'It's A Little Like American Idol': Nick Hines On Buying 2-Year-Olds At Auction - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘It’s A Little Like American Idol’: Nick Hines On Buying 2-Year-Olds At Auction

Nick Hines

Nick Hines, better known to TVG viewers as “The Sarge,” has picked out some good ones at auction as both a trainer and a bloodstock agent, and he shared some of his thoughts on what he looks for in a prospect on the Champagne and J.D. Show.

With clients including Myracehorse.com and his own Battle Born Racing Stable, Hines has been a prominent figure at auctions around the country, with a particular knack for finding runners on a budget.

Like a growing number of buyers, Hines is wary of blindly trusting the stopwatch as a be-all indicator of quality when evaluating a prospect at a 2-year-olds in training sale. The change in under-tack schedules over the past few decades from an event where a horse gets two or more public breezes to one where a horse gets one shot to impress buyers has changed the dynamic of what an under-tack workout means – and what it needs to be.

“It's a little like American Idol,” Hines said during the interview. “If you go in and fail your interview, so to speak, or your audition, chances are your horse won't sell like you hoped.”

Instead of going strictly by the stopwatch, Hines said he keyed in on how the sale prospect handled the breeze, both from a physical standpoint and a mental one. In general, he also said he tends to lean toward horses breezing with less equipment, such as blinkers or wraps.

When listing important criteria in analyzing a potential purchase, he also noted how important it is to know about the horse's background beyond the horse itself.

“Obviously, knowing where their history is, knowing who you're buying from, getting to know the individual during the time in which you're there,” Hines said. “You're clocking, you're visualizing these horses, whether or not they're sprinters or if they could go a route of ground, but paying attention after the preview. Not so much to look at repository x-rays and go over that with your veterinarian and your clients, but going around the sales grounds after hours, like when a sale's over or after the preview, and seeing what that horse is doing in the stall.

“They can give you so many subtle signs of being comfortable or being at ease with themselves,” he continued. “That, to me, with 2-year-olds is probably the key element to being successful; them being able to stand that pressure. It goes beyond physical soundness as far as their legs are concerned.

Hines discusses attending sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his views on buying at 2-year-old auctions at roughly the 4-minute mark of the video below, with further discussions involving memories of the recently deceased trainer Mel Stute.

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