‘I’m Over The Moon’: The Hands Behind Sequel Bloodstock’s Record-Setting Colt At Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale
by Joe Nevills|05.24.2022|5:59pm
John Motaung, Humberto Garcia-Olivera, and Marcel Pillay of Sequel Bloodstock.
From the moment he crossed the Maryland State Fairgrounds finish line and the timer blinked “:9.4” during the under-tack show, the focus of this year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale had been the future of Hip 385, the Bernardini colt that set the blazing time.
That future became much clearer on Tuesday, when the colt hammered to Zedan Racing for $3.55 million, almost twice as much as anyone ever paid for a horse in the auction's history. It was a crowning moment for the Sequel Bloodstock team, the consignment responsible for the colt's past and present, on behalf of breeders and longtime clients Chester and Mary Broman.
“I can't even explain it,” said John Motaung, co-manager and rider at Sequel's training base at Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala, Fla. “This is my first time doing this kind of sale for such a nice horse like him. I'm over the moon.”
The colt, named Berning Remarks, arrived at Winding Oaks as a yearling in August 2021 to begin his under-saddle training after growing up in New York.
Marcel Pillay, a rider with Sequel, was tasked with getting the colt started under tack, and he said it took some time for him to zero in on his new job.
“It wasn't easy at the start,” he said. “He wasn't good to break in, but he learned quick, and from there, it was easy.
“He was straightforward, but also very fresh,” Pillay continued. “He was a very happy horse. You just have to relax when you're on them, and they come back to you.”
Pillay brought with him a deep well of global experience to get Berning Remarks acclimated to his new job. A native of South Africa, Pillay started out as an apprentice jockey in his home country before moving his tack to Australia for a year. He returned to South Africa to enroll in Summerhill Stud's School of Equine Management Excellence and work as an assistant trainer before being recruited by Sequel to move stateside.
The South African connection with Berning Remarks continued with Motaung, who started working with horses at 18 as a groom at Summerhill Stud, where the horses with his fingerprints included South African Horse of the Year Igugu.
That led him to a stint at Godolphin's Gainsborough Farm in Kentucky which later, between trips home, led him to first work with Becky Thomas of Sequel Bloodstock for five months in 2008. He took courses at Summerhill's School of Equine Management Excellence and the English National Stud – the latter of which he graduated as the top practical student – and he served as riding master of the South African Jockey Academy.
Motaung said the colt started showing flashes of his potential in January, when he put together the physical and mental aspects of his job.
“The babies sometimes don't tell you exactly what they're going to be like,” he said. “Sometimes, they can surprise you. He was one of those horses that was sometimes a little bit fresh, but once you put him on the track, he straightened out. Through all the pre-training on him, he was a lovely horse to work with. I can't find any fault with what he did ahead of the sale.”
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Neither rider was in the saddle when Berning Remarks set the track ablaze over an eighth of a mile in :9 4/5 seconds during the under-tack show. They knew they had a fast horse, but having one fast enough to clock the sale's fastest time at the distance was a surprise, even to them.
“It just looked like wind was passing,” Pillay said. “We felt the breeze on the other side.”
After the breeze show, the attention of every buyer with a serious bankroll snapped their attention to Sequel's consignment in Barns G and H. That's when Sequel's sales and yearling prep manager Humberto Garcia-Olivera got busy.
Garcia-Olivera was on the end of the shank every time Berning Remarks came out of the barn, which by his count was over 100 times. For a horse with that many potential dollars riding on him, he was the full-time showman.
“Always,” Motaung said with a laugh.
A native of Mexico, Garcia-Olivera got his start in the industry in 2005, working in Kentucky with WinStar Farm and Castleton Lyons before turning his focus to the sales. He's worked under the Sequel banner for five years.
Garcia-Olivera praised the colt for his mind from the first times they started working together last year. For any “it” horse at a sale, though, the task of keeping them fresh and focused on their task through show after show requires a steady, patient hand on the shank leather.
“The horse is quick, and if you're loose with the shank, he's going [to move], so we try to make him relax,” he said. “You talk to the horses. If you settle down, the horse will settle down.”
Garcia-Olivera's smile was infectious after the colt hammered for a record total. When the Sequel team gathered around the Berning Remarks for a group picture in the aftermath, Garcia-Olivera's arm was wrapped around the colt's neck, and his head was tucked between the horse's cheek and his neck, his grin still beaming as much as it did when the horse left the ring.
“I've worked with many consignors, but never sold a horse for that much, so it's very exciting for me,” he said.
The expectations are going to be sky-high for Berning Remarks when he hits the racetrack, between the ability he showed on the track and the historic price he commanded in the ring. After nine months together, the Sequel team was confident he could live up to it.
“I just wish him to do well in the future,” Motaung said. “I want to see him doing well on the racetrack. I know he's going to do well, because he 's a nice, quiet horse. It's nice to work with him, so I'm not scared to say that.”