August 24, 2007
On Monday, the auctioneer was calling out bids faster than I could track as a parade of yearlings passed across the stage at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Selected Sale of Yearlings. Future champions walked across the stage and were auctioned for as little as $7,000 and as high as $200,000.
Before the sale, I spent time with Dick Hancock, executive director of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, and began to learn the process for picking winners. For each horse, buyers begin by looking at the bloodline. There is a record of the yearling’s parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, and underneath each name is a history of their victories.
Beyond the pedigree, buyers typically inspect the yearlings, and before the auction, potential buyers were walking the stalls and watching the yearlings as they prepared to take the stage. Before going to the auction, I visited Roger Brand, Vice President of the Double Diamond Farm, and he explained some of the things to look for, ranging from the curve of the chest and hindquarters, to the line of the hoof. He showed me some of their stallions, including Rey de Café and Wekiva Springs, and explained why mare owners pay significant fees to breed with these stallions and why their offspring command such high prices at auction.
We also visited John Rasmussen at Live Oak Plantation where they raise not only champion horses but also raise cattle and grow crops. Then Dick Hancock took us on a tour of Ocala farm country and explained the significant economic impact of Florida’s Thoroughbred industry. The industry has a total direct economic impact of $1.3 billion and generates 22,000 direct jobs. Across Florida, there are nearly 600 Thoroughbred breeding farms and training centers, and more than 75 percent of them are located in Marion County.
Marion County has been the birthplace of champions and is a great place to raise horses because of its climate and unique topography. To see a comprehensive list of Florida’s champions, go to
Finally, a word about our role in the lives of these horses and in the business of their owners. Many of these horses compete at facilities we regulate, including Gulfstream, Calder, Tampa Bay Downs and Pompano Park, and we will continue to set high standards for Florida’s pari-mutuel industry and these beautiful creatures.
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