81st Harrisburg sale produces record-busting numbers

81st Harrisburg sale produces record-busting numbers

November 9, 2019

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After a strong closing session, Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s 2019 auction ended up with a record average of $45,209 and a gross of more than $67.5 million that was the second highest in the sale’s history.

by Ray Cotolo

Consignments began tearing down their exhibits midway into the afternoon of the final session of Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s mixed sale on Friday (Nov. 8). Horses continued to filter through the ring while bidding wars waged in the small arena of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.

Hip 1932 exited the ring at the lower arc of sunset and the building cleared. Cups of complimentary coffee and folded past-performance booklets, among other parcels, scattered the ground near the chairs once occupied by bidders. Groups worked around the complex to uplift the rubber-padded flooring and swipe blank the canvas of a sale which left its mark in the records.

The 2019 sale ended with the second-highest gross in its history. Through 1,501 sales, this year grossed $67,589,000 with an average of $45,209. Only the 2007 Standardbred Sale trumps these figures, with $70,228,377 grossed, but from 2,037 sales. More horses sold in 2007, averaging $34,287, but this year’s sale shadows that number with an average of $45,209 (a 31.9 per cent difference).

“Everyone is very pleased, I think,” said Pete Spears, CEO of Standardbred Horse Sales Company. “Many of the horsemen came in saying that they found it very difficult to buy because the competition was very intense. All of this goes to the good economy and the good news within the industry. We’re all very happy with an extremely successful sale.”

Accounting for the $4.5-million boost in gross created by the White Birch dispersal Thursday (Nov. 7), the Standardbred sale still far bested the 2018 gross of $53,679,000 through 1,449 sales, averaging $38,481. The gross increased 26.4 per cent while the average also hiked 17.5 per cent.

“The market was very healthy in there today,” said David Reid of Preferred Equine, which led all consignors with sales of $19,338,000 over five days. “The filly market was very strong, especially the trotters, but the pacing fillies sold well and racehorses are consistently good. We have the sales at the Meadowlands and, every mixed sale, they want racehorses. Historically, they’ve been strong, but to see the strength in the breeding market is very positive for the overall industry. I thought it was very well-received tonight and very healthy.”

The “Fabulous Fillies” block fronted day two of the mixed sale. Composed of racing fillies and mares as well as breeding prospects, 38 females trickled through the ring and contributed $3,918,000 to (i.e. over a quarter of) the day’s gross of $14,594,000.

Hanover Shoe Farms, led by its executive vice president and syndicate manager Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky, topped buyers in the Fabulous Fillies section two days after leading all consignors in the yearling portion of the auction with total sales of $14,371,000 (to finish second to Preferred among all consignors with the yearling and mixed sales combined).

Soon after paying $340,000 for Percy Bluechip, she purchased Starita, a Joe Holloway-trained winner of over $300,000 for then-owners Val D’Or Farms and Ted Gewertz, for $360,000.

“We gave a little bit more than we thought we’d have to,” said Dr. Jablonsky, who seemed to be hesitant, yet assuredly continued to bid as the Trixton filly’s price rose. “She was beautiful. She has a fabulous maternal pedigree. Her grand-dam is Passionate Glide. She was bought to breed to Greenshoe.

“So what we’re trying to do, we’ve got 36 breedings to Greenshoe. We may not use all 36, but we’re going to definitely breed over 30 and we are trying to accumulate as many top, top mares are we can to breed to him. We’re very excited about his first crop.”

As for Percy Bluechip, Dr. Jablonsky always had her eyes on the Shadow Play mare. She attempted to purchase the mare last year but could not work the deal. Instead Ron Burke bought her from Dr. Ian Moore and in a couple of months pulled a 52-1 upset in the Breeders Crown Three-Year-Old Filly Pace at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in 2018.

“Of course, now she’s worth more money,” Dr. Jablonsky said. “She was just the best-looking pacing mare of all the pacing mares I looked at in the sale. Obviously, we’re going to breed her to Captaintreacherous because he’s the best pacing stallion in the business; we bought her specifically to breed to Captaintreacherous. That’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to concentrate on top mares now. But we’re happy just to be able to get her.”

Steve Stewart of Hunterton Farms again spent large dollars, winning the auction on New York Sires Stakes star Quincy Blue Chip for the third-highest price of the Fabulous Fillies block: $300,000.

“I got a call from my partners and they said, ‘Let’s try to buy her,’” said Stewart, whose partners also own her full-sister Ostrich Blue Chip.

His partnership will send the Chapter Seven filly to the track for a final time Thursday (Nov. 14) in the $183,000 (est.) Matron Stakes at Dover Downs.

“We didn’t buy her as a racehorse, we bought her as a broodmare,” Stewart said. “Obviously, today is different than yesterday. Yesterday we had the deep roots and today is buying performance and that’s basically what we’ve done with her. We’re pretty excited about.”

Following the Matron, Quincy Blue Chip will transition into her broodmare career starting by breeding to Tactical Landing, which also stands at Hunterton Farms.

“Most Chapter Seven mares need some size,” Stewart said. “We own Quincy and now we own Woodside Charm, who was the two-year-old filly of the year last year and didn’t race this year. We bought her for a tonne of money, but she’ll be bred to Tactical Landing also.

“Tactical Landing, we feel… we don’t know because they are all in the belly, but we feel he’s going to give size and some of these Chapter Seven mares need size.”

Crawford Farms also snagged two fillies. Sonnet Grace, then trained by Ron Burke, proved more expensive of the pair when the auction closed at $235,000.

“We tried to buy her before she actually went to Burke,” Michelle Crawford said, “so I had my eyes on her a bunch of times. I know how big and long and lengthy she is, so she’s just going to be a great broodmare to add with her breeding.”

Al Crawford led the helm on their other purchase, Fade Into You for $210,000 (also from Ron Burke). The Cantab Hall filly, along with their recently-acquired Muscle Massive filly, both will be bred to Chapter Seven, from which the Crawfords’ own stallion shares.

“I talked to Ronnie [Burke], she was a real honest stakes filly,” Al Crawford said. “He said, ‘Honestly, her production on paper wasn’t as good as what he thought she could’ve done.’ She was just in weird situations.

“We like that ‘Cantab’ [Hall] cross, which is Atlanta, which we own, too. We liked her just because of the Cantab cross and then also because she was a strong race mare. She’s a beautiful-looking filly, too.”

With Sonnet Grace, “that’s Gimpanzee crossed with Muscle Massive,” Al Crawford said, “so we got them both with Chapter Seven in mind. And got lucky and brought them both home.”

Other fillies in the block also sold for high figures. Medusa, Hip 1432, sold for $250,000 to Erika Sergent. The Bettor’s Delight mare only surpassed $1,000,000 in earnings when finishing second in the Fillies and Mares Open at The Meadows on Tuesday (Nov. 5). Among the higher buyers, Elizabeth Caldwell acquired the Muscle Massive filly Fate Smiled, Hip 1449, for $195,000 while Ola Yoder added another mare to his collection with a $190,000 bid on the Father Patrick filly Whispering Oaks.

Sales figures remained high outside of the Fabulous Filly block. Donttellmeagain topped the final session when purchased for $400,000 by Jon Paton from his now-dissolved Paton Racing Stables. Fair Winds Farms bought Lu’s Illusion, a half-sister to world champions Rock N Roll Heaven and Clear Vision, for $250,000. In total 30 of the 336 sold in the final session went for a price of $100,000 or higher.

“It shows a lot of strength,” Reid said of the sale’s history-best numbers. “I felt the Midwest breeders were strong here this week, which is good. So maybe that’s just another jurisdiction that’s getting a little healthier. We always need new jurisdictions to come online so, if that’s the case, I’m happy to see it. Truthfully, if that’s the case, it should bode well for the market for years to come.

“Even, today, this is a record sale for Preferred, no doubt about it,” Reid also said. “We sold a lot of horses and tried to do a good job for our clients. For the most part, our clients were very happy, so that means the market was healthy. Health is the most important thing about anything. It seemed like today that things just went along pretty smooth there. Credit goes to the sales crew. I thought the auction crew did a great job and kept a great pace. The credit goes to them and the entire organization for having a great sale.”

Some at the final gavel’s slam crowded the credit office to settle the claims of their day’s purchases. Crowds trickled through the various exits around the complex while I.T. crews removed the television setups in the main hall and others continued to roll the rubber-padded flooring at each consignment.

Some horses remained in their stalls waiting to ship to their new homes, but many were walked towards the line of shipping trailers lined outside the North Hall by the Equine Arena. The complex was cleared and readied for whatever showcase it hosts next, meanwhile the standardbred industry’s business in Harrisburg for the year had concluded.

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