Thursday, September 30, 2010

Another daily double, sales-tip style

Two more members of this blog's juvenile sales-tip class of 2010 broke maiden on Thursday, both by open lengths, one of them in "dominating" fashion, winning at Hoosier Park "by a pole."

Soldier's Tune, a maiden-claiming winner at Calder Thursday afternoon, and Category Killer, victor the same evening in Indiana by a murderous margin, become the 31st and 32nd to break maiden among my 187 selections from several of this spring's juvenile sales.

Both horses had been near-winners at their same levels and tracks in prior starts.

Soldier's Tune debuted July 1 at the maiden-claiming $32,000 level at Calder and was only beaten a head. Stepped up to MCL $40K, he finished fourth, then back at $32,000 on Sept. 4, he finished second behind a fellow Class of 2010 selection, Just Chillin Boss.

On Thursday, ridden by Juan Leyva, Soldier's Tune was sent away as the roughly 5/2 favorite off a 6/1 morning line. A debuting, 39/1 long-shot, Chagu Mio, broke first (and would eventually finish second), but Soldier's Tune was a head in front within the first three-sixteenths and at the half, and progressively drew off. Chagu Mio clung to the place, four lengths behind the winner and just a head and a nose in front of Kitten's Caregiver (3.8/1) and 47/1 first-timer Jim's Decision.

Soldier's Tune set fractions of 22.66 and 47.15 on his way to covering five furlongs over fast dirt in 1:00.36. He was conditioned for the win by Richard Root for owner Joseph W. Raffa.

He was bred in Florida by Louie Rogers and David McKathan.

I recommended the gray or roan son of Concorde's Tune-Jessica Bush, by Lost Soldier as Hip 1182 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. April auction of 2-year-olds in training. (Curiously, he was catalogued as a gelding and the Equibase chart for his victory labels him a colt; that's an equipment change not usually as readily reversed as "blinkers off.")

Joe Arboritanza, as agent for Mr. Raffa, purchased the horse for $28,000 at OBSAPR. Soldier's Tune now has a win and two seconds from four starts for $19,578.

Arboritanza and Raffa no doubt didn't read this blog, but if they had, it turns out they'd have bought almost exactly what I led them to expect.

"Want a racehorse ... right away? And probably cheap?" I wrote at the time. "This FL-bred should be close to the track and they did you a favor by gelding him already so you don't have to bear that cost (and wait), and he can focus on his job from the get-go."

The horse, I noted, "breezed a credible 47-flat for four furlongs, one of very few to work that distance, and did it well within himself." The sire, I note, "is unheralded, but gets 81 percent starters and 64 percent winners from all foals. He even gets 5 percent stakes winners, which is fair by today's standards."

The dam won at 2, her first foal broke maiden at 2 and has won again at 3, and second dam Oh My Jessica Pie won 10 of 17 at ages 2 and 3, was a stakes winner both years (G3 as a sophomore) and earned $403K. She produced a stakes winner in OH MY BUTTERFLY and an 11-race winner of $161K from 56 starts in Darn That Buck.

"Buy and perhaps go racing ... now," I predicted.

Soldier's Tune was in the starting gate by July 1, and a winner before September's end.

(As an addendum, I'd like to see Soldier's Tune try sprinting on grass. His sire is a grandson of Super Concorde, champion 2-year-old in France. His dam is by the recently deceased Lost Soldier, a Danzig son and a crossover performer with a Grade 3 win on turf, who not only sired champion dirt sprinter Lost in the Fog, but also millionaire turf horse Soldier's Dancer.)

While his classmate took four starts to break maiden, Category Killer required only two. But, like Soldier's Tune, he also was denied a win along the way by another sales pick of mine when Pulgarcito won their mutual debut at Hoosier by more than three lengths on Aug. 18. Category Killer was a clear second that night.

On Thursday, there was no fellow sales-tip to deny him, and no denying that Category Killer was much the best in the race. The winner dueled long-shot leader Biscotto for the opening half-mile, was five lengths ahead of the field at the top of the stretch, and just kept widening.

The son of Officer (a sire just banished this week to Korea) out of the Phone Trick mare, Dial a Trick, was bred in Kentucky by Gulf Coast Farms LLC. He was trained by Tom Amoss for Klaravich Stables Inc. and W.H. Lawrence, and ridden to victory by Leandro Goncalves. Final time for six furlongs over the fast dirt strip was 1:11.2. (View the video here courtesy of

I recommended Category Killer from that same Ocala April sale, where he was sold for $70,000 as Hip 957. At the time, he seemed to me one of the surer bets on the sales-tip list.

"Dam didn't race, but has six winners from eight of racing age, and some pretty good ones," I wrote.

I took note that Category Killer is half-brother to EYE OF THE TIGER (Washington Park H.-G2, etc., $535,679), WILDWOOD FLOWER (G2-placed), and juvenile stakes-placer Expanse, who since became the dam of Travers S.-G1 winner AFLEET EXPRESS and was already credited with foaling MAXXAM Gold Cup winner and Illinois Derby-G2-placed REPORTING FOR DUTY. This is the near-female-family of several other stakes winners, including Illinois Derby-winner and Preakness-placed SWEETNORTHERNSAINT.

Category Killer helped make his own case with a gusty 9 4/5 breeze, then continued to work sharply for months leading up to his debut. I was shocked when Pulgarcito took him gate-to-wire in their first-outs, but by the top of the stretch this time, it was a one-horse race.

When he sold for $70,000, I noted it was "often tough to say about a horse who brought more than double the sale average price, but this dollar-figure might prove a bargain."

It hasn't yet, with a win and a place for $28,000. But Category Killer looks like a horse who could move forward from here into some headier company.

As noted above, Thursdays wins bring the sales-tip class to 32 maiden-breakers from 187 recommended horses, or 17.1 percent of the class. With 89 of the class having made at least one start, the dual victors mean that 36 percent of all sales-tip runners are now winners.

The class as a whole has won 40 of 222 starts (18 percent), placed another 41 times (36.5 percent in the exacta) and added 21 third-place finishes (an in-the-money rate of 46 percent). They have earned a combined $1,296,375, for $5,839.52 per start.

The group includes eight stakes horses, five of them graded-placed.

Track the unfolding careers of my sales picks, and a few pans, at the bottom of this former post.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Good evening, Officer

I can't say the sensation is nearly the same as learning about the death of Real Quiet, but I felt a sense of loss Wednesday when I read that American stallion Officer was the latest to be sold off to Korean interests.

Taylor Made Stallions of Nicholasville, Ky., announced the sale Wednesday.

"I think the Koreans got a great horse at a great price," said Ben Taylor, vice president of Taylor Made Stallions Inc.

I concur. Which is why it's so hard to see this one go.

The son of Bertrando joins a growing roster of North American studs who now are the property of the Korean Racing Authority: Peace Rules; Exploit; Commendable; Volponi; Yankee Victor; Menifee; Vicar; Forest Camp; Pico Central; Hawk Wing; and One Cool Cat.

In my opinion, none of those approach Officer in the magnitude of their loss to the American market.

Officer was a solid value among U.S. stallions. Standing this year for $10,000, he has gotten 20 stakes winners, four of them graded winners, from five crops of racing age. His 2-year-olds run and win, with nearly half of them having started as juveniles and more than one in five breaking their maidens -- including 83 current babies who haven't had a full season yet for adding to those numbers.

His son, Boys at Tosconova, is one of the elite 2-year-olds of 2010.

I'm an advocate of adding stamina to the breed, and Officer undoubtedly is not the poster boy for that cause; his get have an average winning distance of 6.25 furlongs. A brilliant juvenile himself who retired hurt early at 3, he isn't exactly a source of sturdiness, either. And Officer's average progeny earnings of $50,869 aren't stellar and his 1.40 Average Earnings Index vs. a Comparable Index of 1.52 for his mares suggests that he hasn't done quite as well with those mares as have other stallions to which they were bred.

But what's good for the market, and for the breed, goes deeper than such numbers.

Officer is by Bertrando, a son of Skywalker, from the Relaunch branch of the In Reality line. He's one of a relative few remaining American stallions who can claim they hail directly from the line of the great Man O' War. He's from an excellent broodmare-sire line, that of Relaunch. And he's not only an outcross for the Mr. Prospector line, he also carries just one strain of Northern Dancer (who appears in the sixth generation of his pedigree); those being the two predominant sires appearing in American pedigrees these days.

Fostering genetic diversity is key to the long-term strength of the breed. The aforementioned 11 other sires purchased by the KRA over the past few years include four from the Mr. Prospector line (Peace Rules, Commendable, Volponi, Hawk Wing) and another three from the Storm Cat branch of Northern Dancer's line (Exploit, Menifee, One Cool Cat). Thus, to its credit, the KRA has also acquired the services of several stallions offering the diversity any market needs: Yankee Victor (Hail to Reason and Halo via Saint Ballado); Vicar (Wild Again); Forest Camp (Deputy Minister); and Pico Central (Buckpasser via his grandson Spend a Buck). Three of those sires -- Yankee Victor, Vicar and Forest Camp -- are from lines that still retain some strength in the States. But the Buckpasser line is vaporizing.

Relaunch's line does still have its strong points in America. The highly successful (on the track and at stud) Tiznow is the marquee descendant, with his sire, Cee's Tizzy ($6,000 in California), and others such as Honour and Glory ($6,500 in Pennsylvania) and Bright Launch (just $1,500 in Kentucky) doing commendable work considering their opportunities.

But Officer was by far the best of only a trio of sons at stud by Relaunch's son Bertrando. And, presented mares who were sound, should have served long and well on the U.S. beat.

From the looks of things, the Koreans have a grasp of why diversity is of value in a stallion roster, and they systematically pursue that goal.

Taylor Made has a number of additional, noteworthy stallions held in joint venture with WinStar Farm. And it lost a promising son of A.P. Indy in Master Command, who reared, fell and was mortally injured prior to breeding a mare in April.

But with the remainder of the roster on the Taylor Made property presently including the unsound 2011 freshman sire Eskendereya (Storm Cat via Giant's Causeway), Forestry (Storm Cat), Northern Afleet (Mr. Prospector via Afleet), the unsound 2010 freshman Old Fashioned (distant Mr. Prospector via Unbridled's Song), and the oft-alleged chief source of American unsoundness himself, Unbridled's Song, both Taylor Made and the U.S. market would have been well-served to have kept this Officer on the force.

Concertos Pride collects second 'W' in P.R.

Stalking the pace set by Humorus Girl and taking over decisively in mid-stretch, 2010 sales-tip Concertos Pride scored her second lifetime victory in six starts at Hipodromo Camarero in Puerto Rico Monday, by a margin of four and a half lengths.

Apprentice rider Edwin Gonzalez patiently bided his time aboard the winner before pouncing on the tiring leader, who had set honest early fractions of 23.80, 47.10 and 1:12.65 in the seven furlong race for $24,000 claimers. The final eighth was loped in a leisurely 14.39.

Concertos Pride is conditioned by Raul Perez for owners Establo Rio Canas. She was bred in Florida by Ocala Stud. On Monday, she was sent off at 1/2 odds in the $24,000 claimer, and allowed bettors to breathe easy by the sixteenth-pole as such a heavy favorite should.

With the win, Concertos Pride has earned $15,250 from two wins and two second-place finishes in six starts.

Concertos Pride (Concerto-Epistolary, by Deputy Minister) was purchased for just $5,000 as Hip 1003 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. April auction of 2-year-olds in training. I selected her as a prospect because, though her dam was never a winner, she was a daughter of an excellent broodmare sire in Deputy Minister. And, she'd already produced nine winners from 13 foals, including four stakes horses by four different sires: G3-placed TEXTURIZER (On to Glory); G2-placed Deputy Lad (Mecke), who had 11 wins and earned $278,367; eight-time winner Valid Chance (Valid Appeal); and Epistola (Buckaroo). Epistolary also bore a winner of over $100,000 by Forest Wildcat, a multiple winner of $97K by Robyn Dancer, and a multiple-race-winners by Pentelicus and Notebook.

One sign of a good broodmare is her ability to do solid work with almost any sire, and Epistolary absolutely has proven herself in that regard. Why Concertos Pride sold so cheaply, I'll likely never be sure. Her breeze of 22.2 was slower than many at the sale, but hardly a bad quarter for an early 2-year-old. And I predicted that, based on pedigree, she'd likely be better with age and distance, yet she's already won twice at 2.

It might "just" be at Camarero, but had she stayed in the States, I'm sure a buyer could have spent a lot more to get a lot worse.

With her victory, Concertos Pride pushes the combined record of my 187 sales-tips of 2010 to 38 wins from 220 starts; a strike rate of 17.3 percent. They have won or placed 100 times from those outings, an in-the-money rate of 45.5 percent. Their earnings have reached a combined $1,263,475, which averages $5,743 per start.

Track the class in its entirety in the list at the bottom of this former post.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dear Jess Jackson: WTF?

I really don't need to write all that much on the sudden retirement of Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. The headline here pretty much sums up my thoughts.

Owner Jess Jackson mentions no injury in his retirement announcement for the filly. He just says she isn't quite the same horse now that she was a year ago, and it's time for her to lead a "less stressful" life.

OK, so she wasn't dominant at 4 like she was at 3. She still was never worse than second in a race this year and tried her guts out every time, just like always.

Only yesterday, Rachel Alexandra fired a bullet work on the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga; 48 and change. What in the world was that work about if Jackson was thinking of shelving the filly forever? Just to prove she could still breeze 48 and change?

If the multimillion-dollar filly was 24 hours away from even possible retirement, why was her health and welfare risked by so much as a breeze?

It doesn't make sense.

It's frustrating, because I wanted to see Rachel Alexandra at the Breeders' Cup this year.

Did she fit in the Classic? Oh, hell no. Not at 10 furlongs. Not vying for the lead with Quality Road and getting overhauled at the end by the more likely winners Zenyatta and Blame -- maybe even getting passed by Fly Down, who is coming into his own and would love the pace those two set.

Did she fit in the Distaff? (Please don't make me call it "Ladies Classic.") ... Far more likely. But I'm willing to speculate right now that Jackson decided he didn't want to risk seeing her beaten by Blind Luck. Or Devil May Care. Or both.

I tweeted recently that I'd actually like to see Rachel Alexandra go against males again at the Breeders' Cup. Rachel Alexandra's early speed and doubtless guts could be a blast to watch in the dirt mile, or the Breeders' Cup Sprint, win or lose. And losing to males would be less embarrassing than if she loses (again) to a foe of her own gender.

Nope. Like the neighborhood kid who owns the football and whose mom always seems to call him home for dinner early, it's "game over" for the rest of us, too.

Even if there should have been at least one more play run before this contest really was over.

A moment of silence for Real Quiet

The news came as a shock this morning, as it usually does for me when a stallion dies before the age of 20 or so.

Real Quiet -- who in 1998 came closer to a Triple Crown than any horse since Affirmed last did it in 1978 -- died peacefully in his stall this week at Penn Ridge Farm near Harrisburg, Pa. He was only 15.

To me, Real Quiet was always a source of inspiration that the little guy, be he equine or human, could succeed in this game.

Real Quiet was conceived on a recommendation by the late Jack Werk. Eduardo Gaviria, a breeder from Bogota, Colombia, and director of that country's stud book, who also owned a farm in Ocala, Fla., approached Werk Thoroughbred Consultants in 1994 for advice on breeding his mare, Really Blue (Believe It-Meadow Blue, by Raise a Native). Gaviria wanted to spend $10,000 or less on the stud fee, breed in Kentucky, and sell the resulting foal.

Werk found that at the time, there were six stakes winners by Fappiano out of In Reality mares. Really Blue was by a son of In Reality. Fappiano had died four years earlier (a brilliant stud career cut short at age 13 by founder), so Werk recommended a son, Quiet American, for Gaviria's mare.

The resulting foal of this somewhat "bargain" breeding didn't sell for much at auction, either. The bay colt turned out on the right front. And he was so narrow in the chest when viewed head-on that J.B. McKathan, who along with brother Kevin had combed the 1996 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for trainer Bob Baffert, became the first to describe him as "The Fish," a nickname that stuck once the horse was in Baffert's barn. Mike Pegram, a Baffert client, shelled out all of $17,000 for the Quiet American colt at that sale.

"When he was a yearling, he was just a frame," J.B. McKathan said later. "He didn't have any muscle on him. To buy 'The Fish' you had to have imagination. And you had to put up with the fact that he's incorrect ... which never bothered us. He moved like an athlete, and that's what we were looking for."

It didn't take too long for the incorrect, inexpensive, unassuming Real Quiet to start making a little bit of noise.

He raced nine times as a 2-year-old. ... How many do that anymore? ... And while he won just twice, one of those victories was the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity. He was also third five times, twice in stakes.

As a 3-year-old, Real Quiet didn't win a race until that first Saturday in May, at Churchill. He was second in the San Felipe S.-G2 to Artax and then in the Santa Anita Derby-G1 to Indian Charlie while prepping for the big day.

But in the Derby, it was Mike Pegram's and Bob Baffert's $17,000 yearling -- crooked, narrow and cheap -- who desperately held off Victory Gallop in deep stretch to win the 124th running of the Run for the Roses.

Real Quiet went on to win the Preakness by more than two lengths over Victory Gallop. But Victory Gallop got the better of him in June, in New York, wearing the Derby winner down, chipping away at the Triple Crown hopeful's four-length lead in the stretch, and winning the Belmont Stakes by just a nose to rob Real Quiet of a little piece of immortality.

Though he wouldn't race again that year, Real Quiet was named champion 3-year-old colt. And he did come back at age 4. ... Again, how many Derby winners do that anymore? ... In his 1999 season, Real Quiet, as he did at 2 and 3, was a Grade 1 winner, annexing both the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pimlico Special. He retired with six wins and 11 other placings from 20 starts, for $3,271,802.

Sent to stud, Real Quiet eventually filtered his way to Pennsylvania, where he stood this year for $6,000. But while the imperfect Derby winner couldn't become a star stud in Kentucky, his breeding career hasn't been a complete bust. Among his 15 stakes winners are champion sprinter Midnight Lute and fellow Grade 1 winners Pussycat Doll and Wonder Lady Anne L. Not including this year's 2-year-olds, Real Quiet has gotten 76.5 percent starters and 50.4 percent winners from all foals. From an earnings standpoint, their average ($49,918) and median ($13,515) aren't bank-breakers, but he was presented a broodmare band with a comparable index of 1.27 and managed to produce his own progeny average earnings index of 1.21. (For those who aren't up to speed on such figures, that means Real Quiet had about the same success with his mares as did other sires with whom they were mated.)

You got those results from a fairly reasonable stud fee. If you weren't the breeder, you could buy his weanlings and yearlings at auction for an average price of less than $10,000; his 2-year-olds for an average of under $20,000. And you had a 50/50 shot of breeding or owning a winner, which in this business isn't all that bad.

Not just from the day he was born, nor from the day he was conceived, but from the day his very conception was conceived, Real Quiet was about spending a little in hopes of maybe getting a whole lot. It's the dream of every non-millionaire would-be racehorse owner or breeder; of every $2 bettor at the window. Stories like his are a big part of why I'm here.

So it's with a heavy heart that I say, "Goodbye, Fish."

Rest in peace. And Quiet.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Benecia sparks celebration of the 'big 3-0'

Unlike some folks, who prefer to celebrate their 29th birthdays repeatedly until they can no longer deny father time, I was glad to see the number 30 on Sunday; that is, to achieve the 30th winner on my list of 187 selections from 2010 juvenile thoroughbred sales.

And I'd have liked to get there sooner.

Averaging about three maiden-breakers a week for a month or more, the Class of 2010 achieved just one between Sept. 13 and Sept. 19, and had collected only one this week prior to Sunday. This despite having a couple of starters sent off as favorites, or nearly so, but coming up short, even if only a little bit.

On Sunday, that pattern was repeated in the first of two U.S. races for my sales-tips. Sweet Lizzie, a barely beaten second her last out at MCL $25K at Calder, was the narrow 2/1 favorite when dropped to maiden-claiming $12,500 on Sunday. But she lost by a length and a half to the other favorite in the race, Geraldine'sthunder, who was also 2/1 and was plunging all the way from MCL $40K, where she'd also most recently run second.

Thankfully, the week's running was closed-out with a winner on the opposite coast when Benecia bounded five and a half lengths or more ahead of all eight other competitors in a $32,000 maiden-claimer at Fairplex.

Piloted by Fairplex's all-time leading rider, Martin Pedroza, Benecia broke on top, stayed a head ahead of 3/2 favorite Tinner's Bride through a half run in 45.59, and was up by four lengths at the top of the stretch. Tinner's Bride would fade to fifth, but Benecia continued to widen her margin over the field, all the way to the finish.

The winner, who was sixth by seven and a half in her Del Mar debut on Aug. 8, was sent off at 6/1, despite the services of Pedroza, who if anything is usually over-bet at Fairplex because of his record tally of wins. She was fourth-favored in the nine-horse field and paid $14 to win.

Benecia (More Than Ready-Empty Portrait, by Coronado's Quest) was bred in Kentucky by Fares Farms LLC and is trained by Michael Pender for MVP Racing Stable, Robin Christianson and Dan Hudock. She covered six furlongs in 1:12.70.

With the win, Benecia has earned $10,000 from two starts.

I recommended the filly from the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. April auction of 2-year-olds in training, where she was catalogued as Hip 998 and sold for $30,000. I thought this one would be a racehorse, but also expressed a desire that her dam actually be sent to Oklahoma for future matings.

"This filly breezed 10.2 and looked pretty fair doing it," I wrote at the time. "... Dam wasn't much of a runner and has produced only two minor winners from three to race. ... But the mare is out of the 10-win G3-titleist Illeria (Stop the Music) who produced no fewer than seven stakes horses from Broad Brush (six) and his son Concern (one), who has been banished to the aforementioned Sooner State."

The noteworthy horses from this female family include, well, INCLUDE (10 wins, Pimlico Special-G1, $1.659 million), MAGIC BROAD (G3), ENCAUSTIC, MAGICAL BROAD, Implicit, Loaded Brush and Invent.

"Don't know what she'll sell for," I concluded of the filly that later would be named Benecia, "but if she runs out for anything at all, I'd be sending her to Concern, too, if he's still around ..."

I'll add that it was also easy to like this pedigree based on two significant inbreeding instances through impeccable sources: She is 4x4 Mr. Prospector (with Woodman as dam-sire of More Than Ready and Forty Niner as her dam's grandsire) and likewise 4x4 Hail to Reason (via Halo in her sireline and Stop the Music).

And, while the filly has broken her maiden at six furlongs, I think she's bred to comfortably handle a route of ground.

With the books closed on the last weekend of September, the 187 sales tips have sent 89 of their number to post; that's 47.6 percent. As noted, Benecia is maiden-breaker No. 30, thus 16 percent of the total number and 33.7 percent of starters, now are winners. The group includes two stakes winners and six other stakes-placers, five of those "placers" graded in nature.

The group has won 37 of 219 starts (16.9 percent), placing second 41 times and third another 21 for an in-the-money rate of 45.2 percent. They have earned $1,258,975, which amounts to $5,749 per start.

Follow the racing careers of all 187 sales picks, and a few pans, in the list at the bottom of this former post.

Friday, September 24, 2010

On seventh try, Reprized Halo gets his wings

He might not be a stakes horse, now or perhaps ever, but he isn't a run-of-the-mill claimer, either. At least, not today.

Reprized Halo ran like he could walk on water and skipped home a 12 1/4-length winner over the slop Friday in maiden special weight company at Miami's Calder Race Course.

The colt, the 29th of my 187 juvenile sales tips of 2010 to break maiden, was already making his seventh start at age 2. After showing a modicum of promise among maidens but still without a win, he was twice raced against stakes horses, to poor results. Returned to the maiden ranks and risked for a $25,000 tag, he was second beaten only a length, also on a sloppy track. On Friday, he broke sharply from the inside post, raced comfortably along the rail even when headed by competitors on the back stretch, battled through the turn, then simply left the field in his muddy wake in the stretch. (Results and video at

Reprized Halo was ridden confidently to the win by apprentice Jose Alvarez, for trainer Manuel Azpurua and owner Roger Urbina. He covered the sloppy mile in 1:42.83.

Urbina purchased Reprized Halo (Halo's Image-Reprized Angel, by Reprized) for just $23,000 from the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. April auction of 2-year-olds in training, where the colt was catalogued as Hip 331.

I recommended the horse despite his status as the first foal out of an obviously unproven broodmare. His dam, however, won five times from ages 2 to 5, earned nearly $85,000, and was non-blacktype stakes-placed in the Kansas Oaks and Miss Kansas City stakes at the now-defunct Woodlands Racetrack in Kansas City.

More important, she is a full sister to Tropical Park Derby-G3 winner VALID REPRIZED, who also won the Hialeah Juvenile Stakes. Their half-brother, CONVEYOR'S ANGEL, won the Buena Vista H.-G2. Reprized Halo's second, third and fourth dams all were unraced -- as was his dam-sire, Reprized, though a sibling of numerous stakes horses including G1-winning brother, PRIZED -- and usually I'd avoid that kind of mare. But in this colt's case, mama ran, and her unraced dam managed to produce eight winners from nine foals, including the two "big" horses.

Whatever made this family relevant again, I like it. And Reprized Halo helped his case with a 21.2 breeze at the sale, though still sold for less than OBSAPR's modest sale average of $27,918. Reprized Halo earned $24,820 for Friday's win -- more than he cost in April, though obviously other costs have mounted since -- and looks capable of moving forward off that victory.

Especially, it appears, if the connections go storm-chasing.

It was a winless week leading up to Friday for the sales-tips, though What's The Rumpus collected second in a maiden-claimer at Fairplex, winner Bestcasescenario missed getting his second lifetime victory by a neck in a claimer at Laurel, and debuting Unstoppable Mick -- bought for just $10,000 -- finished third (despite 15/1 morning line odds) for a $30,000 tag at Turfway Park.

With 29 maidens broken, that means 15.5 percent of my sales-tips are now winners, before the month of September is out in their juvenile season. They have won 36 of 211 starts (17.1 percent strike rate) and have finished second 39 times and third another 20 for an in-the-money rate of 45 percent.

Their earnings have reached $1,230,136. That equals $5,830 per start.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jaeger first to defend his own honor

A $350,000 sales colt is the 5/2 favorite on the morning line for a maiden special weight race at Delaware Park Saturday, the first of a handful of horses whose prices I took a stand against this year to step up to the gate and try to make me eat my words.

Jaeger certainly has all the advantages a horse could ask. Pedigree? He's by $70,000 per mating, sire of champions Indian Charlie out of The Church Lady, a Valid Wager mare who has produced two stakes horses by Doneraile Court: SHEYENNE GIRL and Codio. His second dam was a stakes-placer and stakes-producer; his third dam bore six stakes horses, two of them blacktype winners. Successful operators Padua Stables clunked down major coin to buy Hip 123 at Keeneland's April sale, and turned him over to arguably the best trainer in America, Todd Pletcher, who has named an excellent jockey in Fernando Jara to ride.

What's not to like?

Well, not much, really, except the price vs. the expectations. And that's what I detailed on my blog after that Keeneland sale.

While there is black type on the page, not only is none of it graded, it really hasn't even occurred outside of restricted company. His stakes siblings performed at Northlands Park and Hastings Park in Canada -- certainly better than not performing anywhere, but hardly the equivalent of winning a highly competitive stakes race at Woodbine, Canada's premier track.

Jaeger's dam was unraced, which always leaves me wondering why -- is it some conformational fault or other deficiency she might have passed along to the foal? While stakes-placed Codio ran 21 times and earned $148,035, stakes winning Sheyenne Girl made four starts at 2 last year, collected $42,545, but hasn't seen a track again through nine and a half months of 2010; that's suspicious. And bear in mind Indian Charlie only raced five times himself, though his progeny are averaging about 13.7 starts for their careers, which is average durability.

Sound or not, Jaeger's four older siblings to race -- all multiple winners and two stakes horses, mind you, useful racehorses -- combined haven't quite earned $300,000; less than what was paid for this one horse.

Still, I understand that despite being unraced, The Church Lady has produced four winning racehorses, and that's to her credit. As stated when panning this price as among the "surreal" from KEEAPR, I conceded that this one has every chance to be a good racehorse, too. But it will take better than "good" to earn back $350,000.

Of course, earnings at the track aren't the only consideration. A son of Indian Charlie from a blacktype female family -- even restricted blacktype -- has some hope of a stallion career, if he can win a stakes race somewhere himself, preferably more than one and of course, most preferably graded. That was no doubt in the back of Padua's minds when the stable spent more than double the sale's average price to get him.

Provided I haven't wagered on the race and since I don't yet own any to compete with them, I never root against a horse. They're magnificent animals and I respect them all. And I have no reason to cheer against Padua, Pletcher and Jara on Saturday, even though I took a bit of a stand against this horse on price at KEEAPR.

It's good to see him make the racetrack as a 2-year-old -- the first of that small handful of 10 or 12 horses I "went against" -- and it will be fun to see whether he can meet or exceed his buyers' expectations.

Track all the horses I did pick -- that's 187 from a slew of this year's 2-year-old sales -- and the few I panned in the list at the bottom of this former post.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

EASMAY: Leaving no stone unturned

Anyone who follows this blog is aware by now that significant attention has been paid the past couple of months to publicizing my selections from several juvenile sales this spring, and following the exploits of those horses as I try to prove that maybe I have a clue about what makes a good, young racehorse.

The longer I've followed my sales selections -- 187 horses from the February and April Ocala sales, Keeneland April, the Adena Springs sale at Ocala, and Fasig-Tipton's Midlantic sale in Timonium, Md. -- the more my brain endeavors to leave no stone unturned in examining whether my selections are a collective statistical success, failure, or merely average for the breed, the latter of which could have been accomplished by having a monkey point at pages in the catalog.

In light of, well, shedding light on the subject, I decided it was worthwhile to add an extensive slate of horses to the group I'm routinely following.

That is, every horse among the 405 originally catalogued for the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in Training, otherwise known as EASMAY (Eastern May 2-year-olds).

It is fair, I believe, to compare the performance of my 187 selections from all sales against the breed averages for percentages of starters, winners stakes winners and so forth.

But EASMAY was the first sale at which I was actually employed as a bloodstock advisor, specifically, in search of the most promising runners available among the sale's least expensive horses. And the more starts my selections from EASMAY have made, the more wins and paychecks they have collected, the more I wondered whether what seemed to be a successful beginning really was any better (or even worse) than the catalogued horses as a whole.

It turns out that, so far, so pretty good.

My new research project began Monday night by downloading the complete sales results spreadsheet from Fasig-Tipton's Web site, in Excel format. I deleted fields of information I didn't really need -- like broodmare sires -- and added others, for starts, wins, places, shows, earnings and a text rundown of stakes performances. The spreadsheet does much of the math for me, so long as I input the data correctly, and the results at this point are encouraging.

Of the 405 horses in the catalog, Fasig-Tipton reported that 273 were sold for $13,099,500 -- an average of $47,984. The median price according to Fasig-Tipton was $27,000. Those prices should include a handful of private sales, after the auction process failed to yield a sufficient bid. Another 39 went through the ring, but their reserve price was not attained, and they went home with their consignors.

Those figures suggest that 93 horses were "outs" at the sale; withdrawn for whatever reason. Two of those horses ended up being on the list of 48 potential bargains I prepared for my client, but they went through the breeze show, I saw them on the hoof at the barns, and they were only withdrawn day-of-sale -- one due to a sudden health problem and the other for reasons I don't happen to know. Many others on the "out" list never showed up and breezed at all. But a number of them are running, perhaps sold through the Barrett's ring out west, also in May, or having stayed with their owners or changed hands privately.

Finally, by way of full disclosure, the one horse with which I played role in the purchase, a filly now named Quiet Lorraine, was not on the original list of 48 horses compiled for my client. I am tracking her separately on the blog, and the statistics presented here detail the original 48 horses (which are numbered among the aforementioned 187).

Now that the background has been detailed, let's get down to brass tacks. How are my selections from EASMAY performing?

Better than average, say the early returns. In some cases considerably. And throughout these statistics that follow, recall that I was tasked to find the horses that would be worth owning among the very least expensive on the grounds; not to identify the most likely stars from all 312 animals that eventually passed through the auction ring.

As of statistics available via Brisnet on Monday night (and the Korean Stud Book, as several horses were purchased to race overseas) these are the early findings. Statistics compiled by my selections are included in the group, which actually, you might note, serve to elevate the group's performance in virtually every category.

Horses40548 (11.9% of catalogued)
Runners108 (26.7%)17 (35.4%)
Winners22 (5.4%)6 (12.5%)
Win Pct.11.3%16.7%
In the Money36%38%
Stakes Horses(Wnrs)4(1)1(0)

From these statistics -- admittedly quite early in their careers -- the horses I selected at EASMAY have sent a larger percentage of their number to the starting gate, are breaking maiden at a rate more than double the catalog as a whole (12.5 percent vs. 5.4 percent), are winning their starts at a rate nearly 50 percent higher than their peers, and despite being the cheaper horses at the sale, aren't running in cheaper company. At least, not if average earnings per start are an indicator, as those dollars are virtually equal.

I was a bit alarmed when I realized there were four stakes horses already out of this sale and only one of them (G3-placed Rough Sailing) appeared in my numbers. That was before I realized that every other stakes horse to emerge thus far from the EASMAY catalog, didn't actually go through the sale. Saratoga G3 turf winner SOLDAT, catalogued as Hip 218 at EASMAY, G3-placed dual winner Jordy Y (Hip 93) and Woodbine G3-placed More Than Real (Hip 240) all blew off the breeze show and sale. They simply weren't there for me to identify; though had they been, they still might not have ended up on my bargain-hunter list.

Edit (Wednesday, 9/22): In breaking down these statistics further, a struck upon perhaps an even better way to measure the performance of my selections vs. the horses in this sale: That is, to only compare horses that were in the sale.

This time I deleted from the Excel spreadsheet all horses that did not even make the breeze show; in other words, those that neither I nor anyone was able to review and consider for purchase. Then, I deleted my selections, leaving me a remainder that are all the horses I saw on the grounds -- at least in the under-tack show, if not in person (well more than a hundred of them) at their consignors' barns -- but declined. The following table shows the performance thus far of horses in the sale (including late "outs") that I selected for my bargain-conscious buyer, vs. all the horses I tabbed as ones we weren't after; passed-up either because I believed they weren't worth his money, or were horses too expensive for his budget. (And, trust me, some were both).

Viewed through this lens, the performance advantage thus far for my bargain-babies is even more stark.

Runners78 (28.2%)17 (35.4%)
Winners12 (4.3%)6 (12.5%)
Win Pct.8.3%16.7%
In the Money33.1%38%
Stakes Horses(Wnrs)0(0)1(0)
Avg. Buy/RNA $$49,992$24,196

Potentially, the horses in the column on the left might go on over the next three or four years to produce average statistics that equal or even exceed the horses I selected, whose early performance is measured on the right. But scanning down the columns suggests that right now, the horses I selected for my client are doing a bit more and -- bottom-line, in the last row of the chart -- were bought or RNA'd for less than half as much as the others.

Certainly there will be observers who believe that, over time, the expensive horses will prove their worth versus my more affordable selections. At least, I'm sure their buyers are hoping so.

In other curious statistics, of the four wins logged by EASMAY graduates who sold for $10,000 or less, two were posted by my selections (Grand Giana and Jitalian). Of the three victories posted by EASMAY grads who sold for between $10,001 and $20,000, two are by one horse -- my sales-pick Spring Jump, who is 2-for-3 and has earned $39,660 off a $19,000 purchase.

I realize touting these statistics now is sort of like knocking in a run with a double in the top of the second inning and pointing at the scoreboard. But the record-keeping needs to begin somewhere, and should be documented throughout, to keep myself (if no one else) abreast of the line score.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Evangelical answers prayer for maiden-breaker

With my sales selections perhaps in need of a little divine intervention, a third-out filly named Evangelical stepped to the altar of the racing Gods on Sunday at Belmont and passed muster, collecting her first lifetime victory in gate-to-wire fashion.

My 2010 juvenile sales picks were averaging about three maiden-breakers per week in recent running. So to have reached Sunday winless in the maiden ranks for the week, with only three remaining shots at getting one over the hurdle, left me nervous.

First to take a shot on Sunday -- actually late Saturday night Stateside -- was Kidari Joe, a debuting son of Tiznow running at Busan in Korea. He came home fourth of 14, in all probably not a bad learning experience.

But the best shot, I believed, was at Belmont, with Evangelical. She hadn't raced since July 14, there at Belmont, skipping the meeting at Saratoga. Perhaps that caused bettors to forget that she'd never finished worse than second in two prior efforts, because she went off at 6/1, then won like she was even-money.

Evangelical (Speightstown-Evangelizer, by Saint Ballado) bolted to the lead straight out of the gate in the field of eight, chased by Amusing (a first-out filly by Distorted Humor and a half-sister of the legendary and ill-fated Lost in the Fog), and by the roughly 3/2 favorite Cadazzle (Malibu Moon). That remained the order all the way through six furlongs in 1:11.80 as Evangelical, who actually bobbled at the break and still made the lead, widened her advantage under Mike Luzzi to three and a quarter lengths on the wire.

She becomes the 28th of my 187 juvenile sales tips of 2010 to win her first lifetime race; that's 14.97 percent.

Bred in Florida by Town & Country Farms Corp., Evangelical has now earned $47,000 in three starts for owners North Shore Racing. She was trained for the win by Barclay Tagg.

I tabbed the filly as a "possible second-chance deal" when she failed to sell for a bid of $100,000 as Hip 9 at Keeneland's April sale of 2-year-olds in training.

I was unsurprised that the consigning agent, Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree Stables, set a higher reserve than $100,000 on this filly. She was co-fastest at the under-tack show, breezing a 10-flat eighth.

I admitted: "You want to see a horse who is running fast even when he looks like he isn't, and from the video, this filly doesn't exactly fit that bill. From the instant I saw the clip, I thought, 'Wow, it looks like she's running fast.' Thankfully, the time agreed that she was."

I also believed that the filly appeared compact and muscular. Most important, I knew that the filly's female family suggested that "she should run (although soundness could be an issue)."

Her dam was a winner, but only made three starts. Evangelical has a 3-year-old half-sister named Worship the Moon (Malibu Moon) who was G2-placed in the Matron Stakes at Belmont at 2, stakes-placed at Philly again this year, and has earned $163,8000. Second dam RELIGIOSITY was a G3 winner at 3, but only raced 10 times. She produced several accomplished fillies, ill-fated Canadian champion juvenile KNIGHTS TEMPLAR (Exploit), who died of lymphoma at 3; FOR ALL SEASONS (Crafty Prospector), who was G1-placed, and DIAL A SONG (Mining). Another daughter of Religiosity produced multiple G2-winning sprinter EATON'S GIFT (Johannesburg).

This family runs, especially the girls.

In other action Sunday, sales-tip Cat Has Claws (Harlan's Holiday), debuted at Arlington, but ran out of gas in the stretch. The $37,000 Ocala April RNA finished third.

Through the weekend's worldwide action -- and still not including the earnings of Hold Still, an allowance-placer at Hipodromo Camarero in Puerto Rico -- the sales tips have won 35 of 203 starts (17.2 percent), placed another 56 times (44.8 percent in the money), and earned $1,192,098 for $5,901 per start.

Track all 187 of my sales selections -- plus a few horses whose prices I deemed too steep for their credentials (all of whom are yet to race) -- with the list at the bottom of this former post.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Seconditis Saturday yields a new stakes horse

It hasn't been the best week and weekend so far for runners from the group of 187 horses I named on this blog as recommendations from this year's East Coast juvenile sales.

It also hasn't been the worst.

At a time when I felt relieved to finally break through Saturday evening for the week's first win with a 2/1 second-favorite at Fairplex, the class still managed to bank more than $100,000 in a day and finished second four times -- including in a Grade 3 stakes race at Woodbine (by a maiden) and, as if to reinforce that second was where we belonged, in a dead-heat at Charles Town.

The new stakes horse, who deserves top billing this week, is Rockin Heat (Hard Rock Ten-Makin Heat, by Makin), who has yet to break his maiden but also has never finished worse than second in three lifetime starts. The colt and rider Eurico Da Silva lodged a bid in the stretch of the Summer S.-G3 at Woodbine, but couldn't outfinish Garrett Gomez and Pluck, who won the roughly quarter-million-dollar race by a length as the 5/2 favorite. Rockin Heat was sent off at more than 10/1, but finished two and a quarter lengths ahead of 3/1 shot Stormy Rush.

Rockin Heat is trained by Reade Baker for owners Bear Stables Ltd. He banked $48,480 in American currency (an even $50K Canadian) has now earned $70,400 without winning a race.

I recommended Rockin Heat at the OBS April sale, where he sold for $85,000 as Hip 97.

"Hard to believe you'll get much of a deal on this Kentucky-bred," I wrote, though the horse did end up selling for a bit less than the sale average.

I'm a fan of the early work at stud by his sire, Rock Hard Ten, and dam Makin Heat was a stakes winner at Laurel and Delaware Park. She's already produced winners, second dam Warmedbythesun (by Lobsang) won 15 times from ages 2 to 8, and third dam Tongario (Grey Dawn II) bore nine winners, including foals who claimed 17, 10, 10 and eight victories. The colt made his own case by looking the part, and breezing a 21.3 quarter despite being by a classic distance-type sire, whom he seems to take after by having a bit of size.

One would have to think Rock Heat will break his maiden soon; after all, on Saturday he was but a length back of winning his way into the Breeders' Cup.

After picking up a second place finish on Friday at Camarero in Puerto Rico, where dual-winner Hold Still was defeated in an allowance by a stakes-placed filly whom she had beaten last out, Saturday's racing started with three straight place-finishes, as well, capped by Rockin Heat.

The sales tips made up one-fourth of a 12-horse field drawn into a whopping $90,000 maiden special weight race on Owners' Day at Parx Racing (blech, Philadelphia Park). And, two of them came through, though not quite enough to win.

Hard Rock Candy made it 4-for-4 second-place finishes by getting by and holding off debuting sales-tip Circumstance in deep stretch for a big chunk of change. Hard Rock Candy -- who just has to break through sooner or later -- has earned $47,140 without winning a race, after failing to meet her reserve with but a $32,000 top bid at OBSAPR, where she was Hip 940. Circumstance was also to have gone through the ring as Hip 388 at OBSAPR, but was withdrawn.

Also in that race was firster One Punch Knockout, yet another OBSAPR horse ($70,000 as Hip 89) who never seemed to be all that involved, mentally or physically, from the outset.

A bit later in the afternoon, some 90 minutes before Rockin Heat raced, There Goes Molly got into a turf-mile, statebred maiden special weight at Belmont off the also-eligible list. She'd shown little in two tries at Saratoga and was sent of at 59.5/1. Well, surprise, surprise. Molly closed from deep to get up for a clear second under Abel Lezcano, finishing with "good energy" though still beaten more than eight lengths by runaway winner Hessonite. There Goes Molly, who failed to sell at a $6,000 top bid at EASMAY, earned $9,360 for the start.

After a couple of disappointing finishes, including by an Aragorn firster perhaps undone by having an Arlington turf race washed onto the main track, the last place-finisher came in the form of debuting Mugsy Dehere in the fourth race Saturday evening at Charles Town. Sent off at 8/1, he and 14/1 Southern Will could not be separated at the wire and dead-heated for "place" behind far-gone winner C V Eis, who aired by seven lengths.

The class picked up its first winner of the week -- and another repeater -- about 20 minutes after Mugsy Dehere finished deadlocked for second at Charles Town. Gibson Home Run, a debut winner at Del Mar, won for the second time in three starts, this time at Fairplex, where he was sent off second-favored at 2/1 in a $40,000 starter allowance. He cornered like he was on rails and posted a time just a shade over 1:12 for six furlongs; decent considering that at FPX, he has to make two turns instead of one.

Gibson Home Run (Gibson County-Tanja, by Allen's Prospect) was bred in Florida by McKathan Bros., and sold for $30,000 as Hip 546 at OBSAPR. He is trained by Peter Miller for owners Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum and Kevin Tsujihara, and was ridden by Fairplex's all-time leader, Martin Pedroza.

I tabbed him after his scalding 9 4/5 drill caught my eye and I realized that while his multiple stakes-winning dam has never really reproduced herself, she does have six winners from eight prior foals. He's justified my confidence thus far, and has earned back $26,960 of his purchase price.

Saturday night saw two more stakes-starters, but recent maiden-breaker Sultry Gibson could only pull off winning the photo for fourth in the $100,000 Miss Shenandoah Stakes at Charles Town (won by the dazzling Twelve Pack Shelly) and, despite being non-blacktype stakes-placed already, Blue 'em Away found himself short in Canada, getting beat a neck for fourth in the Winnipeg Futurity. Neither of those finishes was enough, of course, to score catalog blacktype for the horse in question. Each now has made an impressive six starts so far as a juvenile.

Including Hold Still's placing at Camarero, the class has reached 200 starts, winning 34 of them (17 percent) and placing or showing in another 55 for an in-the-money rate of 44.5 percent. Not including Hold Still's cash from Puerto Rico (as the final chart isn't in yet to list her earnings), the group has banked $1,160,037, for $5,829 per start.

Follow the progress of all 187 sales picks here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Heart & Seoul: Sales-tips and Korean racing

When a dozen of my 187 juvenile sales tips of 2010 found themselves shipped overseas to Korea, I thought their careers might be difficult to follow.

While their races won't be as easy to keep up with as if they were racing Stateside, with charts posted by Equibase some 30 to 60 minutes after each race, I've learned that it isn't all that tough to find out what and how a racehorse is doing within the confines of Korea. And this is how things work, per my understanding.

With much help from the proprietor of the Horse Racing in Korea blog, I've learned the whereabouts, connections and even training condition of 11 out of the 12 horses I tabbed this spring who were sold to Korean interests. And the first of those horses, a Forest Camp filly bought at OBSAPR and renamed Our Camp (formerly called "Off to Granny's") has made her first two starts -- one a definite learning experience, and the second an impressive near-miss.

I've also learned much about how the Koreans manage their Thoroughbred racing industry. It's terribly different from here in the States, perhaps in some refreshing ways.

From a purely racing perspective, in Korea a maiden runner cannot start in an official race until he has passed muster in a trial run under race conditions. The horse must not only behave himself sufficiently and break reasonably well from the gate, one presumes -- which is enough in the States for the animal to earn its "gate card" and start racing -- but also must achieve a certain minimum speed for the distance, in company, under the competitive conditions of the trial, in order to hopefully assure that he will be competitive when asked to race "for real."

Another striking difference between Korea and the States is that there are few races carded strictly for juveniles.

Korean racing is primarily divided into classes based on accomplishment, not age. There are four classes for foreign-bred horses, and an animal can only move up from the lowest ranks, Class 4, once it has earned a certain amount of prize money.

This means that many juveniles will first appear in "weight for age" races, facing much older horses. In her August debut, Our Camp was sent off at 50/1 odds in a race that included many 2-year-olds, several 3-year-olds, a 4-year-old, and a horse that was age 5, albeit 0-for-27 lifetime. Our Camp (pictured above walking in the paddock and also with jockey Park Byeong Yun) finished ninth of 12 in a race won by a 2-year-old, covering five furlongs in 1:03.8.

(My source at the Racing in Korea blog suggests that due to training methods in that country, a young horse like Our Camp might be running five furlongs, "five seconds slower than they would be back in the U.S.")

While juveniles are facing older horses in these races, at least they're bad older horses. And some races exclude juveniles, so the ones that don't, I'm told, are carded primarily with 2-year-olds in mind, though what are almost universally unaccomplished older horses are eligible, too.

Another visible difference between the racing industry in Korea and in the United States is in the amount of information available on each horse and its condition. The information at present is available only in Korean, but (by American standards) a jaw-dropping volume of data is at the fingertips of Korean fans and gamblers.

"Korean racing has very strict rules on transparency," I'm told. "The racing authority is terrified that at any moment, the government might shut them down, so integrity is very important."

Novel concept: "If a horse -- any horse -- visits the vet, for example, it gets recorded and published. They don't do timed works here, but all visits to the track in the morning are recorded. It's intended to mean that every punter has access to the same information and that nobody can set up a betting coup. Of course, very few people actually read it all, but you can go to a computer terminal at the track and pull up complete, up-to-date information about any horse in the country."

That is the kind of information you couldn't get in the States without going to every barn, speaking to every trainer (and vet), and usually be told to take a very long walk off a very short pier.

Meanwhile, some splendid information is maintained even in English for every horse in the country by the Korean Stud Book. Here are examples for sales-tip Fleeting Joy, a son of Kitten's Joy who debuted with a place-finish at Busan. First, his main information page, complete left-side, right-side and head-on photos, country of origin, sire and dam's names, color and current owner in Korea; then his pedigree; his complete, 25-generation sireline, showing he traces to the Darley Arabian; 15 generations of dams, dating to a British mare named Bavarian, born in 1826; and finally, his race-record, including the most basic of past-performance lines.

So, without further ado (and with much help from my source who is handling the translation from Korean), here's the current rundown on my 12 sales picks of 2010 to have reached Korean shores.

Choego Chansa: Trained at Busan by Min Jang Gi. "Working well" and participated in a race trial in August. She finished just sixth of eight, but with a time that "scraped by" as fast enough to begin entering real races. Her debut in an official race on Sept. 10 was better by competitive standards, fifth of eight, earning (if this currency converter is correct) $1,936.

Dr. Drewman: At Seoul with trainer Kim Sun Gun. No official works as of late August (remember, works aren't timed, just recorded and reported) so he might be some time away from racing. But no reported medical problems, either.

Our Camp: Training at Seoul with Ha Jae Heung. Sixth of 11 in her race trial; ninth of 12 in her debut start. But, on Sept. 12, she "closed like a train" to come up just a half-length short, placing second to a 4-year-old (who was 0-for-19 prior, but still, twice her age), earning $8,034.

Fleeting Joy: A Jang Se Han trainee at Busan. "Working well" and passed race trials Aug. 7, then came home second in his debut on Aug. 29, earning $5,180.

Sniper King: Training with Kim Chang Ok at Busan. In late August, it was reported that he hadn't worked during the week. "The vet's diagnosis at this stage is simply 'exercise fatigue.'" Before that, he was reported as working well. Qualified for competitive races with a fourth-place finish out of nine in a trial on the weekend of Aug. 7-8. Bounced back from his "fatigue" to debut on Sept. 5 at Busan, with a third-place finish from eight starters, earning $2,912.

Myeongpumtansaeng: Name is recorded in the U.S. as two words, for some reason. Training at Busan under Choi Gi Hong. Only two works in July, became a regular worker in August. Probably a few weeks away from a trial.

Hanhyeolcheonyong: Name is recorded in the states as beginning with the letter M, not H. The first bit of bad news. This horse is at Seoul with Choi Hye Sik, but was diagnosed with lymphangitis in July and is undergoing treatment. Lymphangitis in horses is an inflammation associated with the lymphatic system, most commonly caused by a bacterial infection.

Daebak Chance: In training with Kim Jeom Oh at Seoul, this horse appears to have "cut himself up pretty badly" in July and is still recovering.

Sand Kahn: With Yoo Jae Gil at Seoul, but being given time off to mature a bit. Likely to resume training sometime in September.

Sand Hi: At Busan with Lim Geum Man. "Took awhile to settle," but went into full training in mid-August and "looks to be working well so far."

Viva Ace: This gelding by Macho Uno was the last to be named. Little information was available about him before, but now that he has a moniker, that should change.

Kidari Joe: Son of Tiznow is due to debut on Sunday in Race 4 at Busan. He is the 13-horse in a field of 14 -- pretty bad break on the post-draw -- and is one of six 2-year-olds facing seven 3-year-olds and one 0-for-17 4-year-old colt. Good luck to Kidari Joe.

Oh, and before we go, how pretty is the splash page for the Korean-language version of the Korean Racing Authority's Web site? And check the title in the browser top bar, in English: "Life & Love with KRA."

Life, love, racehorses. I'm not sure anyone could paint a better picture of how I'd want to live out the rest of my own life.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Weekend ends with pair of wins; earnings top $1M

Maybe I've been spoiled by a measure of success.

I griped in this space on Saturday evening about a tough couple of racing days in which my 2010 juvenile sales tips fell short of my (and occasionally bettors') expectations. But after a pair of wins from three starts on Sunday, I realize now that I was grousing in the middle of a race-week in which the tips scored victories at 23.5 percent rate (4-for-17), added three maiden-breakers to the roster (including one Sunday, the 27th of 187 sale-selections), and put another graded stakes-placer on the board in Arlington-Washington Futurity-G3 runner-up Rough Sailing.

Perhaps most noteworthy, the group crested $1 million in earnings.

Sunday's action for the Class of 2010 began at Woodbine, where by far the most expensive horse among my sales tips won her second lifetime race in as many starts, even more easily than she won her first.

Delightful Mary (Limehouse-Deputy's Delight, by French Deputy) was the $500,000 sales-topper at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. April auction of 2-year-olds in training. She broke maiden at Canada's premier racetrack on Aug. 8, covering six furlongs in 1:09 and change, winning by three and a half lengths without a whole lot being asked.

On Sunday, two scratches left her but three foes to face in a mile-seventy allowance on the synthetic main track at Woodbine. And Delightful Mary dispatched them easily, grabbing the lead right out the gate for jockey Corey Fraser and widening throughout while well in hand to score by eight lengths in 1:43.84.

Delightful Mary was bred in Florida by late, legendary Hobeau Farm, and is owned by John C. Oxley. Her trainer is Mark Casse. She banked $34,599 U.S. for the victory, running her career total from two starts to $67,876.

While I spent much of my time this spring -- both unpaid and paid, as a bloodstock advisor at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic in May -- searching for more bargain-priced runners, I simply couldn't ignore the prospects of Hip 949 at OBS April. She practically set fire to the track with a 20 2/5 quarter in the breeze show, is a half-sister to millionaire Ohio Derby-G2 winner DELIGHTFUL KISS, and her second dam, Hobeau-homebred BISHOP'S DELIGHT (Sawbones-Med Coed, by Dr. Fager) was both G1-placed and also the granddam of G2 winner SHADOW CASTER.

As part of the Hobeau Farm dispersal, the filly was selling without reserve. "(But) you'll still have to break your piggy bank. And your spouse's. And your neighbor's."

I thought she would head straight to stakes company after her razor-sharp debut. Almost certainly the hunt for catalog blacktype to enhance this investment will begin in her next start.

Later in the afternoon, far down the Eastern Seaboard at Calder Race Course in Florida, a struggling sales-tip broke his maiden when dropped steeply for a tag.

On Appeal (Closing Argument-Oh Nyet, by Time for a Change) was last seen in a stakes race, while still a maiden. Finishing last there -- and despite having hit the board twice at higher levels for his connections, breeder/owner Janet Erwin and Trainer Terry Oliver -- he was dropped for a $12,500 tag on Sunday, and won for fun at even money.

Over a sloppy strip, the colt sloshed to the lead under Daniel Coa, led all seven foes by 10 lengths at the top of the stretch, and skipped home an easy winner by five and a half. He covered seven furlongs in 1:29.29 without being asked in a final furlong jogged in 14.90.

The victory gives On Appeal a win, a second and a third from six starts at age 2, with $13,464 in earnings.

"I'm trying not to let this colt's breathtaking breeze of 20.4 for a quarter overwhelm me," I wrote in recommending the colt when he sold for $25,000 as Hip 218 at OBSAPR. In part that was because his sire -- though a courageous second to Giacomo in the Kentucky Derby -- is an unproven sophomore. But the dam here has produced 7-for-7 winners, including multiple Calder stakes-placed filly Prohibido Olividar, 11-race winner Dinner Withawinner, and other foals who have won, seven and six times.

"So the odds are, this colt will run and win," I concluded. "That's reinforced by a second dam, TITLE VICTORY (Title Game) who won 17 times, including the Ballerina H., Vanity H., and the British Columbia Oaks."

I think the horse is better than a $12,500 claimer, and apparently so does somebody else. He was claimed from Erwin and Oliver by new owner Wayne A. Dacosta and trainer Jason Dacosta.

Also at Calder Sunday, Z Breeze, a sales-tip debuter who I considered to be a live horse at 6/1 on the morning line, was sent off at nearly 12/1 in an open maiden special weight. He and Manoel Cruz made the lead and held it until the stretch, but eventually were passed by not one, but five horses, finishing sixth, yet beaten only a length and a quarter total in a cavalry-charge finish.

Like 20/1 sales-tip Surprise Strike, second beaten only a length Friday at Presque Isle Downs, I doubt Z Breeze can be had at 12/1 next time, despite a finish of "6" for his debut.

With the pair of successes, the Class of 2010 now has 33 wins from 182 starts worldwide, for a strike rate of 18.1 percent. They've finished second 31 times and third on 17 occasions for an in-the-money percentage of 44.5 percent.

Sunday's action swelled the sales-tips' collective bankroll to $1,039,272, or $5,710 per start.

That sum, I believe, is a significant figure. In her book "The Home Run Horse," author Glenye Cain notes that a past Thoroughbred Times analysis of the most active 25 bloodstock agents at thoroughbred yearling sales found that only six of them had a positive return-on-investment at the racetrack from their purchases. (Though many manage to break even or profit through residual value of the horse at the end of its career, particularly in stallion syndication, with the whoppers covering for the losses by losers.)

The horses I recommended from this spring's sales -- while not yearlings, and obviously much more finished products -- have already earned back roughly one-sixth of their combined purchase and RNA prices. I find that encouraging, considering it isn't even Sept. 15 of their juvenile season, and fewer than half of the 187 selections have even made their first start.

And, though they aren't yearlings, I have friends in the business who would rather take their chances on the unbroken youngsters than roll the dice with 2-year-olds. With yearlings, a buyer can select on pedigree and conformation, then finish the horse their own way. In buying juveniles, a buyer has to hope that the consignor hasn't pushed the horse to the point of breaking just to get him to the breeze show.

At any rate, the group is off to a pretty fair start, and I hope that their winning, getting stakes horses (two winners and four graded-placers) and earning their keep, doesn't stop.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Two tough days and another graded near-miss

The week that started well on Wednesday and Thursday with sales-pick winners in maiden races at Camarero and Fairplex is straggling home a bit with only Sunday's racing left to go. Even the favorites are falling short or outright flopping, though at least the Class of 2010 has added another graded stakes-placer, the fourth, to its roster.

Rough Sailing (pictured), an impressive maiden winner around two turns on grass at Arlington Park, was sent off as the 9/5 favorite off a 4/1 morning line in a switch to the synthetic main track there for the Arlington-Washington Futurity-G3. As in his debut, the Mizzen Mast colt tried to close late for the win, but this time he came up short, losing by a length to a More Than Ready maiden, Major Gain, but persevering on the rail to nip 5/2 morning-line favorite Caleb's Posse in a photo for second.

Jockey Michael Baze said Rough Sailing got a good trip this time, but just has a better kick on turf. I hope that means we might next see Rough Sailing in a race like the Oct. 10 Bourbon S.-G3 at Keeneland, back on the grass and with another sixteenth in which to close.

I tabbed Rough Sailing as a "Priority 1" horse for a client seeking bargain runners at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in training this past May. I liked the colt, who was Hip 250, fairly well on paper (his dam is a half-sister to WILD ZONE, STRIKE ZONE and Snow Eagle), very much admired his 23.2/35.2 breeze over a slow dirt track that isn't his preferred surface, and honestly never figured we'd get him in our price range, though he was just a $12,000 yearling. Consignor True South LLC urged me to look him over thoroughly and keep him on our list, but I was right, his $40,000 price -- while an undoubtable bargain at this stage -- was more than we came to pay.

The consignor commented that the colt later to be named Rough Sailing was "a nice horse" and "very aggressive." I liked his front end considerably, his back end a little less so, and remarked in my notes (with underlining): "Big feet." A large hoof is considered by some the hallmark of a grass horse, and with this colt being by Mizzen Mast (a better dirt horse, but from the Cozzene/Caro turf line) and out of a Woodman mare, his turf aptitude doesn't surprise me. Not being huge behind also might hint at why he's been a little slow in the early going of both races -- not a blast-from-the-gate, sprinter type -- and that he's best-suited to covering a bit of ground, another trait that makes sense considering his pedigree.

As I confided to my friends on Twitter, it is stirring and rewarding to realize you've laid your eyes and hands on such a horse before he's ever raced a step and concluded, "This one is the type."

Other Saturday action saw 5/2 morning-line favorite Reward the Lady -- second in her debut -- disappointing with a sixth-place finish among MCL $25K-$20K fillies at Philly. Penny's Boat, a debuter and good-driller, was sent out for her first start on turf at Belmont, where she straggled home seventh behind a blazing 1:09 for six furlongs run by Atlantic Voyage, a full sister to Grade 1 winner Stormello. I'm a bit puzzled by the connections choosing grass in the first place for the bow of Penny's Boat, a daughter of Songandaprayer out of a Valid Wager mare; watch for her to improve on the main track. And, what I thought was a live filly at 6/1 in her debut, After Words, was vet-scratched at Monmouth.

On Friday, what I thought were four strong chances for wins turned into just three placing. Among them, What's the Rumpus picked up a third at Fairplex and Reprized Halo finally hit the board with a second place in a $25,000 maiden-claimer at Calder. I liked Reprized Halo enough to tip him at OBSAPR, but his connections have done the colt no favors. He came close to placing at the maiden special level and they've since thrown the boy to the wolves in a pair of stakes races. On Friday, he managed to strike the lead in the stretch but couldn't hold on. At least it appears those ill-considered stakes beat-downs haven't completely broken the horse's resolve.

I was disappointed Friday evening when the connections of second-time-starter Lost Webos (fourth at the maiden special level in his debut) opted for a $25K maiden-claimer at Penn rather than the maiden special on Saturday at Philly for which the horse was cross-entered, and he still couldn't hit the board. Lost Webos was a close-up fourth at Penn Friday, but that was less than I (and gamblers) expected.

Friday's biggest hopes in my mind rested on an 8/1 morning-line shot, first-timer Surprise Strike, whom I couldn't believe was sent off at 20/1 in maiden special company at Presque Isle Downs. The Stormy Atlantic colt rated early, came through on the rail, and just missed by a half-length, finishing second in his debut in a six and a half-furlong race run in a pretty fair (for 2-year-olds) 1:17 and change. He will not be 20/1 next out.

I remember Surprise Strike well as Hip 380 at that same Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in training, the first (and presently only) auction at which I've worked as a hired bloodstock advisor. When I asked consignor True South LLC to see the horse, and he was led from the dark of his stall, as his shoulders hit sunlight, my first muttered words were, "Holy shit!"

I loved that the colt was short-coupled, with a nice shoulder and great withers. He was lighter in the hind than I would prefer, but might fill out. The consignor assured me that the son of a stakes-winning Unbridled mare was better even than his pretty fair 23-flat move would indicate, saying the horse was (literally) snake-bitten on the muzzle the morning of his drill, and had swelling in his face and throat.

The colt was a $34,000 RNA at EASMAY, and now is trying to prove on the track that he's worth more than that. Friday's debut was a pretty fair start.

And on Thursday, hoping for my third consecutive sales-tip winner in two days, and at a huge price, Thistoo Shall Pass was sent off at 47/1 at Woodbine on the grass. Though sixth, she still was beaten less than four lengths. She's yet to hit the board in three races up in Canada, but is always within hailing distance of the winner, so I have the feeling her connections will keep trying Thistoo Shall Pass at the maiden special level rather than dropping her in class for a win.

Among my four sales tips in for Sunday are two more morning-line favorites, Delightful Mary in a two-turn allowance on the main track at Woodbine, and On Appeal dropping for a $12,500 maiden tag at Calder. Both have stories behind them.

Delightful Mary was the $500,000 sales-topper at OBSAPR and won for fun her first out in Canada, covering six furlongs on synthetic in 1:09 and change without much being asked. And, much like his Calder-mate, On Appeal hit the board a couple of times among maidens before his connections made the ill-conceived choice of running him in stakes company, where he finished behind everyone, including Reprized Halo.

I honestly expected Delightful Mary to turn up next in a stakes race; after her debut, I wouldn't even have feared running her in Sunday's Swynford at Woodbine, against colts. Perhaps this two-turn test is a prep for the Oct. 9 Mazarine Breeders Cup. S.-G3 for fillies at Woodbine.

As for On Appeal, if his connections didn't break him by sending him out against stakes horses, he really should win now that he's been dropped like a stone to maiden $12,500. Look for him to be right there at the finish or nowhere, and if it's nowhere, I'd blame the clubbing he took in that recent stakes race.

Also in action Sunday are Z Breeze, a live debuter at 6/1 in Race 4 at Calder, where he gets a top rider in Manoel Cruz, and Kuhlu, 5/1 in Race 9 at Arlington. Not much of a fan of Kuhlu in this spot, as a daughter of Ghostzapper being sent out on grass. If that race somehow washes-off onto the main track, I think it helps her.

Following Saturday's action, the sales-tip list of maiden-breakers remains stuck at 26 of 187 horses recommended, or 13.9 percent. With 31 wins from now 178 starts, their strike rate has dipped to 17.4 percent. With 30 places and 17 shows, the ITM rate continues to hover around 44 percent, at 43.8.

The Class of 2010 has seven stakes horses, or 3.75 percent. The other six besides Rough Sailing include: two-time stakes winner GOURMET DINNER ($137,390); FISCAL POLICY ($54,080); Saratoga G1/G2-placed Alienation ($104,000); Del Mar G1-placed Rigoletta ($60,820); Spa G3-placed Stopspendingmaria ($59,167); and non-blacktype stakes-placed Blue 'em Away ($14,574).

The class has earned a combined $989,242, which averages to $5,557.54 per start.

Follow the entire class in the list at the end of this former post.

(Thanks to Jamie Newell for the Rough Sailing photo from the Arlington-Washington Futurity. Check out Jamie's blog and her stellar photography at, Flickr and Facebook. You can't miss her at a racetrack; she doubles as the turf-photography world's loveliest hat model.)