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Aspects of the Thoroughbred Business - Pinhooking

Hope everyone enjoyed the Preakness and cashed some tickets. My predictions for the two races has been much better than most years - so I hope I stay hot!

I just thought I'd share some information on one aspect of the Thoroughbred Business that you may have seen mentioned in the coverage of the Triple Crown races - Pinhooking.

In short, Pinhooking is buying a young horse and then selling them when they are older with the goal of making a profit. The most common "pinhooks" are either purchasing a weanling (less than one year old) and then selling the horse as a yearling; or purchasing a yearling and then selling as a Two Year Old. Another form is purchasing mares in foal, foaling out the baby she is carrying and re-breeding the mare, and then selling them both the next year. Here is a little more information on the process of each type:

Weanling to Yearling Pinhook

One of the most common is the weanling to yearling pinhook. The time of initial purchase for these weanlings, to get the process started, is typically from November of the weanling year to February of the yearling year. The weanling sale season starts in earnest with the Fasig Tipton and Keeneland Sales in November, continuing on to an Ocala sale in December, then to Keeneland January and Fasig Tipton February back in Kentucky.

Then, you try to enter the yearling in the sale you feel with fit his physical prowess best, as well as where his pedigree fits the best. These sales start in July in Kentucky and continue through October, with prominent sales in Kentucky, Florida and New York along the way.

The most prominent sales in this process, both for purchasing and selling are the Keeneland November and January Sales, and then the Keeneland September Sale. The other options are solid as well, but in terms of pure size and buying and selling power, these have been the traditional ones.

The goal when making the purchase of the weanling is to find one you think can improve so that it will turn a good profit. This improvement can come in the forms of physical improvements, pedigree improvements and/or market improvements. Physical improvements are pretty self explanatory and the one thing you have to have. If you have a bad physical, you are in a bad spot. The pedigree improvements are the biggest gambles. Twenty years ago, when I was taught the business, you would do all the pedigree research and based on "who you know" could get some secrets and find a diamond in the rough. With the ease of information today, it's hard to "know a secret" anymore. So the pedigree work is really a combination of doing your homework and gambling for improvements that look likely. Market improvements can be shifting to an overall market increase, like the stock market, or a particular stallion coming into improvement.

Yearling to Two Year Old Pinhook

The Yearling to Two Year Old Pinhook shares all the needs of the Weanling to Yearling Pinhook. It has it's own set of challenges that make it riskier, but also the chance for the biggest returns.

Two Year Olds are sold, primarily in Florida, during the Spring of the two year old year. At this time, the horses are already training and working on the racetrack - so as the buyer you actually get to see the athlete in action. Thus, if you have an exceptional athlete that checks all the boxes, the prices can skyrocket. However, even if you have the rest, if the horse doesn't move like an athlete, you will have a hard time getting any kind of return.

The other challenge that comes with pinhooking two year olds is your competition. In addition to normal buyers and sellers, there are trainers in Florida, "Pinhookers", who's sole trade is Pinhooking two year olds. They are very good at what they do and have the funds to buy many, many yearlings to do this. In fact, when the typical buyer purchases a yearling to pinhook as a two year old, (i.e. - ME) - we would then employ one of these "Pinhookers" to prepare and sell our horse.

So, the chance for a big return is there - but the risks are there are well.

Broodmare and Filly Pinhook

The other way I have had some success is purchasing mares or potential mares and breeding and selling them. There are some benefits to this that I can enjoy.

One - since I race horses myself, if I like a foal out of one of these mares I can keep and race it. Or if it just doesn't look to be a sale prospect.

Two - I've built up some success breeding over my career, thanks to some luck and great advisors. This has built confidence in that arena, as well as some contacts, breeding seasons et al that are facilitators to success.

So, one way of doing this is to purchase a mare at public auction that is in foal, have the baby and then breed the mare back and sell them both. It is typically a full year process. We had success a few years ago with a mare name Hinder we purchased from Claiborne Farm at the Keeneland November Sale. She was in foal to the young stallion Lea and had an excellent foal that spring. We then bred the mare to Street Boss and sold the mare the following November for a tidy profit, and still had the foal by Lea to sell for more profit.

Another way I do it is to look for fillies at the racetrack that either have a great physical or, more usually, a pedigree edge that I can purchase. I've done this several times, with success at times and some still waiting for the return (HA). One example of things not going perfectly to plan is Spirit Fly. I claimed her for $7,500 at Remington Park in the Fall. She was a three year old filly at the time, and was obviously not in foal. I knew she had a younger two year old brother with some talent, as well as a yearling sister we had seen at the sales and knew was nice. So I took a chance and claimed her. I then bred her in the spring, and made the choice to have the first foal for myself and then breed her back and sell her. It would give more time for some of the pedigree improvements, and I could see if I liked the foals to race.

Unfortunately, the mare has had some setbacks, including the first foal dying in a paddock accident, and the mare not being able to be bred back until skipping a season. But...., the pedigree improvements are starting to come to fruition, so there is still a chance for a return.

I participate in a Pinhook of some variety every year, and will most likely open one up to Crescent Capital, with the proper information to follow, so thought I'd throw out some information about them in case anyone was curious - or had some time on their hands! Ha - Happy weekend and update on some upcoming races this week.


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