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Book Review

The Blood-Horse Authoritative Guide to Auctions
by the staff and correspondents of Blood Horse Publications
Eclipse Press, 112 pages softcover

This year, Eclipse Press introduces its newest series of instructional books, the Blood Horse Authoritative Guides. In the first edition, Blood Horse staff and correspondents tackle the rich yet mysterious world of the Thoroughbred sales, in their Authoritative Guide to Auctions. The magazine is well-known as the preferred source for sales information among breeders and owners, and their years of experience covering this side of the business is drawn on to provide a head start to those just getting started in the ownership game.

The first chapter explains the various types of sales available: yearling, 2-year-olds in training, breeding stock/mixed, racing age, and stallion seasons/shares. Each type of sale is explained in detail, demonstrating that the sale to attend depends entirely on what a prospective owner's long-term goals are. The second chapter briefly describes each of the major sales companies - Keeneland, Fasig-Tipton, Ocala, and Barretts - giving a brief history of the company and the schedule of which types of sales are conducted through the year. As well, the editors include maps showing the sale pavilion(s) and the surrounding neighborhood plus barn maps to make it easier to find the horse a prospective bidder wants to see. Finally to help bidders traveling to the sale from out of town, the editors list their recommended restaurants and hotels closest to the sales pavilion.

The rest of the book deals with the step-by-step process of buying horses at the sales. Such details not entirely obvious to a novice owner, such as obtaining credit with the sale company before arriving, reading the information in the sale catalogs, and the bidding process itself, are explained in easy-to-understand terms, simplifying what to a novice may be a very intimidating procedure indeed. A short chapter deals with auction experts, the advisers, bloodstock agents, veterinarians, and trainers an owner needs to hire in order to increase the likelihood of getting the best horse at a price that is within budget. As a veterinarian says in the book, "The owner is charged with the task of becoming educated, knowing their risk tolerance, and knowing what their goal is." Closing out this final section is an entire chapter on what horses cost. Pedigree may be an important factor, but it is not the only one. Conformation, the marketplace, the date the horse enters the ring, and the circumstances by which the horse was put on the auction block, all contribute to the final price when the gavel falls. This chapter includes some examples of successful sales purchases, showing that even a horse that sold for $1,100 as a yearling can eventually develop to become a champion named John Henry. Other horses featured in this section include Fusaichi Pegasus, Funny Cide, Beautiful Pleasure, and Xtra Heat.

The editors include a convenient list of Frequently Asked Questions and a Resource Guide listing the addresses and contact information for most of the sales in North America, and a bibliography of other publications those wishing to enter the business should consult before taking the plunge.

This book is obviously targeted at novices to the racehorse ownership game, but casual fans who want to gain an understanding of this side of the business will find this publication very useful indeed. Although admittedly it barely scratches the surface of this very complex game, its simplicity might well encourage, not discourage, a potential new owner to get involved. This work is strongly recommended for those who wish to own a horse at some point and those who wish to learn about the auction market, which to the casual fan is mostly a mystery.

The Blood-Horse Authoritative Guide to Auctions has a list price of $16.95 but can be purchased from Amazon.com, for $11.87.

Rating:     4.5/5

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