The Fasig Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale wrapped up Tuesday with across the board gains from 2016 in average, median and number not sold. The market for young horses in the $200,000 to $800,000 price range is pretty solid right now. The stock market’s sustained upward climb helps, as does speculative money for stallion prospects and partnerships between top ownership groups. Yearlings by 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb were popular. All ten Orb yearlings offered were sold, averaging over $400,000, all for a stallion with a fee of $25,000 in 2017. His first crop has shown more precociousness than some had expected, plus the yearlings that sold at Saratoga were fantastic prospects. Keeneland’s first book in September will be fun, if the Saratoga sale trends hold. For an interesting behind the scenes look at the Saratoga sale, check out Eclipse Thoroughbreds picking up a nice one.
About that speculative money for stallion prospects. One of the fastest and surest ways to make money in Thoroughbred racing is to be in early on a successful stallion. This drives yearling sales, and in turn, drives racing career decisions. Take for example, Spendthrift Farm’s Malibu Moon, who turns 21 in 2018. He’s been a great stallion, but it’s time to look for his successor. Spendthrift bought the stallion rights to Malibu Moon’s son, and Santa Anita Derby winner Gormley, and purchased a Malibu Moon colt at Saratoga for $700,000. Gormley’s future racing career from here on will be an effort to craft a stallion’s resume (graded stakes races, preferably two turns, with good race times.) And the colt they bought at Saratoga, if he wins a Grade 1 race or two, the $700k purchase price will look like a bargain. Gainesway Farm has a solid hold on the market for Tapit. They have the original model, plus new additions Anchor Down, Belmont winner Tapwrit, and the promising Tapizar. Hill ‘n’ Dale has Curlin, and acquired the rights to Belmont runner-up, and son of Curlin, Irish War Cry. Imagine you have a share in Orb. In a matter of four years, he went from $25,000 live foal to what in 2018? $40,000? $50,000? There you have it. That’s where money can be made in racing. A $700,000 auction purchase can be a bargain.
A bit about the influence of prominent trainers with huge stables. To me, trainers are college basketball coaches. They recruit top prospects (buy at the sales), develop those players (train and race two-year-olds), then see the process through to the Final Four (Triple Crown, Breeders’ Cup). In the same way that John Calipari looks for freshman point guards who will space the floor, control the pace of a basketball game and run his offense, Bob Baffert looks for two-turn horses who could develop early, and hold up to training that gets them ready for the Triple Crown series. People question why Kentucky gets top recruiting classes or why Baffert continually is training top auction buys. That’s pretty simple; there’s established success in both cases. If you’re a McDonald’s All-American or a buyer of a seven-figure auction yearling, you’re options are pretty sharply focused, right? Still, in both coaching and training, new faces emerge. Names like Archie Miller. Joe Sharp. Bryce Drew. Phil D’ Amato. Richard Pitino. Brendan Walsh. Shaka Smart. Simon Callaghan.
Four Grade 1 turf races will be run this weekend, highlighted by the 35th Arlington Million. This year’s Million looks to be pretty wide open, with a strong contingent of international runners, and solid American runners. It should be a good betting race, and a fun watch. Also at Arlington Saturday are the Beverly D and Secretariat, two Grade 1’s with big purses. At Saratoga, the Fourstardave is the feature, going a mile on turf for $500,000. If you’re looking for your Breeders’ Cup Turf or Mile horse, this is a good week to pay attention.
Arrogate is set for the Pacific Classic next Saturday at Del Mar. That will be must see TV. He lost, in a pretty head scratching way, last out in the San Diego. All reports from Del Mar are that the reigining Breeders’ Cup Classic champ is training well, and should be good for the $1 million race. Gun Runner looked pretty tough in the Whitney last week, and it will be Arrogate’s turn to answer.
Time for a few more racing memories. In 2013, I ran the Santa Anita Derby 5k race at 8am on SA Derby Day. We ran through the beautiful Los Angeles County Arboretum, around the Santa Anita backstretch and finished at the finish line of the Great Race Place. My race number was “ROCKHARDTEN”, a nod to the Santa Anita Derby runner from 2004 who was disqualified for interference, and who I took some inspiration from for my race. I, however, did not finish third, like he did. Still, I made some money in that day’s Santa Anita Derby, with Goldencents beating Flashback to key a $36 exacta I hit a couple of times. Beholder won the Santa Anita Oaks earlier on the card, which is pretty cool to look back on.
As a freshman at the University of Kentucky, one of my jobs was nightwatch on Sundays during foaling season at a local boarding farm. Wouldn’t you know it? During the Super Bowl between the Rams and Titans in 2000, a mare decided that was a good time to have her foal, and sometime right before that dramatic goal line stand by St. Louis, that little sucker popped out. He was by Gainesway stallion Sir Cat, and I still think of him like a little brother.
Thanks for reading, see you next time! Here’s Lisa and I, sort of in the gate, for the Santa Anita Derby 5k race.