Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pair of 'pans' debut, finish sixth and 10th

Two horses whose purchases I panned from this year's juvenile sales made their debuts on Sunday at Aqueduct in New York and Fair Grounds in New Orleans, with neither finishing on the board.

Frothy Market and Billy Smart finished sixth and 10th in their races, respectively, beaten roughly a combined 30 lengths.

In the process of putting together a 187-horse list of recommended picks from several juvenile sales this spring, I also took a stand against a handful of horses, often based more on their eventual prices at auction than their lack of any promise as race prospects.

Most of those -- eight of nine, to be exact -- were detailed in an installment of a three-part series I blogged following Keeneland's April sale. I picked the "steals" of the auction, I also listed horses that didn't sell but might be worth acquiring later, privately or at another sale ("second-chance deals"), and I named the ones whose prices (or in one case, huge price that was refused) made me gag a bit even though it wasn't my money being spent ("the surreal"). The ninth horse whose price, in my opinion, exceeded her promise, was Frothy Market, who was the only horse out of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. April auction to be insulted by my upturned nose.

It was obvious that Frothy Market would bring big bucks as Hip 1194 at OBSAPR. She'd just blasted a breeze-show-best 9 3/5 seconds for an eighth-mile. Speed sells, in her case to agent Buzz Chace for a whopping $175,000. She races for Klaravich Stables Inc. and W.H. Lawrence.

But I declined to be swayed by her freakish breeze, believing the dark bay daughter of High Fly-Jovetta, by Elusive Quality was a bad bet. For starters, her young sire has done very little at stud. On the female side, her dam raced just once, and I have something of an aversion to the dam's sire, Elusive Quality, whose results on the track (with the exception of a few huge names) don't remotely match his stud fee. Frothy Market's second dam was a stakes-placer who won 17 times and produced G3 winner HAWKS LANDING -- that's nice -- but there's very little blacktype on the page.

On Sunday at Aqueduct, Frothy Market made her debut for the training barn of Chad Brown, with David Cohen in the irons. She didn't keep up with the 22.55/46.19 pace -- trailing by five lengths after a quarter and four lengths after a half -- nor did she have a finishing kick, finishing sixth of eight behind Backslash (who won in 1:12.94), beaten 14 1/4 lengths. Frothy Market, who was 5/1 on the morning-line but was sent off at over 15/1, earned $300.

Late in the afternoon at Fair Grounds, Billy Smart made his debut for the barn of trainer Mike Maker, coming home last of 10 at about 8/1 on the tote board, beaten 15 1/4. He ran a bit green, a bit wide, and was never really in contention. Fair Grounds paid no money past fifth place. The six-furlong event was won by Prime Cut in 1:12.47.

Billy Smart (Rockport Harbor-Limestone Landing, by Red Ryder) was one of several expensive purchases by a new and then somewhat mysterious concern that was very active at KEEAPR; a France-based group known as Prime Equestrian S.A.R.L. That organization bought three of the eight horses that made it on my list of pans from the auction, certainly a dubious honor.

This colt was handsome, with a bald face and stockings. But that can't account for his selling at a price of $310,000, as Hip 52. Especially since his blacktype-dotted catalog page and other credentials were good, but not phenomenal.

Billy Smart did breeze a very credible 21.4 over a quarter and is a half-brother to both Remington Park stakes winner and Louisiana Derby G2-placed IT'SALLINTHECHASE, and to G3-placed Upscaled. But I couldn't ignore that even those two relative standouts (pun not intended) were only a combined 3-for-29 lifetime. Billy Smart's dam was an 0-for-8 maiden and her sire was unraced (albeit a full brother to the great Mr. Prospector), and this colt's sire, Rockport Harbor, is an unproven freshman who made just eight starts himself, another example of the Unbridled line's tendency for brilliance coupled with retiring early and unsound. Back to the good, Billy Smart's second dam, ALVARADA, was a G3-placer, produced a couple of stakes horses, and is the tail-female line of many more.

So as I wrote at the time, "it isn't that I wouldn't want this horse at all; I might. But I wouldn't want him at $310,000. Not when I feel like I could buy four to six horses for that money who all would, in my mind and at this stage, be equally likely as this one to succeed at the track."

And honestly, that "four to six" horses for $310,000 would still be pretty generous in your spending.

With the two debuts, the nine-member "pan" list has now sent four horses to the track; Isaac Newton (another out of an Elusive Quality mare) is unplaced in one start, while Jaeger managed to dead-heat for third in his debut, but was beaten nearly 40 lengths when sent out around two turns in the mud in his second lifetime race.

The combined record of the pans is now one third-place dead-heat from five starts, for $5,822 in combined earnings. Granted, it's a very small sample (only nine horses) and still very early (December of their juvenile seasons). They all have time to come on and be world-beaters. But considering $1,175,000 was bid just on the four to have raced so far, you have to figure 0-for-5 and barely hitting the board once isn't the sort of early performance for which their connections would have hoped.

Among the pans, I say look out for Akkadian, a son of Tiznow who is breezing very briskly in California. I did find things to like about that horse, and he's absolutely gorgeous. But still, to pay back the $270,000 shelled out for him at KEEAPR, he'll have to do an awful lot of running.

You can follow all 187 of my picks and the nine panned horses in the list at the bottom of this former post.

Note: I'm not rooting against any of these horses nor their connections, even though I've spoken out against them as lacking value at the sales. But just as with the 187 horses I recommended, their performance merits consistent reporting to detail my own performance in handicapping the sales.

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