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.

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How about Stellar Wind and Vale Dori in the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch from Del Mar? What a race. Check it out, not much separating them Stellar Wind was 2015’s champion three-year-old filly, and beat four-time Eclipse champion Beholder twice in 2016. And she’s looking like the filly and mare champion so far in 2017. Vale Dori had (somewhat) quietly put together a six race win streak for Bob Baffert before finishing 2nd to Stellar Wind in her last two starts, both Grade 1’s. Vale Dori and Stellar Wind will meet again in the Breeder’s Cup Distaff, if not sooner in the Zenyatta (G1) at Santa Anita in September. As I’ve said before, the Distaff this year could be one of the deepest Breeder’s Cup races we’ve seen in a while. Maybe Songbird joins them? She’s nominated to the Pacific Classic; I think we’ll just have to wait and see what her plans are. Abel Tasman sounds like a go for the Distaff, there’s also Forever Unbridled, third in last year’s Distaff, Santa Anita Oaks winner Paradise Woods maybe? Improving and consistent Salty? Could be really good Unchained Melody? Three months out, the Distaff looks like a GREAT race.

Things aren’t as cut and dry in the three-year-old colt division. Good Samaritan won the Jim Dandy at Saratoga, beating the Derby and Preakness winners in the process. Impressive race and the talent and potential is obvious, I’m just not totally on board yet with Good Samaritan, I need to see a little more from him on dirt. In the Haskell, Girvin scored his first Grade 1 win, and runner-up McCracken and third-place Practical Joke were pretty solid in defeat. The Haskell colts have a bit more to their resume, but in general, the three-year-old division is wide open and that means the Travers is going to be  really fun at the end of the month. For a few years recently, the Travers had sort of lost it’s luster. Travers winners Will Take Charge and Summer Bird were Eclipse award-winning three-year-old colts, that’s legit, and Stay Thirsty and Alpha were solid racehorses. Still the Travers runnings of the early part of this decade were plagued by the absence of Triple Crown race winners like Animal Kingdom, I’ll Have Another, California Chrome, Union Rags, stars like Bodemeister, and generally poor performances by colts who were expected to run well. Some of the mystique of the Travers I suppose is that it’s Saratoga’s Derby, the Graveyard of Favorites, but here’s a partial list of Travers winners: Bernardini, Point Given, Thunder Gulch, Holy Bull, Temperence Hill, Wajima and Key to the Mint. That’s Eclipse champions and Hall of Famers. Long story short, Arrogate’s track record run last year, Keen Ice and American Pharoah in 2015, and the potential for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont winners of 2017 all meeting in this year’s Travers seems to have brought it back into being one of the most important races of the year. It’s back to being the Mid-Summer Derby, and any of about fourteen horses could win.

Malibu Moon is the broodmare sire of both Stellar Wind, and Haskell winner Girvin. I mention that because  A) it’s a pretty remarkable achievement, having two Grade 1 winners in one day from the same broodmare sire and B) because generally, the A.P. Indy line is more of a top side line, and not dam sire. Of the top 150 broodmare sires currently (List here) only nine come from the Seattle Slew/A.P. Indy sire line, compared to 40 from the Mr. Prospector line, for example. Remember, Secretariat was A.P. Indy’s dam sire, and Secretariat’s success as a broodmare sire took a while to develop. Maybe the same can be said for A.P. Indy and his sons, and we’re seeing a few of them hitting their stride.

Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga select yearling sale is Monday and Tuesday. That’s a fun sale, a bit of a cocktail party with horses being sold in the background BUT real business does get done. Stellar Wind, Songbird, and Tapwrit are all recent graduates of the sale, and American Pharoah of course was an RNA in 2013. All of the leading stallions you’d expect to be there are represented (Pioneerof the Nile, Uncle Mo, Curlin, Tapit, War Front) Last year’s sale dipped a bit from 2015’s in terms of average, median and RNA’s, but it looks like there’s a nice group of yearlings available this year, and going by median and average, you’ll pay a bit less for a yearling here than in book 1 of the Keeneland September yearling sale.

The 90th running of the Whitney Handicap (Gr. 1) is Saturday at Saratoga. Some of the greatest horses in American racing history have won the Whitney, including Easy Goer, Tom Fool, Dr. Fager, Stymie, Invasor, Slew o’ Gold, Alydar, Ancient Title, Key to the Mint, Devil Diver, Eight Thirty, War Admiral, Discovery, Equipoise and Kelso, who won it for the third time in 1965 at the age of eight. The race also saw one of the most dramatic upsets in racing history when Secretariat finished second in the 1973 Whitney to Allen Jerkens’s colt, Onion. This year, Gun Runner heads the field, and looks to stay sharp ahead of a possible rematch with Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup. Also entered in the Whitney is Keen Ice, who upset American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers. At Saratoga. You know, “the Graveyard of Favorites.” Lots of history to this race, and hey, $1.2 million on the line. NBC will broadcast from Saratoga on Saturday, 5et.

Finally, a quick tribute to Leonard Lavin, who died this week at 97. Lavin owned Glen Hill Farm, one of the prominent owners of the era when I was first getting into racing. He won the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Distaff with One Dreamer, and campaigned Grade 1 winners like Chiropractor and Marketing Mix. Glen Hill is in good hands now with Mr. Lavin’s grandson Craig running the show, and I wanted to post a photo I took of their colt Global View winning the Generous Stakes (G3) at Hollywood Park in November of 2013. Great race by Global View that day, I won some money on him, and thought this photo summed up racing and how much Mr. Lavin put in the sport. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the racing this weekend!

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I really enjoy watching and betting on two-year old racing this time of year. High profile owners and trainers debut their best stock at Saratoga, Del Mar, etc., and you have a chance to see potential stars when they start their racing careers. Like watching Lebron James in high school, I suppose.  I put a bet on such a runner this weekend, and while she ran a decent second, she was no match for a horse who had run earlier in the year. No big deal, I win some, I lose some, but I wanted to see how often first time starters win generally. I usually don’t bet first timers, but felt good about this one. Well, in racing through July 24 at Saratoga and Del Mar this summer, first time starters have won 3 of 18 maiden special weight races (16%). That’s not a huge sample size, granted, but I think it’s safe to say racing experience in maiden races is, if not critical, a huge advantage. Yes, first time starters do win, but a race is different from anything else a young Thoroughbred has been asked to do, and even the most talented ones don’t win first out. Just ask American Pharoah, Arrogate, California Chrome, Point Given, Sunday Silence and Secretariat, among many others. There’s also the case of horses who have had several starts, and have yet to win, and that’s where our ability as handicappers comes in, to decide when a horse has had enough chances, and doesn’t deserve our wager. Bottom line, prior racing experience is invaluable in maiden races.

A horse who did win first out, and one of my favorites of the last ten years or so, is 2010 Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky. He was such a consistent and versatile runner and won two Eclipse Awards. He’s also the sire of Accelerate, who scored one of the biggest upsets in recent racing history over the weekend, beating five cents on the dollar favorite Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap (Gr. 2) at Del Mar. Lookin At Lucky has just needed that “big horse” to really make it as a stallion, and maybe Accelerate will be it. He also had Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee this year. His foals are much like him: smart, game, versatile, and for $17,500, you’re getting a lot of class for the money.

So, Arrogate got beat, running a pretty flat fourth. He burned almost $2.5 million in bets in the process. Maybe he simply needed the race? It had been four months since he last ran. Either way, the Pacific Classic becomes a lot more interesting now, right? And you know, he may not be crazy about Del Mar, but the Breeders’ Cup is at Del Mar this year, so….stay tuned.

Lady Eli is amazing. She was a Breeders’ Cup winner at 2, and was undefeated through her three-year-old year before contracting laminitis. She recovered, and may be as good as ever, as her race last weekend in the Diana (Gr. 1) at Saratoga showed. Fifth after six furlongs, she made a furious rally past two excellent race mares in the last quarter-mile, and got up to win. More on Lady Eli here, she’s something else

The first two finishers of the opening day feature at Saratoga, the Schuylerville (Gr.3) for two-year-old fillies, ran without Lasix. While more trainers are choosing to run their two-year-olds without Lasix, it’s still much more common to use the medication, so that Schuylerville result is noteworthy. more on Lasix here, but this just scrapes the surface of the topic

Awesome day of racing this Sunday at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. Come for the 50th running of the Haskell, stay for the other four excellent graded stakes races. The Haskell looks like a pretty competitive race, with Belmont runner-up Irish War Cry the 5-2 favorite, and Chad Brown’s undefeated Timeline the 3-1 second choice. It’s a million dollars on the line, and NBC is covering it Sunday. Good stuff.

At Saratoga Saturday, the Preakness winner Cloud Computing takes on the Kentucky Derby champ Always Dreaming in the Jim Dandy Stakes. Who was Jim Dandy you ask? He beat 1930 Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox in that year’s Travers Stakes at odds of 100-1. Neither Cloud Computing or Always Dreaming will be that high of a price, but with both in the race, you should get decent betting value on each. And yes, 6/5 or even money on either of those is decent betting value.

Last thing. I’m mostly a Thoroughbred racing fan, it’s what I was first exposed to when I was getting into horse racing, and the sport I know the most about. Recently though, I’ve really gotten into Quarter Horse racing from Los Alamitos (shout out to a legend in Ed Burgart, who retires in 2018) and harness racing from venues like the Red Mile, the Meadowlands and Hoosier Park. In fact, the $1 million Hambletonian is set for next Saturday at the Meadowlands, and should be a great race. Hambletonian history All of this said because equine athletes are some of the best in the world, and I’m in awe every time I see them run, whatever breed they are. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a day at the track, or gone to a farm, you owe it to yourself, whether you’re a huge racing fan, like betting and drinking or just find being around animals to be time well spent.

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“To get from New York City to Saratoga, you drive north for about 175 miles, turn left on Union Avenue and go back 100 years.” Red Smith, sportswriter and racing fan

Enjoy the racing this weekend, check out the Haskell on NBC Sunday (check local listings, it’s at 5 eastern) and good luck!

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It’s now summer racing time, and that’s a great time of year for racing fans. Saratoga and Del Mar are slices of heaven. One backs up to the Adirondack Mountains in the Capital Region of New York, the other is a solid five-iron shot from the Pacific Ocean. The best trainers, jockeys and horses spend the summer at the two tracks, and life is good. (And, for those in the middle of the country, Ellis Park is a nice summer place to be, too. The Pea Patch is scenic, don’t let anyone say otherwise.)

Arrogate returns this Saturday, his first race since his amazing Dubai World Cup. Remind yourself here of that performance. He broke last, spotted the field eight lengths, and…yeah. Arrogate in Dubai He faces three solid, but ultimately overmatched rivals, and should win the San Diego Handicap (Gr. 2) by many lengths. Breeders’ Cup champ Lady Eli highlights the Diana (Gr. 1) at Saratoga, and looks the class, but her stablemate Antonoe has been on fire lately. Great race. Two-year-colts take the next step in the Sanford (Gr.3) and on Sunday, Abel Tasman and Mike Smith fly in to try for their third straight win together, this time in the Coaching Club American Oaks (Gr. 1). In the San Clemente (Gr. 2) at Del Mar on Sunday, Sircat Sally will try to stay unbeaten, but faces her toughest class test yet. She’s 8/5 on the morning line, and should win, but it’s racing, and you know what that means.

Quick review of graded stakes races from last week: Songbird won the Delaware Handicap, giving away eight pounds to the runner-up and eleven pounds to third place. It wasn’t a “blow them away” type of performance that we’ve gotten used to with Songbird, but she showed a ton of heart and a win is a win. It’s worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. Songbird in Delaware We’ll see her at the end of September against Vale Dori and Stellar Wind in the Zenyatta at Santa Anita, with weights a little more reasonable and all at their home track. Count out Songbird at your own risk.

In the three-year-old colt division, West Coast won pretty comfortably in the Los Al Derby, and will head next to the Travers at the end of August, where he’ll meet, among others, Indiana Derby winner Irap. Like a lot of other people, I had some crow for dinner after Irap won in Indiana by five lengths. He’s an improving, maturing colt, and not that 31-1 maiden who shocked the Blue Grass in April at Keeneland. Say what you want about the competition he’s faced in his last two, but he’s coming into the Travers as well as anyone, and he’s legit. The Travers will be a fun betting race, and may have each winner of this spring’s Triple Crown races, the two-year-old champ, and a host of other nice colts. It’s the Mid-Summer Derby, after all.

Finally, I wanted to tell some stories from my racing history. Racing has been in my blood since, oh, seven or eight years old? Maybe younger? I put together a Kentucky Derby mural for my local library, and I was Steve Cauthen for elementary school career day. (I quickly learned the ideal weight for a jockey is about 120 pounds, and I passed that a while ago)  I would scrawl out letters to Kentucky farms, asking for promotional and marketing items, and man, that was better than Christmas Day when they would come through in the mail. In middle school, my family would go to the Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky while I was on spring break. I met Pay Day, Wayne Lukas there, saw future Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee there. We would go to Keeneland auctions, I had my picture taken in front of world-famous Claiborne Farm for my birthday often, and then eventually my family bought a few mares, and we raised the foals from them. Those foals would grow up, and I worked at the farm they were kept at in Lexington, while I was going to school at UK. I was there when Fusaichi Pegasus lit up the sales board for $4 million, then we met up again when he won the Kentucky Derby, and I bet the money I got for my freshman year books on him. A lot more stories where those came from, but that’s a good start. Enjoy the racing this weekend, and I’ll leave some photos of yours truly from the home of Secretariat.

 

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Fasig Tipton’s July yearling sale in Lexington this week was pretty succesful. The average was up, and number not sold was down. A million dollar Medaglia D’ Oro filly made headlines, but to me the real news was that the middle market for yearlings was solid. One concern I often have with select yearling sales is that the upper end is healthy, but the middle of the market struggles. For a $94,000 average at this sale, you could compete, get a nice horse, and not have to apply for a loan to do it. And taking the million dollar filly out of the equation, the median was $70k, so there were good horses available at manageable price points. Sellers had to feel like they were getting decent returns if they were realistic about what they were offering. The secret is out on Maclean’s Music. The sire of the Preakness winner had five sell for an average of $186,000. Any guesses on his fee next year? More than his $8,500 in 2017, I’d imagine. Pioneerof the Nile’s son Cairo Prince continues to be popular with buyers. His weanlings averaged over $80,000 last fall and the group at Fasig Tipton averaged almost $142,000. He has two in the open portion of Saratoga’s August yearling sale, and nine in the New York-bred sale.

I really enjoyed watching and wagering on Prairie Meadows last weekend. Three graded stakes races, really good fields, and nice coverage by their on track simulcast team. One question though, why didn’t they run the Oaks, Derby and Cornhusker Handicap all on one day? Seems like they could have put together an all stakes pick 4, something like that, to increase handle and visibility. Instead, I was just playing the stakes races each day, and I probably wasn’t the only one.

Where does Arrogate stand at stud when he’s retired? Juddmonte’s Kentucky division doesn’t feel big enough. They have Mizzen Mast, who’s fine in his own right, but he’s there by himself. It would seem like they would want Arrogate at a major operation, to me anyway. Ashford is a possibility, they sold their Pegasus entry to Juddmonte, but that’s just speculating. And would Juddmonte sell the rights to Arrogate? How much would that cost? Would they syndicate him? It’s somewhat unusual because we probably would’ve heard where he was going by this point. Most colts with even a quarter of Arrogate’s resume and ability have their stud plans decided by now, but as of yet, nothing. Stay tuned, I suppose.

Some nice racing is coming up this weekend. Songbird is back, she’s entered in the Delaware Handicap (Gr.1) She’s 1-5 on the morning line, but hey, $2 gets you $2.40 in that market. (We’ll see if that’s what she actually goes off at.)  What’s there to say about her? She’s 12 for 13, the only loss coming by a whisker to a legend in Beholder in a Breeders Cup Distaff for the ages. The goal for Songbird is the BC Distaff again, and that’s shaping up to be another dandy. Stellar Wind, Vale Dori, maybe Unique Bella and Abel Tasman? Wow.

Time for some Indiana homerism. True, I am a Kentucky Wildcat alum, but as a native Hoosier, I’m always happy to talk Indiana racing. Saturday is Indiana’s biggest racing day and Indiana Grand has some great racing lined up, highlighted by the Grade 3, $500,000 Indiana Derby. You have two horses who ran in the Kentucky Derby entered, another graded stakes winner, and some promising colts from leading trainers all set for Saturday night in Shelbyville. Also on the card is the  $300,000 Indiana Oaks, with some quality fillies and there’s four additional stakes on the day. Good stuff.

Los Al has the Los Alamitos Derby (Gr. 3) on Saturday. Del Mar Futurity winner Klimt returns, now trained by Art Sherman, and Bob Baffert sends out West Coast, a colt who could head to the Travers with a good performance here. Still, it’s more than a two-horse race. Jerry Hollendorfer sends out Colonist, John Sadler has Cistron, Doug O’ Neill has three with a shot, and Kimbear is always a threat to land in the top three. It’s the last graded stakes race in California for three-year-olds only until the Malibu in December. Lots of colts with something to prove here, and should be a good betting race.

Chad Brown ran 1-2-3 in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks. The only other instance of one trainer doing that in a Grade 1 that I could think of was Richard Mandella’s trifecta in the 1997 Santa Anita Handicap, and again in the 97 Hollywood Gold Cup. Either way, it’s a pretty amazing accomplishment, and Chad is having quite a year. An Eclipse Award, a Preakness, and still a lot of Grade 1s out there to win, not to mention the Breeders’ Cup, of which he’s won eight races so far.

Del Mar opens on Wednesday! Saratoga in a week! Enjoy!

 

 

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Happy retirement to Maryland’s horse, Ben’s Cat. Ben retired at age eleven with earnings of more than $2.6 million, and won 32 of 63 starts, including 26 STAKES wins. He reminded me of Gravano, a son of Pioneering that my Dad and I bred and raised. Gravano hit the board in 47 of 103 starts. (yeah, 103 starts. And he went out a winner.) Like Ben’s Cat, he was retired to a farm with people who loved on him. Enjoy it Ben.

It’s early, but we’re seeing a few first crop stallions emerging. Violence has been popular at the two-year-old in training sales (averaged close to $140k this spring) and has a nice stakes winner for Steve Asmussen to his credit. Overanalyze has three winners already to his credit, and is represented by 113 foals in this first season. Justin Phillip likewise has three winners so far, and is from the same family as Algorithms, who’s been on a tear of late. And keep an eye on Flat Out . His two-year-olds averaged $89k and he has two nice winners, including a filly who could take the Landaluce Saturday at Santa Anita.

Speaking of young stallions, last week I mentioned that I like using young stallions before they get priced above what I (and other small breeders) can afford. Here, in no particular order, are a few that I like, and think you may be able to afford (because I think the likes of Algorithms and Maclean’s Music may be getting a price increase soon): Girolamo has the pedigree to be a top stallion (AP Indy, and check out that female family).  He was a Grade 1-winning middle distance runner and has three nice black-type winners to his credit. His yearlings have averaged over $42,000 over the last three years, and for $10,000, he’s got a lot to offer. I still am big on Shackleford, and think he’s a value at $15,000. How his yearlings sell this summer will be a big part of where that $15k goes next year. He has Malagacy, a graded stakes winner for Todd Pletcher and getting another graded stakes winner this year will be key. Finally, I liked First Dude on the racetrack, and I like him as a stallion also. He has the nice filly Skye Diamonds for Bill Spawr in California, and had the sales topper ($400,000) at the June OBS two-year-old sale. He’s currently available for $10,000, which is very fair, but I wonder how long til A) his fee goes up? and/or B) he moves to Kentucky? All of that’s down the road though, for right now, if you’re in Florida, have at it.

A really nice weekend of racing coming up gets started with two-year-olds Friday night at Churchill in the grade 3 Bashford Manor. On Saturday, Belmont has the Grade 2 Mother Goose for three-year-old fillies  (Pletcher has three, but Vexatious and Lockdown are nice), Gulfstream has a huge day with two Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races, Monmouth Park has the Grade 1 United Nations going long on the lawn, two graded events at Santa Anita, and then Sunday, the oldest Thoroughbred race in Canada and the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine. Not bad at all, and my usual reminder of, if it’s been a while since you’ve actually gone to the track, you owe it to yourself. It’s my favorite way to spend a day.

19 days til Del Mar, 21 til Saratoga. We’re getting close people.

Equestricon is August 13-15 in Saratoga. What an awesome event, check out the link if you’re not familiar. Hopefully this becomes an annual event, because Saratoga in August is more than enough to visit, but a fan festival and convention there at the same time? We should be so lucky.

It’s always cool to see young trainers getting their due. Joe Sharp is a guy who’s  been pretty successful, but may not be a  household name yet. He will be. He ranks 23rd on the trainer’s earnings list with more than $2.3 million, and saddled Girvin in this year’s Kentucky Derby.

Thanks for reading this week, good luck at the races, enjoy the fireworks and hot dogs on the 4th, and I’ll see you next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I saw an ad recently for a major  Kentucky farm looking for full-time grooms. The starting pay was $10.25/hour, with benefits. That’s not bad for central Kentucky living expenses, and I did what those grooms are going to do, and I got paid in room and board.  It did make me think, though, about how important it is to take care of the people who take care of these horses that we love, analyze, and depend on. Do you know about Anna House? (Anna House info ) It’s a childcare and education program for the backstretch workers at Belmont Park, and is part of the Belmont Child Care Association, a necessary and invaluable resource that, if you have the means and ability, you should think about giving time and money to.

I grew up in Indiana, about a twenty-minute drive south of Indianapolis, admiring  Kentucky breeding and racing three hours to the south. I eventually followed that passion to Lexington, where I went to school and lived for twelve years. This really isn’t a new observation, but over the last eight years or so, Indiana has established itself as an up and coming place to race and breed Thoroughbreds.  Indiana Grand offers competitive purses (Indiana racing as a whole averaged $27, 800 per race in purse money in 2016) and hosts the Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby. In 2016, Indiana was 10th in the US in number of mares bred, ahead of states with more established breeding programs like Texas, Ohio and Illinois. It’s nice to see, especially when I think back to my family foaling and raising Indiana-breds, at a time when there were just not many people doing that.

Tapit is an incredible stallion. He’s had 60 graded stakes winners, 22 grade 1 winners. He’s been the leading North American sire over the last three consecutive years. He stands for $300k, and yearlings have averaged more than twice that over the last three years. He’s a powerhouse. I bring all of this up because while it’s also pretty amazing that he’s had the Belmont winner three of the last four years, I kind of think that’s not that big of a deal. Winning the Belmont means you’re a world-class Thoroughbred, of course, but I also think it’s much more of a test of how far a horse can run, rather than how fast. American racing isn’t built on consistently running a mile and a half, to me it’s about those mile to a mile and an eighth races. So, while it’s a remarkable accomplishment, I’m just not sure it’s a game changer. Still, credit where it’s due.

This time of year REALLY makes me miss Hollywood Park. I mean, I loved it year round, but the spring/summer meet was my favorite. The late Friday night cards, the Gold Cup usually around the 4th of July, it just went hand in hand with summer, at least for me. I would often watch the 6am TVG replay show with Kurt Hoover before I went to work feeding mares and babies and walking yearlings til I needed a new pair of sneaks. Here’s some past photos I took from Hollywood Park (Great memories, and I hit a daily double)

What a performance by Gun Runner in the Stephen Foster. Sure, the field wasn’t jaw dropping, but there were some graded stakes quality horses in there, and Gun Runner breezed past them. The Breeders’ Cup Classic will be fun, round three of Arrogate v. Gun Runner, and I think I read Gun Runner is maybe being considered to run at five? I’d support that.

Thunder Snow, he’s gone back to Europe and shown the potential Godolphin saw in him to bring him to Kentucky for the Derby. He’s run second in the Irish Two Thousand Guineas, and third in the St. James Palace. That first Saturday in May at Churchill, who knows what happened. The saddle may have slipped, he wasn’t feeling it, not sure, but happy for the horse that he’s made up for a very public bad day at the office.

Saturday’s Affirmed Stakes (gr. 3) at Santa Anita is highlighted by Battle of Midway, for Don Alberto and Winstar Farm. He’s a nice colt, and from one of Smart Strike’s last crops. Never off the board in five starts, including a nice third in the Kentucky Derby. He’s using the Affirmed as a prep for the Haskell next month at Monmouth, which should be a fun race to watch and bet on. Battle of Midway looks like the class of the field, though at the right price Term of Art could be interesting.

Nice edition of the Ohio Derby (gr. 3) at Thistledown on Saturday also. You have four horses who ran in the Kentucky Derby and some good local horses lining up for $500,000. Girvin, Irap and Untrapped look the class of the race, but I wouldn’t blame you if you had a few across the board on Hinton, a son of Candy Ride who steps up in class for Thomas Drury and John McKee.

Thanks for reading, enjoy the racing this weekend, take care of your horses and the people that take care of them, and I’ll see you next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on by shepracing | 3 Comments

I thought a recent commentary by Ray Paulick was interesting. Here’s a link if you haven’t read it yet: “The Race to the Breeding Shed”. I understand what Mr. Paulick is getting at, and I too would love to see Kentucky Derby winners running at four, five or even six (could you imagine?!), but I also understand the demand for young stallions, and in fact, advocate  for them when advising clients. For owners and agents, it’s get in before the stallion becomes too expensive. Buying low, basically. By the time the stallion’s proven, you’ve been priced out. It’s the same for breeders too. Using Uncle Mo as an example, as recently as 2015, you were paying $25,000 for your mare to visit him. In 2017, SIX times that, for a fee of $150,000. A first crop yearling from Uncle Mo averaged around $109,000 in 2014. An Uncle Mo yearling in 2017? We’ll see, but I’d wager you may be paying double that. Uncle Mo, Pioneerofthe Nile and Bodemeister have less than five crops to race, and Curlin and Into Mischief  have six. Those are all stallions in the top 15 of  The Blood-Horse’s Average Earnings Index list ((AEI). Long story short, absolutely, it’s awesome to see Kentucky Derby winners continue on. California Chrome’s Pacific Classic is still one of the most impressive races I’ve seen. But there’s demand for their foals, and if you want nice older horses, I’d direct you to the Pegasus World Cup, the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Dubai World Cup.

Along those same lines, what’s reasonable to expect from two-year-olds in training purchases? I went back and looked at each 2yo and 3yo Eclipse winner since 2005. Two-year-old auction purchases that took home the Eclipse were Nyquist, Lookin At Lucky and Stevie Wonderboy. Three-year-old champs were I’ll Have Another, Lookin At Lucky, Big Brown and Afleet Alex. So, the talent was there. Longetivity, not as much. None raced as four-year-olds, and only Lookin at Lucky made it to the Breeders Cup as a three-year-old. I’m not knocking the two-year-old sales, I think they are excellent for picking  precocious runners, and with maiden races in New York with purses at $100,000, the motive is there. But keeping them in training for longer than say, fifteen months following the auction, seems to be a challenge. Maybe you just keep the horse healthy and training well, win some nice 2yo, early 3yo races, and call it a win.

As long as I’ve been interested in racing, it’s been a global sport. I remember when I think ABC ( Maybe NBC? we’re talking like mid-90s) would carry the Arc de Triomphe live in the US, early in the morning in October. Then there was the Dubai World Cup, and certainly any mention of American breeding has to include Darley/Godolphin and Coolmore. American breeding has been active in Australia for a while; American Pharoah will soon be shuttling there and California Chrome is going to Chile.  At Ascot, we’ve had Tepin (What a race!) , a runner-up placing from Verrazano in 2014’s Queen Anne, and this year’s contingent looks pretty solid, with American Partriot, Long on Value, Miss Temple City (this is her year!) and La Coronel. On top of all of that, there’s the recent live simulcast of the Belmont in Japan, with Japanese wagering, along with the extension of the $1 million bonus for any Japanese horse that wins the Belmont Stakes.

Gun Runner returns at Churchill Saturday in the Stephen Foster (gr. 1) Kudos to Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen and team, they really have a good one on their hands. Off the board only twice in fourteen starts, he’s been in really good form at least since last November’s Clark at Churchill. He followed that up with a win in the Razorback (gr. 3) at Oaklawn, and a runner-up to Arrogate in Dubai. He shows up everytime, and it will be fun to follow him this summer and fall.

NBA and racing fans, follow me on this one: is Richard Mandella racing’s Gregg Popovich? Both in terms of personality and the way they manage their teams? The Spurs lose Tim Duncan, Pop responds with Kawhi Leonard. Mandella loses Beholder, he comes back with Bal a Bali and Paradise Woods. Point is, both have been consistent winners with established programs and when the money’s on the line, even if they’re going against maybe flashier or more talented rivals, are you going to count them out?

Saturday’s Summertime Oaks (gr. 2) at Santa Anita looks like a nice betting race. Two fillies from the Baffert barn, and the promising It Tiz Well, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, look like the headliners. Noted and Quoted is the morning line favorite at 3/1, and there’s good value across the board. Also Saturday at Santa Anita, the undefeated Sircat Sally looks for her seventh win in a row in the Honeymoon Stakes (gr. 2). Mike Smith rides, Hollendorfer trains, she’s 3/5 morning line. She could be a star in the making (maybe she already is?)

That’ll have to do it for this week. Enjoy the weekend; the Stephen Foster and a few undercard events will be on NBCSN Saturday night. Thanks for reading, I’ll talk to you next week.

 

 

 

 

Posted on by shepracing | 2 Comments

Secret Circle

Current economics of Thoroughbred racing are pretty interesting. For less than a $7,500 stud fee, breeders have many solid stallion choices in Kentucky alone. Pedigrees, race records, proven sires and promising young stallions are all available in that range. A horse I really like, at a $5,000 fee, is Secret Circle. He was a gutsy, fast, consistent racehorse, who won over $3.6 million and was off the board ONCE in 16 starts. He was a stakes winner at 2,3,4, and 6, including two Breeders Cup wins, and a runner-up finish in another Breeders Cup. His pedigree has produced several Grade 1 winners and is especially proficient in win early types, and crosses well with many of today’s leading broodmare sire lines.

At two Secret Circle was undefeated, highlighted by a win in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Sprint.  At three he showed ability to stretch to two turns, winning the Rebel at Oaklawn  and finishing 2nd to Bodemeister in the Arkansas Derby. After a layoff, he returned to win the  2013 Breeders Cup Sprint, ran a game 2nd in the 2014 Sprint to that year’s Eclipse Award sprinter, and was runner-up to Private Zone in the Cigar Mile. Secret Circle capped his career with a win in the Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan, beating Grade 1 winners Rich Tapestry, Big Macher and Salutos Amigos.

Secret Circle is the leading money winner by Grade 1 winner Eddington, a son of Unbridled, and comes from a stakes winning Dixieland Band mare. The cross of Unbridled with Dixieland Band mares has produced graded stakes winners Cotton Blossom, Eight Belles and Sindy with an S, and further in the pedigree, when considering Mr. Prospector over Dixieland Band, you will find Breeders Cup Juvenile winners Street Sense and New Year’s Day.

Storm Cat line mares look to cross well with Secret Circle, as Eddington has produced stakes winners Let Her Dance and Gadsden Purchase from that line. Mares from the direct Mr. Prospector line, like daughters of Smart Strike, Seeking the Gold, Fusiaichi Pegasus and Pioneering  have found success with Eddington, and other sons/grandsons of Unbridled. Polish Numbers mares have produced well in this cross and building on the Unbridled/Dixieland Band proven success, Secret Circle looks to cross well with mares from Dixieland Band and his sons/grandsons.

Secret Circle’s first foals arrive this year. He covered 63 mares in 2016, with three selling at auction for a $27, 400 average, including a mare out of Hall of Famer Silverbulletday who fetched $75, 000 from Woods Edge Farm.

I think if you’re looking for a stallion who has a lot of upside, Secret Circle has to be one to consider. He retired sound, was a consistent racehorse who won from distances of six furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth, competed at the top of his division and comes from a win early family with proven stakes quality that crosses well with many of the leading families. As Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes said after his Breeders Cup win, “he’s a big, strong, resilient horse.”

 

 

 

 

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Oxbow profile

I think Preakness Stakes winners make good sires, and recently, that’s been proven correct, with Bernardini, Curlin, Lookin at Lucky and Shackleford having success after winning the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. It’s also why, among many other reasons, I like American Pharoah and Exagerrator as they begin their stallion careers.

I’d like to talk about a Preakness winner who I think will have a nice first crop this year, 2013 champ Oxbow. He’s by leading sire Awesome Again, from the same cross as Haskell winner (and fellow Belmont Stakes runner-up) Paynter, and a full brother to stakes winner Awesome Patriot. Oxbow’s dam, the unraced Cee’s Tizzy mare Tizamazing, is a full sister to Horse of the Year Tiznow and was a $1 million Keeneland September yearling.

A $250,000 yearling, Oxbow broke his maiden at Churchill Downs in November 2012 for Hall of Famer Wayne Lukas. He won the Grade 3 LeComte at Fair Grounds, was the runner-up in the Gr. 2 Rebel to stablemate Will Take Charge, then was a decent fifth in the Kentucky Derby. His Preakness win came over Kentucky Derby winner Orb and two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Goldencents, in a time faster than American Pharoah. Oxbow followed up his Preakness win with a solid runner-up effort in the Belmont to Palace Malice, and was retired in the fall of 2013 after a fourth in the Grade 1 Haskell.

At auction in 2016, Oxbow had 27 yearlings sold, for an average of $101,000, more than five times his 2017 fee of $20,000, and ranking him as the third highest average for first crop studs. Oxbow begins the year with a pair of promising two-year-olds at the Fasig Tipton Florida Sale in March.

Like his sire, mares from the Mr. Prospector line appear to cross well with Oxbow, specifically mares from Unbridled’s Song. Holy Bull line mares look to cross well, including Giacomo and Macho Uno. The cross of Tiznow mares with Oxbow looks very promising also.

I’m pretty bullish on Oxbow. He was a solid two-turn runner, competitive in each Triple Crown race, comes from an excellent classics family, and his progeny have been very popular so far in the sales ring. Breeders can expect runners who can win early, who can get classic distances, and will reward you if you sell at auction. I think he’s going to be right there for first-crop sire honors at the end of the year. He’s a great value right now for a $20,000 breeding fee, I’d get in before that number goes up.

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