Keeneland’s Before the Hammer: For ELiTE Sales, Beauty in the Eye of the Buyer

Originally published on Sunday, October 7 on by T.D. Thornton.

Before the Hammer is a series presented by Keeneland that spotlights consignors, their stories of success and their featured offerings at the upcoming Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale November 5-16.

Elite Sales will have 24 horses on offer at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, and part of the selling strategy for the firm’s president, Bradley Weisbord, will be to assess the marketplace as it appears through the eyes of a buyer.

“One of the reasons we came up with Elite is we were buyers into this market for many years,” said Weisbord, who is also the president BSW Bloodstock, which specializes in racehorse acquisition, stallion syndication and trade, and portfolio management. “And I thought that the horses could be consigned differently. Specifically, by providing a ton more information than what was currently being given to the market to help raise the prices, inform the buyers, and get the sellers more money. That’s the main reason [partner] Liz Crow and I formed Elite Sales. And we continue to stay on both sides of the room, both as buyers and sellers.

“One of the things that is a benefit for Elite Sales is that 50% of the horses we consign, we buy and/or manage, which really allows us to know a lot about each prospect,” Weisbord continued. “We only sell in Books 1 and 2 and few in Book 5. We’re trying to be a premium, boutique consignment.”

Weisbord said Elite declined to represent over 50 horses to sell this year, based on a belief that a consignor can only sell a certain amount of horses properly in a single day.

“And when I say ‘properly,’ that means knowing anything and everything you need to know, because these are not yearlings,” Weisbord said. “We’re only selling broodmares or racehorses. So these horses have history–on the track and [via] speed figures–and it takes a lot of time to explain to potential buyers everything we know about these horses.”

Weisbord continued, “And I believe the buyers have really taken to that and trust us. We had 12 stakes winners already come out of our breeding stock or racing sales consignments in only 1 1/2 years of being in business. [Horses we’ve sold] are going on to perform, which I believe is going to help us this year.”

Four Elite-consigned fillies and mares are catalogued in Book 1.

“I purchased Santa Monica (GB) (Mastercraftsman {Ire}) (Hip 179) last year at Tattersalls, and we brought her over here to race this year,” Weisbord said. “She won an allowance race at the Keeneland April meet on her U.S. debut, then ran back on short rest and just missed in the GII Sheepshead Bay S. at Belmont, only beaten a half-length with some trouble. Then she won the GII Dance Smartly S. at Woodbine, and was most recently second in the GII Glens Falls S. at Saratoga. She’s never been off the board in North America, really appreciates firm ground, and her sire has been on fire. Although she’s five years old, she’s very sound and headed toward the GI E.P. Taylor S. at Woodbine Saturday, and then we’ll come to Keeneland. So she’s a prospect for somebody to race or breed next year.”

Elysea’s World (Ire) (Champs Elysees {GB}) (Hip 62) is another Book 1 prospect aiming for the same Woodbine stakes prior to the sale.

“She is on schedule for the E.P. Taylor with Santa Monica,” Weisbord said. “They both are going to run. And she’s sitting on the verge of being a Grade I-placed filly. Her speed figures lead us to believe she is of Grade I quality.”

The undefeated Lady Ivanka (Tiz Wonderful) (Hip 112) had a sharp start to her career at Saratoga Race Course in 2017. Although she’s been out of the headlines for quite awhile, her company lines keep getting stronger.

“She’s a Grade I winner who has only run twice, and then was unfortunately injured prior to the 2017 Breeders’ Cup and didn’t make it back this year,” Weisbord said. “She is selling as a racemare or broodmare prospect. She did win the GI Spinaway S. at Saratoga, and she did beat a filly named Separationofpowers (Candy Ride {Arg}), who came back to win the GI Frizette S. as a 2-year-old, then came back to win the GI Test S. as a 3-year-old.”

Rounding out Elite’s Book 1 quartet is Lipstick City (City Zip) (Hip 123), who won a pair of Gulfstream stakes on both sloppy dirt and firm turf this past summer by a combined total of 10 lengths.

“We have 15 horses pointing toward Book 2, and those are headlined by stakes winner Stormy Victoria (Fr) (Stormy River {Fr}) (Hip 1004). She’s run a 90-plus Beyer 10-plus times, and she’s multiple graded-stakes placed,” Weisbord said. “We have six stakes winners in Book 2, and 12 of the 15 are black-type mares. So we’re very heavy on black-type stakes-winning mares. That’s the meat of that Book 2 for us. We felt they would be better positioned there than on the racehorse day in Book 5.”

Elite is a relatively new consignor, but Weisbord said he draws upon what he has experienced both as a buyer and a seller over the past decade to form an opinion about the current direction of the marketplace.

“I’m not a historian, but I can talk squarely about what I’ve been involved with,” Weisbord said. “I came in the horse business upon graduating college in 2008, and just walking around at the sales then, it felt depressing. I remember people selling mares in foal to top stallions for stud fee. It was hard to give away horses that weren’t meeting the buyers’ needs. But I can say that as a seller in the market the last two years, I’ve never seen anything like it in terms of the positive vibe.”

Weisbord summed up: “If you’ve got a horse that has black type and meets people’s checklists, there are many [buyers] in play. Horses are selling for over our appraisal thoughts, and that wasn’t happening when I first started. Back then, you were happy to get horses sold at reserve, where now horses are blowing through your pre-sale appraisals. I can’t say enough how strong this market is. We’re trying to trade the best, and I feel there has never been a better market in my 11 years in the horse business.