by Dave Briggs
Blue Chip Farm owner Tom Grossman said 2020 has really shown him that the harness racing industry is beyond resilient. Solid yearling sales in a variety of regions have proven there’s a strong business case to be made for owning standardbreds.
“It really shows that our sport is based on reality,” Grossman said. “First, we’re down but still excellent. The thoroughbreds have struggled a lot more than us, certainly on a year-to-year comparison. It goes to the fact that this sport has steak and not sizzle and you can have a very legitimate chance of making money at buying yearlings. Despite all of the obvious things about politics and everything, people are continuing to invest, which is very encouraging.
“I’ve always said about harness racing, it doesn’t have the movie star appeal of some of the others, but at the end of the day it’s a business and so all that really changes are the purses, which are down a little obviously with some race cancellations. Theoretically, those should be normalizing next year. I don’t have a crystal ball, but it certainly seems that way.
“So the money we race for is down only a respectable percentage and the yearling sales should have been the same, but sentiment plays a big role in it. We’ve shown that the group of people that have stayed with this business are resilient and it can be profitable. I don’t want to jinx us, because the next three days means a lot, but so far… even just people’s attitude walking around the sale everybody is like, ‘Okay, we’ll get through this. We’ll figure it out together.’ It’s very encouraging to me.”
Considering breeders invest thousands of dollars over many years to get their horses to market, yearling sales are critical to their operations. Grossman said earlier in 2020 he was concerned how his farm’s horses would sell, but as the year went on and most of the major sales posted positive results, the COVID-19 pandemic considered, he became more positive about how his yearlings would sell at Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s (SHSC) auction in Timonium, MD that begins today (Nov. 3).
“We did a lot of scenarios based on some really conservative assumptions and there’s still three more days to go and an election in between, but I’m very happy relative to where I thought we could be,” he said.
Grossman said the likely star of the Blue Chip consignment is Hip #91 Threepointbluechip, a Walner colt out of Dunk The Donato.
“She had a 2-year-old and an older horse finish in the money at the Breeders Crown, which for a trotter is quite amazing. Plunge Blue Chip was second in the Older Mare Trot,” Grossman said. “The yearling looks the part. He’s as exciting of a yearling as we’ve sold in a very long time.
“Also, number 47 (Tallntan Blue Chip) is a really nice Bettors Delight colt out of a very hot family with Warrawee Sunshine is the dam. He’s the prototypical Bettors Delight colt. When you pull him out, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with him, but nothing is, like, wow. He’s got Bettors Delight’s attitude, he knows he’s the man, nothing phases him, he marches right on.
“I am obviously biased, but I’m very, very positive on E L Titan. I don’t think people realize how small his books have been for what he’s done. I think he had 30 last year and came up with some good horses.
“I have a colt, Hip 440 (Tactile Blue Chip), out of a mare Glowngold. I don’t think it’s going to be a giant number, but it’s the kind of horse I’d be buying if I was a yearling buyer.
“I’d also say 633 (Triumphantbluechip) is a Roll With Joe, who had a much better year last year starting to get the better mares. That’s out of a mare, Bathsheba, and her sister (Fire Start Hanover) just won the Breeders Crown. I’ve always liked (the yearling) growing up, he has a very good disposition.
“Other than the headliners, which is more thoroughbred-like, these are horses that I really believe you can buy and have a very realistic expectation of having a profitable investment.”
As for the new sales facility, Grossman said, “it’s a very healthy place for the horses. There’s obviously great ventilation… I think the horses are going to leave here happier than Harrisburg, for sure, and the horses always come first for us. And the people will be healthier. It’s just a happier environment as well. The surrounding area seems to have a lot more going on, in terms of easy places to get the crew fed and all of that.
“I’m generally happy and really happy with people’s attitudes. My team for sure, but people in general have been flexible, understanding and seem to be in a positive mood. I’m very relieved and happy.”