by Nick Hahn
While many Virginia horsemen are keeping a close eye on legislative initiatives in the Virginia’s General Assembly, the Virginia Thoroughbred Association (VTA) is making final preparations to hold its annual VTA Stallion Season Auction beginning next Tuesday, February 10.
As a result, VTA Executive Director Debbie Easter is keeping an eye on both.
“It’s whipping me right now, but we have great volunteers that will be ready to receive and respond to bids,” praised Easter.
Needless to say, this could be one of the most important auctions in the organization’s history. Started over three decades ago, the auction is believed to be one of the first of its kind — some say the first — and originally opened with no guarantee seasons, though many are now live foal seasons. With the proliferation of similar auctions and changes to the equine economy, the auction currently functions much like a bloodstock agency, with stallion managers and share owners providing seasons sold on commission. It continues to be widely viewed as among the best of its kind in the industry.
“Many of these stallion books are full at the farm so you may not get them anywhere else,” expresses Easter. “Many will be surprised at the quality of the stallions.”
Easter added that preparations started sooner this year by reaching out to bidders early and getting better stallions. Giant’s Causeway ($85,000 advertised stud fee), Pioneerof the Nile ($60,000), Candy Ride ($60,000), Tale of the Cat ($30,000), Noble Mission ($25,000), and First Samurai ($15,000) are among the nearly 200 stallions represented from nine states, as are many advertised at more wallet-friendly prices.
“It’s very valuable to the VTA,” explained Easter. “It makes a large percentage of our operating income that makes the Association run. It’s really important this year with the status of Virginia these days.”
Virginia is certainly in the midst of transformation in both its racing and breeding industries with a declining foal crop in recent years, a year with no racing in 2014 and another one possible for 2015, and the surrender of Colonial Downs’s unlimited racing license last fall. All of which makes the VTA’s job — to promote the Thoroughbred industry in Virginia and administer the Virginia Breeders’ Fund — all the more challenging.
“It’s not only important to the VTA but also other groups we work with, such as the Virginia Horse Industry Board,” adds Easter.
Easter encourages participants to check the organization’s website frequently leading up to the auction; seasons are continually being added up to the opening. Pre-registration of bidding begins Monday, February 9 with final bidding concluding on Wednesday, February 11. Bidding for the auction is by telephone only. Complete rules, a list of stallions and information about the auction are available at here.