The Ontario-based family farm sold the second highest priced yearling on Tuesday as the two-day gross of $35.7 million set a sale record.
by Ray Cotolo
Four generations of McNivens gathered at their consignment for Twinbrook Farm in the East Hall after their Captaintreacherous colt Twin B Predator returned from the ring. The family posed for photographers alongside their pride, who topped the pacing ranks of the Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s second session on Tuesday (Nov. 8).
Twin B Predator, selling as Hip 391, fell center to a bidding war that propelled the colt’s price through the six-figure sphere. Farm manager Tammy McNiven paced from wall to wall on the auctioneer’s overlook while containing her excitement from the climbing bids. At hammer’s slam, the colt from the Western Ideal mare Paisley Hanover sold for $310,000.
“I knew he had the potential because of the pedigree,” McNiven said. “We paid a lot of money for the mare and the family is there. This is what we’re striving for, to get that top individual. I think today has been a hard day out there and there’s been some good, some bad and there’s been some ugly. So, you really don’t know where you’re going to fall. You know you’re probably going to be good, but you don’t know if you’re going to be great. So, when those numbers get going up and up and up… and there were several people involved, it just makes you smile and you think, ‘Okay, we’ve done what we’re supposed to do.’ It’s validating, very validating.”
With his sale, Twin B Predator became the highest-selling yearling for Twinbrook Farm after they beat their record last year with Twin B Nation, an American Ideal colt who sold at Harrisburg for $300,000.
“The Captaintreacherous colts averaged $125,000 last year because we keep records of what they brought. So, we knew he was a little above average, but we didn’t know he was THAT above the average,” McNiven said with a laugh. “So, yeah, it was a little shocking, let me tell you. Now we’ve outdone ourselves from last year. Now, we’ve got to go outdo ourselves for next year. There’s going to be pressure.”
McNiven’s words then started to choke and her eyes began to turn red. She was sharing the momentous achievement of her family with her family. “Uncle Jack” McNiven, the father of Tammy’s husband Rob and a Canadian Hall of Fame breeder from his years operating Killean Acres, came down from Ontario. And Tammy’s two daughters, who help in the operation of Twinbrook, surrounded her. As well as her grandson Kingston, who Tammy strapped in a Twinbrook jacket she bought for one of her daughters at the Harrisburg Sale 20 years ago.
“This doesn’t only build my confidence, it makes me so proud of my family because our daughters help us,” McNiven said. “Uncle Jack is here and he’s 88. He’s a one generation and my husband is a second generation. Our daughters are a third generation and we’ve got a little grandson here that’s fourth generation. So, when everybody is here, it’s very validating.
“We do all the work and there’s one girl that works for us part-time,” McNiven also said. “The rest of us do everything, so there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears, 24/7 and 365. There’s no days off because I feel that all the horses are priority before anyone else in the house, so it doesn’t matter what day of the year it is – they get fed, they get looked after, and then it’s our turn. This year, there might be a little change and we might have to have a little party or something to validate all of that.”
The session-making moment for the McNivens came from Noel Daley, who purchased the colt – a first foal of a sister to several six-figure earners as well as a three-quarter sister to the dam of Papi Rob Hanover – for Kenneth Jacobs.
“I think there were only two of us in for the last $100,000, but [Jacobs] only bought one pacing colt and that’s the one he wanted and he picked him out,” Daley said. “[Jacobs] said he’s got way too much time on his hands and he just spends hundreds of hours going over all the videos. Then called me and told me he wanted to buy him, so I went and saw him. I said, ‘Did anyone look at him for you?’ He said, ‘No, I’ve been doing this for a long time.’ I said, ‘Okay, well, he is beautiful.’” Daley said laughing.
Daley, who will train the colt, also said “He actually reminds me a lot of Pebble Beach. All I did was bid for him and get him, but he’s going home with me, which is good. I don’t deal in these $300,000 horses usually, so it’s good for me.”
CONSIGNORS CONTINUE TO CASH
Tuesday’s session saw three consigners enter seven-digit territory. Hanover Shoe Farms led all consigners with a gross of $5,016,000 from 91 sold, with Preferred Equine next from a gross of $2,955,000 after 56 sold. Blue Chip Farms sold 23 on the day for a total of $1,396,000.
From consignments with more than 10 yearlings sold, Blue Chip Farms had the leading average of the second session with their yearlings’ mean price at $60,696. Hanover Shoe Farms averaged $55,121 and Preferred Equine averaged $52,768.
Through the two sessions, Hanover Shoe Farms sits atop the consignments with $12,544,000 grossed from 139 yearlings. A strong opening session from Concord Stud Farm keeps them as the second-highest grossing consigner of the sale with $5,917,000 and Preferred Equine just behind with $5,259,000 grossed.
BLOOD RUNS THICK WITH TUESDAY TOPPERS
Ake Svanstedt topped the second session and stayed in the family with Volcanic Blue Chip, selling as Hip 294. The Walner filly, who left the auction ring for $325,000, is the second foal from a mare whose sisters include the granddam of a pair of Svanstedt’s previous pupils in world champion Plunge Blue Chip and stakes-placed Splash Blue Chip.
“The mother’s family… I like that family,” Svanstedt said. “I also like her conformation – maybe a little bit too big, but she was born in February. I liked the horse.”
Trond Smedshammer also stuck with the family on $260,000 acquisition Seven Again, selling as Hip 366. The Chapter Seven filly is the 11th foal from the Donerail mare Armbro Deja Vu, who also foaled world champion and former Smedshammer stable star Dejarmbro.
“She’s obviously a great individual and she’s a Chapter Seven,” Smedshammer said. “The mare has produced all kinds with other stallions and she’s got great broodmare value after she’s done on the track. It’s not a huge risk to take. I didn’t buy Dejarmbro as a yearling, myself. I ended up with him after his 2-year-old year, but they have some similarities.”
Lynn Curry fell in love long ago. Curry visited Hanover Shoe Farms with his trainer Annie Stoebe after catching a glimpse of the striking chestnut filly Elista Hanover, a daughter of International Moni, when at the Lexington Sale this year.
“The minute we turned her out, she was number one,” Curry said. “She was the one we wanted the most, if we were lucky enough to get her. Emotion sets in…you go as hard as you can and still be what you think is reasonable. She checked all the boxes. It had nothing to do with color, but she is a beautiful horse.”
Previously, Curry had only owned three horses. His third horse glided to the winner’s circle of the Jim Doherty Memorial, a Chapter Seven filly named Instagram Model. Since then, she won four more starts and finished fifth in the Breeders Crown final to earn $261,025 through seven starts. This filly he purchased is a half-sister to stakes-placed May Karp and from a family which includes a granddam who foaled O’Brien Award winner Up And Ready and a great granddam who foaled world champion and double millionaire Maven.
But Curry said that success did not influence if he would widen his coffers for another high-tag horse. “When I started in the business, after all these years, I said that I wanted to race good horses,” he said. “But still, I really don’t know what level they are at, but, at the same time, there’s a little emotional thing when you’re out at the farm and your trainer loves them, you love them, your vet loves them – sometimes it’s just a gut feeling, like, she belongs with us.
“I lucked out last year and got a great horse,” Curry also said. “That’s luck. This whole business is luck. When the gavel comes down, you’re not guaranteed anything, so I’m just very happy that we got her. She will fit my stable perfectly and hopefully we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
Curry and Stoebe then walked through the Main Hall back to Elista Hanover’s stall at the Hanover consignment. Stoebe petted the chestnut and Curry looked happily at the horse returning to his stable. Stoebe then handed the writer of this piece her phone to have a picture taken of the three of them.
While people started to leave the complex with just a few yearlings left to sell, Luc Blais struck a strong bid of $235,000 on Abra Abra Kadabra, a Kadabra filly selling as Hip 512. The filly, going to Serge Godin’s Determination, is from a dam who is a full sister to O’Brien Award winner Windsong Espoir, and is another addition to the restock of Blais stable.
“It’s a good family and nice-looking filly, too,” Blais said. “She’s sporty and, like I say, maybe pay too much, but we like her. The Kadabras treat me good.”
Blais left the second session with nine yearlings total bought at Harrisburg to add to his six bought at Lexington. And his eyes remain open into the final day of Harrisburg for more horses to fit his local operation in Ontario.
HIGH NUMBERS KEEP CLIMBING
Tuesday’s session grossed $16,014,000, up 2 per cent from 2021’s single-session gross. Cumulatively, the 2022 Standardbred Horse Sale has grossed $35,750,000, a 7 per cent increase from 2021.
More yearlings left the ring in 2022 than did in 2021, with 421 selling last year and 506 selling this year. As a result, the average sale price has dropped. The single-session average on Tuesday dropped 16.2 per cent while the cumulative average is down 11 per cent. Nonetheless, the $35.7-million gross through Tuesday is a record for the Standardbred Horse Sale.
“I think the day was really good,” said Dale Welk, president/director of operations for the Standardbred Horse Sales Company. “You know, we had some ups and downs, like we did yesterday, but as I said last night, I think it showed today that we had horses that could’ve sold yesterday.”
Sales started on Tuesday with a similar build to the opening session as many soft-priced yearlings circled the ring until the behemoth bids began lifting in the arena. But once the momentum swung, the auction action persisted to the last gavel slam around 6:30 p.m.
“Usually we say that everybody worries about the first 10, but it seemed like it was the first 30 or so in both sessions,” Welk said. “Maybe it was even a few more, but once it got started there was no stopping it right up to the end with one at $140,000 and $75,000 for the last horse today.
“Overall, I think it was great. The trotters were incredible. The trotting fillies were just through the roof. Of course, the Captains are always going to be there. I’m very happy and I think we’re going to be fairly strong tomorrow.”
Despite one more day in the yearling sale today (Nov. 9), preparations have already started on suiting the Complex for the Mixed Sale, which begins Thursday (Nov. 10). As most of the yearlings vacate the premises, stable hands and other staff from the Standardbred Sales Company will be shifting consignments and readying the layout for the shipment of the Mixed Sales horses on Thursday.
“We’re in the process already and getting things ready to go for tomorrow night,” Welk said. “I’ve got a great staff, because I can’t quite help as much as I usually do, but I count on them and they step up and take care of everything.”