Updated on 09/15/2011 12:36PM

New sale guide starts an information war

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - As the Thoroughbred marketplace has changed over the last few decades, so has the information that buyers and agents use to assist them in choosing the most likely athletes at the sales. The current edge for buyers is the catalog supplement, which was introduced nearly two decades ago and has blossomed commercially in the last few years with the Thoroughbred Times Buyer's Guide. Now The Blood-Horse has joined the competition by producing a supplement called Auction Edge.

When the Buyer's Guide appeared 10 years ago, it provided a record of produce by the dam of the yearling, along with some racing information. This was an advance over the more condensed format provided in sales catalogs, and before long, the Buyer's Guides had expanded to include notes on previous sales of mares and their produce. Now they also include information about sales averages, nicking, and Dosage.

Before the advent of sales supplements, buyers had to research this information themselves, if available, or pay for reports from the primary information providers, Bloodstock Research or The Jockey Club. By combining information from several types of reports, supplements saved the expense and time of some research and quickly became a staple among knowledgeable buyers.

The concept was begun by Bob Layton with Catalog Update, according to Mike Brown, who now owns the publication, which is the oldest of the supplements. Brown said that "we cover more sales than the others, including Tattersalls, Goffs, and Deauville, but we don't have the racing information they do."

Racing information has been a revolutionary component as the supplements have attempted to suggest the class or quality of racing ability the horses showed. With their latest changes, the supplements have taken pains to show the varied success of horses in a pedigree, from major stakes winners to minor claiming stock.

With its entry into the catalog supplement business, the Auction Edge has increased the competition in providing racing data. In addition to the race details, record, and earnings, the Auction Edge also will provide the lifetime best Beyer Speed Figure for each qualifying racer, beginning with the Saratoga yearling sale in August. The Blood-Horse has entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with Daily Racing Form to use the Beyer Speed Figures.

Foremost among the additions to the information that buyers and consultants have become accustomed to using is expanded racing data and black-type for stakes winners.

The most controversial information in The Blood-Horse supplement is claiming data. If a horse was claimed, this is noted. Some consignors have taken issue with this, believing that it may damage the price of siblings to a claimed horse or produce out of a claimed mare. This is, however, public information available to anyone willing to do the research, but now it is more conveniently collected for the benefit of buyers.

In addition to claiming information, the Auction Edge includes details of each winner's best victory. For example, a filly, rather than being listed as simply a winner, has information showing the value, class, and track of her best victory.

Rob Whiteley, director of operations for Foxfield, appraised the supplement situation: "As a consumer, I'm always happy to see healthy competition. The emergence of the Thoroughbred Times as an outstanding publication has, in turn, stimulated The Blood-Horse to a higher level of excellence. Now that The Blood-Horse is offering innovations in buyer's guide coverage, this can only benefit those of us who make a living buying and selling horses, as the Thoroughbred Times, in turn, will be stimulated to improve their own exceptional product."

The Thoroughbred Times wasn't exactly caught napping. The Times has gone to considerable pains to match most of the Auction Edge's new information and make some creative additions. Surely the most important addition to the Buyer's Guide is the second dam's production record for the yearlings out of mares with three or fewer foals. This changes the young mares' entries, which were the weakest in the supplement, into data with a punch.

The Buyer's Guide has included consignors for the first time. For those tracking the sales history of a horse, this is very helpful information.

Comparing the two visually, the Thoroughbred Times Buyer's Guide is a more polished product. The layout and type make it easier to read. The Auction Edge has two other problems that could be corrected. Years when a mare was barren, slipped, or not bred are squirreled away at the bottom of the produce record. This saves space but causes the reader to look up and down continually. The second weakness is the previous sales data on the subject horse. If the yearling being sold is a pinhook, the sales information is directly below the black bar designating hip number and pedigree for the yearling and is confusing.

With either of these products, however, buyers have more information easily at hand than ever before. As a result, buyers, even those newcomers who do not seek professional advice, should feel more confident and informed as they approach a purchase.