Will a yearling fetch a million for the first time in harness racing history?

The Million-Dollar Question

October 1, 2019

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Thirteen Lexington consignors weigh in on whether a standardbred yearling will fetch seven figures at auction for the first time in harness racing history.

quotes by Chris Tully | story by Dave Briggs

The million-dollar question is exactly that: Will a standardbred yearling be sold for a million dollars or more this week in Lexington, KY?

We will soon find out.

Tonight, the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale kicks off the first of five consecutive evening sale sessions at Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion with a gangbuster opening night session featuring 121 top-flight yearlings. All five sessions begin at 7 pm, though a special Breeders Crown Charity Auction featuring breedings to some of the sport’s top stallions will be held on Wednesday beginning at 6:45 p.m.

On preview Monday at Fasig-Tipton, 13 consignors mused about the possibility of hitting a seven-figure sale price for a yearling sold at auction for the first time in harness racing history.

Here’s their take:

“I think (a million-dollar yearling) could become a reality and I think he’s right over here in Barn 6. I’m hoping,” said Bob Brady of Kentuckiana Farms. “Does that sound too arrogant?”

Adam Bowden of Diamond Creek Farm said he’s been adamant for five months that the sale would produce a seven-figure yearling.

“I’m not going to predict which one, but… Hip 44 (Maverick),” Bowden said, laughing about the full-brother to Greenshoe from the Kentuckiana consignment that was the horse Brady was also referencing. “If one is going to do it, I think he’s the one. It’s a beautiful horse… And it doesn’t hurt that he’s a Father Patrick, too… I’m rooting for them.”

Cameo Hills’ Steve Jones said the prospect of a seven-figure yearling was doubtful.

“I do not think that we’ll see a million-dollar yearling. I’m not sure where that conversation started or why, I guess you have to have something to talk about, but I’m not sure,” Jones said. “Nothing against any of the horses in the sale, but that’s a bar that we haven’t cleared yet and until we do, I’ll just keep waiting.”

Count Art Zubrod of Brittany Farms also in the “no” camp.

“But I think we could see multiple $500,000 yearlings this time,” Zubrod said.

Carter Duer of Peninsula Farm estimates he’s sold as many as 10,000 yearlings in his lifetime. He said a million-dollar yearling may be possible and it could be this year.

“There’s two horses here, that I know of, that could possibly if they got the right participation from two or three different groups. They could very well do that, but it’s just a lot of money for a yearling. I’ve never had one that I thought was worth that much,” Duer said, laughing.

Asked if a million-dollar yearling might be sold at Lexington, Winbak Farms owner Joe Thomson initially responded with silence.

“I think that’s your answer, it’s silence,” Thomson said. “Partnerships get together and when you get three or four of those partnerships, guys with pretty deep pockets, then they can do whatever they want to. So, sure, they could drive it to that point, but if you stay on single ownership, I doubt it’s going to happen. If you go to the partnerships, and competition among partnerships, I think it could very soon happen, sometime this fall.”

Northwood Bloodstock’s Bob Boni said, “I’d have to look at a few of them first, to make that statement. I think it’s possible… but I think it’s a stretch for us.”

Michelle Crawford of Crawford Farms said it is “absolutely” possible that a yearling will sell for $1 million. “I’ve already heard the buzz. If you start to look at Greenshoe and his success on the track… I don’t know if he’s worth a million, I don’t know what horse is worth a million dollars, but I wouldn’t be surprised,” Crawford said.

Senena Esty of Spring Haven Farm said she thinks there’s a very good chance a million-dollar yearling will be sold. Asked to handicap which one it might be, she said, laughing, “Well, we always hope it’s one of ours. We’re going to leave it at that.”

Elizabeth Caldwell of Cane Run Farm said she has heard the buzz, but really has no idea if a million-dollar yearling will be sold.

“I have no idea, but it would be exciting,” Caldwell said. “It’s hard to tell. It just depends how much people want to spend and if they won’t quit bidding, you never know. It would be really exciting to see that. Who knows?”

For her part, Beth Yontz of Anvil and Lace Farm said she hopes there is a million-dollar yearling.

“I truly do. I think it would be great for the sport. I know a lot of thoroughbred people and I think it would be great to be able to say that,” she said.

“It would be nice to see for the industry,” David Reid of Preferred Equine said. “Whether it happens or not remains to be seen. All I can say is that I hope so, but I wouldn’t really have a position on it.”

Steve Stewart of Hunterton Farm said it won’t be this year when a horse sells for a million dollars, but he predicts that day isn’t far off.

“Next year, when the Walners sell. That’s what I’m going with,” Stewart said.

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