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Sunday, 21 October, 2018

Todd Pletcher's two-year-old scout takes in the delights of Doncaster

Danielle Bricker flew in for the Goffs UK Breeze-Up Sale

Danielle Bricker keeps a keen eye on one of the lots during the Goffs UK Breeze-Up Sale
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Among the crowd of regulars that gathered in Doncaster for the Goffs UK Breeze-Up Sale earlier this week was a fresh face, with Danielle Bricker in town to cast her eye over the juveniles on offer in South Yorkshire.

Bricker is used to assessing two-year-olds against a backdrop of clear skies at the likes of Ocala and Fasig-Tipton in her position as bloodstock assistant and two-year-old scout for seven-time US champion trainer Todd Pletcher, so it must have been a shock to the system to arrive in a chilly Doncaster on Monday with the racecourse shrouded in thick fog.

"It's very different - Ocala is a lot sunnier and a lot warmer!" said Bricker. "I've never been to a breeze-up that's been foggy before."

And, of course, the inclement weather was not the only difference Bricker, who watched the breeze hidden under a baseball cap and wrapped in a thick scarf, observed at Doncaster.

"At US two-year-old sales everything is in equipment - blinkers, wraps on legs, different bits - and everyone is clocking," she said. "The times are so crucial for us - I feel like it plays a role here but it's not so key. If you have a bad time in the US the horse will probably be knocked off a lot of lists."

Pletcher agreed to send his two-year-old scout to Doncaster to compile a shortlist after he was approached by Goffs UK and Great British Racing International about considering the sale as a source of potential Royal Ascot two-year-olds.

"Todd told me to focus on American sires - at any sale we focus on the stallions that he's made, he's very supportive of those horses - so I made sure I looked at all of the US sires, but I threw in a couple of Europeans too," Bricker explained.

"I've been pretty impressed by what I've seen over here. The biggest difference is that a lot of the horses are on the smaller side compared to the US - where they're all massive - so you have to use your imagination.

"But turf horses are better over here so it could be a big advantage to bring these horses over to the States. Pletcher will always be a dirt trainer, but to have a couple of turf horses could never hurt him."

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Bricker, who has returned to the US to begin preparing for the OBS Spring Sale, may have paid only a fleeting visit to Doncaster, but she was also able to take in trips to Newmarket and London during her time in Britain. 

"I went to Newmarket and visited Roger Varian and Marco Botti's yards. That was a phenomenal experience, they're great people," she said. "I also got to explore London, although I ended up getting lost!"

But if Bricker found the streets of the capital hard to navigate, she seems far more assured about the direction she wants to head in her professional life.

Despite her relatively tender years, she has already amassed an impressive CV, although admits her career path came as something of a shock to her parents.

"I grew up riding in Long Island, New York and taught kids with disabilities how to ride," she said. "I was a nursing major in college until I switched to the University of Kentucky and went into the major for equine business.

"When I told my parents I wanted to work with horses they said 'what are you talking about?' - my dad's an accountant, a complete numbers guy."

But it was during her time at university that Bricker was allowed to immerse herself in the world of bloodstock sales. And after a summer spent busying herself with introductions to key industry figures - and no shortage of hard work - she now finds herself holding a most coveted position.

"I worked for Chris Baccari and through him I met Donato Lanni," she said. "I look upto Donato so much - he taught me so much. Through him I had the chance to work with Bob Baffert at the two-year-old sale in Ocala, and that's where I met Todd. I walked up to him and just introduced myself."

Bricker has not yet been with Pletcher for two years, but was fast-tracked from hot walker to foreman in just six weeks, before being given the position of bloodstock assistant.

"I told Todd that I didn't want to train but that I really like the sales and the bloodstock side of things and that I loved working for him - it's a huge opportunity to learn under him and his dad [JJ] is phenomenal," she said.

"So he gave me an opportunity to work the Keeneland September Sale shortlisting by myself, so I worked books one to six - which is a lot of horses to get through. It was a phenomenal experience. To learn under Todd and his dad, you couldn't really ask for better teachers.

"If he sees that you have potential and are really willing to work, Todd will give you the opportunity. I think he remembers being young and wanting the chance to learn. He learned from the best and now I'm learning from the best."


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