Booker Provides A New Voice To Fasig-Tipton's Bidspotting Team - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Booker Provides A New Voice To Fasig-Tipton’s Bidspotting Team

Bidspotter Camille Booker looks for bids at the 2023 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale.

The Thoroughbred auction setting contains a steady ebb and flow of different voices, from the back and forth of the auctioneer and pedigree reader on the stand, to the yelp of the bidspotters on the floor and the murmur of onlookers throughout the pavilion.

Practically to the number, the loudest voices among them are male. Always have been.

When the voice of Camille Booker broke through the chants to confirm bids to the auctioneer's stand at this year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, it naturally stood out.

The Midlantic sale was Booker's first working as a bidspotter for Fasig-Tipton. If her presence as a woman taking bids on the floor for a major Thoroughbred auction company wasn't a first in an industry that can cling desperately to traditional gender roles, it was certainly a generational rarity.

Within the greater scope of the auction community, though, Booker's voice is not only familiar, but revered.

A resident of Connell, Wash., Booker is a third-generation auctioneer with over two decades of experience, operating Booker Auction Company with her brother, Austin Booker, in Southeast Washington. In 2011, Booker won the women's division of the International Auctioneer Championship at the International Auctioneers Conference in Orlando, Fla., and she has worked as both an auctioneer and bidspotter at the nationally televised Barrett-Jackson collector car auctions.

Booker has reached great heights in the auction field, but as a teenager, the last thing she wanted to do was go into the family business.

“When I was a kid, we did farm equipment auctions and I was the kid that you brought to the auction and ran clerk pages, then I moved to working at the window, where you're essentially the cashier, and registering bidders,” she said. “When I was 16, my dad wanted to send my 19-year-old sister to auction school, and he decided he was going to send me, too. I told him I would go learn the business, but I would never become an auctioneer. I was actually a pretty quiet person back then, so there was no way I was going to get up in front of a crowd.”

She dutifully went through the paces in her training, and it wasn't until her senior year of college that Booker decided that the auction industry might be worth making a career.

In the early years, Booker said learning how to break out of the shell she'd established as a teenager was her primary challenge. Developing her chant – the staccato of syllables that fill the space between dollar amounts and other information relayed to the bidders and bidspotters – took time and practice, and those had to come in front of a live audience.

Booker described her early career as an auctioneer as something almost parallel to an actor, having to turn herself into somebody else to go onstage and perform, until the chant and the flow of the auction process became so natural that she could be herself on the stand.

Now a veteran auctioneer, Booker presides over offerings at her own company from construction equipment and estate dispersals to real estate and charity auctions.

As her reputation grew within the industry, she began working with auctioneer Joseph Mast for a variety of auction companies including Barrett-Jackson, where Mast is the lead auctioneer. Working first as a bidspotter, Booker became the first woman to wield the gavel at a Barrett-Jackson auction in 2022, when she presided over the company's Las Vegas sale.

Mast is also the lead auctioneer for Fasig-Tipton, and when the company was looking to add new bidspotters, Booker's name came up.

Booker and Mast have worked together at horse auctions in the past, including the weeklong Standardbred Horse Sales Co. Harrisburg Sale, and Booker had attended a previous Fasig-Tipton sale at the company's base in Lexington, Ky. After a chat about the idea, Mast and Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning agreed the Midlantic sale would be a good place for Booker to get her feet wet.

“She's very confident,” Mast said. “She has a great way with people, and she's great at communicating. There's a lot of nonverbal communication when you're talking to buyers when they're bidding on horses. You can see if they're a little bit scared about it. She's good at knowing when to move in and help them, or stay back away from if they're confident in what they're doing.”

Booker ended up being on the floor for the session-toppers during both days of the Midlantic sale, including Tuesday's $1-million overall leader — a filly by Arrogate.

To prepare for the new endeavor, Booker said she sought advice from the other members of Mast's auction team, many of whom pull double duty between Fasig-Tipton and Barrett-Jackson. Anna Seitz Ciannello, Fasig-Tipton's director of client relations, also helped provide background on the event, the buyers she might see, and the product she was selling.

The job of a bidspotter is to read the room, but Booker said that premise can take on different meanings depending on the product, the clientele, and the surroundings.

“Barrett-Jackson is all based on a want,” she said. “Somebody is going to Barrett-Jackson to purchase their dream car, or the car they wanted as a child. They've got some memories with it. Everything in there, I'd say is a want, and they want that personal experience, so I'm in close proximity with them, and trying to walk them through the process, because a lot of times, this is their first auction. It's a very high-energy experience. It's on TV, so you're essentially putting on a production for them.

“Here (at Fasig-Tipton), you understand that most of the people here are conditioned to an auction,” Booker continued. “They understand what they're doing, they understand the process. This is not their first rodeo. We're selling live animals, so you can't have the same excitement in turning in your bids, otherwise you'd spook the horse.”

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Booker said the population of female auctioneers in North America comprises about 15 percent of the profession, though that number is growing.

She acknowledged that her family ties likely helped get her foot in the door in a vocation where the momentum might not otherwise be on her side, and that includes getting an early start in her training. However, a family name can only get you so far once items start going up for bid.

“I had two other sisters, and we were raised that you have your own qualities, the things that you're good at, your strengths, and your weaknesses, and we were just raised to achieve our own dreams,” she said. “In that aspect, I don't think I ever looked at it as male/female as to where my roadblocks were at. Have I run into roadblocks because of who I am? Probably, and that's fair to say. But at the same time, some patience has paid off, and I think some connections have definitely helped give me some opportunities. Once you prove yourself to somebody, then they'll give you the opportunity, and once you get the opportunity, then you've got to prove yourself again that you deserve the spot.”

In between her own auction schedule, Booker has also been training the next generation to take the stand. Her son, 13-year-old Daxton, recently auctioned off an item on his own for the first time, and the early reviews suggest the family business might have rubbed off on him.

“It was stressful as a mom, but pretty cool,” Booker said. “He's pretty witty. His overall stage presence was pretty impressive for 13. He probably outdid his mom. I wouldn't have been able to do it at 13 years old.”

Teaching Daxton the pacing of an auction has been a return to the fundamentals for Booker. Taking on a different character to get through the process might not be necessary anymore, but going through those early lessons without that mask means approaching them with a new perspective.

For as much uncharted territory as she's covered, sometimes going back to step one can be a challenge all its own.

“You forget that you've been doing your chant for so long that it becomes second nature for me,” she said. “It's something that you have to start over with them, so learning their numbers, and their clarity, and making sure people can understand them. Everybody wants to go fast when they're young, but I think clarity and getting the rhythm down is probably the most important thing to get started. He sometimes listens to his mom, and other times he'd rather talk to my colleagues, because they're cooler than mom at this age.”

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