20180209 guru

The only perfect yearling I ever graded

March 1, 2018

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This week’s column also addresses whether to race or sell, Oscar picks and my dream race of elite trotters.

by Ron Gurfein

The voices of the children that survived the Parkland massacre are resonating throughout the land.

This is definitely not, nor was it ever intended to be a political forum of any kind. My kind and gentle editor warned me about being inundated with negative reaction after my comments last week. Surprise, surprise, there were NONE. However, the vast amount of positive comments leads me to take this one week further.

The amazing reaction to the surviving kids with their well proposed and delivered oratories discussing gun control, mental health, police protection, and parental roles etc, have caused a change in the thought process not just in Florida but all over the country.

For the first time in 30 years, I see some bending of the staunch NRA doctrine.

One can only hope that this is not a passing fancy, but the building blocks for a strong new generation of voters that will have a formidable affect on the future of gun control.

Don’t get me wrong there is plenty of NRA supported politicians either mumbling excuses or just hiding in the closet right now. This will not be easy, but the time is now to leap when the fire is hot. Don’t try to ban guns, that just won’t fly, just improve background checks and no weapons of mass destruction i.e.: AR15 / AK 47 and the like.

I would like to thank my friend Carlo Vaccarezza the famed thoroughbred horse trainer and restaurateur (Frank And Dino’s) for raising $160,000 Sunday at an open house at his place for the families of the victims of the horrid massacre. Both of Carlo’s sons were survivors of the frightening ordeal and were very well poised delivering a discussion posted on Facebook. If you wish to contribute to the families of the Parkland victims you may do so by calling (561) 218-4636.

Bob Marks asks: I raised many yearlings that I thought could be good but very few I thought could be great. Which yearlings that you selected did you think could be great?

I have looked at thousands of yearlings in my lifetime and I remember a lot of wonderful horses. However, I only gave one a perfect score.

It was a rainy, nasty morning in September in 2002 in Lexington KY. Finally, a little past noon, the sun broke through and altered my plans for the day. I would visit my friend Alan Leavitt at Walnut Hall Ltd. as he had some very nice colts going to auction — two with fabulous pedigrees. The first was Cash Hall a big beautiful son of Self Possessed that had the look of eagles, the second another from Self Possessed, Cantab Hall, smaller in stature and not as flashy on the floor. I told Alan I would like to see them both in the paddock.

“Ronnie, I would love to, but the paddocks are too wet and I don’t want any problems.”

It was a quote that was far from surprising. Excited about the two colts I made an appointment to see them in the paddock the following morning. On the way back to town I called George Segal and told him, “I just saw the 2004 Hambletonian winner. His name is Cash Hall.”

The following morning I was on Alan’s doorstep ready to watch the colts perform. Alan being my age — a bit up there in years — chases the horses in a golf cart. If you haven’t seen the performance, it is truly something to behold. Walnut Hall Ltd.’s show paddock is smaller than many and to see a horse trot the corners and up and down the hills as fast and as athletically and Cantab Hall did was nothing short of amazing. As impressed as I was I was still anxious to see Cash Hall perform. He entered the paddock like a prize fighter, ears up, head alert as if he was in a photo shoot. Alan floored the pedal on the golf cart, Cash whinnied and tore across the field on the PACE. Alan tried for 15 or 20 minutes to get him trotting, to no avail. I got in my car and immediately called Mr Segal to inform him there was an audible at the line of scrimmage, Cantab Hall was the winner of the 2004 Hambletonian. He was, second. I rate yearlings out of a score of 30. The highest that would be 10 on the floor, 10 in the paddock and 10 for the way he moves his front feet. Cantab was the only horse that was a perfect 30.

Undefeated at two going 10-for-10 he was by far the winter book favorite for the Hambletonian. Unfortunately, we were struck a severe blow. Just after his first qualifier he developed a rare condition called Anhydrosis, the inability to control sweat glands and body temperature. His temperature after jogging was 105 to 107, with the normal being 103 to104. He was always winded and lost much of his conditioning. We did cure the problem with some female hormone therapy, but looking back now we were climbing a vertical mountain for too long a period of time.

He was well worth the price of $310,000 that I paid for him. He won $145,0000 on the track, was syndicated for a goodly sum and has turned into one of the finest stallions in our sport’s history.

For me to spend big money, a horse must be a top-rated individual. Two that were both 29’s I would like to forget entirely. Meadowbranch Magic at $335,000 came from the era where if I couldn’t find a colt I liked, I would buy a great filly. She had it all — looks, pedigree and speed. She did win a qualifier at two in 2:03, last quarter in 28 seconds. However, she broke a bone in her right front ankle and that was the end.

I was heartbroken as she was owned by one of the nicest men I ever trained for, Bill Hayes of Daisy Acres, in partnership with Brittany Farms. She did go on to be an excellent broodmare although she was never bred to a top stallion. She had a Malabar Man, Man of Action who won almost two hundred thousand and started in the Hambletonian, then Jersey Gal ($200,000), Make It Happen (almost $1 million) and Wishing Stone (almost $2.5 million). Pretty fancy numbers.

My other 29, and the one that tortured me the most, was Experience Victory. I still have nightmares watching the bid board hit $650,000 and signing the ticket. If you are on the outside, it looks like an awful mistake, but in defense of myself, he was meant to be a top horse and showed it on the track before he lost the ability to breathe. And then with his looks and pedigree he could have been worth a million as a stallion and he turned out to be sterile. Remember, we had just earned $2 million with his brother and syndicated him for nearly $9 million dollars so the expense was mitigated. People only remember the bad. He did win the Castleton in DuQuoin, was second to Chasing Tail in the Bluegrass and won the International Stallion over Liverman Hanover in 1:56. He had the makings of a good horse if things didn’t turn on him.

Those were the three most perfect yearlings. Thankfully, there were some great ones that were not so perfect.

Erika Paradee asks: As a breeder/trainer of my own horses in Delaware for the past 15 years, and have recently moved to the Lexington, Kentucky area, I have a dilemma. I have a lovely trotting filly by Amigo Hall out of a mare I bred and raised Chocolate N Roses. She was a great race mare stakes winner at two and three and trotter of the year at Dover. Her first foal, a colt was a stakes winner at 2 and 3. This is her first filly and she is duel eligible in Canada and Kentucky. Do you think a yearling like this could bring good money at the Lexington sale or should I train her and sell privately?

I am old fashioned. I always say sell. Dollars don’t get sick, lame, or die. It is impossible to evaluate a yearling by conversation, and on top of that there are professionals that will help you. Before you make a decision either contact David Reid at Preferred Equine Marketing or Bob Boni at Northwood Bloodstock and they will tell you usually within 20 per cent what your filly will bring at auction. If somehow they will not be in the area and you need to decide right away I am sure Art Zubrod of Brittany farm or Steve Stewart of Hunterton will help you out. Best of luck with her no matter what you decide.

Linda Fowler asks: I know you are a movie nut can you give us some of you Oscar choices?

To me it’s like a year where I can’t find a horse I really love. One of my favorite movies got almost totally ignored and one I thought was horribly done is in the top group — those being Molly’s Game and Dunkirk in that order. Molly’s Game I thought had a lot more pizzazz than just one nomination for best screenplay. Dunkirk had little or no story line but the cinematography was outstanding.

For Best Picture I will go with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri although I really like The Post and give honorable mention to Get Out, which was a bit over the top, but fascinating.

For best actor, Gary Oldham was fabulous as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

For best actress, I think Frances McDormand was wonderful in Three Billboards although I have a place in my heart for Meryl Streep.

For supporting actor I choose Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards, and for best Cinematography, Dunkirk.

Lastly, a surprise, I select Jordan Peele as best director for Get Out.

Billy Wilson asks: if you could card a dream group of elite trotters from different eras in one race, what horses are in that race, where is it held, and what horse wins the race and why?

It is too hard to compare horses from different eras. I selected the fastest eight horses I have seen race in my lifetime. No old timers are on the list, only the horses I thought had the speed to beat 1:50 at the distance of a mile. The race to be held at the Red Mile with special dinner and wines to be announced. The horses are listed below. Please don’t call me and ask how to bet the race. Here is the field and post positions assigned. Fillies draw inside.

1 Mission Brief / Yannick Gingras 6-1
2 Moni Maker / Wally Hennessey 5-1
3 Continentalvictory / Michel Lachance 4-1
4 Hannelore Hanover / Matt Kakaley 10-1
5 Self Possessed / John Campbell 8-1
6 Sebastian K / Ake Svansted 7-2
7 Varenne / Giampolo Minnucci 5-2
8 Muscle Hill / Brian Sears 8-5

Next week: The winner and why.

Thanks to all my readers for the continued flow of questions. Please keep it up and have a wonderful week.

Have a question for The Guru? Email him at GurfTrot@aol.com.

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