Tremendous Harrisburg sale grosses $70 million, just shy of the all-time record

Tremendous Harrisburg sale grosses $70 million, just shy of the all-time record

November 11, 2022

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Broodmare prospects brought big bucks
in mixed sale finale.

by Ray Cotolo

Friday’s (Nov. 11) session of the Standardbred Horse Sales Mixed Sale presented rich opportunities for breeders, who in turn shelled cash to secure the promising prospects.

Steve and Cindy Stewart of Hunterton Farm topped the day with two half-million-dollar purchases that they see as a reinvestment into the industry.

“We’ve been very blessed in being able to sell very high-priced yearlings every year and a lot of people ask us why we sell our fillies. This is why we sell our fillies, because we take our filly money and go buy mares,” said Steve Stewart. “So, we’re selling one-year product and go buy factories. It’s kind of logical for us, you know. It makes sense to me. That’s our plan and it’s working out very well so far.”

Cindy Stewart first signed the ticket for Fire Start Hanover, consigned by Preferred Equine and selling as Hip 1414. The 4-year-old filly by Somebeachsomewhere, who earned $1.2 million through her career along with a Dan Patch Award at 2, left the ring for $550,000.

“We play at the top end and she’s the top end,” Steve said. “We have a lot of guys behind us that want to play at the top end. We’ve been very successful buying at the top end, so we more or less take our yearling money and put it right back in. And more or less, the guys that owned her will take that money and go buy our yearlings, right? It’s a very simple game and I think it’s working for everybody.”

Steve confirmed Fire Start Hanover will go to the breeding shed following her final start, which will come in the TVG Finals on Nov. 26 at The Meadowlands.

Just under a half-hour later, the Stewarts landed another large ticket on Selfie Queen, consigned by Preferred Equine and selling as Hip 1429. The enigmatic sophomore filly by Muscle Hill, who took a mark of 1:51.2 as a 2-year-old at the Red Mile, sold to the Stewarts for $500,000.

“She was what we wanted also on the trotting side, so they are good bookends, aren’t they?” Stewart said. “What really intrigues us is the :51 mark at 2. We own Mission Brief and Jolene Jolene and they’ve done very well for us with those fast marks at 2. We’re just going to carry on and hopefully she will pick up where they are. I don’t know if you’d call her a ‘great mare,’ but she was a very fast and talented mare, so she, again, like Fire Start, fits the program.”

Following Selfie Queen’s ninth-place finish in the Breeders Crown, a radiograph ordered by trainer Nancy Takter
uncovered a medial wing fracture in the filly’s right hind. With the injury, which only requires stall rest, Steve Stewart nonetheless confirmed Selfie Queen will retire to the breeding shed.

The Winning Key team also returned with more firing power to strengthen its broodmare band. Eric Crocker, from Winning Key, acquired two top-class mares for the operation in Bare My Soul, a Preferred Equine consignee selling as Hip 1405; and Breeders Crown winner Next Level Stuff, also consigned by Preferred Equine and selling as Hip 1422. Crocker scored on a $500,000 bid for Bare My Soul while he secured Next Level Stuff for $350,000.

“We actually had a higher number on [Bare My Soul],” Crocker said. “We are glad that we got her where we did. [Next Level Stuff] was the first choice out of the book until we saw Bare My Soul and then we knew we had one and two and we got the two that we wanted, so we’re thrilled.”

Crocker and his wife have worked with Winning Key Farm for the last 20 years and said that they’ve been waiting for the operation to move into the direction of a premier breeding facility.

“It’s exciting and I’m glad that Patty is as excited as we are,” Eric said. “Bob was amazing to us for all those years, but the business… it’s a lot more fun this way than just churning out racehorses. She’s so passionate in wanting to do things the right way and breed the best. It just makes it a whole lot of fun for us and everyone at the farm.”

The farm’s continual broodmare investment coincides with its recent acquisition of many breeding rights to the sport’s top stallions, including the share of Walner Patty Key purchased for $750,000 on Thursday. Crocker said the team is likely to use its Walner breeding with Next Level Stuff, a 4-year-old daughter of Sebastian K S out of the Cantab Hall mare Nantab.

Another big-ticket bid went a few minutes later in Peyton Hanover, consigned by Preferred Equine and selling as Hip 1425. Robert Lindstrom acquired the mare for $410,000 and said she will go straight to breeding, potentially with Walner or Chapter Seven.

Hanover Shoe Farms purchased a notable mare in Hip 1348, a 2-year-old Father Patrick filly consigned by Preferred Equine named Our Wish. The filly left the ring for $235,000. Her dam, the Donato Hanover mare Honor Thy Daughter, sold on Thursday for $205,000 to Kentuckiana Farms.

BIG BOYS ALSO BRING BIG BUCKS

On Thursday night (Nov. 10), Double Deceiver pulled pocket on Breeders Crown winner King Of The North to win in 1:52.4 in the Matron at Bally’s Dover. On Friday, he sold in Harrisburg for $500,000 to Brixton Medical AB and will brace for a campaign overseas with trainer Daniel Redén.

“Yeah, that was much… a lot of money,” said Johan Arneng, who signed the ticket for Brixton Medical. “But Daniel looked at all the races and he thinks it’s a horse that would suit the Swedish conditions and hopefully we can improve him. We think that he has a good future in Europe.”

A good future which potentially includes starts in races such as the Elitlopp.

“That’s what we’re aiming for,” Arneng said, “so we’ll see where we reach, but that’s what we’re aiming for.”

Robert Lindstrom’s signature inked onto another ticket late in the day, this one for $410,000 on Hip 1500 – the inaugural Mohawk Million winner Venerate. The now 4-year-old stallion by French sire Love You will head to trainer Marcus Melander with intentions to race.

“We’ll evaluate him there and train him a little bit on [Marcus Melander’s] sand track,” Lindstrom said. “In one or two months, we’re going to decide what we’ll do with him – if he can continue racing next year or take him to breeding. You have options with that horse – he’s got a fantastic pedigree and good racing results as a 2-year-old and it’s gone on as he got older. The Amour Angus maternal line, it’s all so strong. We’re very happy to get him.

“We’ll see where the market is best, whether it’s Europe or United States. We haven’t decided anything and it depends if we can race one more season. You never know what happens then.”

“GANGBUSTERS” FINALE

“Today was gangbusters,” said Dale Welk, president/director of operations for the Standardbred Horse Sales Company. “It was just unbelievable for the day. So, we’re starting to tear down and clean up now.”

The second session of the mixed sale grossed $15,540,000 from 219 horses sold to bring the two-day gross to $25,694,000. With the yearling sale, the overall gross of the five-day session in Harrisburg rang to $70,050,000, falling just short of the all-time record of $70,700,000 set in 2007 when 2,037 sales went through the ring versus 1,396 in 2022.

“I didn’t think it would get this close [to the record], no,” Welk said. “I thought we had a chance for $65-68 million, but I didn’t think we had a chance for $70 million. It was just amazing. Great horses sold great. We didn’t have a lot of Outs, which we already talked about. We had Outs, but nothing like other years.”

David Reid echoed the sentiment. His consignment, Preferred Equine, handled $13,785,000 in sales with more than half coming on Friday’s session.

On Friday, Preferred sold the top five horses offered and 11 of the top 13.

“I don’t think I remember selling four or five horses there for $500,000 or more,” Reid said. “You could really feel the strength of the filly department yesterday. We were showing all day long, our Fabulous Fillies section, and they lived up to the billing today. I was happy to see that Mrs. Key came back today and she bought a mare or two and I’m assuming one of those will go to Walner, which is a nice story for the week – to have her come back into the business in a strong way.

“It shows a lot of strength in the marketplace for the fillies. It gives buyers confidence when they go to a yearling sale and they buy a well-bred filly, a well-conformed filly, for big money that they are getting a return on their investment – whether they’ve returned enough on the racetrack or not. To see the residual value hold up was very gratifying for the industry overall, not only for us today. I think it’s important for the industry.”

Reid went on to say, regarding the strength of the marketplace, “On a personal note, to come here and have a live sale and represents so many high-quality people in the industry, it makes Preferred so proud. It shows there’s a need for a live marketplace. We have Preferred Equine Online and some of the keyboard warriors who don’t have a big investment into the business last week were on social media saying, ‘Why would the number one consignor have a sale the week before?’ Well, it’s been that way all year. Every two weeks we’ve had it the whole year, we’ve been consistent.

“It just goes to show you that there’s multiple levels to the marketplace. To understand all levels, I think that’s important for the industry. Not everyone operates under the same structure and we’re in 2022 now and things can be a little different and still succeed.”

And so through the Friday session, consignment staffs worked on tearing down their exhibits they rushed to raise in time for Monday.

Reid’s staff maneuvered behind him to roll the rubber matting and ready the many tables in the Northeast Hall for shipping and storage.

“We have a lot of seasoned veterans back here,” Reid said. “We’ve been doing it a long time. They come here on a part-time basis to help us. They are part of the Preferred family and there’s definitely something to be said about that – loyal employees, loyal people have been coming to us to help pull this off for the week. They come from near and far. It’s a little bit of a family reunion for some of them, but I couldn’t do it without them.

“The workforce is getting more challenging, there’s no doubt about that,” Reid also said. “You can ask any farm or racing stable. It’s the same with the horse sales business. It’s hard to find sales help and we’re competing against Keeneland right now and they are selling thousands of horses down there at the same time as we are. I’m very fortunate to have the staff that we do. They represent our brand well and they take great care of the clients’ horses. It’s a smooth, poetry-in-motion back here. They know what they are doing and that’s another big key to our success, for sure.”

“Tomorrow afternoon it’ll pretty much be a ghost town,” Welk said. We’ll be tearing down this temporary office and all that stuff tomorrow. There’s a lot of moving parts, but I’ve got a great crew and I guess I’m okay at coordinating it,” he also said, with a laugh.

Then come January, when the world gathers back at the Complex for the annual Farm Show in Harrisburg, those in attendance will have no evidence that just a few months prior, the heart of the harness racing business pulsed through the halls.

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