by James Platz
Last month, Steve and Cindy Stewart’s Hunterton Farm sold 97 yearlings at Lexington for a gross of over $7.8 million, second highest in the sale. The breeders from the Bluegrass State bring a contingency of 52 babies to this year’s Standardbred Horse Sales Company sale in Harrisburg, PA, and they expect the positive trends shown at nearly every yearling sale in 2021 to continue this week.
“Obviously after the blowout success we all had in Lexington, I think it will carry over to Harrisburg,” Steve said. “I said it even before the Lexington sale, my comment was I thought Harrisburg would be very good if for no other reason that we’re back in the Farm Show arena, and I think there will be somewhat of a celebration of that.”
One of the trends at Lexington proved to be the increased value of dual-eligible horses, particularly those that can compete in the increasingly lucrative Kentucky program. Hunterton Farm’s Harrisburg consignment offers several that are Kentucky eligible. The difference this time is that there are fewer cataloged than in Lexington.
“The one thing that helps us is that we are one of the few Kentucky breeders. We probably have half of the dual eligible horses,” Steve said. “I think that really spurred the market in Kentucky, so us having between 20 or 30 that are dual eligible, that sure won’t hurt people. It gives another avenue of purses to race for, and that will help us tremendously like it did in Lexington.”
Yearlings offered by Hunterton are primarily eligible to Pennsylvania, Ontario, New Jersey and New York, offering buyers a “little bit of everything.”
“We start off with a pretty nice colt, I think, Hip 3 (Now Showing), he’s a Captaintreacherous out of The Show Returns. He’s a very nice colt. There’s an Always B Miki, Hip 183 (Tip Top Cat), out of Western Top Cat. That’s a very nice colt. Hip 311 (Bet On Sunday) is a Bettor’s Delight filly that I’ve always liked an awful lot,” he said. “There’s an E L Titan (Hip 392 Pride N Joy), which is going to limit us a little bit, but she’s an extremely nice filly. She’s out of Princess Lilly. One of her offspring is doing well in Canada. The Muscle Hill colt, number 430 (Upstaged), is a great big, strong colt. He’s an awfully nice colt.”
Steve said he believes that the easing of travel restrictions, both for Canadians and overseas interests, will result in familiar faces at Harrisburg after an extended absence.
“The relaxation of the border will help the Canadians have an easier time getting to Harrisburg than they did for Lexington,” he said. “I think there are going to be an awful lot of European horsemen coming on Monday. I think we’re going to see a lot of faces that we haven’t seen in a couple years from Europe that will be in attendance early Tuesday morning. That will be a plus.”
Buyers at Lexington shelled out over $56 million for yearlings. However, there were some that left Lexington without their targets and still needing to fill the barn for next season. In addition, since the sale, multiple regional programs have contested sires stakes finals as well as other big events, including the Breeders Crown, making more money available to spend this week. Steve believes this year’s Crown results, where championships and purses were spread across a varied group of horsemen, will help.
“There is still a tremendous amount of money that has been given out since (Lexington). Now it seems like there is much more success that is spread out. It’s spread out in ownership and spread out in trainers. I think that’s the key to our business is that everybody’s getting a drink of water,” he said.
He also believes the emergence of regional programs and the success of horses including Jujubee and Ocean Rock gives those participating in the programs hope they too can make it to the big dance.
“I think that’s another driving force. If you look at all the success in the Breeders Crown, it’s really encouraging to me, and I think the industry, to see Ohio and Indiana’s success in the Breeders Crown,” Steve said. “I think that’s a big, big plus for our business. You need the regional buyers to realize they can buy a regional horse and bring him to the top level and race. That really helps our business.”
“A real sleeper, I think, is 654 (Wry), an Artspeak colt out of a Somebeach mare (Hobe Sound). Obviously, everybody wants Captains and they want the popular stallions. But when you get to racing, you see the Jujubees that kick everybody’s butt, that are out of those types of stallions. Just because you’re not a top stallion, it doesn’t mean you don’t have the potential to produce top horses. If you can find the best He’s Watching or the best Artspeak, sometimes you’re better off than buying the worst Captain, especially if you have limited money,” Steve said.