Elfin an eccentric session topper to wrap Harrisburg yearling sale

The Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s yearling auction concluded with the gross of $35.9 million down nearly $8.5 million (19 per cent) from last year’s record gross (though almost 100 fewer horses sold this year). The average of $44,284 is off 10 per cent from the 2022 average of $49,066.

by Ray Cotolo

Wednesday (Nov. 8) concluded the Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s (SHSC) yearling section of the auction in Harrisburg and tied the knot on a year that couldn’t reach the record highs of the previous two.

On this day of a different kind of year for the Black Book Sale came a different kind of horse to top the bidding action, at least within the framework of the North American market. The horse, a filly named Elfin (Hip #780), led all 313 sold on the day when leaving the ring at the price of $102,000 – one of three times in the session a horse sold for six figures. However, Elfin stood apart from other yearlings on the day for a of myriad reasons, price included. Most notably she comes from an eclectic pedigree.

Elfin is out of the mare Be Bop Sally, who made some money herself in a short career on the track. The dam is sired by then New Jersey stallion Wishing Stone, who himself led an extraordinary career to become a champion in the states and then a champion overseas before returning to the states to become a stallion andthen returned overseas, where he unfortunately died while at stud in Italy.

And then Elfin’s stallion is none other than the anomalous Googoo Gaagaa, who was conjured from an experiment matching a Veeba Rova dam with the Cam’s Card Shark stallion Cam’s Rocket. From this synthesis of a trotting broodmare and a pacing stallion came one of, if not the, most freakishly fast trotters of the modern era. And his stallion career in North America was brief, standing a few years in Pennsylvania before the Swedes grabbed him hoof and collar over the Atlantic. But they had reason to go googoo for gaagaa puffs. After all, Ake Svanstedt trained one of his sons Captain Corey to a Hambletonian victory. And he still came at a decent price tag of $150,000 as a yearling, in hindsight.

So Hunterton Farms presented Elfin to the public auction and out she went, both from the ring as the biggest sale on the day and in her yearling video for those who watched it.

“It was like we wound her up, like you wind up a toy, just turn it on and she just took off and trotted as fast as she could trot,” said Steve Stewart of Hunterton Farms of the filly’s video, in which she does go pretty fast. “Very, very talented.

“We’ve done really well with Googoo Gaagaa. We sold one in Lexington for $175,000 and another one for $120,000. We’ve done very well with Googoo Gaagaas this year. He’s not a big-priced stud fee, so he helps with a lot of niches and trying to figure out where to breed some of the mares for sure, which works out great for us. A lot of times there’s not a lot of choices, when it comes to stallions, so he adds a lot to it.”

Ken Jacobs struck the winning bid on Elfin, who will go into training with Tony Alagna.

As mentioned earlier, only two other horses on the day breached the six-figure threshold. First came Hip #620, an E L Titan filly named Killemwithkindness consigned by Concord Stud. The filly, eligible to three jurisdictions with New York, Kentucky and the New Jersey Development Fund, is out of the ABC Garland mare Nothing But Nice. She’s a full sister to a winner of over $100,000 in Tillio’s Action and is the third foal from the mare, who herself is the richest foal from the Royal Troubador mare Eicarls Theresa. Exceed Stables LLC of Pennsylvania bought the filly for $100,000.

Imagining, the last Tactical Landing of the sale, also brought $100,000 as one of the final few horses to go through the ring. Selling as Hip #820, the filly is the first foal out of the Cash Hall mare Dreamsteeler, who is the richest foal — with over $500,000 earned — from the Conway Hall mare Dream Street. She was purchased by Francisco Del Cid and was also consigned by Hunterton.


The dynamic within the Farm Show Complex always shifts on Day 3 of the sale. Business remains usual with the yearlings roaming the halls, stomping and shouting. But those immature horses soon start swapping places with big, fat broodmares plodding along into the complex. All day long, these yearlings continue trucking out while these burly horses ship in ahead of the Mixed Sale, which begins today (Nov. 9). And all the stall loading and transfers were made easier with 100 fewer horses selling and the last gavel slamming around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Day 1 of the Mixed Sale focuses on breeding with some products of it and producers or prospects for it. Yearlings and weanlings will go through the ring along with stallion shares and loads of broodmares. Friday (Nov. 10), the concluding day of the sale, features racehorses. Lots of racehorses.

“I think coming into the Mixed Sale, quality is still going to sell well and there seems to be plenty of interest there, so the Mixed Sale should be fine, in my opinion,” said David Reid, president of Preferred Equine Marketing. “I have a lot of nice horses [in my consignment], but last year we sold five fillies for over $500,000 or more. I think that’s pretty strong and I don’t think I’m as strong this year, but I do have a lot of high-quality product. We have a lot of outstanding offerings in our consignment and we’ll see how everything shakes out.”

Similar optimism came from Standardbred Horse Sales Company president and director of operations Dale Welk, who also spoke with excitement looking forward to the Mixed Sale.

“So far, the outs are at a minimal for what’s normal and I think we’re going to have a tremendous Mixed Sale. I really do,” Welk said. “We had a lot of people sign up for online bidding late [Wednesday], so that’s for [today] and Friday. At the first of the week there were some posts out that the crowd was down some, but we had 200 online bidders so that makes a difference. If you take 200 people out, it makes a huge difference.”


While gross for the 2023 yearling sale was down compared to the record last two years, those lower averages do represent a potential positive. Any market operates on a give and take between the sellers and the buyers, so with averages down 9.7 per cent year on year that leaves upside for this year’s buyers.

“It’s a win-win situation in a way, because for the breeders they are going to get good homes, good trainers and it’s a win for the buyer because they don’t have a lot invested,” Welk said. “If they make money, that’s great. With the trainers and buyers getting them at a better price, well, they are going to come back and the prices will come up again.

“I think that’s going to be a big factor in the whole thing. It was an interesting sale, but it was a level sale. There were ups and downs… but it wasn’t like Monday was down and Tuesday was way up and Wednesday was… it just sort of leveled off and that’s where it stayed.”

The 2023 Black Book Sale grossed $35,870,000 from 810 yearlings sold for an average of $44,284. Last year’s record sale grossed $44,356,000 from 904 yearlings for an average of $49,066. The gross, down 19.1 per cent year on year, was only the lowest of the last three years. Exempting the COVID year in Timonium, the 2023 sale’s gross and average is the lowest since 2018’s Black Book Sale, which featured just around the same number of horses with 830 yearlings selling.

Session one of the Black Book Mixed Sale begins at 10 a.m. today (ET). Friday’s racehorse session will open at 11 a.m.