Winbak's Jimmy Ladwig (left) and Larry Drysdale were equally bullish on the market heading into the sale | Dave Briggs

All signs pointing to a strong Harrisburg sale

November 6, 2017

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During Sunday’s preview day for the Standardbred Horse Sale Company’s auction, crowds were large and consignors were optimistic the sale was going to be a good one.

by Dave Briggs

Optimism was running high Sunday at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA as consignors were kept busy all day showing horses to prospective buyers prior to today’s opening session of the three-day Standardbred Horse Sales Company yearling sale (www.theblackbook.com) that begins at noon.

“Everybody is upbeat, very upbeat,” said Tammy McNiven of Twinbrook Farms. “People are still smiling and happy. It’s a very good outlook to start with.”

Hanover Shoe Farms president Jim Simpson points to the positive results from the other major yearling sales as a reason to be confident about Harrisburg.

“All the sales have been up in the country, so we’re optimistic,” Simpson said.

Preferred Equine Marketing’s David Reid said he doesn’t see any troubling economic indicators that could negatively impact the sale.

“I don’t see anything negative and the stock market has been going well. We haven’t had any natural disasters and, politically, it seems like the Twitter account is not blowing up so… from an economic point of view, I think things are good,” Reid said.

Blue Chip Farms owner Tom Grossman said he’s always been skeptical about predicting how a sale will do based on the stock market, “but people who have been around longer than I have believe. And if that’s true, it’s all good. There’s tax relief coming, the stock market is at all-time highs. The thoroughbred sales have been very good, which I do watch carefully.

“And, you know, across the board, the real economic indicator is supply and demand and there’s less supply. It only makes sense that the middle of the market should be firmer.”

Northwood Bloodstock’s Bob Boni agreed the market has been good and people are excited, especially after last week’s Breeders Crown at Hoosier Park.

“I think the Breeders Crown was a big hit and people enjoyed that. It showed people a reason why they should participate. I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm for good horses. People like good horses.

“There’s also enthusiasm with the fact that you’ve got four significant first-crop horses and that changes the market. I can’t think of a time in recent years when you’ve had four — Captaintreacherous, Sweet Lou, Father Patrick and Trixton. People like first crops. Very often first-crop horses have been sales-toppers. It’s not unusual because of the age-old expression is that you’re selling dreams and you’re buying dreams. When you are buying the unknown, you’re buying the biggest dream you can buy. That’s the part of the market that keeps people going.”

Reid pointed to a number of other positive industry trends — including news that the Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf had signed legislation protecting the industry’s slot machine revenue from being raided by politicians in the future in exchange for increased gambling competition (see story pg 1) — as signs it’s a strong market to buy horses.

“The (gaming) competition is inevitable, but I think to have a lock box (on horse racing’s cut of slot money) is good,” Reid said. “You’ve also got the election coming up in Jersey and hopefully we get a favorable governor in there that’s going to be pro-horse racing. That’s something to look forward to.”

As well, Reid said other harness racing jurisdictions appear to be on the rise.

“Coming off the Breeders Crown weekend, I thought Indiana did a great job out there and I thought there was a lot of momentum for Indiana and Ohio and Kentucky. There are a lot of positives right now, so two years out, when people are buying these yearlings right now, there’s probably some optimism to be had,” Reid said.

“There’s not many other places to be in November but Harrisburg, and I expect it to be a good market.”

Hanover Shoe Farms, which owns and operates the Standardbred Horse Sales Company, is selling 235 yearlings this year — about a dozen more than last year.

“It’s the first year for Captaintreacherous and (Hanover) won the Little Brown Jug, the Hambletonian, the Kentucky Futurity and a host of other major races. It’s one of the best years I think we’ve ever had,” Simpson said of Hanover Shoe Farms.

Hanover’s Murray Brown said the farm has “strong representation from all over. We’ve got, obviously, Pennsylvania (sired) and we’re very, very deep in Pennsylvania. We’re also pretty deep in Ontario, I think we’ve got 30-something Ontario-sired horses. We’ve got a lot of New York breds and we’ve got about six Indiana yearlings – two colts by Rockin Image that I think are just fantastic colt.”

“I think we’re particularly strong in pacers, both colts and fillies. Our middle and lower quality is very strong, stronger than it’s ever been.

“I think we’ve got the goods and hopefully the people will be here. All the other sales have been up, some of them significantly, so I think we’ll be fine.”

Both Brown and farm manager Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky agreed, independently, that the stars of the consignment are likely to be two fillies selling back-to-back in today’s opening session — hip numbers 75 and 76.

“We’ve got a pacing filly, out of Ideal Newton, who is Hip #75. She’s an extraordinary filly. If there’s a better-looking pacing filly anywhere, I don’t know who it is. Everything about her I like. She’s got a three-quarter brother, who is one of the better colts this year,” Brown said. “The other one is #76, a Muscle Hill filly out of Im On Cloud Nine. She’s spectacular… Bob Boni was at the farm and he sold that $480,000 filly (that topped the Lexington sale) and he said our filly is comparable to her. She’s just a magnificent filly to look at, real pleasing to the eyes. She’s great in the paddock, has a great gait. Very willing and has a great spirit.

“If you asked me to pick two I liked the most in the entire consignment, those two fillies would be the two.”

Jablonsky said of the first crop sires, she’s partial to the ones by Hanover sire Captaintreacherous.

“I think we have a great group of Captains, I really do. We only have four Sweet Lous and only one colt, but the colt is magnificent. You can add him to your list of standouts – he’s as good looking as any pacing colt we have. We don’t have any Father Patricks. We have three Trixtons and they all look different, but the #150 is an outstanding colt. His name is Steuben Hanover,” Jablonsky said.

Simpson said all signs point to a successful sale for Hanover.

“The right people have been to the farm. We’ve had a lot of visitors and inquiries and they are here (at Harrisburg) right now. There are some big hunters here right now.”

Reid said Preferred will sell some 120 yearlings over the next three days and about 300 horses in the two-day Mixed Sale that begins Thursday.

“There’s a lot of nice current updates on a lot of our racehorses and a lot of nice current updates on our yearlings. We have a half-brother to Breeders Crown winner Stay Hungry and he’s a really nice looking colt. He’s a Rock N Roll Heaven. He’s a cracker,” Reid said. “We’ve got a full-sister to Ice Attraction, she won (Saturday night at Hoosier Park) very impressively. And, on the floor here, this Muscle Hill filly, she’s just outstanding. So those are two good updates that we have, in addition to several other updates.”

Northwood will sell 70 yearlings and more than 200 horses in the mixed sale that begins Thursday. Boni said his yearling consignment has “a lot of nice horses, with a little bit of everything. What I always say about Harrisburg is that there is something here for every buyer.”

Northwood sold the $480,000 sale topper at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale — a Muscle Hill filly out of Sina named Beautiful Sin to Swedish agent Robert Lindstrom — but Boni doesn’t believe he will sell the sale topper in Harrisburg.

“I don’t have a $480,000 horse here, but I didn’t think I had one there, either,” he said. “That’s the beauty of public auction and things happen at public auction.

It wasn’t just the large consignors that were bullish on the sale. Twinbrook’s husband-and-wife team of Rob and Tammy McNiven said they were excited for the bidding to begin.

“We think we’ve got the best group we’ve ever had, so it’s up to the buyer,” said Rob, with Tammy adding, “We stepped up a couple of years ago and spent a lot of money, like, a quarter-of-a-million dollars on mares and hopefully it pays off this year.”

The McNivens said they were so proud of their 16-horse consignment it’s difficult to pick out a few that might stand above the rest when they hit the ring.

“To pick our sale-topper is hard, but my favorite from the time he was born is our Captaintreacherous colt Captainfabulous (hip 6). He has a presence. He thinks he’s good,” Rob said.

Grossman said Blue Chip Farm’s is selling 41 yearlings and it is the best consignment the farm has sold in a long time.

“I think we’ve been very meticulously culling mares over the past several years and investing in broodmares and we’ve had an inordinate amount of success with our two-year-olds that we sold as yearlings here last year and that will obviously help a great deal,” Grossman said. “I think, like everything in this business, this is the fruits of labor three or four years ago. I feel very good about it.”

Grossman said he thinks the standout of his consignment is hip 305, Quake Blue Chip, the Art Major colt out of Fox Valley Shaker that is a brother to Hitman Hill.

“He is a very nice individual… Another pacing colt that we’re very high on is the first foal out of a mare named Frontier Pan, who goes back to the family of Mystical Maddy and that’s one of the best female families ever. The mare was a little small and we still paid a bunch of money for her and we have a big, good looking Somebeachsomewhere out of her that really reminds me a lot of the one we sold last year, Stay Hungry.

“We’re just deep through the middle. For a commercial breeder like us, that’s where we make our money. It’s the $45,000s are $55,000s, that makes a big difference over 40 or 50 hips.”

Ultimately, all buyers want the same thing, said Tammy McNiven.

“They want good, quality horses and that doesn’t matter if you’re here or if you’re in Ontario. Everybody wants the same, good quality horse,” she said.

Boni said buyers have come to the right place.

“One of the beauties of coming here is that you can find quality from top to bottom. I said it to someone just a second ago, and they made some reference that they didn’t see much they liked, and I said that would be like saying that they went to Macy’s and couldn’t find a shirt,” Boni said. “If you can’t find something that you like here, either you aren’t looking very hard or you don’t want to buy a horse.”

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