'It’s Really Starting To Catch On Now': Caravel's Breeders' Cup Win Gives Online-Only Wanamaker's Its Biggest Graduate - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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‘It’s Really Starting To Catch On Now’: Caravel’s Breeders’ Cup Win Gives Online-Only Wanamaker’s Its Biggest Graduate

Caravel, ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, streaks to victory in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland

By just about any metric, Liza Hendriks had a good day at the office during Saturday's Breeders' Cup card at Keeneland.

She had a seat in one of the owner's boxes. Good seat, good day.

Her mother, Elizabeth Merryman, bred the Pennsylvania-born Caravel, and they sat together to watch the mare upset the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at odds of 42-1. Good day.

Hendriks had $50 across the board on Caravel's nose. Really good day.

It might not have been as immediately exciting as hitting a big ticket, but Caravel's Turf Sprint triumph also provided the biggest graduate update in the young history of Wanamaker's online auction platform, co-founded by Hendriks. That could lead to more good days ahead.

Caravel was offered in the 2020 Wanamaker's October Sale, the company's fourth-ever auction, where she finished under her reserve with a final bid of $330,000.

At the time of the sale, the daughter of Mizzen Mast raced as a homebred for Hendriks' mother. Also trained by Merryman, the filly had won each of her first three starts, including a victory in the Lady Erie Stakes at Presque Isle Downs.

“She was running really well, and I had just launched Wanamaker's, and she wanted to support it,” Hendriks said. “She was thinking about selling her, just because she was doing so well, and she was a big advocate for online auctions, so she really trusted it.”

Wanamaker's debuted in June 2020 at a time when COVID-19 made buying things online especially appealing, and meeting one person at a farm or stable to inspect a horse seemed more attractive to many than sharing the oxygen of a sales pavilion with hundreds of other people. There were a handful of online-only Thoroughbred auction companies in the space, but the major North American auction houses were still figuring out their online bidding blueprints on the fly.

Wanamaker's had scored an early success with the $400,000 sale of the Friesan Fire gelding Fiya during the July 2020 renewal of its monthly auctions, displaying proof of concept that buyers would spend serious six-figure money, even if the fall of the hammer was virtual.

After she was announced for the catalog, Caravel finished third in the Hill Top Stakes at Pimlico. Even though she finished the sale as an RNA, Hendriks said the timing of the filly's entry, the timely black type update, and the logistics of it all served as another high-profile proof of concept for how the auction platform could work.

“Caravel didn't end up selling, but we thought that was a reasonable price for her,” Hendriks said. “It just really proves that for proven horses, it's a great place for them because you can sell them at any time. At that time, there wasn't a sale for her. She ran during the sale. They can run the weekend they're in the sale, and you don't have to ship anywhere.”

Celebrity chef Bobby Flay later joined Merryman as a co-owner in a private transaction, and the filly earned a victory in the Grade 3 Caress Stakes before finishing last of 12 in the 2021 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar. A few days later, she went through the ring at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale and sold to the partnership of Qatar Racing and Mark Detampel. Madaket Stables later joined the group, as well.

Caravel was moved from Merryman's barn to Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox, and she tallied victories in the G3 Intercontinental Stakes and G3 Franklin Stakes prior to her Breeders' Cup victory, reversing her fortunes from a year earlier.

“I was just so happy for my mom, because she still has the whole family,” Hendriks said. “She has the dam and five siblings. My brother trains two of the siblings right now.”

Hendriks said she has kept close with Caravel since the she moved from her mother's barn.

“She's very feisty,” she said. “I've gotten to see her in Saratoga through the summer, and then I saw her yesterday after her big win. It's incredible to see how good of a race filly she is. ”

Caravel was cataloged for this year's Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, but she was scratched following her Breeders' Cup win. She currently resides at Hunter Valley Farm, where she will rest up for a 2023 campaign.

Having a Breeders Cup-winning graduate is a game-changer for any fledgling auction house, but the online marketplace has grown just as quickly as Wanamaker's resume.

Both Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton have hosted online-only auctions, on top of offering live online bidding during its brick-and-mortar sales. Fasig-Tipton has even taken the concept as far as offering single-horse flash sales for connections that want to take quick advantage of a big update.

“I think it's really starting to catch on now,” Hendriks said. “Fasig-Tipton's also doing it now, and I think it proves that online auctions are working and the market's going in that direction. It's awesome to see the sales market changing to be more year-round, rather than set times throughout the year. If a racehorse jumps up, or a sibling, you can sell them at any time, and it doesn't have to be through the private market. It's exciting to see that change.”

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Even so, the Thoroughbred industry is one that can be notoriously resistant to change, especially when it comes to technology and the bloodstock sphere. Hendriks said that education for both buyers and sellers has been paramount.

“It's been a slow process, but people are coming around to it quicker than I actually thought,” she said. “I think COVID did help with that, for moving people online. People buy everything else online, so why not buy horses online?”

In addition to its monthly auctions, Wanamaker's has also expanded into hosting regional sales for state breed organizations, including groups in New York and Pennsylvania.

Caravel is the biggest star to come out of a Wanamaker's sale, but Hendriks pointed to the Laoban gelding Be the Boss, who sold to Joseph Grant for $35,000 during the company's New York-Bred Horses of Racing Age Sale in July, as an example of just what the online bidding platform can offer.

“We sold the horse, and the seller actually paid the next morning, we transferred the papers to Saratoga, and they entered the horse the next day, and ran that Sunday,” she said. “So, the horse sold on Thursday, and entered on Friday for Sunday. Then he ended up winning on one of the last days of the meet.”

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