From the green Cameo Hills to the red Lexington ring

by Ray Cotolo

About 700 miles away, the yearlings from Cameo Hills load into the trailers and trek southwest to Lexington, KY for the 2023 yearling sale.

Cameo Hills Farm, based out of Montgomery, NY, will offer 32 horses through the five days of the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale beginning on Monday (Oct. 2). Of the 32, 25 come from the farm and the other seven from Red Well Stables, for which Cameo Hills will sell the yearlings as agent.

The first yearling for Cameo Hills is among the first of the sale, a Walner colt named Flightline, Hip #8. You read that right – Cameo Hills Farm is selling Flightline at the Lexington yearling sale. Of course, it’s not to be confused with that Flightline; the thoroughbred one that won those big stakes. This Flightline trots and is out of the stakes-winning mare Hey Blondie, making her a full sister to stakes winner Blonde Bombshell.

And that’s the eyecatcher to a place like Cameo Hills Farm and its yearlings on offer, on Day 1 especially. The farm run by Steve Jones has built itself in its lifetime from the mud of Montgomery into an operation with a rich broodmare band of stakes mares like Hey Blondie, Violet Stride, Big Mcdeal, Check Me Out and Divine Caroline among others. It has also bred champions like stallion Huntsville, victor of the 2017 Meadowlands Pace, and King Of The North, who demolished his peers in the 2022 Breeders Crown 3-Year-Old Colt and Gelding Trot.

“I’m third generation,” Jones said. “My father was a manager of big operations the whole time I was growing up. He started out in Ohio and was at Pickwick and then Hanover Shoe Farm and Blue Chip.

“I grew up in the business. My grandfather was a farrier, so it’s not like we started with an oil well and then decided to buy a few horses… it’s always been a family operation. We came from absolutely nothing, so we’re pretty proud of the broodmare band. To me, that’s the key to being successful. We try to continue to upgrade it and I think we have; our trotting band alone in the last few years, we bought Check Me Out and Venerable and now Bella Bellini, so we’re pretty excited about what we’ve got in the future.”

Strength builds for Cameo Hills on the pacing side, too. On day one they’ll offer two diamond-cased bloodlines in a filly named She’s A Stranger, Hip #63, and a colt named Welcometotheshow, Hip 104. Both yearlings come from the first crop of champion Tall Dark Stranger. She’s A Stranger is out of the mare Shes Some Treasure, a dam of three stakes winners while also a full sister to triple millionaire Captaintreacherous. And Welcometotheshow is from the regal granddam Put On A Show, making the yearling’s broodmare Come See The Show a half-sister to world champion, North America Cup champ and Little Brown Jug champ It’s My Show.

“The Talk Dark Stranger filly out of Shes Some Treasure [Shes A Stranger], that pedigree really couldn’t get much better,” Jones said. “The mare has had three foals: Mikala, who’s made half a million, and the other two fillies have both made over $200,000.

“We paid a lot for the mare. We bought her barren for $170,000 when White Birch dispersed, but it looks like that’s probably going to be a bargain. The filly we’ve got to sell is a Day 1-filly with an A-plus pedigree.”

Cameo Hills also offers some prospects from the first crop of Tall Dark Stranger’s one-time rival Papi Rob Hanover. Their first is a filly named Supermax Contract, Hip #99 who is a three-quarter sister to stakes winner Max Contract.

“I looked at the Day 1 Papi Rob Hanover fillies at both Harrisburg and Lexington and I think that’s, in my mind, a filly family,” Jones said. “[Supermax Contract]’s a beautiful filly, so I think we’re kind of sitting on top of that market. Max Contract was a very nice filly that brought $200,000. She’s got extra gears that most fillies don’t have… Max, and the mother, and this filly, they all kind of look alike. They’ve got big butts on them and good conformation. She’s a nice filly and she’s going to bring a lot of money, I would think.”

As mentioned earlier, Cameo Hills will line a dynamite trotting contingent through the sale. Among their headliners is a colt named The Rogue Prince, Hip #102. Being by the sire Walner out of the mare Check Me Out, the astute will catch that Cameo Hills is offering a full brother to millionaire King Of The North.

“I’ve got a Chapter Seven filly [Expensive, Hip #77] that’s the first foal out of Violet Stride,” Jones said. “She was the fastest 2-year-old of her year, colt or filly. This is the first foal of the mare. The filly looks just like Instagram Model, who is a Chapter Seven that we sold a couple of years ago. There’re several very nicely bred Chapter Seven fillies in the sale. I haven’t seen any of them but this filly, but I’m sure she’ll be up there with the best ones.”

With its yearlings on offer, and in spite of bearish macroeconomic forecasts, Jones is hopeful that this year’s Lexington sale will continue a trend of growth the industry has seen since rebounding from the COVID-19 recession.

“Well, we just came from selling horses in Goshen,” Jones said. “The ones that we consigned there — we had 10 selling at Goshen — they averaged $40,500, which I was very pleased with that.

“The Ohio sale was strong. The thoroughbred sale was strong. They are racing for a lot of money. It’s hard to think that the sales wouldn’t be what they have been, but you’re always capable of being surprised. With the amount of purse money that’s out there… there’re less horses racing for more money, so I think we’ll have a very good sale and I think the sale in general is going to be strong.”