04/13/2006 11:00PM

Woods keeps a fast pace as a consignor


It has been a busy year for Eddie Woods, who has taken 2-year-old consignments to all the major sales so far this year and has 26 more cataloged for upcoming sales in April.

"I've got horses to sell at the Keeneland 2-year-old sales next Tuesday, and then it's back to Ocala," he said, referring to the Ocala Breeders' Sales auction from April 25-28.

Woods has prepped more than 100 2-year-olds for the sales this year, and there are still more to sell in June.

"My introduction into the horse business came at the family's place in County Meath in Ireland," Woods said. "My father gave me a job as a whatever."

When asked to clarify, Woods said with some mirth in his voice, "Whatever he wanted." Woods was by no means a sibling solo in the horse business. In addition to his father being a trainer, he had brothers and sisters who were jockeys and trainers. In fact, the business was so crowded with Woods family members that Eddie sought his future elsewhere, in the United States.

"America, then as now, is the land of opportunity," said Woods.

There are plenty of Irish-born horsemen who now live in Ocala. Woods quickly caught on with the Irish family of Hartigans at Cashel Stud. He then joined Tony Everard at New Episode Farm before starting on his own in 1993, when he began to break and train the Elmendorf Farm horses of Jack Kent Cooke.

Over the years, Woods has built a reputation as a consignor who is temperate with his horses.

"I prep them so I can train them the next day," said Woods. "It's more important for the horse to show what he might be, rather than how fast he may or may not work before he gets to the races."

Among the horses Woods prepared for racing are the graded stakes winners Left Bank, Harmony Hall, and last year's Breeders' Cup Classic contender Borrego, whom Woods thought was a better horse than his $105,000 bid at the 2-year-old sales.

"I felt that Borrego was a class act," he said. "I went on record as saying he was a better horse than the furlong or two that he worked. 'He's a keeper,' I said."

Borrego, who won the Pacific Classic and Jockey Club Gold Cup last year, was retired to stud this week.

Woods qualifies as a Thoroughbred breeder, but just barely. He has one mare and is not really sure why. His business is to represent breeders and pinhooking partnerships, and ranks among the leading consignors to the OBS spring sale of 2-year-olds in training, with 41 stakes winners sold in the past decade. His Thoroughbred proteges have earned more than $32 million.

OBS April next sale up to bat

There are two more auctions of 2-year-olds in training on the 2006 Florida docket. The next one is the Ocala Breeders' Sales April sale, to run in four sessions from April 25-28. This is the industry's big one in terms of numbers, with 1,246 horses cataloged. There will be four daily under-tack shows for this sale, beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday and continuing each day through Saturday.

Azpurua heading back to Louisville

The last time Leo Azpurua Sr. was at the Kentucky Derby was when he saddled a diminutive 3-year-old named Sir Sir in 1977. It was not a successful day for Sir Sir, who stood barely 14 hands, and finished 12th.

"He was bullied by the others," recalled Azpurua.

That was 29 years ago. Azpurua and his wife, Julie, are going to the 2006 Kentucky Derby as the guests of longtime clients Joseph J. Balsamo and Ted Theos, owners of the Illinois Derby winner, Sweetnorthernsaint. Azpurua had recommended the Florida-bred Sweetnorthernsaint to the Maryland-based owners when he was in training at his nephew Eduardo Azpurua's Azpurua Brothers Training Center in Ocala.