Gary Young has been clocking horses for nearly 35 years after getting his start for trainer Arnold Winick in Florida in 1978. Young is now based on the West Coast but serves as a bloodstock adviser on private and public auction purchases at tracks and sales throughout the country, having been involved in such recent Grade 1 winners as Evening Jewel, Midnight Lute, Line of David and Life At Ten. He spoke with the Paulick Report about his approach to 2-year-old in training sales. The interview was also published in the Paulick Report Special print newsletter distributed this week at the OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training in Ocala, Fla.
When do you start looking at horses in the juvenile sales? Some people get there a week in advance and pull horses out of the stall to look at them. I don't. Unless a horse does something for me on the track (during the under-tack show), I'm not going to pull them out of the stall. They could be the prettiest, most conformationally correct horse you can find, but if they don't do something for me on the track, I don't need to see them. I'm there to find athletes.
So what process do you follow? There are four steps to what I do. First, you have to like them on the track. You want to see if a horse has an athletic way of going without wasted motion, one that records a good time, not necessarily a land speed record. You don't want their ears pinned back or to see them running on the wrong lead – that's a sign that they're either green or something may be bothering them. And a pet peeve of mine is seeing a horse's tail sticking out.
You want to get the impression during the breeze that there's more gears there, and you like to see them gallop out good. If they work good enough, you may want to see how they walk off the track, to see that their brain has not been rattled. You don't want to see a horse that's been leaned on too much, and if they are sore, you don't want them.
Step two, go to the barn and look at them. Most good horses I've bought through the years have had something you can knock: size, the way their feet are, crooked leg, straight hock, stifle injuries. Most of the horses you're going to see have some kind of conformation flaw that you'll note on a catalogue page. At that point, you have to ask yourself: Can I live with these flaws? Probably just over 50% of the horses I will put a line through because I cannot live with a certain flaw.
What are some things you can and can't live with? Bucked shins after a breeze don't bother me. You can take care of that within two or three months. Fact is, a lot of horses could use time off after the sale anyways. Lameness bothers me. You don't want to take a chance that a lame horse can become a sound horse.
What is step three? That's the vet check, where you're essentially in the veterinarian's hands. Most of the work I've had done is by Dr. Gene Hill. Communication with your vet is very important. Back in 1999 or 2000, I liked a horse a lot. Gene said the horse had a major OCD taken out of its stifle, and he asked, “How much do you like him?” I told him I liked him as much as you can like a horse. He okayed him, and the horse turned out to be Crafty C.T. (who placed in multiple Grade 1 races and earned over $800,000).
Step four? Whatever number of horses you had pass the first three steps, you have to put a price on them. What is the most I could pay for this horse? Sometimes you might go a pop or two over the original number you set, but you have to learn to stand by your estimate. I take a lot of pride on my return on investment ratio. Most owners realize you're not in the game to make money, that you have to have a passion for it. But I'm going to do everything I can to try and make them a profit.