24th September 2017 – Naas, Co. Kildare

I like to think I shoot straight from the hip and say it as it is but I have to admit that my assessment of the Keeneland sale was a bit wet when compared with James Delahooke’s. His letter to the Thoroughbred Daily News (see below) hit the nail on the head. I wish I’d written it.

‘The sad truth is’, he says, ‘ that nobody here wants your horses anymore’. Maybe a slight exaggeration but pretty much fact. James used to buy 15-20 yearlings at Keeneland, last year he bought one, this year none. I peaked at 20, last year I bought none, this year one.

‘They don’t trust your black-type, your under-raced stallions or your medication policies’, he said. I absolutely agree and I also fear that, with the vast majority of US sales yearlings having had some sort of surgical procedure or other significant interference, we can’t trust that they have had a proper upbringing with adequate time in the paddock.

When noticing a couple of symmetrical  scars on the fetlocks of a yearling last week, I asked the vendor if he’d had some surgery there. ‘No’, he said, ‘he just had a screw in as a baby’.They are so obsessed with presenting a ‘correct’ yearling with a ‘clean’ set of x rays that they have come to class anything short of invasive joint surgery as normal husbandry. It is a very sad state of affairs.

On one of my first visits to Keeneland I wrote for the Sporting Life that, ‘it is hard to tell which has had the most cosmetic surgery, the women or the yearlings’. I think the yearlings now have the edge.



I have resisted previous temptations to ally myself with WHOA (the Water, Hay, Oats Alliance) on the basis that, as a Brit, I have no business pontificating about U.S. drug policies.

Two recent events have decided me to strap on my guns and head into town to join the battle.

Firstly, I read with incredulity an advertisement in which one of your leading trainers enthusiastically endorsed a product specifically designed to speed recovery from pre-race medication.*

Then today, I read that a trainer filmed boasting about “juice” will be welcomed back at the same track next year.

As the cockney wide boys in London would say, they must be ‘aving a larf!

I have just returned from my 39th consecutive visit to Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale, where I regularly purchased 15-20 yearlings to race in England. Last year, I bought one, this year, none. In spite of Wesley Ward’s single-handed efforts to promote the American Thoroughbred, the sad truth is that nobody here wants your horses anymore.

They don’t trust your black-type, your under-raced stallions or your medication policies. There are plenty of good, young men and women in the breeding industry in the U.S. They need to strap on their guns and have a shootout with the complacent, laissez-faire politicians and racecourse managers. And your trainers who bleat that they cannot train without drugs, tell that to the Australians, the Japanese, and the Europeans who are all managing very well on hay, oats and water.

James Delahooke.

* This advertisement did not run in the TDN.

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