Ten yearlings. Ten broodmares. Two sires. Two owners. One business deal.
It was a business deal which sought to keep everyone happy and give everyone a fair chance. Hopeful Farm, owners of the Black, and Eagle Star Farm, owners of Eclipse had come to an agreement whereby they each sent five of their best broodmares to the opposing farm's prize stallion and once the foals had become yearlings, they would take it in turns to choose which juvenile they'd like to keep. This year it was Hopeful Farm's turn to choose first.
Alec and Henry stood, looking critically at all ten yearlings, before making their final decisions.
"Roulette colt," Alec announced finally.
Eagle Star Farm's connections grimaced in disappointment. Their matriarch broodmare, Roulette was by champion sire Night Wind and her offspring, sired by the Black, was nothing short of perfection. He was the mirror image of his sire, even down to the low hocks and barrel chest, the only drawback was his temperament. As the stable lad led the colt away in the direction of Hopeful Farm's horse lorry, they could see him dancing sideways and playfully trying to nip his handler.
"Magic Mix colt," said Rob Walker, Eagle Star Farm's manager.
Another black colt, this time with flashy white stockings and a white face was led away. Alec and Henry tried to hide their disappointment. Magic Mix had been a champion herself when representing Hopeful Farm on the racetrack, showing guts and determination - something which she hadn't inherited from her dam, Black Minx. The Magic Mix colt, sired by Eclipse, was on a par with Roulette's colt.
"Prairie Wind filly," was Hopeful Farm's next choice.
The grey filly, her colour inherited from her grandsire Cyclone and not from her sire, the Black, stepped lightly forward. Colts might be more sought after, but a filly as good looking and as well-bred as this could not be passed by.
Alec and Henry looked up sharply in surprise. They certainly weren't expecting that. Eagle Star Farm had chosen one of their own mares, and a filly at that. The horse in question was led away, her chestnut tail swishing in the breeze.
And so it went on.
"Twist Of Fate colt."
"Dakota Gold colt."
With the hardest part over, Alec allowed himself to smile for the first time that day. They were now owners of five very promising yearlings. And only next year they would start their racing careers. It seemed so soon! He grinned at Rob Walker, who returned it with equal friendliness.
"Satisfied?" he asked the older man.
"I don't think any of us can complain. I think we got the best deal with Magic Mix's colt."
"I guess we're all happy then. Roulette's colt will give you a run for your money, I'd say."
"Well, then Alec," Rob said, patting him on the shoulder. "We'll see you on the racetrack next year…"