Before I left for California on Sunday, I’d been thinking of Tom Thornbury, the respected and well-liked associate director of sales at Keeneland because Tom had been asked to select the yearlings for the Copa aBullrich sale in Argentina in May — somewhat of a minefield to navigate because in Argentina the select sale concept is in its infancy and as a result there’s always a chance to insult a proud farm. Bullrich, however, picked the right guy for the job, because not only is Tom a world-class horseman, he’s also genuine. “I looked at the yearlings on physique,” Tom said, “and the 80 catalogued for the first day would make any trainer in the world want one. My scale is on 4,5,6, and there’s an awful lot of 5s plus in there. Of the 80 on the first day, 25 are really high on my scale.”
I actually ended up speaking to Tom this week by chance, after the death of our mutual friend, Jack Werk. Tom sent in an email to Jack’s kids and friends about Jack, and with his permission I’m including it here:
“I wish that I had the chance to tell Jack how much he impacted my life. I hope that I somehow conveyed that over the years that we have known each other. I first met Jack at a yearling sale in Kentucky. I can’t put an exact date on it, but it was likely to have been the late 1980s. It was Jack’s first venture to the sales in Kentucky, and he was just testing the water. To tell you the truth, what drew me to introduce myself was that he looked like he could be the twin brother of a revered college room-mate of mine, and also that he looked as though he knew no one at the sale. He was a total new-comer to Kentucky. We immediately became friends.
“Jack told me of what he did with his computerized nicking service. I was not exactly computer savvy, so it was way over my head, but he had a long list of clients that depended on his selections for matings before they made a move. Jack’s method was also helpful in selecting for his clients those sale horses with proven nicks that would likely become good racing prospects. Through Jack, I met a lot of those clients. Some of them became clients of my small farm, where they boarded mares, raised foals, and often kept them to break and prepare for racing. Most of these folks liked breeding to race. Being part of their plans was extremely satisfying. These people became more than clients. They became family. I cannot begin to tell you how Jack impacted my farm, my family, and my future.
“Jack was a quiet, dependable, enthusiastic supporter, and I will treasure the involvement he had in the development of my business and my professional life. He never asked for a thing in return. As long as I was fair and honest with his clients, Jack was happy to send them my way. He was as kind and good a man as I have ever known. What I wouldn’t do to have had one more opportunity to talk with him – just to thank him for all that he meant to me.”
One of the people Tom met through Jack was me, and I actually once sent a mare to a sale through Tom (that made $60,000, a nice profit!). MRLS killed Tom’s farm business, and he later joined Keeneland, where he’s a major conveyor of good will. Now he’s helping the sales companies in South America, too. Before the Bullrich gig, he’d done similar work in Brazil, too.
Click below to read articles about Tom in Argentina and Brazil. Use a translator if you don’t read Spanish or Portugese.