11/03/2004 1:00AM

Buyers vs. sellers over vet info


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club in Lexington took up the controversial issue of veterinary disclosures in Thoroughbred sales on Tuesday night in a panel discussion that revealed tension between buyers and sellers over the release of veterinary information.

The panel's goal, according to the farm managers club president Charles Koch, was to "identify ways to increase transparency and accountability of various parties in transactions at sales."

Veterinary disclosure - including whether sellers should be required to provide buyers with information on cosmetic surgeries and other procedures - is one of the topics under discussion by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association's Sales Integrity Task Force. Koch had planned to include task force representatives, but task force chairman Cot Campbell, who initially approved task force member participation on the farm managers club panel, later said that the task force members would not speak publicly on the issue.

The farm managers club's revised panel, moderated by bloodstock agent and Four Star Sales partner Dan Kenny, included Rob Whiteley of Foxfield; buying agent and pinhooker Mike Ryan; Eaton Sales partner Tom VanMeter; and veterinarians Stuart Brown, Chet Blackey, and Paul Thorpe.

Consignor Whiteley noted that horses turned down for veterinary reasons often go on to perform well, a common frustration for consignors. Sellers, he said, should be required to disclose any procedures or conditions shown by "compelling research" to be detrimental to a horse's racing prospects. And he called for veterinarians to conduct more research into conditions that concern buyers. Ryan, a frequent buyer, encouraged bidders to ask sellers questions before making purchases.

VanMeter stressed that he discloses information on a buyer's request but said he was against mandatory disclosure, citing breeder John Gaines's maxim that "the more you know about a horse, the less likely you are to buy it."

"I don't believe you can find the perfect horse and reduce it to this horse has this lesion or that conformation problem," VanMeter said. "We need educated buyers."

Buyers in the audience of about 250 people raised the point that full veterinary disclosure, including any cosmetic procedures, would help them make educated decisions. But veterinarian Blackey, who noted that "our job is to facilitate the selling of horses," said he believes increased disclosure through the veterinary information repository had not helped.

"My gut feeling is that knowledge is a wonderful thing, but you have to be careful about how you disseminate knowledge and how it's received," Blackey said.