Best January Mixed Sale in many moons

Gross, average and number of $100,000+ selling racehorses were all up sharply at Monday’s sale at the Meadowlands — and that’s not counting the two $200,000+ horses that failed to meet their reserve.

story and photos by Dave Briggs

By most measures, Monday’s January Select Mixed Sale at the Meadowlands was the strongest it has been in many years. The gross of $6,6288,400 was the best since 2010 and the average of $26,989 for the 233 horses/stallion shares sold was the highest since 2008 when the sale posted all-time record numbers.

“It was a well-paced sale and the bidding was spirited,” said sale general manager David Reid. “We really saw people from a lot of different jurisdictions here today. I was happy to see that.

“We try to recruit as many high-value or highly-accomplished horses as we can. It’s not always the easiest task because with the horse shortages, people aren’t so easy to part with the horses.”

This year’s gross was up 7.5 per cent over the $5,849,400 fetched in 2016 despite 25 fewer horses being sold this year. The average was up 19 per cent over the 2016 sale average of $22,672.

“Across the board, it was one of the better sales we’ve had,” said Bob Boni of Northwood Bloodstock, the sale’s second leading consignor by gross to Reid’s Preferred Equine Marketing. “I thought it was excellent. Overall, it was very good from top to bottom… It was a good day.”

Trainer Tony Alagna purchased both the sale topper and the fourth highest-priced horse sold to lead all buyers in gross purchases.

Both the sale topper Dr J Hanover, which sold for $280,000, and American Passport, which Alagna purchased for $135,000, came out of his barn and were sold to dissolve partnerships.

“Some partners wanted out, some wanted to stay in; we’ll wait until the dust settles and see who’s staying in,” Alagna said. “It will be new partnerships put together for both horses.”

One of the new partners on both horses will be Ontario’s Brad Grant, who last year made headlines at the January Select Mixed Sale by purchasing three horses to replace some of those trainer Ben Wallace lost in the fire at Classy Lane Stables. Grant topped the 2016 sale by buying Lindy’s Tru Grit for $125,000 and Easy Lover Hanover for $70,000. The latter went on to win the $314,600 Hap Hansen Progress Pace at Dover Downs last fall.

Dr J Hanover, a 4-year-old gelded pacer, spent his first two years in Alagna’s stable, winning eight of 19 races and earning $326,773. The majority of Dr J Hanover’s success came last year at Yonkers Raceway, where he won six times. On the Grand Circuit, he finished third in the Messenger, Little Brown Jug, and a division of the Tattersalls Pace.

American Passport, a 4-year-old pacing stallion, also raced in Alagna’s stable at ages 2 and 3, winning five of 27 races and earning $314,656.

Alagna said he was pleased Grant would be buying into both Dr J Hanover and American Passport.

“Brad and I have had great luck,” Alagna said. “He bought Wake Up Peter from me, he bought Sandbetweenurtoes, Revenge Shark, Witch Dali; he’s had a great run with horses that we’ve had. These fit what Brad is looking for. They’ll be nice horses for the 4-year-old year.”

Dr J Hanover, named in honor of Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky, the farm manager at Hanover Shoe Farms, was purchased as a yearling under the name Stepenwolf Hanover for $300,000 at the 2014 Standardbred Horse Sale. He is a son of stallion Somebeachsomewhere out of the stakes-winning mare So Perfect and his family includes stakes-winners Perfectionist, Lifetime Member and Copywriter as well as millionaire Image Of Dawn.

Alagna said he would target the George Morton Levy Memorial at Yonkers for Dr J Hanover’s first test.

“With the way the races are, and the money they’re going for at Yonkers, if you have a horse that’s a half-mile track specialist, why not? Dr J Hanover got so good on the half, and that made him a horse. You normally don’t find that. He learned to leave the gate fast,” Alagna said.

The trainer said he would take his time bringing back American Passport.

“I’ve always liked the horse,” Alagna said of American Passport, a son of American Ideal—Star Of The Show. “We raced him a little over his head last year when he wasn’t on his game. We took a deep breath, slowed down and he came back and won Empire Breeders elimination. He got good at Lexington. He just got where he didn’t have anything left, so we shut him down and gave him some time off, but he’s back going now. I told Brad, if we bought him, we’d do the right thing… give him some time and get ready for the four-year-old year. I’m not going to rush him to be ready for the Levy, because I don’t think he’s ready to do that yet.”

“I really think there’s a lot of upside (to American Passport),” Grant said. “I like his speed, he’s a very fast horse.”

Alagna said it could be a year of opportunity for 4-year-olds.

“There are a lot of 4-year-old restricted races and then by midseason hopefully (American Passport) can step up. There’s no (Horse of the Year) Always B Miki, no Racing Hill, no Betting Line. You take a lot of horses out of the mix, so he’s got a shot to make some serious money,” Alagna said.

Preferred Equine consigned both Dr J Hanover and American Passport.

The second highest-priced horse sold was 4-year-old pacing horse Gerries Sport for $145,000 to Josh Green, agent, of Milford, DE out of the Northwood Bloodstock consignment.

“I thought Gerries Sport would be a good horse,” Boni said of the son of Mach Three out of Perfect Sport.

The third highest-priced horse sold was 4-year-old gelded pacer Katies Rocker, a son of Rocknroll Hanover out of Just Wait Kate purchased by Howard Taylor of Philadelphia, PA for $140,000 out of the Peninsula Farm Inc. consignment.

In all, 168 racehorses grossed $5,568,100, an average of $33,143. This year’s racehorse average is up 30.5 per cent and the gross is up 4.4 per cent from 2016 when 210 racehorses grossed $5,331,800 for an average of $25,390.

“We really try to market this sale,” Reid said. “We try hard to get the information out and update the racelines. It really helps that a lot of the horses were racing.”

Reid said it also helps that a lot of jurisdictions have strong purses fuelled by slots.

“Obviously, with Ohio coming on board, Delaware is good, Yonkers is good,” he said. “I thought the crowd was great and even more important than the crowd being strong, I really liked the diversity of who was here, who was bidding and who was buying. Carmen Auciello came down from Canada and bought a handful. Richard Moreau bought a handful. There was some guys down in the Maryland area that bought a handful. Gilbert (Garcia-Herrera) bought a handful, Rene (Allard) bought a handful. (Ron) Burke was an active bidder today and he got a few. Overall, I’m very satisfied with the sale.”

A total of eight horses sold for at least $100,000 at this year’s sale, compared to two horses that hit six figures last year.

Two more horses fetched bids in excess of $100,000 this year, but both 4-year-old pacer Western Fame and 4-year-old trotter Lagerfeld failed to reach their reserve price despite garnering bids of $270,000 and $215,000, respectively.

“With Lagerfeld, even though we didn’t get the job done today, we were very close to exceeding the reserve,” Reid said. “But, he has value and the group that bought him as a yearling were eager to try to get fair value for him and it just didn’t work out today. Same as Western Fame, but with him, I think him not being qualified maybe took the edge off him a little bit. That said, if the horse comes back, qualifies and starts racing well, there will be a marketplace for him. I’m sure I can get those horses placed later on when they do get racing.”

Cinamony, a 6-year-old mare pacer, was the top female horse sold. Mark Mullen of Fair Winds Farm of New Jersey purchased her for $90,000. Mullen said the plan was the breed the daughter of Art Official out of Armbro Cinnamon.

“I think (I will breed her to) Captaintreacherous, maybe (Always B) Miki or Somebeach,” Mullen said. “She had a good record and she is racey-looking, though she’s not as big as I’d like.”

Cinamony won 25 of 89 races and earned $532,404 in her career. She is a half-sister to stakes-winner Fear The Dragon and her second dam is Dan Patch Award-winner Mattaroni.

“Mattaroni is a pretty nice family. It’s a White Birch family, Armbro Bombay and so forth. I actually have another broodmare in the same family,” Mullen said.

This year’s sale gross is up 0.4 per cent from the $6,265,200 fetched in 2015, up 5.3 per cent from the 2014 gross of $5,971,500 and 38 per cent from the 2013 gross of $4,549,600

The average is up 15.8 per cent from 2015’s average of $23,291, up 5.8 per cent from the average of $25,519 reached in 2014 and up 1.7 per cent from the 2013 average of $26,532.

— with files from Ken Weingartner / Harness Racing Communications / USTA