Stefan Balazsi highlighted an outstanding opening session of the 81st Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s yearling sale which saw the average soar 22.3 per cent and the gross up more than $3.3 million (21 per cent) over the first session of the 2018 sale.
by Dave Briggs
Stefan Balazsi said it took “15 bad years” to end up where he is today as the man that bred three of the four highest-priced yearlings sold — including the two most expensive — during an outstanding opening session of the 81st Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s yearling sale Monday at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA (more on that in a minute).
“I had 15 bad years, when nothing worked,” said Balazsi, whose Order By Stables of Sweden sells its yearlings through Concord Stud’s consignment. “I had the pedigree, but they didn’t race well. Now, the puzzle is there and they race well, incredibly well.
“You have to struggle with your ideas and, all of a sudden, the missing piece falls into place. It took years to figure it out.”
Balazsi, the U.S. breeder of the year in 2018, topped Monday’s session when hip 45 Gangsta Rat (f, Muscle Hill—Order By Wish) sold to Ake Svanstedt for $550,000, followed by Hip 88 Take This Society (c, Muscle Hill—Thasnotmyname) selling to Diamond Creek Farm for $475,000. Balazsi also produced Hip 171 Spy Booth (c, Muscle Hill—Amour Heiress) sold to Bryan Montgomery, agent, for $460,000.
The second last yearling sold on Monday, hip 171 Glacier Hanover (c, Father Patrick—Global Desire) broke up the Balazsi / Concord natural hat trick when it sold for $470,000 to Jeffrey Snyder out of the Hanover Shoe Farms consignment.
Svanstedt said he loves Gangsta Rat’s pedigree and, “she is a very good-looking horse. Everything was perfect for me… She was my filly favorite.”
He currently trains Gangsta Rat’s 3-year-old full-brother Marseille, a winner of nearly $500,000.
Balazsi said he was expecting to receive around the selling price for Gangsta Rat, “because she is gorgeous. She was the best-looking filly in the sale and the pedigree is excellent.”
The $550,000 winning price was the result of a bidding war between Svanstedt and a group led by Jimmy Takter.
“I didn’t see who it was. I’m just having a heart attack,” said Balazsi.
BREEDER LOVES BREEDER’S ADVICE
Diamond Creek’s Adam Bowden said a major selling point for Take This Society was how enthusiastic Balazsi was about the trotter.
“I love that the breeder was a big fan of the horse,” Bowden said. “I think when the breeder is behind a horse like this it makes buying a horse that much easier.
“Stefan is a great guy and he’s had great success and his families are hot right now. It’s hard not to think that this is the next big thing.”
Bowden was bidding against owner Richard Gutnick (owner of 2012 Hambletonian winner Market Share). The two were standing next to each other.
“I thought he could bring $450,000 and I thought I had him and Richard, in front of me, bid $460,000 and then I almost took him out at the knees,” Bowden said, laughing, before adding the situation resolved itself amicably.
“(Gutnick) turned around and said, ‘I’ll take 25 per cent’ so it makes it easier, right?”
Spy Booth is expected to be trained by Per Engblom, former assistant trainer to Takter.
“He is big and strong and well-built,” Engblom said. “We trained the mom (Amour Heiress) with Jimmy. The pedigree is great and his full brother (King Alphonso) is one of the best 2-year-olds out there. What’s not to like?”
Engblom said that, so far, he believes Spy Booth will be owned by Marvin Katz, John Fielding and some others.
“It’s not 100 per cent set in stone yet, but we’ll get to that,” he said. “It was a little more than we wanted to pay, but sometimes you’ve got to stretch a bit to get the good ones.”
WORKS OF ART
In recent year, Balazsi has produced such stars as 2018 Hambletonian-winning filly Atlanta and two-time Breeders Crown champion Gimpanzee. Last year, Balazsi’s Fifty Cent Piece (f, Muscle Hill—Thasnotmyname) topped the entire Harrisburg yearling sale with a bid of $500,000. Balazsi also sold the seventh highest priced yearling sold in 2018 at Harrisburg— the Muscle Hill—Brooklyn colt Swiss House Onfire for $335,000.
Apart from horses, Balazsi said he is very interested in art and names his yearlings after paintings of famous artists.
“I name them after artists that I like, so the crop last year were all named after Basquiat paintings. This year, I took a street artist that I like very much, which is Banksy. All these names are coming from Banksy’s street art,” Balazsi said. “The best name I came up with this year from the painting, Take This Society. I loved that name. It’s a very, very nice name.”
He said he’s been selling his yearlings through Concord for between eight and 10 years.
“They are a family and they work very hard, as you can tell from the horses – they look excellent and are in very good shape. I couldn’t be happier with them,” Balazsi said.
“We treat all of the horses like they are our own,” said Concord’s Julie Meirs. “It’s our blood, sweat and tears that goes into creating and growing and eventually selling all of these horses, so it doesn’t matter who the owner is.”
As for Glacier Hanover, Snyder said waiting until the second last yearling to sell likely cost him a premium.
“When you wait until the end, you overpay. That’s what always happens,” Snyder said.
“He is just a beautiful horse. The mare is a full sister to Glidemaster so, you know, he’s a beautiful horse and hopefully we’ll have luck… We’ve got a really nice trotter in Sweden (Aetos Kronos). If he wins the Breeders Crown next week, he’ll pay for part of this horse. Let’s hope for the best.”
HUGE OPENING NUMBERS
An outstanding opening session saw the average soar 22.3 per cent and the gross up more than $3.3 million (21 per cent) over the first session of the 2018 sale with virtually the same number of yearlings sold.
Since 2017, the opening-session gross is up nearly $6.9 million (55.7 per cent) and the average has soared 52 per cent.
This year’s first session saw 168 yearlings collectively gross $19,227,000 for an average of $114,446 and a median of $90,000. In 2018, 170 yearlings grossed $15,902,000 in total for an average of $93,541 on opening day. In 2017, 164 yearlings grossed $12,350,000 for a first-session average of $75,305.
“It was a wonderful, wonderful sale,” said Standardbred Horse Sales Company president and CEO Pete Spears.
“All the right people were here. I had a lot of people coming up and telling me how much they wanted to buy certain horses that got away from them. Everything was strong, top to bottom.
“The top end sold extremely well, the middle sold extremely well and I think Tuesday, is going to be better than Tuesday last year, not only in prices, but in quality. (This year) there were a large number of horses that would have ended up selling on Monday last year that are selling Tuesday. There are a lot of opportunities (Tuesday).”
By comparison, the opening session of the 2019 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale saw two yearlings sell for $1 million or more and also smashed records for gross (over $18.2 million for 118 yearlings sold), average ($154,288) and number of $100,000 yearlings sold (68).
Monday in Harrisburg, 29 yearlings (17.3 per cent) sold for $200,000 or more and 46 yearlings (27.4 per cent) fetched $100,000 or more.
“That just follows from the great Lexington sale,” Spears said. “I think buyers are very confident in the economy. There are a lot of good news coming out of harness racing right now. The Ohio program is coming way up. There’s money in New Jersey. Even Illinois is showing some signs of life. The Nevada people were here talking about racetracks in Nevada and a breeders’ program out there. What’s not to like?”
HANOVER CRUSHED IT
Hanover Shoe Farms was, far and away, the leading consignor on Monday, selling 69 horses for a total gross of $8,680,000, an average of $125,797.
Hanover had a great day, we averaged $126,000, which is up about $20,000 from last year,” said Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky, Hanover’s executive vice-president and syndicate manager. “We’re really, really happy with our first-crop sires. It’s always very fulfilling to see the first-crop sires sell well and we couldn’t be happier with the way the Betting Lines and Bar Hoppings were received.”
Betting Line grossed $1,590,000 for 18 sold (an average of $88,333). Bar Hopping grossed $737,000 for seven yearlings sold (an average of $105,286).
“We wish the best of luck to everyone that bought our yearlings today. They are getting into good hands and it was a super exciting day. Really strong sale and it stayed strong right until the very end for us. We’re very, very happy,” Jablonsky said.
“We still have really good horses to sell. We still have horses in every category that are nice. If we hold our own, if we do exactly the same Tuesday and Wednesday as last year, we’re going to be up $2 million for the year. Combined with the (seasonal) earnings record, it’s probably going to be another record-breaking year for us.
“The staff has been excellent, the horses have been excellent. I want to thank everyone, the staff, the sales company. It’s been a really pleasant two days out there. We haven’t had any issues and everything has gone smoothly. It’s just nice to see everyone so excited about the business.”
Apart from the third-highest yearling sold, Hanover also sold the fifth-highest pried yearling, hip 47 Panda Hanover, a Somebeachsomewhere filly out of Panera Hanover for $400,000 to Dana Parham of Boca Raton, FL.
“Everything I look at I want to have a serious pedigree,” Parham said. “I read an article years ago about ‘Trophy Assets’, so like property, you know, like a five-star hotel in Hawaii. These are trophy assets. I want to have trophy broodmares, nothing less. So, that’s where I’m at.”
The filly will be trained by Tony Alagna, who also will condition hip 90 The Ice Countess (f, Muscle Hill—The Ice Queen), a full-sister to The Ice Dutchess, a winner of nearly $775,000, as well as hip 85 Takeway Hanover, a Somebeachsomewhere half-sister to Tall Drink Hanover ($778,000) that sold for $225,000.
“Dana (Parham) is trying to buy top-end pacing fillies and he bought Panda… and he bought the sister to Tall Drink with Brad (Grant), so that’s what he’s doing, buying yearling pacing fillies,” Alagna said.
As for The Ice Countess, Alagna said, “she’s beautiful and she’s got so much residual value as a broodmare, based on the fact that she’s got Mission Brief on the second dam, plus the two fillies that have already hit so there’s so much upside for this filly either way. If she just does a little bit of something on the track, her value is going to stay where it’s at.”
BURKE LEADS BUYERS
Burke Racing Stable LLC led all buyers on Day 1, spending $1,410,000, total, on 10 yearlings.
Svanstedt was next with purchases totalling $1,062,000 on six yearlings, followed by Courant Inc. with $972,000 spent to buy five yearlings. Snyder was fourth, spending $770,000, in all, on two yearlings, followed by Parham with $745,000 doled out to grab three yearlings.
The second of three yearling sessions begins today at 10 a.m. The two-day mixed sale begins Thursday.