Million-Dollar Night

The opening session of the 2019 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale saw not one, but two, yearlings sell for $1 million or more and also smashed records for gross (over $18.2 million), average ($154,288) and number of $100,000 yearlings sold (68, with a record nine yearlings reaching or surpassing $300,000). The gross was up 41 per cent and the average was up 22 per cent from last year’s record sale.

quotes by Heather Wilder / story by Dave Briggs

The pre-sale buzz about harness racing’s first million-dollar yearling wasn’t just hype.

Tuesday, during the opening session of the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion in Lexington, KY, not one, but two yearlings sold for $1 million or more on a record-smashing night in every way.

“It was definitely a historic night for harness racing,” said David Reid, who manages the sale with Randy Manges. “It’s really a tribute to the breeders that support the sale. They breed their horses, they raise their horses. The sale has produced numerous champions and it was really great to see everyone come together… I think it’s going to be great for the industry. It’s great for all of us, the breeders. It’s good for the trainers, owners, racetracks. It shows great strength in the industry. We all know this business is resilient, but that was an exclamation point tonight, selling two for a million, a pacing colt for $800,000 and numerous others over $500,000.”

The sale topper, a full-brother to 3-year-old trotting sensation Greenshoe (3, 1:49.4, $1,016,273), sold for $1.1 million. The Father Patrick colt out of Designed To Be named Maverick sold as hip 44. Consigned by Kentuckiana Farms and bred by Ontarians Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz, Maverick was signed for by fellow Ontarian Brad Grant on behalf of The Maverick Group and will be trained by Tony Alagna.

Grant admitted he was still shaking with excitement after signing the sales slip. “He’s the real deal. He’s as perfect a colt as you could find. He checked all the boxes and we had other people check him out and I’m really happy I got him,” Grant said. “I really believed he was going to be a million-dollar horse and when we saw those people from Sweden bought that other colt for $200,000 it kind of set the mark. He’s worth everything. With Greenshoe doing what he’s done and being syndicated this past week, I mean, the colt is the real deal. We’re excited.”

Grant, who won the 2018 Hambletonian as a part-owner of filly Atlanta, said he wants to win the Hambletonian again.

“Absolutely. It’s addictive. You want to get the best horses, whether they are pacers or trotters, and there’s no doubt this is the best horse,” he said.

Alagna said, “We thought the horse was going to bring that. I talked to a couple of guys and they were willing to go in, so it’s nice that they have the faith in me to train a horse like that.

“We love the colt. I was actually the underbidder on Greenshoe, so I bid $325,000 on Greenshoe and he brought $330,000, so it’s nice to get this colt and have a shot at the family. We’re excited.”

Katz, who talked about the 20-year journey to producing Greenshoe and Maverick in a recent HRU article (full article on HRU) said producing the sport’s first million-dollar yearling is great, “not only for our breeding program, but great for the whole industry. It sets a high-water mark, but it also clearly identifies that this business is on the upswing and there’s a lot of opportunity here for people.”

The purchase destroyed the record for a standardbred yearling sold at auction set in 2011 at the Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s auction in Harrisburg, PA when brothers John and Tom Cancelliere paid $825,000 for Detour Hanover, the full brother to Hambletonian winner Donato Hanover.

Near the end of Tuesday’s session, Swedish trainer Daniel Reden bought the full-brother to his star Propulsion for $1 million out of the Cane Run Farm consignment on behalf of Sweden’s Brixton Medical AB. Hip 105 is a Muscle Hill colt out of Danae named Damien.

“After Greenshoe’s brother (sold), we knew that we’d need to pay a lot,” Reden said. “(Damien’s) brother (Propulsion) has earned a lot of money so I think (the purchase price) was worth it.”

Reden said the original plan was to buy Damien and take him back to Sweden.

“(The owner) wants to bring him to Sweden, but the price was very high so now we need to think a little bit,” Reden said. “I hope he ends up on my farm because I have the brother.”

Not only did the opening session set new standards for the highest-priced standardbred yearlings ever sold, it also smashed every other record.

The average of $154,288 was up 22 per cent from the 2018 opening session average of $126,471 and up 35 per cent from the 2017 first night average of $114,344. This year’s opening session gross of $18,206,000 exceeded the record of $12,900,000 set in 2018 by 41 per cent, though this year 16 more horses were sold compared to a year ago when 102 went through the ring.

“We’ve been saying all along that it was our deepest catalogue and if you just read all of the snippets on social media and in the news, everyone thought the first night was a great night and the best night ever and whatever, whatever, but it still has to come together,” Reid said. “There’s never been a yearling sell for one million and we sold two. We had strong participation from Europeans and so we’ve got to really thank them. Our industry has to start thinking more global and I was very happy to see that.”

In all, 68 yearlings sold for $100,000 or more, including 21 over $200,000 and nine over $300,0000. The number of yearlings that fetched six figures or more was a record that exceeded the 2018 record of 64 $100,000+ yearlings. In 2018, 64 yearlings sold for $100,000 or more, including 17 over $200,000 and five over $300,000.

The fireworks started early. Hip 7, a Cantab Hall filly out of Jolene Jolene named Ineffable sold for $600,000 to Lina Alm, agent for SRF Stable of Klagerup, Sweden out of the Hunterton Farm consignment.

“You never think that they are going to bring $600,000, but there was tremendous interest in her and, basically, anybody that watched the video realized that she was a special filly,” said Hunterton’s Steve Stewart. “The filly last year, the first foal out of Jolene brought $200,000 and she’s made $200,000 already back this year, but this is a special filly. The one thing that I was a little concerned about was being a Cantab Hall, but she was such a special filly. Determination, the people that bought the Hambletonian winner from us, were the underbidders, so those were two heavy hitters going at it and that’s what it takes.”

Trainer Nancy Johansson bought the third and fourth highest-priced yearlings and led all buyers in gross purchases, spending $1,760,000 to bring home five yearlings. Determination Stable spent $1,290,000 to buy four yearlings, followed by Brixton Medical AB (two yearlings, $1,200,000 total), The Maverick Group (one yearling, the sale topper, $1,100,000) and Diamond Creek Farm LLC (two, $640,000).

Johansson paid $800,000 for Hip 114, the highest-priced pacer in the session. The Somebeachsomewhere colt out of Economy Terror, named Some Terror, was consigned by Vide Carre Farms, Agent.

Johansson also paid $700,000 for Hip 65, a Muscle Hill colt out of Stubborn Belle named Really Fast. Like the sale-topper, Really Fast was bred by Libfeld and Katz and consigned by Kentuckiana Farms.

“He’s a great individual and had everything that we look for… and Muscle Hill doesn’t exactly hurt him, either, now we just need some luck,” Johansson said. “He has a great pedigree, Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld, they raise great horses, so it’s a home run-type of horse that could go stand stud one day, hopefully, if he’s racing well.

“The 2-year-old filly this year, Ms Savannah Belle, has obviously been doing really well. She’s a fast filly.

“We hadn’t really set a limit, we were just going to see how it went with the bidding, but he’s a great colt,” Johansson said.

As for the opening night crowd, Reid said it was outstanding.

“I came in the back and the crowd was great here,” Reid said. “It’s been hot, obviously, all week and I walked inside and the arena looked packed and there were people against the walls. I came back out and said, ‘This is the best crowd I’ve seen here in a long time, if not ever.’

“Lexington is special. People come here from all over the world and I’m just very proud to be part of it… There’s a lot of history here. More importantly, I said something to a friend of mine the other night, ‘You come here and you think about a lot of memories that you have that you made…’ We’ve lost some of our friends, but the good news is that we’ve made new memories. Tonight was historic. All hat’s off to Brad Grant and Brixton Medical and Nancy, for the pacing colt, and numerous others that really stepped up.”

Hunterton Sales Agency, Inc. was the leading consignor by gross, selling 28 yearlings for a total gross of $4,162,000, an average of $148,643. Kentuckiana Farms was next with total sales of $3,717,000 for 15 yearlings, followed by Preferred Equine at $3,305,000 for 22 yearlings ($150,227 average).
Kentuckiana’s average of $247,800 was the highest of all consignors with three or more yearlings sold.

“It’s going to be a good week. We have a lot more horses to go. There’s 600 left and there’s a lot of quality left,” Reid said.

The second session of the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale will feature some 180 yearlings. It begins tonight at 7 p.m. at Fasig-Tipton. For more information about the sale, please visit: .