Late to the dance

by Trey Nosrac

“Are you going to the yearling sales?”

“Nah. I thought about going, but then I googled the national guidelines for agricultural auctions and got depressed (guidelines available here).

He clutched his heart in fake shock, “This is blasphemy. Since when does Trey follow guidance or rules?”

“Since the virus messed with my mind. A yearling sale seems like going to a festival without food and fun. I would need to talk through a muzzle and wash my hands another eight thousand times.”

He added, “And you can’t physically evaluate yearlings when you bid online.”

“Well, honestly, in my case, that’s no big deal. I never know what I’m looking at with yearlings. They all look great. I’ve looked at thousands and never eliminated one.] Not seeing them in person would probably level the bidding field for a person with my lack of conformation chops.”

“No buying, no selling at sales this year?” He asked.

“Doesn’t look like it for moi.”

I paused, then threw out something to kick around. “I did have an interesting experience this year.”

“Everybody is having an interesting year.”

“I mean on the yearling front, well, technically, on the 2-year-old front. The events made me think about yearling sales.”

He chuckled, “I don’t believe you have soiled the yearling sales arena with your hair-brained innovations.”

“Good, that gives me fertile ground to plow. Here’s the thing, last year, I piddled around with our yearling. One day in the fall, we were going to sell him online, then I got distracted. My pal and I talked but didn’t act. Days rolled on with other mayhem and projects. Before I knew it, I was opening Christmas presents and realized that the colt was still on the farm and needed to head out for breaking to harness.”

“You got a late start?”

“For sure, our annual yearling usually gets started right after a fall sale. We didn’t get this colt to the trainer until late January.”


“He did fine, even with time lost for gelding. The colt trained down nicely. He qualified with the rest of the 2-year-olds, and he put together a nice season. This delayed start made me think of a wild idea of mine that nobody will agree with for 500 good reasons.”

He gave a small shake of his head, “Off you go, marching to a different drum.”

“There ain’t nothing wrong with being unique. Everybody is unique. Some of us just express it better.”

“What is it this time?” he said with a touch of mockery.

“I always thought that the yearling sales should begin shortly after New Year’s Day. This past year validated me.”

“You seek validation?”

“No, validation is for parking. I don’t even post on Facebook.”

He sighed, “Of course, you have imaginary reasons for your obvious insanity.”

“Absolutely. Right off the bat, you save a couple of months of training bills. Of course, most people who know what they are talking about will tell you about foundation miles, learning lessons, rushing things, yada, yada.”

He gave a little shrug, “The need for early training probably varies from horse to horse. Maybe you just got lucky that this horse didn’t need as much time.”

“True, but it is also possible that some babies need to grow a few more months before stepping onto the training track. Youngsters that train up north might not get out much anyway in bad weather. If the rest of the harness world believes a later sales schedule would be too much of a time squeeze, pushing back the start of the 2-year-old racing season could be a plan.”

“Your theory will run into serious headwinds,” he said.

“Of course, when trainers, owners, and breeders have been going right for a hundred years, going left will always feel like they fell off the earth.”

“They might feel that way because going left may be stupid, and if things go bad, the manure will hit the fan.”

“It’s called change, which is not a four-letter word. Let me tell you something that was a big plus in 2020 racing for me. This year did not feel like we waited an eternity to see if we had a viable horse. Before we knew it, we were trying to qualify. The wait is too long, especially for newbies. Phil Denton was the last non-racing pal who I brought into a yearling partnership. Between the September sale and late June qualifying, Phil The Thrill met a woman, got married, and got divorced. In all the pre- and post-marital drama, he forgot he was in fractional ownership of the horse. The soon to be ex-wife tweaked his memory when she listed the two-year-old filly as an asset in the divorce papers.”

He smiled. “I’m guessing the sale companies and breeders have studied this and find that immediately after the racing season is the optimal time for buyers to raise their hands to bid on yearlings. Plus, farms would need to hold onto the horses longer, which would be an additional expense.”

“I’m sure they have considered this carefully. I have studied this idea uncarefully and applied it to my state of mind. Fall is a busy time. Well, it was before the Corona dance. After the holidays, boredom settles over the land. The winter days would give me extra time to study catalogs in front of the fire, to check under the couch cushions for extra money. Those extra months would give me a chance to visit some hot prospect horses in person.”

He said, “If the sales dates were in January, the yearlings would not even be yearlings; they would be two. Selling 2-year-old’s NOT in training would be very radical.”

I shrugged. “One person’s radical is another person’s logical. January is a bummer with holiday hangovers, resolutions torched, taxes due, writing the wrong date on checks, sleet pelting down, and sports in a slumber.”

He opined, “I imagine the coronavirus has many breeding farms worried about traditional sales this year.”

“Yeah, the scene does not look good. 2020 might have been a good year to push back the sales dates. Too bad that I procrastinated with my wisdom.”

He gave an eye roll and snickered, “Your wisdom.”

“Hey, at least this year, I proved that it’s possible to start a yearling later than normal.”

“Or, you proved you colt was a fluke, and you are a kook.”