have left it up to them. My gut feeling is that we will have around 60% participation in Books 1 and 2. Beyond that, I believe it will taper off towards the end of the sale as breeders become more sensitive to the extra cost involved.

Taylor Made is in a unique position having sold so many horses over the years. We document the veterinary findings and follow the results. It is our opinion that there is virtually no difference in race performance between horses with a “perfect” throat and those with a marginal amount of asymmetry. All you have to do is look through our poster that has the 105 Grade I winners we have raised and or sold. There are very few “perfect” throats. The vast majority fell in the 2A to 2B range on the Cornell Scale. Our hope is that doing video scopes will further our ability to provide concrete evidence of how horses looked as yearlings and then compare to on track performance and problems.

Pat Costello, Paramount Sales

We are using video scopes on all of our Book 1 and 2 horses and selected horses from then on.

Walker Hancock, Claiborne Farm

We will have scope videos in the repository and for viewing on a computer in our barn on our whole consignment. We are going to encourage vets to take a look at the video first in hopes they will be content with what they see.

Carrie Brogden, Select Sales

Select Sales will be video scoping our entire consignment and having those scopes in the repository from Books 1 through 5. Our Book 6 clients can opt to have video scopes done or not on their horses.

We have been strongly encouraging the veterinarians at both the July and Saratoga sales to use the video scopes. The veterinarians, in my general observation, were very amenable and accepting of the video scopes and over half of them asked to see the scope along with scoping the horse.

We had a very difficult horse to scope in the July sale and only had the video scope and it sold for six figures based solely on the video scope provided. Also, one of our top Saratoga horses was sold to the purchaser using video scope only by their veterinarian, as the buyer requested that method of exam. I think we’re seeing a big shift, not only towards technological advances, but also towards the safety of people and welfare of the horse.

Conrad Bandoroff, Denali Stud

As a CBA member, I think it’s great that people are going to try a lot of different things. From that standpoint, I’m excited because not everyone needs to do the same thing. We’re going to have a lot of take-aways at the end of the sale and have a feel for what is going to be the best system moving forward.

At Denali, we are big believers in the video scopes. We have been for a long time. Our protocol is that we’ll video scope every horse and we’ll have those video scopes at the barn. We did that in July and in Saratoga and in the New York-bred sale. The feedback that we got was beyond our expectations in a lot of ways. We had vets that were more than willing to view the video scopes first and then, if they were happy with it, they wouldn’t scope the horse. Or they would view the video after scoping the horse as a comparison. So, I am excited to see the traction that it gets.

When it comes to putting them in the repository, that’s obviously going to be the future that is going to make things easier and more efficient for vets, but for us, there are challenges with it. We will have videos in the repository starting in Book 3. Books 1 and 2, we’ll have all videos at the barn. That will allow us to get feedback from vets and from other people on how it is going–What are your thoughts? Observations? What do you like about it and what don’t you like about it?

The other reason that we are doing a delayed start [to adding video scopes to the repository], is that once you get into books 3, 4, and 5, a lot more horses are getting sold out of the back walking ring. And I think it’s going to be an increased benefit to have those video scopes in the repository so that a potential buyer, when a horse catches his eye, rather than having him just look at your scope report, can have his vet view the video. I think that will help increase trade and hopefully be a way to help get horses sold out of the back walking ring.

We’re big believers that the video scopes need to be done on the sales grounds as an added measure of transparency. I think that’s going to be something that the buyers want and they will demand that level of transparency, which we understand.

Adrian Regan, Hunter Valley Farm

We’ve decided that our own scopes on our own horses are definitely going to go into the repository–that’s the plan at the moment. We have given our clients who are selling with us the option of whether they want to put them in or not. And the majority of them are going to put them in. We do have a couple of clients who don’t want to put them in. Just with the timing of the whole thing, it hasn’t given everybody a chance to get their heads around it all yet. And that’s fine by us.

We have always been supportive about the idea of having video scopes in the repository. Number one, for the horse. If we can save the horse getting scoped at the sales, that’s definitely a plus. That would be our main thing. What we worry about, the downside of it would be that we lose track of who the veterinarian in question is vetting the horse for. We’re hoping, and we’ll see how it plays out, that the vets are going to be up-front with their information as we are about ours.

I haven’t surveyed potential buyers, but I’ve talked to veterinarians and they agree with the idea. The majority of them that I’ve spoken to are supportive of the idea. The majority have told me that if they have any question about the video, they’ll come down to scope the horse. Which is fine.

Allaire Ryan, Lane’s End

We are video scoping our Book 1 and 2 horses only to have available for viewing at our sales barn; and with that we are leaving it up to the clients whether or not they would like their horses done. At the moment, it looks like 15 of our 16 Book 1 horses will be done and the majority of Book 2 will be done, but I don’t have answers yet from every owner.

Joe Seitz, Brookdale Sales

Most of our horses are going to be done and then we’ll just put them in the repository. Not every single horse will get done because we’re selling 70 some. It’s a work in progress and a lot of them are owned by different people. I think this important, most of all for the horse. I am looking forward to trying it and seeing how it goes. I’m sure we’ll have a lot to learn, but we’re going to give it a try.

Reiley McDonald, Eaton Sales

We have been using video scopes for two years now. We will video scope every horse in our consignment and submit the recordings to the repository. This is a work in progress. The more participation we get the closer we will be to instituting a viable and practical system for all to follow.


Mike Ryan

I think it’s a good move, but it’s like anything else. When the repository started out 20 years ago or whenever it was, it was something new and that people had to get used to. Change is good. And I think this is a change for the better. They are using it in Europe. And I think it’s great that we’re bringing it here, albeit with a couple of caveats.

The quality of the scopes is going to be critical–that they are good quality–the timing of the scopes, meaning when they were done, is also very critical. I think they have to be done as close to the sale as possible because things can change quickly. If you scope a horse a week out, they can have a chondritis or an entrapment at the sales. Things can happen quickly that are unforeseen, that nobody can predict. But it has happened and I’ve seen it happen. So they need to be done–I don’t know the logistics of how they are going to do it–in the preferred world it would be good to do it on the sales grounds, but that is an awful lot of horses.

I don’t know how many consignors are going to participate, but I hope a lot of them do because I think it’s a positive move. I think a lot of people will still want to scope horses. They are spending a lot of money and people would like to scope them themselves.

To be honest, I’d like to be able to scope them, but it becomes problematic, too, when horses are scoped 10, 12, 15 times, which is absurd. There is no need for that. Sometimes in the past, consignors will say, ‘Look, we’re not allowing any more scopes, but here are the names of five vets who scoped the horse. You can speak to them.’ Which we often did at times.

I do think it will be extremely helpful in certain ways. If you scope a horse in the evening, after he’s shown 50 or 60 times that day, a lot of them are fatigued and you’re not really getting an honest read of a horse’s throat. And if you do it earlier in the day, you’re likely to get a better read. But there are a lot of horses on the grounds and the vets do the work when it’s requested of them. So that’s one area where I think it’s going to help a lot.

It will also be very helpful later in the sale. It will also be helpful if you see a horse in the back ring and there is a video scope in the repository that you could have a vet read in a matter of 10 minutes. If you saw a horse in the back ring, you obviously can’t scope him, you’d go off a report. But if there is a video in the repository, you could use that.

It’s new territory, but I think it’s a great call and we will use it, but I’m sure there are going to be cases when clients who are spending a lot of money, their comfort level is going to be better with having a scope done on their behalf. We’ll all learn as we go along. I think it’s very instructive and helpful and we will fine tune it as we go along, just like anything else.

Some people are slow to change and resist change, but if you’re providing better information to the buyer–that’s critical. We have to look after the buyers and protect them and give them the confidence that they can go ahead and bid with confidence. So if a particular buyer doesn’t get to scope a horse at the barn, but his vet looks at the video in the repository, well then that will encourage the guy to go and bid on the horse. Whereas, if he didn’t have a video, he might say, ‘I don’t have a scope. I think I’m going to pass on him, I’m going to sit on my hands.’ So there is a lot of good that is going to come out of this, just like X-ray reports in the back ring. I lot of people use them, especially later in the sale, and it gives you more confidence to go up there and buy them out of the back ring. Here is another way for buyers to have confidence, if the sellers have provided a video scope for our benefit. I think people will use it.

Mark Casse

We’re not going to use it. There are just too many variables that can be manipulated in a video scope, for me.

Asked if he would look at the scopes as an initial step, Casse said,    I maybe would do it that way. But I can tell you that, if we have interest, we are going to scope them ourselves.

Eddie Woods

Being a little old fashioned, I don’t intend to use the video scopes at the sales, looking at them myself would be a total waste of time as I would be a poor judge of what I’m looking at. On top of that, throats can change very quickly over a short period of time. As a consignor we have had the misfortune to witness that on more occasions than you would care to think about, i.e. kissing lesions that have turned into a severe chondrites and entrapped epiglottis to name just two. So, for the time being, a video scope that is a few days old would have little appeal to me. There are also some other issues that would need to be dealt with, that’s another conversation.

Todd Pletcher

The short answer is, I will leave that to my vet’s discretion.

Nick de Meric

There is certainly a learning curve on both sides of the fence regarding the use of video scopes. I think they may end up being a more useful tool for buyers who base their bidding activities on vet reports made available by consignors, rather than employing the services of an independent vet to read X-rays and scope separately. As critical as accurate scope reporting is to many buyers, myself included, it is difficult to foresee video scopes replacing conventional exams. However, I could envisage a potential reduction in repeated scoping in certain cases, particularly on yearlings catalogued in later books in the upcoming Keeneland sale.

Steve Venosa

I won’t look at them. I will have my vet scope and read the X-rays on any horses that I’m interested in buying.

Ken McPeek

We scope and do comprehensive vet work on every horse we buy. And I’m more comfortable with my own racetrack veterinarian scoping a horse, as opposed to a video. And I think if a consignor knows we are serious, we’ll probably request to scope the horse ourselves, especially if it’s going to be a large number.

We would start off with a video scope–we would definitely utilize it. I think sellers and buyers are going to have to come to a happy medium on how this is approached. I’m sure sellers want buyers to be happy with the product and I’m sure buyers want to know that they’re able to check it out.

Clovis Crane

I’d buy from a video scoping. I would also post-purchase scope and make sure it’s still the same.

Ciaran Dunne

I would rather use my own vet to scope, or if the consignor feels their horse has been scoped too many times, get an opinion from one of the vets who has scoped them.

Carlo Vaccarezza

I think it’s going to be very useful. Any more information that is provided to sellers, I think is going to be useful. For myself, I do my homework. With the repository and all the gadgets and all the information that is provided by the consignors, it’s nice to have it. But I also get my own vet who does all my work. Sometimes I like to compare results. Sometimes they are very close and sometimes they are completely out of left field. Sometimes if you have 10 vets who read an X-ray, you can get 10 different opinions. Veterinary is a science, but sometimes it is a guessing game.

If the horse is a very pricey horse, I use any information they have and then I use two of my own vets. So they give me two different opinions and then I sit down with all that information. If I am going to be buy a horse maybe for less than $100,000, sometimes I will go by what is in the repository or maybe what the vets for the consignors say. But if the horse is $600,000 or $900,000, then I use two, sometimes maybe three, vets.

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