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Paulick Report: Ownership Insights Presented by Ownerview

Peter R. Bradley’s career in the Thoroughbred industry began at Southern California racetracks, where he worked his way up from hot walker to assistant trainer. He moved to Kentucky, where associations with Fred Seitz at Brookdale Farm, the late John A. Bell III at Cromwell Bloodstock Agency and William S. Farish at Lane’s End Farm prepared him to launch his own bloodstock agency. Today, Bradley Thoroughbreds provides a wide array of services and has a 20-year run of success in a variety of ventures.

What is one of the most important roles a bloodstock agent plays for someone who is new to horse racing and ready to make that first step – buy a racehorse or racing prospect?
The first role is education. You need to paint a realistic picture. It’s unfortunate, but in our business there can be so much bad news. It’s best to let people know there is bad news but also to tell them when something good happens and you have a nice horse, you really have to enjoy the moment.

The education starts with questions about how much patience a new owner has. If you are getting into racing, do you want to start with a yearling, or would you rather short-cut it by buying a 2-year-old in training, where there’s not as long a lag time before that first race. Obviously claiming a horse or buying a horse privately is the quickest way. In putting together racing partnerships, I do a lot of that in bringing horses over from Europe, where you can be running in a short time. It’s a quicker return on getting people to the racetrack and a good way of starting a new person out.

What’s the most important thing you try to convey to a new owner?
I try to find high-end horses, but there are many different levels to play the game. Whatever level you’re at, you have to have patience. The game is about the horse, not about the race. Let the horse take you to whatever level he can perform at; the enjoyment of the game is letting the horse take you to where it can do its best. It’s not about the owner being there on the day he wants to be there. It’s about the horse, not the person; when the horse is ready, you’ll enjoy it more. You can’t have the race on the day you want it, you have to have it on the day the horse is ready.

How do you explain valuation of bloodstock?
I try to make them understand the value of horses and what I’m looking for in an athlete. The more information you can give and the more feedback and involvement you get from a new owner, the quicker they learn. There are different types of newcomers – those who really want to be immersed and those who just say, “Tell me when to show up at the races.”

I don’t mind people who come and look at yearlings with me so I can explain why we are buying something. Sometimes at the Keeneland September sale where there are so many horses, it’s a little difficult, but for the most part at a smaller sale like Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga or 2-year-olds, I have time to teach and interact with owners.

I would think the temptation of owners who are trying to learn as much as they can as fast as they is to rely more on pedigrees when looking at sale horses. How do you define the role of pedigree in a sale horse?

The way I explain it is by telling the new owner, I’m trying to find the best athlete possible in the price range. Once you find the athlete, then the pedigree dictates what you have to pay.

What are some of the other parameters that need to be established between a new owner and a bloodstock agent?

You have to establish a comfort level on what they want to pay for a horse and make them understand what it costs for a year to keep a horse in training. You’re looking at $50,000 to $60,000 to keep a horse in training in New York, or $35,000 to $45,000 on circuits like Maryland or Louisiana.

There are geographic interests, too. One new client this year said they wanted to race at Oaklawn Park. With no turf racing there, I stayed away from any turf pedigree or sire lines even if it was in their price range.

Some new owners already have a trainer lined up. Certain trainers tend to excel with a specific kind of horses – sprinters, for example. If they have a trainer in mind, I might look for horses that fit that trainer’s style and track record.

How does the owner fit into discussions with a veterinarian examining possible purchases?
It sometimes can be tricky because as an agent you want to be pragmatic. A veterinarian tries to provide all the information on a horse, and especially to a novice, it may sound more scary than it really is. An agent needs to have a good working relationship with the veterinarian. To begin with, the agent should disseminate the information from the veterinarian to the owner. As the relationship develops, I see no reason you shouldn’t integrate the veterinarian into the triumvirate.

What are things that are most difficult for some new owners to understand about the public auction environment?
Sometimes the whole speed of the auction can be confusing when it comes to buying a horse. It goes so quickly. Most buyers are on a budget, and I’ve had people get frustrated when you don’t buy a horse on the first day of a four-day sale. I try and spend a client’s money like it’s my own. You’re trying to find the best horse you can at that price point, but most of the time, you fall a few bids short.

You don’t always get the first horse, and if you’re disciplined, you don’t lower your standards, either. You have to develop a game plan, be disciplined and stay with it. Try to buy the best horse with the money you’re willing to spend.

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