Thursday Thoughts with Jason Beem March 14, 2024

March 14th, 2024

A good Thursday morning to you all! So this past week, I went to the March OBS sale down here in Florida, and it was a super interesting experience. Now, I’d been to one sale before in my life, and that was back in Washington State. And honestly comparing the two, they aren’t really all that different. Except for in Ocala, almost everyone there is super famous (well, racing famous) and the numbers are much bigger.

I joked on Twitter that I was going to bring $500 with me and was looking to buy into a champion. I knew obviously I wasn’t going to be able to buy a horse for $500, but I wasn’t opposed to finding 5% or 10% ownership in a horse that went for under $10K. Then they started the bidding, and I realized that folks like me are better off claiming one for $5,000 at my local race track. I saw one horse go for $1.2 million and couldn’t believe that someone would spend that kind of money on a horse. I always joke that I know nothing about confirmation or anything like that and when I saw that horse in the ring, my first thought was he had terrible body language. He looked kind of slouchy and bored. Which, if my track record on horses is any sign, he should go on to be a Grade 1 winner.

It seemed as though there were a few different types of folks at the sale. There were the trainers, bloodstock people, and vets. They were all shopping and working and walking around and talking all day. There were the consignors and people who were working. There were racing fans like me who clearly weren’t buying anything; we just wanted to look around and watch horses and the famous racing folks. I looked up the national trainer statistics on Equibase, and I think I saw eight of the top 10 trainers in the country there. All your Brads and Chads and Steves and Bobs and Todds were there. It’s just strange to walk around and see so many people you often see on television. My podcast on Wednesday felt like it was just a half hour of me name-dropping all the people I talked to or got to meet because that was kind of what it was. For a racing fan like me, it was cool to see. Plus, I think I secured some future guests for the podcast. Mission accomplished!

All the money flying around the Ocala sale, though, my favorite sale story still comes from that Washington sale I mentioned earlier. One thing that was true about both sales is that they’re more than happy to serve some adult beverages to hopefully get everyone’s wallets a little looser to open. It totally makes sense. So back at that Washington sale of 2010, the beers were flowing as the sale was wrapping up. I was with some friends near the bar, and the last horse came into the ring. Nobody was bidding on this modestly bred two-year-old by Formal Gold out of an unraced mare. So finally, after enough poking and prodding from everyone at the bar, our friend Jennifer raised her hand and bought the horse for $400. Yup, bought a horse for $400.

So, fast forward about three months to a rainy January evening at Portland Meadows. It was towards the end of the card, a maiden special weight race for $5,800. Now named Formal Plan, this $400 horse was ready to kick off her career. And kick it off did she ever. She won by eight lengths and completely dominated and made Jennifer back $3,100! Just 11 days later, they wheeled her back into the $80,000 Oregon Oaks, the richest race I ever called at Portland Meadows, and she ran second! Picked up another $16,000!

Jennifer took her $400 sales purchase to Sunland Park and hit the board in a couple of stakes and eventually ran in the Eight Belles (G3) at Churchill Downs. Formal Plan ran seventh out of 10 that day, but she went from being a $400 two-year-old sales purchase to being only 17-1 in a Grade 3 in a few months. Formal Plan would go on to win two allowance races at Churchill Downs and hit the board in stakes at Oaklawn Park and Churchill Downs and make $158,000 in a career that lasted just over two and a half years. And it all came about from a sale, some beers, some peer pressure, and $400. What a game!