Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt have spent the better past of the last two decades making the most of the opportunities the Thoroughbred racing world presented them.
Now, the Texas natives are passing on some of their good fortune to their fellow owners. Fasig-Tipton's July yearling sale on Tuesday will have the bonus of Phase I of the dispersal of stock from the Heiligbrodts, who are taking a hiatus from the sport to devote more time to their family and other business interests. In addition to the 303 yearlings that are cataloged, the July sale will feature 80 horses of all ages from the Heiligbrodts in one continuous session that will follow the yearling sale and will be handled by Bluewater Sales.
During their nearly 25 years in the sport, the Heiligbrodts campaigned 118 stakes winners either solely or in partnership, including Grade I standouts Lady Tak, Appealing Zophie, Golden Ballet and Cashier's Dream.
At a time when both the sport and the auction arenas are seeking more participants, the departure of the Heiligbrodts from the industry is particularly tough. The upshot, however, is that buyers have an added opportunity to obtain quality stock when market prices are forgiving.
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"The response so far has been unbelievable. We've shown these horses the last three days close to 2,000 times," Mike Levy of Bluewater Sales said Monday. "We have people who have come from all over the country to see these horses, and the market will tell us exactly what they're going to bring because it is a no-reserve situation.
"It's a great opportunity for somebody to get involved with some of the bloodlines that have made them very successful in racing."
Among the hallmarks of the Heiligbrodt program was their focus on 2-year-olds and their support of regional markets, particularly in Texas and Louisiana. Both those intangibles could be crucial in bringing a new set of buyers into the July auction.
The horses of racing age will be attractive to those who want a product that can bring them a quicker return on their dollar, while buyers looking to take advantage of regional breeding programs could zero in on the broodmares. And if those buyers happen to find a yearling or two that catches their eye beforehand, so much the better.
"We figured that everyone would be interested in the race horses because that is the kind of buyer that comes to Fasig-Tipton," said Meg Levy of Bluewater Sales. "It's unusual to have all these different ages of horses in one group, and ... we have gotten plenty of regional buyers coming in from Louisiana, Texas, out West, so I think that has been a good thing.
"I'm hoping some of that will overflow into the yearling sale."
The Heiligbrodts plan on dispersing more of their stock at other sales through the year, including the Fasig-Tipton Texas yearling sale in August.
As much as the market appreciates the opportunity the longtime owners are now providing, it will miss having their direct presence in the game.
"It is definitely bittersweet," Levy said. "It's been a real family project for them, and their numbers speak for their success. They may end up getting back into it at another time, but everyone comes to that time when they need to take a break."