07/07/2005 11:00PM

Roper has found her industry niche

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Janie Roper, like so many women of her generation, has made it in what used to be a man's occupation. Roper is a bloodstock agent who specializes in taking yearlings to market. She won't have her shingle out at next week's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale, because she's home at her Ocala, Fla., farm prepping 46 for the August Ocala Breeders' Sales yearling sales.

Roper grew up on a Texas cattle ranch, where horsemanship was de rigueur, and was uncertain of precisely how she was going to make her way in the Thoroughbred world. What she did know was that the horse world, the Thoroughbred world, was where she wanted to be.

She had heard about Ocala and decided to go there and see what's what. That was some 15 years ago. She worked freelance galloping and caring for horses. Then several years after arriving, she made a connection and settled on a workplace and people to work with. The place was Dudley Farm and the people were Diane Dudley and her husband, Scott, who has since died.

"The Dudleys gave me my big opportunity," Roper said. "That was 10 years ago when I took my first consignment to the OBS August yearling sale."

That initial consignment included the Dudley homebreds and several of their farm's clients. And it included Kentucky Derby winner and the 1997 Eclipse champion 3-year-old colt Silver Charm.

The past decade has been one of steady growth for her agency. Roper says she could never have made it to where she is without the support of the Dudley family. It takes a while, she is quick to say, before people know who you are and what ethics you represent.

"You have to develop name recognition," she said.

The first thing that Roper does when contacted about becoming someone's agent is to see the goods. The yearling's appearance - athleticism - is the key factor. Since the Ocala yearling market is dominated by pin-hookers, the overall appearance of the yearling tells Roper whether that yearling is selected-sales worthy.

Sales prepping involves operational fundamentals. Among the first acts is to get the yearling out of the bleaching Florida sun. So, starting in June, yearlings go under cover during the daylight and are let out of their stalls to run in the early evening hours. Roper does not want her yearlings to get fat.

"People don't want fat horses, fat that they had to spend time and effort to get off the horse in training," she said. "Never knew of a good fat athlete."

Some flesh with muscle tone is ideal, she says. She also wants them to be well mannered, and that comes from attention and handling.

Sales dates do not change to accommodate the readiness of consignments. When sales day comes, it comes whether the consignor is ready or not. Roper is not concerned that her yearling consignment won't get its due diligence from the buying crowd.

"Most of the action comes from pin-hookers, and they make it their business to see just about every horse in the sale," she said. "Sure, if I see someone I know who hasn't looked at one of my yearlings who I think fits their program, I'll call 'em over. These days, you don't really have to find buyers, if you have the right yearling, they find you. My job is to present that yearling in such a way that they bid and hopefully buy what they see."

Plenty of Florida-breds at FTK

There are 116 Florida-breds out of 679 cataloged to the July 18-19 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling sale. Eleven of the Florida-breds are from the first crop of Florida stallions Red Bullet, Snow Ridge, Outofthebox, Three Wonders, and Gibson County.

Red Bullet, who stands at Adena Springs South, has two colts and two fillies in the Kentucky auction. Red Bullet, by Unbridled, won the Preakness in 2000, the year that Fusaichi Pegasus won the Kentucky Derby. Red Bullet has had full books at a $30,000 fee every year in the stud.

Three Wonders, at Hidden Point Farm, and Snow Ridge, at Padua Stables, are graded stakes winners from the Storm Cat line. Three Wonders, with a colt and a filly in this sale, is by Storm Cat, while Snow Ridge, with eight colts and two fillies cataloged, is by Storm Cat's Eclipse champion son Tabasco Cat.

The remaining Florida stallions with get in the sale are Gibson County, who stands at McKathan Farm, and Outofthebox. Gibson County won five stakes in California and placed in six others. He is from a line that includes In Excess and Caro. Outofthebox stands at Ocala Stud. A son of Montbrook, he won the Grade 1 Super Derby and placed in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. There are two colts by Outofthebox cataloged.