Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday morning bloodstock agent, Part 1: The Steals

Most of you have heard of playing "Monday morning quarterback."

Consider this to be a game of "Tuesday morning bloodstock agent."

Keeneland's annual 2-year-old in training sale went off on Monday, and showed some "positive signs" for the breeding and sales industry. Gross revenues were up 1.8 percent and the median price a stout 14.9 percent. The buy-back rate declined from 43.6 percent in 2009 to 36.6 percent on Monday. And while the average sales price for 2010 was 5.4 percent lower than 2009, it could be worse -- and last year, it was, as the 2009 sale showed a 15.5 percent plummet in average price vs. 2008.

So who were the winners and losers at Keeneland on Monday? We won't know until these babies race later this year. Or next year. And hopefully for several years. But maybe never.

In the meantime, I'm going to give a quick rundown of my thoughts on the sale, via lists of steals, the surreal and potential second-chance deals.

First, The Steals (in order of Hip No.):

Hip 17: Bay colt by Silver Deputy-Flower Canyon, by Gulch. This fellow isn't from a big, immediate blacktype family. But his dam was a winner at 2, has produced seven foals, six to race, and five winners, and of those winners, three are full siblings to this one who have combined to win 10 races and earn more than $175,000. Thus, family history suggests this colt, who posted a respectable 10 2/5 eighth of a mile in the under tack show, should race and should win, somewhere. And that makes the paltry $10,000 paid by purchaser Connie Apostelos look a lot like stealing in my book.

Hip 60: Bay filly by Empire Maker-Maid Guinevere, by Gilded Time. Well, Ms. Apostelos made off with another one here, this time paying just $15,000 for a filly whose sire stands for a $50K fee in 2010. The dam, Maid Guinevere, wasn't a blacktype horse, but did win four times as a 3-year-old and earned $172,046, good earnings by anyone's standards. She's also half-sister to a whopping 16 other winners including Grade 3 winner MASS MARKET, graded-placed Alberta Clipper and Carson Creek, and blacktype producers Dear Morgana (who earned $110K herself) and Tales of Camelot (unraced). Third dam Brave and Free (by Warfare) produced IRON PEGASUS (25 wins), CLASSIC TOLI (17 wins), Big Richie (13 wins), and Mouse That Roared (seven wins). ... That's a lot of running and winning on the page of a filly who sold for $120,000 less than the sale's median price. The only knock I can make without seeing her in the flesh is that her 23 2/5-second quarter-mile is on the slow side.

Hip 93: Dark bay or brown colt by Roman Ruler-Pretty Flame, by Mt. Livermore. If anybody who saw this one on the hoof can e-mail me and let me know what's wrong with him, I'd appreciate it. Otherwise, I'll never know how John F. Haran bought him for $20,000. ... Is he by a cheap or ineffective sire? No, Roman Ruler stands for $20K -- the same price as this son brought at the sale -- and was the No. 2 freshman sire of 2009 nationally thanks to offspring like G1 winner HOMEBOYKRIS and G3 winner and potential 2010 Kentucky Derby horse RULE. ... Maybe there isn't much female family? But yes, there is; dam Pretty Flame has produced seven winners from 13 foals (nine to race), and an impressive six of those winners are at least stakes-placed. Two are stakes winners including CLAMOROSA, who won the G3 River Cities Breeders' Cup Stakes. ... Was the colt slow in his drill? Not unless you consider 10.1 to be a bit pedestrian for an eighth, which of course it isn't.

Hip 94: Dark bay or brown colt by Songandaprayer-Prima Neenya, by Spend a Buck. Not a ton of immediate blacktype on the page and I don't much like the 11-second lick for an eighth, but he wasn't being flogged to run faster and still unable to perform; he just ran what he ran. His dam was a winner and stakes-placed at 2 and 3 for more than $100K and has produced four winners from six registered foals. And his sire stands for $20,000 a pop, producing (through the end of 2009) 48 percent winners from all foals. A good, inexpensive gamble by agent Gerry O'Meara for $10,000.

Hip 100: Dark bay or brown filly by Medaglia d'Oro-Quite a Rapper, by Dixieland Band. A man of my modest means has to swallow hard before declaring a $75,000 horse a "steal," but buyer G. Watts Humphrey Jr.'s purchase has that kind of potential. Start with her being sired by $100,000 stud Medaglia d'Oro, whose daughters from just three crops of racing age already include Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, Acorn S.-G1 winner Gabby's Golden Gal, and Arlington-Washington Lassie S.-G3 winner C.S. Silk. Toss in a dam who was unraced, but has produced two stakes winners and a stakes-placer already and is from the family of 10 graded-stakes winners including multiple-champion ASHADO, and the pedigree looks good. Her 22 1/5 quarter wasn't atrocious, either, and she sold for about half the sale's average price per horse. So it isn't unreasonable to say that that this filly was a bargain.

Hip 113: Dark bay or brown colt by More Than Ready-Sister Swank, by Skip Away.... Wow, how crooked or seemingly flawed must this fellow be? Otherwise, I have no means of explaining his $10,000 purchase by Highfield Bloodstock. His sire stands for $30,000 and through 2009 in North America has produced 52 percent winners and 7 percent stakes winners. This colt is the first foal out of a G3 winner of $389,989 who was half to a pair of additional stakes winners and whose dam was stakes-placed and produced nine winners from 11 foals. And it's hard to quarrel much with his 21 4/5 quarter time. ... Leaves me wondering what was not to like.

Hip 128: Chestnut colt by Lion Heart-Turtle Creek, by Sky Classic. The first of two Hips in a row to be bought cheap by Robin Parks, this one sold for $17,000. His dam was unraced and his only racing-age sibling hasn't started. But his second dam, Ayanka (Jade Hunter), was a stakes winner with eight victories from ages 2 to 5, who produced five winners including G1-placed Shooting Party, who is a full sister to the dam here, Turtle Creek. The sales colt looks to be stout in the body and his 10.2 lick for an eighth wasn't at all bad. A fair gamble.

Hip 129: Gray or roan colt by Rockport Harbor-Unchained Princess, by Clever Trick. I'd usually avoid first-crop sires in a "bargain" list, because there's no way to know what their progeny will do when they reach the track. In this case, the dam's side of the pedigree was so strong -- and the prices that other Rockport Harbors have been bringing are so high (average colt more than $98,000) -- that I think Robin Parks might have made out like a bandit at $13,000. The colt's dam was only a modest winner of about $20K, but did win at age 2. Much more important, she has produced a dozen foals of racing age, 11 to race, and 10 of them winners, including Meadowlands stakes winner UNCHAINED STORM, stakes-placers Valid Miss Chain ($156,315) and Sweep Princess ($156,240) and $100K-earner Tiger On The Loose. All that work from three different sirelines, so she's just a producer, plain and simple. The dam here is half-sister to a stakes winner of 19 total victories in MAJESTIC EMPIRE, too. For now, and for $13K, I'll forgive the fact that this colt's 22 4/5 quarter was far from brisk and that the rider had to crack him a few times to get him to go even that fast. From the video he looks like a loper with a big stride who isn't likely to do his winning at short distances anyway.

Hip 141: Dark bay or brown filly by More Than Ready-York Woods, by Mining. Another More Than Ready on the list, and another -- bought at $40,000 by Oak Bluff Stable -- whose price is lofty by "everyman" standards. But her dam was a 2-year-old winner who has already produced nine winners from 12 foals of racing age, including three-time G2 winner MIDDLESEX DRIVE (Pine Bluff), stakes-placed Specific (Monarchos) and stakes-producing winner Holy Forest (Demons Begone). The filly ran a 10.2 eighth-mile, and from the video I thought she looked pretty fair in doing it.

Hip 144: Bay colt born in Ireland, by Bluegrass Cat-Alcina, by Kingmambo. Personally, I might rather see a turf-raced sire bred to this mare, but there is dirt performance in the female family, as well. The dam was only placed at 2, but is a half-sister to four-time stakes winner CAMELLA (Housebuster) and stakes winner (of 11 total victories) STONE CANYON (Mt. Livermore), both of whom were G3-placed. Half-brother Mamalik (Diesis) was Group 1-placed in France. Their dam, Have It Out (Roberto) was also a stakes-placer, as was her dam, Quarrel Over (One for All). Quarrel Over was half-sister to LETS DONT FIGHT, FUZZY (G3, sire), FIGHT OVER (G3, sire) and WISE COUNSELLOR (G3, sire). Quarrel Over also produced G2 winner SUIVI, who was the dam of three blacktype foals including stakes winner SUFFRAGETTE, and Suivi's half-sister, Timely Quarrel, was the dam of G3 winner MR. NIGHTLINGER (10 wins, $644,355). The colt's 10.2 eighth is at least an average time, and the price of $20,000 paid by Barry Arnason is less than 15 percent of the sales average, so it sounds like a deal to me.

Hip 179: Bay filly by Pulpit-Divine Lady, by Kris S. Last to sell on the day, for $30,000 to Fred W. Hetrich III, this filly only ran a 10 4/5 eighth, but didn't look like she was trying all that hard to do it anyway. Her dam didn't win until she was 4, and her one foal of racing age has started, but done nothing of note yet. But the dam is a half-sister to G1 winner and multiple Gulfstream record-setter BANDINI (who didn't start until age 3) and to stakes-placed My Mammy (who did manage to win at 2). Their dam, Divine Dixie, was stakes-placed herself. The blacktype gets better under the third dam, Santa Anita Oaks-G1 winner Hail Atlantis (Seattle Slew). She produced both STORMY ATLANTIC and MR. KATOWICE, and was the granddam of G2 winners ATLANDO (IRE) and INCANTO DREAM, French-raced stakes winner STERN OPINION, and of DR ARBATACH, champion imported sprinter and older horse in Puerto Rico, who won 30 races and more than $301,000 in that lesser jurisdiction. I'd have to say Mr. Hetrich made a decent gamble in buying this filly for half her sire's current $60,000 stud fee.

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