By Barbara Newtown.
In 2010 a group of professional Thoroughbred breeders and owners banded together to start a centrally-located, first-class Louisiana site for auctioning Thoroughbred racing stock.
Equine Sales Company of Opelousas, Louisiana, and General Manager Foster Bridewell have been together since April 2012, before the facilities were finished and before the first auction took place. The members of the Board of Directors of Equine Sales knew Bridewell as a knowledgeable horseman with a lifelong attachment to the Thoroughbred industry. His father had operated a full-fledged training center in North Texas. Eventually the family moved to Louisiana and developed Wraparound Farm, a licensed training center next to LA Downs with official workouts and which was home to some prominent trainers.
“My mother operated that training center,” says Bridewell. “We broke horses, raced horses, prepped horses for the sales, stood some stallions, and had pastures for broodmares. I was around pretty much every aspect of the Thoroughbred industry.” What really interested Bridewell was the sales side. He attended the World Wide College of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa. After graduation, he worked as an independent contractor with different auction companies before he was approached by Equine Sales. Hired first as Sales Manager, Bridewell was promoted to General Manager a couple of years ago. He still auctioneers, too.
He says, “We’ve had ups and downs, as you do when you are growing. Our catalogs are getting better and better, and with each sale we seem to gain another buyer or customer or two. We are trying to move forward.” He points out that a successful auction has many moving parts. “We have great people that help us conduct the sales.”
Bridewell explains that the key to making a sale a success is, first and foremost, building a quality catalog of nice horses. Variety and a choice of different stallions lure buyers from out of town. Expert medical advice must be available. “We have veterinarians on grounds working for both consignors and buyers. Many of the horses have already been x-rayed and scoped; those results have been turned into the repository. Potential buyers can also employ a veterinarian on their behalf. That’s how they start narrowing down which horses they’ll bid on.”
Equine Sales believes that first-class surroundings also make a sale a success. Bridewell says that most people come to do business: they’re out in the barns looking at horses. Still, there are lots of places to take a breather or get some sustenance. There’s a bar and a restaurant where you can get Louisiana fare like pork sandwiches and red beans and rice. Outside, there are spacious walkways where grooms can show off the horses. For the 2-year-olds in training sales event, buyers can watch the breezing at the Copper Crowne Equestrian Center training track, which is right next to the Equine Sales barns. And, when it’s time to make decisions about the horses, buyers can take a seat in the air-conditioned sales pavilion. The Equine Sales Event Coordinator arranges rental of all or part of the facility, for groups large and small. Although Equine Sales was created as a permanent Thoroughbred auction site, the surroundings are flexible enough to accommodate weddings, meetings, and the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association Fall Mixed Sale.
The latest auction at Equine Sales was the September 6, 2018, Consignor Select Thoroughbred Yearling Sale. 219 youngsters were listed and 93 stallions were represented. 206 went before the crowd and eleven horses brought $50,000 or more. Two of the high sellers were sired by Goldencents; the other nine were sired by Palace, Lea, Midshipman, Shanghai Bobby, Jimmy Creed, Apriority, Mucho Macho Man, Afleet Alex, and Half Ours. An unnamed colt by Palace out of Sheer Speed was the highest seller: $105,000, consigned by 4M Ranch, Agent VI, and bought by J. Stevens Bloodstock, Agent. The highest-selling filly was Sail On Baby (Shanghai Bobby, out of Clear Sailing): $67,000, consigned by Select Sales, Agent for Coteau Grove Farms, and bought by Mintmere Thoroughbreds, LLA.
In an interview with The Paulick Report, Bridewell pointed out that the 2018 yearling sale exceeded the 2017 yearling sale by 9.6%… and 2017 was better than 2016. Bridewell said, “Our consignors really brought some quality stock, and our buyers stepped up to get those individuals.” ( https://www.paulickreport.com/news/bloodstock/palace-colt-tops-equine-sales-co-consignor-select-yearling-sale/ )
Bridewell is high on the Louisiana Thoroughbred scene. He says that buyers from Kentucky and, especially, Florida come to the Equine Sales auctions to pick up horses to run in Louisiana as “Louisiana-breds” and earn benefits from the state’s breeders’ program. These out-of-state buyers also know that Louisiana quality can run in other places, too. A recent Louisiana-bred that went North and “made good” is Classy John, who sold for $12,000 at the Equine Sales 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale and won an $85,000 maiden special race in Saratoga.
Bridewell sees improvement in the horse economy, both regionally and nationally. “People are sincerely trying to breed a better horse, because racing has become so competitive. It takes a commercial horse to sell for a high sum. We all know that a good horse can come from anywhere, but it takes a commercial horse to attract that high number. Three years ago a colt sold at Equine Sales for $180,000, and two years ago a filly sold for $110,000. I am optimistic that a horse will break the $200,000 mark in the near future.”
The national Thoroughbred community respects what happens in Louisiana, says Bridewell. There is a great tradition in the state. Prominent trainers, jockeys, and farms are here. The breeders program is doing well. He also sees increasing quality in the bloodlines: good stallions are moving around to different markets.
The next Thoroughbred auction at Equine Sales will be the 2018 Open Yearling/Mixed Sale on October 28th. The 2019 Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale is scheduled for April 2nd, with the breeze show (on the Copper Crowne track) happening on March 31st. The 2019 date will occur more than a month earlier in the year than previous Two-Year-Olds in Training Sales. The Board of Directors responded to the consignors and buyers, who were interested in having more time to train their horses for early summer races.
Visit Equine Sales Company’s new website to see who’s on the Board, to find results of previous auctions, and to enjoy the racing accomplishments of “sales graduates.” The website makes life easy for buyers and consignors by offering downloadable forms and catalogs. The “Links” page has a wealth of hot buttons: associations, race tracks, industry news feeds, feed and tack stores, and local lodging and restaurants.
Equine Sales of Louisiana, LLC
372 Harry Guilbeau Road
Opelousas, LA 70570