Newsletter (July 14, 2017)

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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Newsletter (June 30, 2017)

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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Newsletter (June 23, 2017)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Newsletter (June 16, 2017)

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.

 

 

 

 

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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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Alchemy

Happy Breeders’ Cup Saturday. I’m going to let you in on a secret. Use it if you like, if not that’s fine too, that’s what makes racing fun. Having said that,  the combination of Mr. Prospector sire line runners, trained by Bob Baffert is a proven cross for winning big races. It’s resulted in a Triple Crown winner, multiple Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Travers Stakes,  Haskell Invitational and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champions.

You could say this is simply a result of Baffert being a Hall of Fame trainer, and Mr. Prospector being the best stallion of at least his generation. This certainly says as much. I think it’s a perfect storm of timing, training style and conformational qualities that have made Baffert with Mr. Prospector a perfect partnership.

Let me give you a list of horses this idea applies to: Real Quiet, Point Given, War Emblem, Pioneerof the Nile, American Pharoah, Bodemeister, Secret Circle, Klimt, Lookin at Lucky, Roman Ruler, Coil, New Years Day, Midnight Lute, Shakin It Up, Midshipman, Bob and John, Souvenir Copy. And of course, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic today, Arrogate and Hoppertunity.

Some history: the late 1990’s were Baffert’s rise to prominence, winning two straight Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and winning the training Eclipse Award in 1997, 98, 99. Mr. Prospector set his standard in the 1980s and 90s, with Gulch, Forty Niner, Seeking the Gold, Gone West, Conquistador Cielo and many others, and capping his career with  Fusaichi Pegasus’ win in the 2000 Kentucky Derby. As the bloodline became wider, and more sons and grandsons became breeding stallions, Baffert utilized the speed and conformational qualities of these runners like a basketball coach with a team full of players that fit his program perfectly.

Mr. Prospector threw horses with an engine, also known as powerful hindquarters, reminiscent of Quarter Horses. Here’s the best example of this  They were able to break from the gate quickly, control the pace, and then rely on their stamina to pull ahead and win the race.

Have I tipped my hand too much on who I’ll be betting on today? Of course, this is what makes racing the great sport it is, the my horse is better than your horse argument. Enjoy Breeders’ Cup Saturday, good luck to all, but just remember who tipped you on that son of Unbridled’s Song. 

 

 

 

 

 

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