By Ben Massam
Four years ago at the 2013 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, Blackstone Farm's Douglas Black, Christian Hansen and Mark Weissman had high hopes for a More Than Ready weanling colt, only to see him return home to Pennsylvania unsold. The trio of partners gave the handsome colt time and brought him to Fasig-Tipton's 2014 Saratoga Select Yearling Sale, where he hammered for $145,000 to GMB Racing.
The rest is history, as the Blackstone Farm-bred dark bay–named Tom's Ready–has gone on to win three graded stakes races, and along with crop-mate Dark Nile (Pioneerof the Nile)–who captured the 2016 GII Delaware Oaks–draw valuable attention to the growing commercial breeding farm situated in the rolling hills of Pine Grove, Pennsylvania. The latest of Tom's Ready's triumphs came with a rallying score in the GIII Bold Ruler H. at Belmont (video) Oct. 28.
“Tom's Ready is a good little racehorse,” Black said. “We RNA'd him as a weanling and then we sold him as a yearling at Saratoga. Obviously, he won [last] weekend and he crossed the $1-million mark, which is great. I think he's going to run in the [GI] Cigar Mile next month. We hope he wins–he's going to be a stallion.”
Black said he believes that patience and selectivity tend to be rewarded in the breeding and sales game–a theory that also guided his strategy at the upcoming Fasig-Tipton November Sale. Blackstone entered four horses in the auction with Mike Recio's South Point Sales, but will only offer one Gemologist filly (Hip 49) who Black classifies as an exceptional individual.
“We entered four and we pulled three of them because we didn't think they'd be ready for the sale,” Black said. “Our whole model is to sell as yearlings, if possible, but we just felt that this one is a special filly. We're going to run her through the sale, and the other three are going to sell as yearlings.”
Hip 49 is a daughter of Wildcat Marie, who won Woodbine's GIII Whimsical S. in 2011 and was scooped up by Blackstone for $25,000 at the 2015 Keeneland January Sale in foal to To Honor and Serve. Black said her Gemologist filly made a favorable impression from day one.
“She's a good physical,” Black said. “She's got good size and she's correct. She vets well and the other three just aren't ready. From my perspective, you want to sell a horse when its at its best…If you have a great physical, you might get a pinhooker who is willing to take a chance on it.”
Black said that experience tells him that the time is right to offer the filly as a weanling.
“I've been in the business for 30 years, and it's a matter of timing on all these things,” said Black. “I've seen some horses that RNA'd in September and sold in October for five times their RNA price. It's just how the business works. Tom's Ready is a perfect illustration of that, and I hope to breed to him, by the way. He's one of the most special horses we've had at the farm. I would say we've maybe had three or four better physicals, but he was always perfectly put together. He's sort of between a sprinter and a miler.”
Black said the example of Tom's Ready also illustrates how the yearling market can be more appealing as a landing place for end users. While holding a horse for another year comes with added risk, there is also something to be said for striking while the iron is hot.
“The market is a fickle thing, and the market will tell you when to sell,” Black said. “We had good success selling some weanlings. I think the market is a little light in the middle, but you get paid handsomely on the back end if you have the right pedigree and the right physical.”
Blackstone has experienced a prolonged run of success since Black partnered with Christian Hansen, a native of Denmark who has with a background in both the Thoroughbred and Standardbred industry, in 2010. The first priority for the two men was to convert the property into a larger-scale commercial breeding operation.
“I always wanted to get in to the commercial side of it,” Black explained. “If you want to run a business, you have to go commercial. And the first thing we agreed upon was that we need to build a commercial broodmare band–and I think we've done that. We have about 60 broodmares.”
A third partner, Mark Weissman, joined the farm in 2012. With no shortage of broodmares and foals, Black said Blackstone prioritizes the health and happiness of their horses to give them every chance to succeed in the sales ring and on the track.
“It's all about doing the right thing by the horses,” Black said. “If you do the right thing by the horses, they'll do the right thing by you. Our whole philosophy is to make sure they get the best feed program, the best care out of the gate, vet work, farrier work, and send them off to college to see what they do.”