Going for Gol

Jenifer Juelsgaard/Coady Photography
Yearling Sale buyers are looking for the next Silver Gol or Snowy Alibi (above).

The Texas Quarter Horse Yearling Sale is a minefield for anyone who likes to gesture with his hands or has Tourette's syndrome. The movement of a finger on a thigh can signal a $1,000 bid. But if you could control yourself this past weekend, the Pavilion at Sam Houston Race Park was a great place to see horse buyers trying to hold onto the racing industry in Texas. Lots came up from South Texas and Mexico, where the quarter horse racing industry is considered a very big deal.

Yearlings are babies -- big ones, to be sure. Less than a year old, horses sold at this sale are eligible to come back same time next year to run in the TQHA Sale Futurity at Sam Houston. Some were pretty well behaved, but most were antsy as they were wheeled out in front of the crowd with the auctioneer called out their numbers behind them. There were 320 horses sold, for a total of more than $3.2 million, and the No. 1 draft pick, Tailgunner Tom, went for $110,000. The average price was $9,500, meaning some of the horses who didn't get even close to that were bought back by their sellers when the bid price didn't rise to the money they'd already invested in them.

Rob Wertsler, TQHA director of racing, said prospective buyers are checked out ahead of time and have to present letters of credit from their banks. So as fun as you might think it would be to run a prank, raise your hand and scoot, don't. If they don't know you, they don't do business with you.

It's a big gamble for the buyers, looking at a one-year-old and trying to figure out if this one can run. But then you look at someone like trainer Leon Bard of Bryan who won the Futurity last year with Silver Gol. They paid $16,000 the year before for the horse as a yearling. So far he's made $280,000. Which is, of course, a lot better than most bettors do at the track. -- Margaret Downing

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