Mar 25, 2010


Juvenile sales are in full stride at this writing. Your correspondent is shipping out with the morning tide (actually in an airplane) to do battle with the Somali pirates (pinhookers) who patrol the Florida shores in search of booty. Me, I’ll settle for a decent horse or two that’s worth the money.

The combat is not quite that bad but a whiff of piracy will always pervade the 2-year-old markets. It’s a mug’s game when seven figure prices can be extracted from gullible owners who think the difference of a fifth of a second can separate the men from the boys. The Green Monkey will not be forgotten for a long, long time and he was purchased by one of the smartest teams in the business.

There always seems to be a new angle at such sales. In their formative days juvenile sales served as liquidity for leftover stock that could not cut it in a yearling vendue.
A fast work was necessary to show a profit.

Sellers were fond of adding as much equipment to the horse as there was room for.
Shadow rolls were on almost every steed. Flesh colored blinkers were applied universally in hopes that the audience mighty not notice. Whips, sometimes even spurs were used to coerce one more tick of the clock.

The advent of high definition video means that attentive buyers would have ample opportunity to see the horses in a more natural state.

In vogue the past decade is the spread of “galloping out”. Most of this is a bogus attempt to sound like you have more horse than you do. Riders are now evidently ordered to stay down and milk another furlong out of their mounts.

As you might imagine, there are widely varied unofficial times reported . Some enterprising observers have taken to selling the product of their “gallop outs”.

Some of these guys couldn’t time a 3-minute egg yet they find believers ready to part with cash in hopes of having an edge.

I must confess that I would never be brave enough to see one of my horses exposed to injury by an unfamiliar furlong on the clubhouse turn.

A proper gallop out is highly desirable-I call it “natural gas”-when a horse is reaching out with no encouragement from the pilot. Those are the rare ones you want to pay attention to.

I’ve been doing this for decades and I developed some formulas that have produced some 40 stakes winners headed by Grade I winners Harmony Lodge, Bishop Court Hill and major winner Tricky Trevor.

It helps to be able to handicap the sellers. Make it a habit to deal with men and women who have proven they can turn out a sound horse.

You might want to have me on your side when it comes to buying an auction 2-year-old.


When Congaree was retired to stud after a brilliant racing career Stonerside manager John Adger commissioned me to round up a few mares that would complement the stallion.

I went straightaway to Toronto and came back with three Canadian stakes winners with a capital outlay of roughly $l00,000 for the trio (perhaps a little less with the currency differential).

Early returns indicate that our knack for finding top value in mares continues unabated.
The threesome of Brattothecore, La Grande Mamma and Leading Role earned a composite $l million from 62 starts in their racing days.

Soundness was the dominant theme of our search on behalf of Bob and Janice McNair.
Congaree’s fore legs were suspect, to say the least, and one could only ferret out lively prospective mates and hope. Canadian racing is conducted without analgesic nostrums such as Bute so it stands to reason that horses capable of stakes wins have displayed sufficient rigor to overcome some limitations in the sire’s makeup. Pretty elementary reasoning but it had worked splendidly a few years before when we helped launch the career of Canadian stallion Archers Bay.

Bratttothecore got off the blocks first when her City Zip colt named City Style won a stakes in Louisiana and followed it up with a placing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He is now in Dubai with the Darley population which was included in the Stonerside sale of its entire Thoroughbred investment.

La Grande Mamma produced a Congaree colt named Kettle River who won back-to-back races at Santa Anita and Hollywood, in the process earning a berth in the weekend’s Sham Stakes. He faltered in that salty spot but is a horse that bears watching in the second tier three-year-old races.

Leading Role was placed in the Stonerside Texas program and has a couple of foals that are considered promising.

Our handiwork showed up in other venues from Los Angeles to Miami to Barbados in recent days. Sweet Vale is the dam of Sterwins who took the Barbados Gold Cup. I recommended the purchase of Sweet Vale who did not stand training after three starts.
She has outdone herself as a producer.

Bickerson has Canadian antecedents, too. Winner of Gulfstream Park’s Forward Gal stakes, her second dam is Lil Ol’ Gal who I happened to buy for a friend in my fledgling role as caretaker for the British Columbia stallion Bold Laddie.

Lil Ol’ Gal was about l4.2 hands, hence the name, but lightning fast. She broke the world record for 3 1/2 furlongs first time out. I bought her back for a healthy buck as a 4-year-old for John Franks and she went on to win the Ontario Fashion Stakes at Woodbine. The diminutive mare was a favorite of Franks’ broodmare band.
At Santa Anita, Harris Farm’s Red Sun ran his record to four wins in five starts. I bought her dam (by Affirmed) for Franks although she became one that got away during one of his periodic dispersals. Her four stakes horses have run out $1 million or so.