David McDuffee was the second leading buyer, behind Determination, during Tuesday’s opening session of Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s yearling sale in Timonium, MD, which was down, as expected, from 2019, but comparable with the 2017 opener.
by Dave Briggs
Owner David McDuffee was in good spirits late Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 3) despite having to part with more money than he would have liked to nab both the $440,000 sale-topping trotting filly and a $325,000 pacing colt during the opening session of Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s yearling auction at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, MD.
“I have never bought a horse in my life that didn’t go for more money than I thought it would. I don’t ever remember buying one and turning to somebody and saying, ‘I got that for cheap,’” McDuffee said, laughing.
“I’m pretty happy to get both of them… I guess you should get them for that kind of money.”
McDuffee paid $440,000 for Hip #86 Delilah Hanover, a Muscle Hill filly out of Danielle Hanover. Seven yearlings later, he signed for Hip #93 Energetic Hanover, a Captaintreacherous colt out of Eloquent Grace.
Those two purchases totalled $765,000, which made McDuffee the second leading buyer Tuesday behind Determination of Montreal that spent $1,260,000, total, to purchase six yearlings.
Delilah Hanover and Energetic Hanover were two of the top horses in Hanover Shoe Farm’s consignment, as predicted by Hanover’s executive vice-president and syndicate manager Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky (full story here).
“She has as good of eyes as anybody. She lives with them,” McDuffee said of Jablonsky. “Delilah was kind of special, I thought. I went to Hanover a few weeks ago. We looked everything over and, to me, she was just the most outstanding individual. I knew she was going to bring pretty much what she brought, but that’s still a lot of money, but it’s the one I wanted and she put it together. So, that’s good.
“Pacing colts were hard to buy this year. We looked hard in Lexington and we looked hard here. I knew (Energetic Hanover) would oversell, and I think he did, because the other colt we had looked at I just couldn’t get very excited about. I was, like, ‘Geez, maybe we’ll buy it, but I don’t feel great about it.’ This was the one we wanted and I figured everybody else would want the same type as us. I knew he wasn’t coming cheap.”
McDuffee said Delilah Hanover, who is from Donato Hanover’s family, will have more residual value as a broodmare when her racing career is finished. With Energetic Hanover, McDuffee said he’s attempting to swing for the fences and get another stallion such as his Papi Rob Hanover, who will begin his first year at stud in 2021 at Hanover Shoe Farms.
“On the pacing colt side, it’s all or nothing. You either hit one… or if it doesn’t work. That’s the way it is, always has been,” he said.
The plan is to have Nifty Norman train Delilah Hanover and Brett Pelling train Energetic Hanover. McDuffee said he will also try to recruit some partners. In the meantime, he joked he was scrounging for meal money.
“I’m not sure how I’m going to eat tomorrow,” he said, laughing. “But maybe I can borrow it from my wife.”
In all, 154 yearlings sold Tuesday, grossing $12,813,000 and averaging $83,201 with a median of $57,500. The numbers are similar to the opening-session numbers in 2017 when 164 yearlings grossed $12,350,000 for a first-session average of $75,305. Not surprisingly, this year’s opening session numbers are down considerably compared to 2019 — off 33 per cent in gross ($19,227,000 in 2019), 27 per cent in average ($114,446) and 36 per cent in median ($90,000).
That the numbers were down sharply during a pandemic was to be expected said sale president and CEO Dr. Pete Spears, especially when the sale lost some top yearlings to the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale (full story here).
“I think we need to interpret the results in light of the losses that we had prior to the sale,” Spears said. “I think trotting colts were certainly a bit weak, but everything else was very solid. I thought the mid-range was very good. There were certainly several very high-selling horses. I didn’t see a lot of bottom-end horses that sometimes slip through, so I think it was pretty solid all the way through, especially given all the challenges and people being turned back at the border or simply not coming at all.
“I’m told the online bidding was quite strong. Telephone bidding was active, so all of those people did try to participate and I think the results show it.”
Hanover Shoe Farms led all consignors in gross sales, accounting for 53 per cent of total day one sales with earnings of $6,761,000, which worked out to an average of $93,903 for 72 yearlings sold. Hanover sold four of the five most expensive yearlings sold.
Diamond Creek led all consignors (with three or more sold) in average with $130,000 for four yearlings sold. Concord Stud was next with an average of $106,000 for 15 sold.
“I didn’t really know what to expect coming into today, obviously,” said Concord’s Julie Meirs. “You never really know with this year what’s going to happen, but as with any horse sale, the ones they want they are going to buy. If they don’t want them, then you’re not going to talk them into wanting them when they are on the auction block.”
Concord sold Hip #124 Tippet, a Muscle Hill filly out of Ilia for $400,000 to trainer Nancy Takter, agent. That yearling tied for the second highest priced horse sold Tuesday with Hip #9 Peyton Hanover, a Muscle Hill filly out of Pennies From Above that was sold to Jeffrey Snyder.
Concord also sold Hip #59 Blue Skies Shining, a Muscle Hill filly out of Anikadabra, for $230,000 to Chris Beaver and Hip #154 Gettinmystepsin, a Chapter Seven filly out of Muscle Test, for $230,000 to Andy Miller
“Those three we were thrilled about. There were some others, as always, that you think some will bring more than they do, but that’s just the way it’s going to go,” Meirs said.
She said Concord, based in Cream Ridge, NJ, has been preparing its yearlings for the change of venue from Harrisburg to Timonium for months.
“The farm location is huge for us because it allows most of the trainers to come out to the farm before the sale to do their initial looks separately. We’re able to get a large number of them out there and that hasn’t changed from year to year. The trainers always are able to come out and make the effort to come out and see the horses at the farm.
“With the (sale) facility change, we prepared the horses a little bit for being outside, in terms of trying to walk them around outside more at the farm so they could get a sense of, you know, waving flags and things that are not normally at a horse farm.
“We prepared for the outside facility a little bit differently than we would for Harrisburg, not a lot but just a little bit. The horses have reacted wonderfully. They still jumped a little at the flapping tent yesterday, but overall they have done really well with what they needed to do. It all comes down to preparation.”
Meirs said Concord has a lot more yearlings to sell in the next two days at Timonium.
“We’ve got a lot left, actually. We have a big day (Wednesday), with a lot to sell. We’ve got some good ones, a sister to No Lou Zing and we have a brother to Macho Martini. We’ve got a really nice Cantab Hall colt named Global Pandemic [Hip 362] that sells (Wednesday). We’ve also got a really nice Always B Miki named Mask On Mask Off [Hip 267].”
Meirs said she takes credit for naming Global Pandemic and Mask On Mask Off.
“I was lucky to get a couple of those in,” she said, laughing. “We did our naming in the beginning of quarantine for our yearlings. One year, a lot of the names came from cartoon characters for my kids, this year it was pandemic-related.”
At least she’s trying to make the best of a challenging year.
“We probably have no right to complain,” McDuffee said. “It’s been an interesting year. How many businesses had an opportunity to continue to go on like we did? Most of the tracks have been open. We probably aren’t racing for quite as much money and we obviously lost some major stakes, but good God, imagine if you were in so many other businesses? The whole hospitality business et cetera, et cetera. Those people have been destroyed. We’ve done pretty damn good, all things being considered.
“We can moan a little, but we can’t complain.”
Spears said he hopes the middle market of the sale will hold up through the next two sale sessions and he expects today’s session to be more comparable to the second session in 2019 than Tuesday’s opening session was to the first session in 2019.
“And, I think the weather will continue to improve all week,” Spears said. “There was some disappointment that we were no allowing bidding in the back. Many people, traditionally in Harrisburg, love to hang around the prep ring and bid from there, but with the COVID-19 restrictions we just can’t allow that this year. We’re sorry that area is not available, but it’s really in everyone’s best interest to have social distancing and keep everyone safe.”
The second of three yearling sessions begins today at 10 a.m. The two-day mixed sale begins Friday.