Standardbred Horse Sales Company's yearling sale kicks off Monday in Harrisburg, PA with a select session of the very best 175 yearlings. | Dean Hoffman

Harrisburg principals hoping to follow Lexington’s trend

November 6, 2016

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Standardbred Horse Sales Company president Pete Spears said historically the Harrisburg sale has followed the lead of Lexington, which was up nearly 25 per cent this year.

by Dave Briggs

Was the exceptional Lexington Selected Yearling Sale a bellwether of what to expect from this week’s Standardbred Horse Sales Company sale ( starting Monday (Nov. 7) and running through Friday (Nov. 11) at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA? Sale president, CEO and treasurer Pete Spears certainly is hoping that proves to be the case.

“Historically Harrisburg and Lexington have gone in the same direction economically,” Spears said. “There have been two exceptions to that — last year when the Pennsylvania governor decided to threaten to shut down racing and in 2008 when the tech bubble burst and the sale and the market went down. So, historically, if Lexington does well and the other sales do well, we do well. I’m optimistic we’ll do well, but time will tell.”

The Lexington sale, held Oct. 4-8, was up 24.5 per cent over 2015 and the gross of $32.3 million that was the second highest in its history

“I’d be disappointed if we weren’t up, at least to some degree (at Harrisburg),” said Hanover Shoe Farms’ Hall of Fame publicity man Murray Brown. “I would hope we could be up as much as they were (in Lexington), but I doubt it. It would be a welcome gift, but a few days at Lexington this year were magic and I just don’t know… they had a great book and great individuals and they sold accordingly. They sold more than accordingly.”

Northwood Bloodstock’s Bob Boni said, “all of our sales take on personalities and the Lexington sale and the Harrisburg sale are two distinctly different ones. In the Harrisburg book, there’s plenty to pick from and if people are willing to take their time and look at a lot of horses they are going to find nice horses that they can buy… and they will occasionally find horses that they will consider a good value.”

The sale will begin at noon on Monday with a select session of 175 yearlings designed to start the sale with fireworks.

“They were selected based on excellent pedigrees and the individuality to go with it. We’re starting an hour later (than in previous years), so people who come in Sunday night or Monday morning will have plenty of time to evaluate their choices,” Brown said.

Spears said the opening session would be followed by the reinstatement of a buffet dinner thanks to a grant from the Pennsylvania State Racing Commission. The event will begin at 6:15 with an open bar and appetizers followed by the dinner at 7 pm.

“Also, as part of that grant, we reinstituted an international buyer incentive program, whereby people who are either new or haven’t bought in at least three years, who are coming from overseas, can apply for a $1,500 incentive grant that will basically pay for their plane ticket and hopefully most of their lodging to come to the sale,” Spears said.

“We are also going to auction four individual artworks at the end of the sale on Monday to benefit the Harness Horse Youth Foundation,” Spears said.

Neither Spears, Brown nor Boni said they thought Tuesday’s Presidential election would have much impact on the sale, though some attention of the buyers will likely be elsewhere on Tuesday evening.

“I look forward to going to Harrisburg every year,” Boni said. “I think it’s a great place to sell horses. People are there to sell horses. With the exception of this year because of the election, normally what goes on outside of that building nobody even knows. It’s as if you don’t even know what’s going on.”

Brown said he not only expects Harrisburg to be up this year, he expects Hanover Shoe Farms will follow the trend, “because we’ve got a pretty darn good book and a lot of outstanding individuals. We’ve got a lot of what people want, the Beaches, the Muscle Hills. We’ve got Cantabs, Donatos, Bettors Delights and we’ve got geographical diversification. I would be very disappointed if we did not have a good sale.”

Hanover Shoe Farms owns the Standardbred Horse Sales Company and helping Hanover’s bottom line is the fact that it did not sell at Lexington in part to sell all of its very best yearlings at Harrisburg to support the sale.

“I think we’re very, very strong. I think we have top horses in every category, especially deep in pacing colts and trotting fillies. If I had to pick just one in either category, I just couldn’t do it,” Brown said. “With the Beaches, we’ve probably got a dozen or more colts that just jump out at you, as well as other yearlings. Overall, in pacing colts, we’ve got 25 to 30 that any one of them could be a top, top horse. It wouldn’t surprise me, and that’s pretty much the same with trotting fillies and, to a lesser degree, the other two categories.

“I don’t think we had as good a group of yearlings, period, last year as we do this year.”

Brown predicted Hanover’s top trotting colt would be hip #21, Story Time Hanover, a Muscle Hill colt out of Shared Past.

“He is as well-bred and good looking as any trotting colt that I’ve seen this year,” Brown said. “He’s a real mouth-waterer. I think he’s just a lovely horse… He’s probably been out in the paddock every day for the last two weeks (when potential buyers came to look at yearlings at the Hanover Fairgrounds.

“Another positive we have in our consignment, we’ve got a lot of geographical divergence. We have a far better group of Ontario-breds than we’ve had in many years. We’ve got a brother to Reverend Hanover, who is, in my opinion, a lovely colt. We’ve got a Kadabra filly that I think is probably as nice a filly as we have period.”

Brown said Hanover stallion Somebeachsomewhere is putting up “scary” numbers at stud.

“Just the statistics that his two and three-year-olds have earned more than double that of the next leading sire, which, in both cases is Bettors Delight, who is a great, great sire. The Beaches have earned twice as much and, to me, that’s astonishing,” Brown said. “I haven’t seen the likes of this since maybe the days of Adios and this is even more domination.”

Preferred Equine Marketing will offer a huge number of horses during both the yearling sessions (Nov. 7-9) and the two mixed sessions (Nov. 10-11). Preferred’s David Reid said he is “looking forward to the sale. We have a lot of nice horses, we have a good blend of trotters and pacers and we have something for everybody from the major jurisdictions. We’re just looking forward to having a good week and, hopefully, the sales continue on the trend they’ve been on and I look forward to getting the show on the road.”

Boni said there is no magic formula for which horses will sell well.

“The ones that are okay are always going to take care of themselves,” Boni said. “On a given day, they’ll bring more. I was at Hanover the other day and looked at some of their yearlings… They’ve always got good yearlings, but their pacing colts are exceptionally good… I like some of the colts and fillies that I’m selling, but in the yearling market the public can be picky. But, if you’ve got the right stuff, the right sire, they will pay enough for them.”

Spears said there are no large dispersals at this year’s mixed sale, but “Peninsula Farms is offering a very select, high-quality group of broodmares from the William Weaver estate and I think they will prove to be very attractive to buyers.”

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