Frank "The Elder" Antonacci of Lindy Farms (left) and David Reid of Preferred Equine | Dave Landry

First-crop Bonanza

October 3, 2017

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With first-crop yearlings from Captaintreacherous, Sweet Lou, Trixton, Father Patrick and more on offer beginning tonight at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale, an auction that has a decidedly different complexion to last year’s record sale that was dominated by offspring of Muscle Hill and Somebeachsomewhere.

by Dave Briggs

With the first crops of four new stallions set to begin selling tonight at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion in Lexington, KY, the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale has a decidedly different complexion to last year’s record auction in which very few progeny of new stallions went through the ring.

This year, the first crops of pacers Captaintreacherous, Sweet Lou and Sunshine Beach will be sold, along with the initial offerings of trotters Trixton, Father Patrick, Uncle Peter, E L Titan and Royalty For Life.

“It’s pretty exciting to have the first-crop sires out there,” said David Reid of Preferred Equine, who also shares the sales manager role with Randy Manges.

All five sale sessions — running on consecutive nights through Saturday — start at 7 p.m.

Consignors and potential buyers at Fasig-Tipton on Monday said they were particularly excited about the first offerings of Captaintreacherous and Sweet Lou, Father Patrick and Trixton.

“Overall, the buzz is positive for all four of them,” said Adam Bowden of Diamond Creek Farm “We’ve got two on the trotting side, two on the pacing side, on a national level… I think there is going to be a lot of opportunity for people to buy a nice prospect.”

Last year, Somebeachsomewhere on the pacing side and Muscle Hill on the trotting side were even more dominant in the ring than in previous years. The two accounted for $10,769,000 in sales, 33 per cent of the total sale gross despite representing just 16 per cent of the total number of yearlings sold.

Muscle Hill led all sires in gross with $5,948,000 from 52 yearlings, an average of $114,385.

Somebeachsomewhere led the sale in average with $123,615 from 39 yearlings that sold for $4,821,000 combined.

“Basically, it was a laser beam to those two and everybody focused on those horses. This year, you have four new stallions to spread out the money,” said Steve Stewart of Hunterton Farm. “I think it’s a good thing for everybody. I don’t think it’s a perfect scenario when you have total, total domination of one trotter and one pacer. I think it’s better when you spread it out, but then you might go back to the laser beam if those four don’t do anything. We’ll find out.”

Bob Brady of Kentuckiana Farms said, “I think these first-crop stallions are going to get a real good look. The Trixtons are very nice, the Captains are nice, the Patricks are nice, the Sweet Lous are nice… it’s going to help be a more balanced sale.”

“Just because they are first-crop sires doesn’t mean the amount of money that we are going to sell them for is going to double,” said Steve Jones of Cameo Hills. “It’s just in how the money will be distributed and that will probably be less to Somebeachsomewhere and Muscle Hill.”

Bowden said, “I think these new stallions kind of provide some competition, at least starting in the sales ring, and then we’ll see on the track next year. I think it makes it more exciting.”

In 2016, 573 yearlings were sold at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale for a gross of $32,262,000 and a record average of $56,304 that smashed the previous average record of $45,220 set in 2015. Despite 69 fewer horses being sold in 2016 compared to 2015, the gross was up $3.23 million and 11 per cent from the $29,031,000 fetched in 2015 when 642 horses were sold. The 2016 gross was the second highest in sale history behind only the $35,648,962 set in 2007 when 791 yearlings were sold — 218 more than in 2016.

Last year, the sale also produced an $800,000 yearling when a Muscle Hill—Southwind Serena colt named Tactical Landing sold for the second highest price in harness history for a yearling at auction and. Meanwhile, Come See The Show, a Somebeachsomewhere—Put On A Show filly, sold for $550,000.

Reid said the new mix of first-crop sires, “gives buyers different choices that they haven’t had in the past. You’ll have some people who can’t wait for first-crop sires and some people who want to go back to the old reliables, Muscle Hill and Somebeachsomewhere.”

Brady said it should mean a solid sale through all five sessions ending Saturday night.

Dr. Mike Wilson of Warrawee Farm in Ontario is selling nine horses in Lexington. He said the catalogue looks, “fantastic, especially with all the new sires. A lot of the yearlings I’ve seen from the new sires look good… Captaintreacherous really seems to stamp them.”

But can this year’s sale top last year’s sale?

“I’m a bad guy to ask, because I always say that we’ll be down,” Reid said. “Any time you sell a horse for $800,000 and a pacing filly for $500,000, it’s always a tough feat to repeat. I would predict that we’re not going to repeat that this year. That being said, I do believe that we’re going to have a solid market. The market is going to be what it’s going to be when they get in there, but I know there’s a lot of nice horses here. I know there are future champions and buyers just have to come and find them.”

Tactical Landing was sold by Hunterton, but Stewart predicted Hunterton would not top the sale again this year.

“We don’t have the horses that we had last year. We have a lot of nice horses… but last year was pretty much all trotters and this year is a pretty good mix of trotters and pacers for us,” Stewart said. “We had an $800,000, a $550,000. We had the two highest-priced trotting fillies of the year, as it turned out. We don’t have that (this year), but it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a lot of good horses to sell… I think the sale will be good. I think there is tremendous demand.”

Jones said the Lexington sale features, “the strongest catalogue in the industry, by far, and that gap seems to be widening every year for some reason. I guess because the consignors here have made a tremendous investment in their broodmares, at least I know I have.”

“The quality of the catalogue is exceptional,” Reid said. “I think people will come to the sale and have done their homework and I look forward to a good sale.”

Though the new sires are getting some buzz, Reid was quick to point out that there will be plenty of Muscle Hills on offer. “He’s a dominant sire, obviously. You can’t have too many of those, I can tell you that,” Reid said.

Top Ontario-based, Quebec-born trainer Luc Blais said the Lexington sale is, “the place for trotters, if you’re looking for that. There’s lots of good breeding here.”

Leading Ontario Sires Stakes trainer Mark Steacy said if he had the bankroll, he’d like to take home some “really nice Father Patricks and Muscle Hills… (But) I think pacing fillies are a little weak, as far as U.S. breds.”

Steve Williams of White Birch Farm predicted the sale numbers would be “very close” to last year’s numbers.

“There’s no better place to sell a horse,” he said.

Brady said the impact of the revised Kentucky Sires Stakes program (full story here) on buyer interest in Kentucky-eligible yearlings has been “huge. There’s a lot of guys doing the double-dip deal, racing in New York and then coming down (to Kentucky) for a couple of legs. It’s a big, big plus. People are actually seeking them out, looking for Kentucky-eligibles — and asking why they are not — so I think it’s a big help.

“I would have never thought, in the rest of my life, that I would hear somebody say, ‘Show me your Kentucky-eligibles’ and we’re hearing that now and it is such sweet music to my ears to hear people asking for Kentucky-breds. It’s been a long time. I’m very happy to hear it.”

Brady said the eligibility requirement that mares more reside in Kentucky for 180 days has led to an increase in boarding business in the state.

“We have an outstanding group of trotting broodmare bands on the farm and that’s being driven by the Libfeld/Katz group and it’s going to continue to push the top for us,” Brady said. “I have to turn people away, guys that want to be in the program (and board at our farm). We’ve got 150 mares on the farm and we are trying to keep it at that number. It’s been great.”

Brady said Kentuckiana will sell some 80 yearlings and has, “a great group of trotters to sell. We’ve got the Muscle Hill out of To Dream On and he’s a standout colt… That will be our sale-topper and, I think, the overall sale-topper.

“Then we’re well-represented with the Father Patrick out of Designed To Be. He’s another outstanding colt. Then the Captaintreacherouses, we’ve got a great group of those.”

Preferred Equine will sell 141 yearlings.

“It’s up a little bit from last year, but it’s in line for the last four or five years,” Reid said. “As usual with Preferred, we always have a wide range of horses in all categories. We have a strong contingent of Muscle Hills. We have a lot of nice trotting colts and nice trotting fillies. On the pacing side, obviously, we have Captaintreacherous and some Sweet Lous and some nice Somebeaches. We really have a good mixture and a lot of nice horses.”

Winbak Farms will sell some 300 yearlings this year, 68 of them in Lexington.

“At Winbak, the horses we have are really good and consistent. We are really big on breeding in four different places… we love to breed in Pennsylvania, we love to breed in Ontario and we love to breed in New York and we love to breed in Delaware, all of which have slots,” said Winbak owner Joe Thomson. “The people, if they don’t make the Grand Circuit, have the best fallback. We’ve been number one in New York. We’ve been number one in Canada. We’ve been number one in Delaware.

“We’re particularly fond of what we’ve done in Canada. We love the Canadian program. They continue to have more racetracks than most anywhere to share in their Sires Stakes program, so we are very, very strong with our Canadian consignment here. Two weeks from now, we’ll be selling more Canadian horses in Canada and we’re very optimistic about the outcome for them.”

Bowden said Diamond Creek will sell 35 yearlings exclusively at this year’s sale.

“That’s normal for here, but we’re selling just here this year,” Bowden said of Lexington. “It’s a nicer place for me to sell, it’s close and convenient. Our farm is 10 minutes from here and it’s a beautiful place to sell.

Bowden said the highlight of his consignment is hip 56.

“It’s a Captaintreacherous colt, first colt from a mare (Loving Caroline) that’s given us a Dan Patch winner so far. I think he’s the real deal,” Bowden said. “He’s a big colt, but he’s elegant and graceful and light on his feet out in the field. He moves like a good horse, so I think he’s the real deal.

“Then I’ve got a colt on Day Two. He’s an A Rocknroll Dance colt from Somwhereovrainbow. It’s her first foal and he’s pretty close to being a perfect horse.”

White Birch will sell 13 yearlings — nine on opening night — through Preferred Equine.

“We’ll know after Tuesday night how it comes out, but I’m very excited about the group we brought this year,” Williams said. “I think, collectively, it’s the best bunch we’ve ever brought here from White Birch.

“Just great individuals, to begin with… We’ve got the full brother to Captaintreacherous, got the Muscle Hill brother to Bee A Magician. I’ve got the three-quarter sister to Darlinonthebeach. Just up and down the line, as far as our pedigree, it’s never been better,” Williams said.

Jones was also bullish on his Cameo Hills consignment.

“We’ve got five fillies that we are selling opening night. It’s the best group of fillies we’ve ever brought down here,” Jones said. “In that bunch is a Muscle Hill filly out of a sister to Dejarmbro and a Trixton filly out of Check Me Out. A Captaintreacherous filly out of Glowing Report. A Sweet Lou out of Yellow Diamond. I think all four of those fillies are very correct and well-bred. I think they will be very well-received.”

Hunterton will sell 80 yearlings.

“We probably have a stronger (sale) from beginning to end,” Stewart said. “Last year, it was stronger at the beginning, but we probably have stronger throughout the sale, deeper this year.”

David Heffering of Tara Hills Stud is selling three first-crop yearlings in Lexington — two by Royalty For Life and one by Uncle Peter.

“We’re pretty excited. The Royalty For Lifes look really good,” Heffering said of the stallion that stands at his Port Perry, ON farm. “We’ve got a bit riding on this, a fairly large investment and we want our investors and the people who stood behind us to make out well.

“Hopefully people remember how good Royalty For Life looked when he won the Hambletonian.”

Despite thinking the string of Hunterton selling the sales topper will be broken, Stewart said the vibe in the industry is one of optimism.

“In past years, I remember people saying, ‘Who’s going to buy all of these horses?’ But there is zero negativity right now. Not a hint, not a thought,” Stewart said. “We’ve been swamped at the farm and it’s so refreshing when people come and get excited. That’s the best part of the business. A lot of times the racetrack feeds that negativity… you might hear breeders complaining, but when you’re on the farm it’s more of a positive atmosphere and it’s encouraging. We’ve spent as much as anybody, probably more than most people, and you know as well as I do that the one who buys mares is the most confident about the business because it’s such a long-term.”

Thomson is quick to point out the great opportunity that awaits yearling buyers.

“I don’t know that it’s any more than in the last several years, but there is a ton of money available,” Thomson said. “When you look at Pennsylvania, there’s $16 or $18 million, just in the Sires Stakes program. Ontario’s got an equal amount of money. New York’s got a ton of money. Ohio, which we have ignored in the past, but I don’t think we are going to ignore it in the future because they are doing a lot of things right. They’ve got too many stallions and not enough good mares, but that’ll improve over time. You’ve got a lot of smart people out there that do the right things. They put together this program that has nothing but positives attached to it.

“Compared to the thoroughbreds, you can buy the top mares and you can get to the top stallions. People are so friendly and they’ll help you out. There are a lot of racetracks that you can race the horses and so forth. You can have a lot of fun and you can make some money racing horses in our sport.”

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