Armitage Farm puts dollars down in busy Harrisburg Mixed Sale opening session

Thursday’s session saw the Mixed Sale gross nearly $15 million.

by Ray Cotolo

Jim McLane and his wife Rita Armitage purchased a 500-acre farm in Kentucky only two months ago, on the first of September. The farm itself lacked necessary infrastructure and amenities, so the two and a team of people have rapidly set forth to develop that property.

“When we bought the farm, there was nothing there,” said McLane. “There was no equipment there, no trucks there, no trailers… the fences needed painting. It’s a really nice farm, but it just needed some initial work. The past 60 days, we’ve been getting the farm ready.”

The past 60 days for McLane and his wife have also focused on building a broodmare band after having no experience with standardbred racehorses most of their lives. Just a few years ago, the two entered racehorse ownership with M&L of Delaware LLC and grew an interest not only in harness racing, but particularly in developing yearlings. So that’s what drew them to buy 15 trotting fillies this year at Lexington Selected Yearling Sale and also what made them among the more prominent buyers at the opening session for the Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s Mixed Sale on Thursday (Nov. 9) in Harrisburg, PA.

“We were told by Carter Duer that he thought this was one of the best opportunities at this sale to buy broodmare stock,” McLane said. “So, we got together and put a plan together for four different segments of the auction and tried to buy what we wanted in each section and kind of stay in a budget.”

In execution, their plan resulted in 12 broodmares leaving the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex for their property in Midway, KY. Their investments on the Thursday session totaled nearly $2 million.

“We were just doing trotters so we were kind of focused in there, rather than to try to buy pacers and trotters,” McLane said. “We’re really going to be a broodmare farm for trotters and we’re going to race trotters and kind of see how it goes.”

Armitage Farm’s highest-priced purchase of the day was for Hip #1037, a Father Patrick mare named Insta Glam. She’s a winner of $300,000 and out of the broodmare Hollywood Hill, whose dam is millionaire Lantern Kronos as well as a half-sister to millionaire The Bank. She brought $350,000 through the ring, which tied for the second-largest purchase on the day.

Hip #1121, a Walner mare named Grand Fashion, also drew a hefty check from Armitage Farm — and also was their last purchase of the day — leaving the ring for $300,000. She is out of the stakes-winning mare Broadway Schooner and is a full sister to Hambletonian Oaks winner Fashion Schooner as well as a half-sister to millionaire Broadway Donna.

The Armitage Farm team, which includes former harness racing trainer Larry Rathbone as the racing manager and a former thoroughbred farm manager in Dale Holly, acquired 10 more mares through the session, ranging from $50,000 with Hip #1006 to $275,000 with Hip #1069. The farm also acquired a stallion share of the Googoo Gaagaa stud Captain Corey for $40,000.

“I mean, we’ve invested a lot of money,” McLane said. “We’ve been lucky that the other farms around Kentucky, and even just in the industry, have been really helpful. They welcomed us in and shared with us how things work and invited us to be partners in what they do. I think without their help and the expertise that we put together, we wouldn’t have made the investment. Since we have all these people, I’m pretty comfortable with the value of the investment that we made.”

Immediately after signing the slip for Hip #1121, the Armitage Farm team made their way from the North Hall for the Sale Office to settle their flipbook of tickets. Between Lexington and Harrisburg, they’ve loaded 27 horses into their holsters to form the bedrock of their first generation broodmare band.

“This should be it,” McLane said. “Of course, we’ll have babies [from the broodmares]. I guess, we’ll have this 12. We’ll have seven more that we’re going to breed and then we’ll have 18 on the track — some of them will come off the track. Some 2-year-olds, maybe five 3-year-olds, so all of that will be plenty. Trust me.”


The opening session of the Harrisburg Mixed Sale continued the Katz-Libfeld partnership dispersal with 22 mares from the team’s band going through the ring. Al Libfeld bought out a handful of the mares, including the session’s sales topper Another Like Me. Selling as the first mare of the session’s dispersal, the 3-year-old Muscle Hill filly brought $400,000 at the hammer’s slam. She’s out of the stakes-winning mare Stubborn Belle and is a full sister to stakes winner Ms Savannah Belle.

Libfeld also tied for the second-highest purchase of the sale with a winning $350,000 bid for the 16-year-old mare Cantab It All. The Cantab Hall mare won over $250,000 in her career on track but grew notoriety as the dam of two Hambletonian Oaks winners: near-millionaire All The Time and double-millionaire Ariana G. The mare sold in foal to vogue trotting stallion Walner.

Hip #1059, a Walner filly named Exile, was the fourth-highest purchase of the day when leaving the ring for $310,000 to Paul Spears for Windsong Stable. She’s a half-sister to stakes winners Repentance and Altar and sold in foal to Muscle Hill.

Diamond Creek Farm tied for the fifth-highest purchase of the session with a $300,000 winning bid for Hip #1029, a Father Patrick filly named Brunella. She’s a full sister to fellow high-tag mare Insta Glam and sold in foal to Gimpanzee.


Assessing the opening session of the Mixed Sale, Preferred Equine president David Reid said, “The top was good. Parts of it were good and parts were a little more challenging. I thought the [stallion] shares were a little challenging. The top-end mares sold well and then the middle of the market is what it is. It kind of continued a weak trend a little bit where maybe the marketplace is just maybe a little tight, but overall I think it was probably a good day of commerce.”

Reid said part of the shifting tide within the stallion market possibly comes from the deepening of the stallion pools over the last few years, so the diversity of stallions to choose from is in a way priced into the sales.

“You can go back to the Lexington Sale and my comments,” Reid said. “I think we’re in a period of time in our industry conversely that the stallion ranks are very deep, on the pacing side and the trotting side. So whether it’s someone not knowing if the first crop or second is going to hit versus the diversification of the stallions that are available would maybe add a little bit to the softening of the market. So it’s more spread, more diverse, more options. In one way, that’s very good for the industry. But on the other hand it makes it more difficult to value certain assets.

“Listen, the market always moves, right? It’s a moving target. Everyone’s analyzing markets all the time and making a guestimation and then they’re planning two, three years out right now. So that’s what you’re doing today.”


“We had a lot of action back here in the barn today [for the Fabulous Fillies],” Reid said of the group selling in the final session today (Nov. 10). “They’re always popular. I think there’s a lot of high-quality prospects and they’ll sell well, and the racehorses will sell well. People need racehorses and I’m looking forward to a good day tomorrow.”

Today’s session will feature loads of well-bred and race-fit fillies selling alongside loads of racehorses from all ages.

The session follows a $15-million day from the broodmare, yearling and weanling section during Thursday’s session.

“It was a great day,” said Dale Welk, president and director of operations for the Standardbred Horse Sales Company. “I mean, horses sold very well all throughout the sale right up to the end. People showed and the people online did, and we’re still signing up people for [Friday]. I think [Friday] is going to be just as good as today if not better.”

Today’s session will feature nearly 300 horses going through the ring starting at 11 a.m. (ET).