Lexington has been incredible; thoughts on Walner and the sport’s first, two, million-dollar yearlings

Lexington has been incredible; thoughts on Walner and the sport’s first, two, million-dollar yearlings

October 4, 2019

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by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits: Greatness was on display all week at the Red Mile but the 3-year-olds in various divisions of the Bluegrass took my breath away. It wasn’t so much the speed but the way in which some of the sophomores crushed the competition. It started with my filly favorite When Dovescry , then my favorite colt Greenshoe and ended up with another stunning colt Bettors Wish owned by my dear friends of Fair Island farm — Art Zubrod and Leah Cheverie. Greenshoe did turn in a sub-1:50 performance, but he was forced to do it on his own as the fractions were just honest and although the temperature was cooperative the wind was not. There is no question in my mind that he could break the world record under perfect conditions. Both When Dovescry and Greenshoe trotted last halves near :54 and last quarters in :26 under wraps.

I am fully aware how desperately the area needs rain I just hope we are spared the trauma of a deluge Sunday on Futurity Day, it should be a fabulous day at the races, don’t miss it if you have the opportunity.

The food in the clubhouse is excellent. The first week was a simple regular menu, but this week will be a Buffet.

Some of the more delectable offerings by day are as follows:


Chef carving Brown Sugar Honey Dijon Ham
Cobb Salad (create your own)
Bread Pudding with raisins 
Four Roses hard sauce


Red wine braised Beef Brisket
Classic chili (with onion, cheese, sour cream)
Peach Cobbler


Chef Carving Prime Rib
Lobster | Pasta salad | Pecan Pie

Fran Stalcup is the food and beverage director. Please don’t be shy about giving her input as to what you loved and any suggestions as it will make for good experiences from year to year.

By chance I ran into an old friend in Lexington who is a world renowned veterinarian.

He was concerned about the lack of knowledge in our sport regarding drug abuses. His basic reason for the discussion was his belief that the sport as a whole are chasing EPO blood dopers when, in his opinion, there is far more widespread misuse of baking soda.

“I believe the use of Bicarb loading is a far greater problem we face than EPO. I sat in a closed door discussion with a racing commission investigation that brought up this topic. I pulled up a list of the 10 leading trainers (by wins) at the meet and pointed out six that I thought were tubing with baking soda or other alkaline agents. The chief investigator said, ‘Your names look very similar to ours.’ There are several masking agents being used, most of them have a chlorine or chloride base, which obviously ties the bicarbonate molecule up until it is needed. The numbers of bicarb levels permitted in pre race testing are between 37 and 39.

“In fact, the use of Lasix barely raises the level at all. Therefore many trainers put their horses on Lasix so they can add more baking soda. Virtually all horses normally run a 30 to 32 level of bicarb, so when you add masking agents ie: chlorine, you can easily avoid detection using 6 to 8 ounces. So in essence the only way to stop the cheaters is to lower the bicarb level to 34-35 wether they use Lasix or not.

“Anything between these levels and 37 the trainer should be given a warning and the horse be remanded to a restricted area eight hours before race time. If after detention the number remains high then accept it as normal for that particular horse.”

I thanked the doctor for this important advice and I hope that the racing commissions from Maine to California act swiftly to solve what to this writer has become a menace to our sport.

WHAT A HORSE SALE… Months ago, when I first perused the catalogue for the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale of 2019 I said that it was the most power-packed sale I had seen in 60 years in the business. I predicted that there was an excellent chance we would see a $1 million yearling. I WAS WRONG… There were two of them.

One from Walco Farm (Messrs. Katz and Libfeld) and one from Cane Run farm. Both sons of Muscle Hill and both in this writer’s opinion near perfect individuals. Amazing as it is, the story doesn’t stop there. Before I go on I would like to congratulate the new owners of the very precious colts. The first one, a brother to the spectacular Greenshoe, sold for $1.1 million and was hammered down to a group from the Tony Alagna barn that was headed by Brad Grant, and included Crawford Farm and Daniel Plouffe. The second at $1 million a brother to the great European star Propulsion was hammered down to Britton Medical AB, longtime clients of the Takter Stable. Good luck to all the successful buyers.

Dick Watson asks: I know that you have touted the great ability of Greenshoe for two seasons. When people talk of great trotters they never mention Walner. Do you leave him out of top list in your opinion?

Absolutely not. If you go to the archives of HRU you will see how much I loved the colt and how terrible I felt when his career end so abruptly. Walner was dominant with a ton of ability and may well have been as fast as Greenshoe but he never had the opportunity due to early retirement due to injury.

That said, I truly believe that he will show how great he was when his foals race next year. Everyone I have asked about his first crop (selling next fall) have rave reviews. The colt aside from being great gaited had a wonderful head on his shoulders. With all the talent available in the trotting ranks today he will be another force to contend with.

Paula Arnold asks: Were you surprised at the auction results from the first session from the Kentucky Selected Yearling Sale? Did you ever think that the could be a standardbred Yearling sell for $1 million?

Obviously you are not an HRU regular. I have predicted that the Perfect Storm had arrived and this will be the year to see that barrier cracked. Take note that the parity in the standardbred and thoroughbred sports has grown closer as time goes by.

Years ago, a thoroughbred sold for $16 million at a 2-year-old in training sale and there were many multiple million dollar sales. They had stallions stand for $500,000 that cost fortunes to buy. Northern Dancer, by the way, stood for $1 million at one time and at age 21 there was a $40 million offer on the table that was turned down. I am proud to say we now have had two million-dollar yearlings and a $14 million stallion (Greenshoe) who just happens to be a full brother to Maverick, the colt that just sold for $1.1 million.

We have come a long way. Back in the ’80s and ’90s runners were syndicated for high seven figures while a top standardbred would be valued near $4 million. Now we have just seen Greenshoe syndicated for $14 million.

In reality, our stallions have increased 300 per cent at the same time the top of the thoroughbred stallion prices have gone down significantly. It will be a very interesting year.

To all that have been so supportive I am very thankful. I have met so many of you in Lexington the past few days it has been great. Have a good sale, good racing and have a wonderful weekend.

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