Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Stakes A'mighty: A new black-type filly and a return to glory for a sales-class millionaire

A 4-year-old filly donned black type her coming-out party in stakes company Saturday and a formerly injured millionaire may have found his old mojo on Sunday as my 2-year-old sales class of 2010 continues to earn their keep at racetracks around the globe.

Saturday afternoon at Calder Race Course, PRIZE DOLL stormed from off the pace to win the Ms. Brookski Stakes on turf at Calder over a field of 10 other competitors. On Sunday, GOURMET DINNER found the winner's circle for the first time since his 2-year-old season, taking the Majestic Light Stakes over the main track at Monmouth.

Saturday's victory -- her third in nine starts -- wasn't the first time Prize Doll faced stakes competition. Her connections of owner and co-breeder Edward A. Seltzer and trainer Curtis Garrison debuted her in restricted stakes company in March 2011 in the OBS Sprint Stakes (Filly Division), a race for horses that at some time had passed through the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. ring. She was last of six that day, yet beaten only 4 1/4 lengths. (Another sales-pick of mine, Take Me To Zuber, was second.)

The chestnut filly by Pure Prize out of the minor stakes-winning mare Doll Baby (Citidancer-Sand Pirate, by Desert Wine) broke maiden in her second lifetime start, for a $50,0000 tag on grass at Tampa. After a sixth-place efforts and a fourth, she began working her way back up through the allowance ranks, clearing her NW2L condition on Independence Day this year with an optional-claiming win at Calder in which she had to survive a pair of objections.

There was an inquiry in Saturday's race, too, but it was against second-place finisher Timezone and rider Jose Rodriguez. That pair was taken down to sixth, with 3-year-old Wicked Night moved up to second and 6-year-old stakes veteran Brinca inheriting the show finish.

While all the excitement was taking place in the middle of the track, Prize Doll swept wide under Manoel Cruz and took charge at the eighth pole. Prize Doll finished the mile on grass in 1:36.22, winning by a length and a quarter over Timezone but another 2 1/2 ahead of the pair who would be moved up when that filly was DQ'ed.

Prize Doll was bred in New York by the aforementioned Seltzer and 1970s teen idol David Cassidy, who is no longer an owner per the recent race charts. I recommended her as Hip 970 from the Ocala April sale in 2010, where she failed to meet reserve with a high bid of only $17,000. With three wins a second and a third from nine starts, she has now earned $59,645. She also extends the black-type history of her female family; her dam wasn't just a minor stakes winner in New York, but was a half-sister to three other stakes winners, including four-time stakes winner HALF HEAVEN ($435,526), two-time turf stakes winner LOVE COVE ($396,739) and Black Eyed Susan S.-G2 winner SWEET VENDETTA ($224,596), all of whom were bred or co-bred by Cassidy.

With that kind of family, decent looks at a 10.2 breeze, I questioned the sanity of buyers who allowed her to pass through the ring without selling back in April 2010. Still do.

Meanwhile, the last time race fans saw Gourmet Dinner in a winner's circle was in the moments after the 2010 Delta Downs Jackpot S.-G3, where he shocked the field (but not so much me) at 20/1 to collect his fourth win -- three of them in stakes company -- as a juvenile. The son of Trippi was rock-solid as a 2-year-old winning his first three starts, two of them Florida Stallion Series stakes races, before getting derailed in the $400,000 Florida Stallion In Reality Stakes by another of my sales selections, the $21,000-bought REPRIZED HALO, who  himself would eventually win another stakes race and has banked $354,660 from 35 starts.

It isn't that Gourmet Dinner hasn't been competitive since -- he has, when he was healthy. He finished his juvenile campaign with a ship to California, where he was beaten a head for third place by Clubhouse Ride (behind Comma to the Top and J P's Gusto) in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity. As a 3-year-old, Gourmet Dinner was very much on the Kentucky Derby trail (despite a pedigree that to me suggests a miler), finishing third behind Dialed In (beaten a head by Sweet Ducky for second) in the Grade 3 Holy Bull and second by two lengths to Soldat in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth.

But an injury that took him off the Derby Trail derailed him for a full year. Gourmet Dinner returned at Gulfstream in February 2012 and failed to hit the board in two straight starts before finishing third on grass in the Elkwood Stakes at Monmouth on May 19. Another couple of turf tries resulted in poor finishes (ninth in the Colonial Turf Cup and seven in the Grade 3 Poker Stakes at Belmont), so back to the main track -- and the winner's circle -- Gourmet Dinner went with Sunday's Majestic Light Stakes score at Monmouth.

Javier Castellano rated Gourmet Dinner in next-to-last of seven for much of the race and the horse responded in the stretch, out-gaming three-time stakes winner Ponzi Scheme to win by a neck. Small Town Talk was third, with 3/2 race favorite Brujo de Olleros(BRZ), champion miler in Uruguay, relegated to fourth.

The win in the $100,000 race was Gourmet Dinner's fifth from 14 lifetime starts, and the earnings pushed his career bankroll to $1,067,277. That's a pretty tidy sum for a horse whose connections, William J. Terrill's Our Sugar Bear Stable, effectively bought him for about $20,000 as Hip 277 at OBS April 2010, where the horse sold for $40K (roughly half of which Terrill got to keep) to dissolve the breeding partnership between Terrill and Ocala Stud.

G3 winner Gourmet Dinner was one of three close family members I recommended from that sale, and all went on to be black-type horses. His dam, Potluck Dinner, was a half-sister to Almost Aprom Queen, who was the dam of recommended Hip 726 RIGOLETTA, a daughter of Concerto who would sell for just $35,000 a few months before gutting-out a Grade 1 win over Tell a Kelly in the Oak Leaf Stakes at Hollywood Park and retiring after just six starts with $184,070 in the bank. Their dams were also half-sisters (all out of the Who's For Dinner mare Romantic Dinner) to the filly Decennial, another Trippi foal, who sold for only $26,000 as Hip 349, but has won five of 12 lifetime, placed among turf stakes company at Belmont Park, and earned $129,977.

That's three horses, 12 wins in 30 starts, G1 and G3 scores, three additional stakes wins, six additional stakes places (three graded) and nearly $1.4 million in earnings for a combined purchase price of $101,000.

It's been awhile since I've updated the sales class; life from time to time has gotten in the way. But armed with the knowledge that a horse I thought was unraced, Wild Shuffle (Hennessy-Shuffle Again, by Wild Again), has turned up a winner in Trinidad, and adding a couple of other new winners, the class now boasts 138 winners worldwide. That means out of the 187 recommended prospects, 176 have raced (94.1 percent) and 73.8 percent are winners.

The recommendations have made 2,163 worldwide starts, winning 305 races (14.1 percent), finishing second 358 times (16.6 percent) and third on 267 occasions (12.3 percent "shows," 43 percent total "in the money"). They have earned $9,666,381 for average earnings per starter of $55,875.03 and average earnings per start of $4,468.97.

Those would be pretty good numbers anyway, but considering bargain-hunting is my typical style and my average sales selection sold for barely $36,000 -- a full $20K or so less than the average 2-year-old of 2010, even including minor sales like primarily state-bred sales in Indiana and Louisiana -- I think the figures look particularly good and the recommendations on the whole pretty sharp. The class drew bids (sold or RNA) of $6,446,900 at the sales and should soon top $10 million in earnings; a pretty good return on investment for a game in which it's widely accepted that only about one in four horses purchased at auction will ever pay for itself. For the record, 97 of "my" 187 have earned more at the track than they cost at the sale; that's 51.9 percent, a number that could still grow a bit.

The addition of Prize Doll to the ranks of stakes winners brings that total to nine, or 4.8 percent of all selections. That isn't a stellar figure, but it's slightly above the breed average, for a price about 36 percent below the sale average. The class has 24 horses that are stakes-placed-or-better (one non-blacktype) for 12.8 percent -- about 50 percent above the breed average. And there's still time for a handful of these who are coming into their own at age 4.

Just like Prize Doll.

Click here and scroll down to read up on all 187 of those sales selections.