Hunterton’s Steve Stewart on picking the right horses for Harrisburg

by James Platz

Steve Stewart’s Hunterton Sales Agency brings a roster of 54 yearlings to the 84th edition of the Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s Harrisburg sale. The Kentucky-based operation arrives in the Keystone State a month removed from their strongest showing to date at Lexington, where the consignment grossed over $9 million. Stewart said there is strategy behind what the farm brings to sell in Harrisburg.

“I feel that there is more Canadian participation at Harrisburg than there is at Lexington, and I think that has always been the case. So, if we have a Muscle Mass or whatever, we will tend to go to Harrisburg. Same thing with New York breds,” he said.

Stewart said another factor at play is whether the foal needs more time to grow and mature. He noted that foals born in late May, for instance, can benefit from the extra month before walking into the sale ring.

“That month can make a big difference. The way I look at it is, all yearlings are teenagers. If we agree with that, teenagers are 13 to 19 years old. Consequently, you can get pretty close to that in months. You can equate months in yearlings to years in humans,” Stewart continued.

In his analogy, a teenager can develop and mature greatly between the ages of 15 and 18. In only a few months, a yearling can also change drastically.

“I think you see that with horses. It’s amazing how often you’ll hear a trainer say, ‘That yearling I bought from you, you can’t believe how much it has changed.’ I’m not talking about in April they’ll say that. They’ll tell you in December when you’re talking to them,” he said. “There can be advantageous change.”

The Hunterton consignment is divided up between 11 pacing colts and eight fillies. Trotting colts number 19 in the group, with 16 fillies slated to sell. A quartet of babies will sell Monday for Stewart, starting with Walner filly Lavender, cataloged as Hip 21.

“She’s a good sized filly and, like most Walners, very athletic,” Stewart said.

Lavender is out of S J’s Photo mare Bone A Fide, a $300,000 winner in her career. From five previous foals, she has produced three winners led by Pennsylvania Stallion Series Final winner Bon A Fide Babe.

Also selling on Monday is Captain Crunch colt Leiter, Hip 95 in the book. The third foal from near $500,000 winner Major Dancer, the bay is Kentucky and Pennsylvania eligible, and a sibling to two winners, including Stay Hungry freshman Zanatta, a winner of $176,727.

Added Stewart: “He is a very nice Captain Crunch colt that is a brother to a pretty good two year old this year that was in the Breeders Crown.”

Second day offerings include Hip 201, Finite, an Ontario and Kentucky eligible son of Resolve. Dam Awesome Chrissy is a sister to millionaire Charmed Life and has produced winners from four of her previous five foals, led by six-time winner Awesome Trix ($258,161).

“He’s a very nice colt, extremely nice colt. He took a very good video,” stated Stewart. “The mare has produced very well.”

Selling near the end of Day Two is Tactical Landing filly Allegiant, Hip 496. The New Jersey and Kentucky eligible yearling is out of Yankee Glide mare Too Good For You, producer of 10 winners from 12 living foals. Her Muscle Mass freshman The Hazleton has been on a tear lately.

“The two year old just won four of the last five starts,” said the consignor. “He came on late this year and just won the final of the Harvest Series at Woodbine on the Friday night of Breeders Crown.”

Stewart highlighted three pacers from the group selling on Tuesday. Jimmy Freight colt Jimmy Jets, Hip 278, is the first foal from O’Brien Award winner Exhilarated, herself a winner of $525,000 on the track. Entrench, Hip 386, is a Huntsville colt out of Badlands Hanover mare Ooh Shesa Badlands. Her mother is O’Brien Award winner Ooh’s ‘N Aah’s. Entrench is New York and Kentucky eligible. Fellow Huntsville colt Affairs Of State, Hip 473, is also dually-eligible. His full-brother, River Ness, captured multiple legs of New York Sire Stakes action and possesses earnings of $267,681.

Hunterton is offering 17 Ontario-bred yearlings, with seven by Muscle Mass and four sired by Kadabra.

After the record-breaking Lexington sale, Stewart expects the upward trend to carry on in Harrisburg.

“I anticipate this sale to be very good,” he said.