By Jessica Martini
TIMONIUM, MD – The Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale returned to its traditional May spot on the calendar with an ebullient session topped by a $1.5-million son of Quality Road at the Maryland State Fairgrounds Monday. The seven-figure purchase was the co-highest priced colt ever sold at the Timonium auction, tying the price of a Curlin colt sold in 2017.
“It was unbelievable,” Midlantic Sales Director Paget Bennett said at the close of business Monday. “The activity in the barn area over the weekend was strong and all of the people you want to see at a 2-year-old sale were here. So we just hoped that everything would line up. And then this morning, the people just kept coming and coming. The pavilion was full of folks and the infield was full of cars.”
For the session, 170 head sold for $15,826,500. The average was $93,097–ahead of the record figure of $90,104 set in 2019–and the median was $45,000.
During last year's pandemic-delayed sale, 152 head sold during the auction's first session for a total of $12,632,500. The average was $83,109 and the median was $40,000.
“The consignors were here with top horses and people reconized that and they battled for them and it made for a great day,” Bennett said.
Of the 284 catalogued juveniles, 210 went through the ring. With 40 horses reported not sold, the buy-back rate was 19%.
For Bennett, Monday's results were a continuation of the demand for horses at all levels at last month's OBS Spring sale.
“From what I was hearing at OBS, people were just excited to be back for sales and wanting to buy horses,” Bennett said. “I heard so many people didn't get their orders filled in Ocala. We are the next stop and here we are. We are thilled we had a great catalogue to give them and the horses matched up.”
The Midlantic sale continues with a final session beginning at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
“We are certainly going to give it our best,” Bennett said when asked if the hot results would continue Tuesday. “I certainly hope so. From what I am hearing, we have a lot of really nice horses tomorrow, so we will hope for the same result. If we can keep on today's pace, I am thinking it will be another great day.”
A 'Proper Horse' For West Point
West Point Thoroughbreds' Terry Finley knew he'd have to dig deep to secure a handsome colt by Quality Road (hip 211) and, armed with the backing of a new partner, he saw off a determined Amr Zedan to secure the juvenile for $1.5 million Monday in Timonium. The colt, who worked a furlong in a co-bullet :10 flat last week, was consigned by Eddie Woods on behalf of Jon Clay's Alpha Delta Stables. He will be trained by Dallas Stewart.
“I talked to Eddie and he said this was a proper horse,” Finley said after signing the ticket on the youngster. “These Irish guys, when they throw that term out, that's a pretty good indication. They'll say, 'He's a nice horse.' But when they push it to the next level and talk about him being a proper horse, I take notice. And the fact that he's a big strong horse that worked in :10 flat (see below), you take a look at him and he's not supposed to work that fast, but he did it the right way.”
Of West Point's partner on the million-dollar baby, Finley said, “We have a brand new guy who took 50% of him. He's a West Pointer who is a little bit older than I am. He hasn't had a lot of success in the business and he called me a couple of days after the Kentucky Derby and he said, 'I want to compete in the big races.' So I told him I would give him my best effort. That's what we did.”
While Medina Spirit (Protonico)'s high-profile positive test following his GI Kentucky Derby victory two weeks ago tumbled the sport into turmoil, Finley said he believes the newly passed Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will help to reassure and attract new investors.
“The last week has been turbulent, but up until then, I think people were really starting to look at the Horse Racing Integrity Act as something that in a short period of time is really going to help our business,” Finley said. “I just ask everyone in the horse business to get behind it because I think it will attract people and investors. I think it will present all of us a level playing field. I've always been a big fan of the Horse Racing Integrity Act, but especially now. I think we all need to get behind it and try to push it across the line.”
Finley did his bidding standing at the back of the pavilion. Just a few rows up, Medina Spirit's owner Amr Zedan was sitting with advisors Gary Young and Charlie Boden, as well as lawyer Clark Brewster. Zedan would ultimately bow out of the bidding and Finley said the difference was the bidding power inherent in partnerships.
“This is our 30th year, so we've been doing this a long time and you can't be intimidated when you walk onto a sales ground,” Finley said of the bidding war. “If you do, you're going to get intimidated very quickly. Because there is a lot of money. But I think that's the power of the partnership–the ability to make some calls and tell people, 'Look I have a very good prospect. I think he could be a special horse. And I'd love for you to take a part of him.' And I think this is one of those horses.”
For his part Woods, who also consigned the day's second-highest priced juvenile, was asked to define his 'proper horse' observation.
“A proper horse is a horse who has all the attributes of being a very good horse, both mentally and physically,” Woods said. “The way they move and the way they handle themselves. When you saw this horse up here in the back ring, he'd walk beside you without a shank on him. He's been like that since he came to us. Every time we worked him, we wished they were all like that.”
Clay purchased the juvenile's unraced dam Stormy Welcome (Storm Cat) for $600,000 as a 9-year-old at the 2015 Keeneland November sale. The mare, who is also the dam of stakes-placed Welcoming (Tapit), is a half-sister to Guest House (Ghostzapper), the dam of graded winner Guest Suite (Quality Road). The colt's third dam is Weekend Surprise (Secretariat), dam of A.P. Indy and Summer Squall.
Alpha Delta traditionally offers most of his foal crop at the yearling sales, but the decision was made to give this colt more time to mature last fall.
“This horse was very backward as a yearling and they weren't happy with the way he was coming into the sale, so they scratched him,” Woods said. “Then when they were giving him time, they said give him a lot of time. We discussed it and decided we'd go to the Timonium sale. He was always pointed for Timonium and it was a great plan because it came together.”
Of the colt's monster bullet work, Woods added, “I was nervous because I expected him to work really, really good. And it doesn't always happen, as you well know. But he nailed it and he galloped out fantastic. When I came back and watched the video, I couldn't believe it. He's the best video I've had on a horse in five or six years. I couldn't stop watching it. He just nailed it. And that's why he brought what he brought.”
Malibu Moon Colt Heads West
A colt by Malibu Moon (hip 164), who worked the furlong in a co-bullet :10 flat during last week's under-tack preview, will be joining the Southern California barn of trainer Simon Callaghan after selling for $700,000 to bloodstock agents Alex Elliott and Ben McElroy. The two agents were bidding on behalf of a partnership.
“He was the horse we really honed in on,” Elliott said. “It's an old line, but when they tick all the boxes and jump through all the hoops, you know they are good horses. He looks like he can take us all the way.”
Hip 164 is a son of the unraced Seeking Atlantis (Seeking the Gold) and is a half-brother to graded placed Seeking Her Glory (Giant's Causeway). His second dam is multiple graded winner Atlantic Ocean (Stormy Atlantic).
“For a big horse on a tight track like this, he was so smooth and he had a great gallop out,” Elliott said. “He's a very hard horse to fault. He was an absolute king in the back ring. We are both delighted to get him. Ben and I work together here and in Europe, so it's good to hook up with him and get a horse that we wanted.”
Bred by Castleton Lyons and Kilboy Estate, the colt was consigned by Eddie Woods on behalf of Bill Harrigan's Miacomet Farm, which purchased him privately after he RNA'd for $135,000 at Keeneland last year.
“He was a beautiful colt,” Harrigan said of the colt's appeal last year. “I liked everything about him then. I was surprised that he RNA'd and the next day I bought him. But that horse has an exceptional demeanor. He has a tremendous stride and he's very athletic and smooth.”
Asked if he was surprised by the big colt's bullet work, Harrigan said, “Not really. We don't ask them to go that fast at Payson Park, but he had shown us that he was very talented.”
Classic Empire Filly Draws a Crowd
Bloodstock agent Jacob West got the best of a bidding war to acquire a New York-bred filly from the first crop of champion Classic Empire (hip 72) for $550,000 on behalf of Robert and Lawana Low Monday in Timonium. The bay filly, who worked an eighth of a mile last week in :10 1/5, was consigned by Sequel Bloodstock on behalf of breeders Chester and Mary Broman. Out of Newbie (Bernardini), she is a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Newly Minted (Central Banker).
“She's a nice filly who breezed well on this track here,” West said. “This filly breezed incredibly quick here and she galloped out big. She did it on the racetrack that's not the easiest to do that on. The New York-bred status was just an added bonus. She could have been foaled on the moon and we would have bought her. She is a beautiful filly. She'll go to Todd [Pletcher] and we'll keep our fingers crossed.”
The Lows have been among the many owners who have had success with Bernardini as a broodmare sire. The couple campaign GI Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational S. winner Colonel Liam (Liam's Map) and Friday's GIII Allaire DuPont Distaff winner Spice is Nice (Curlin).
“We have had luck buying out of Bernardini mares,” West said. “We have two graded stakes winners this year.”
Hip 72 is the highest-priced juvenile so far for Classic Empire, who won the 2016 GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile and returned in 2017 to win the GI Arkansas Derby and finish second in the GI Preakness S. The Coolmore stallion was represented by a $450,000 colt at OBS April and a pair of $410,000 juveniles.
“He was an incredible racehorse himself, so it should be no surprise that he is getting good-looking stock,” West said. “And now we see them on the track at the 2-year-old sales. It's not a surprise that they are fitting the bill of what we are looking for. It's not very often you are champion 2-year-old and come back and win a big graded stakes at three like that. [Trainer] Mark Casse was always very high on him. You have a lot of confidence when you can buy one like that.”
Sequel Bloodstock's Becky Thomas has plenty of experience with the filly's family.
“We're incredibly happy with that result,” Thomas said. “We are happy with the trainer and the buyers. I have trained for Mr. Broman for a long time and been part of his program. I trained the mother and I have the family. This filly was beautiful and fast and smart.”
Broman, a major player in the New York breeding industry for decades, began aggressively selling three years ago as part of what he called, “estate planning.” The planning included the $2-million OBS March topper Chestertown (Tapit) in 2019.
“Mr. Broman started doing his estate planning very aggressively a couple of years ago,” Thomas said. “He's kind of relaxed a bit. He is enjoying participating in the New York program and participating in breeding. Even though he may race a horse or two, he's trying to keep the numbers to where it makes a little better sense for him. We will have some horses to sell for him as yearlings and some as 2-year-olds. I think he is enjoying a different kind of action. And he will continue to race, too.”
Rosenblum Secures Munnings Colt
Sheila Rosenblum, bidding alongside bloodstock agent Kerri Radcliffe, secured a colt by Munnings (hip 260) for $460,000 late in Monday's first session of the Midlantic sale. Out of Tweet (Medaglia d'Oro), the dark bay worked a co-bullet furlong in :10 flat. He was consigned by Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree Stables. Dunne purchased the colt for $55,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale.
“We had our eye on him from the day he breezed,” Radcliffe said. “After he breezed, they couldn't pull him up. And Munnings is flying right now.”
Rosenblum said the colt would be trained by Steve Asmussen.
“He was at the top of our list,” Rosenblum said before adding with a laugh, “There was a Quality Road that was quite nice, too, but my financial brains took over.”
Asked if she was done shopping, Rosenblum said, “We don't know yet.”
Besecker Stays Busy at Fasig Midlantic
Prolific owner Joe Besecker, who was busy on both sides of the ledger early during Monday's first session of the Midlantic sale, capped a blitzkrieg buying spree with the $425,000 purchase of a son of Gormley (hip 56).
“When I saw this horse yesterday, I was there for about 45 minutes, and it's a very bad thing to fall in a horse, but I fell in love with this horse,” Besecker said. “Luckily, I will have some partners on him. This is way above my pay grade. I usually stay in the middle range. But I have a couple of partners and we decided we wanted to get one–ONE–expensive horse.”
The chestnut colt, from the first crop of GI Santa Anita Derby winner Gormley, is out of Mott N Hester (Super Saver) and is a half-brother to stakes placed Nicky Scissors (Mission Impazible). He breezed a furlong last week in :10 1/5 for consignor Robert Brewer. Ronnie Edmondson purchased the chestnut for $140,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale. He had sold for $77,000 at the Keeneland January sale.
“We vetted him twice, we had two or three vets on him,” Besecker said. “He's a late foal and he looks like a 3-year-old. I thought personally–I don't care what any of these other horses sell for–I will tell you in the last three years going to Kentucky, going to Florida, to my eye and I'm not really good at it, but to my eye that was the best looking horse I've seen in three years.”
Asked who would train the youngster, Besecker said, “I just had four of my trainers come up to me. We have to talk about it.”
Hip 56 was the ninth purchase of the young sale for Besecker. He paid $67,000 for a colt by Not This Time (hip 2) and $60,000 for a filly by Holy Boss (hip 55). He also sold a filly by Goldencents (hip 7)–purchased for $15,000 at last year's Fasig Midlantic October Sale–for $110,000 to bloodstock agent Larry Zap.
“I'm done for a little bit,” Besecker said. “We had that run and I sold one earlier today for a lot more than I thought I would. So I have to add it all up. I've blown my budget, so I need to see if I want to partner on one or two of these others.”
“A little bit,” didn't last all that long, as Besecker returned later in the session to secure an additional four juveniles. He ultimately signed for 13 head for a total of $859,000 and an average of $66,077.
Keen Purchase for Venosa
Steve Venosa may be buying more yearlings in the name of his young son Dylan in the future after scoring a second big pinhooking score of the spring with a colt purchased last fall in the name of Big D Stables. Venosa purchased a colt from the first crop of GI Travers S. winner Keen Ice (hip 171) for $57,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton October sale and sold the juvenile Monday in Timonium for $225,000 to the bid of Gervais Racing and West Point Thoroughbreds.
“I bought him out of the October sale,” Venosa said of the colt. “He was selling up at the tents, and I wasn't specifically looking for that sire, but I saw him in a group of horses and he really stood out.”
The chestnut colt is out of Sheisinitttowinit (Student Council) and Venosa admitted the pedigree had him momentarily hesitating last fall.
“I opened my catalogue and cocked my head a little bit and turned the page a couple times,” Venosa said. “And then I closed the book and said, 'You know what, I like the horse.' We had left the sale and we were in the car coming back from the airport and I said, one more bid.”
Of the colt's progress as a 2-year-old, Venosa said, “He's a big horse, but he's very light on his feet and very athletic for a horse that size. He is still kind of filling out in the right way. That's why we held him back for the later sale.”
Dylan Venosa's 2021 pinhooking successes also include a colt by Valiant Minister who sold for $350,000 following a bullet :20 3/5 work at the OBS Spring Sale. The colt had been a $40,000 purchase at last year's OBS October sale.
“He's had a great year,” Venosa said of his son's success. “I think when I go back, I'm going to have to hit him up for a loan.”
Asked if the profits would be going into a college fund, Venosa quipped, “College fund? He might be able to buy a college after the year he's had.”
Gun Runner Colt a Score for Pike
Champion Gun Runner is off to a flyer with his first crop to hit the racetrack, already represented by a pair of winners, and consignor Al Pike capitalized on the stallion's quick start when selling a colt (hip 160) for $225,000 to Kim Valerio, agent for DJ Stables, Monday in Timonium. Pike had purchased the youngster for $45,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton October sale.
“He was a Gun Runner with a lot of family,” Pike said of the colt's appeal last fall. “Tom Hamm from Three Chimneys contacted me when I was in the back ring and explained to me he was a foal share, which piqued my interest. So I went up there to see what he would sell for and I was fortunate enough to buy him.”
The Midlantic sale wasn't originally in the cards for the colt, who is out of Secret Jewel (Bernardini), a half-sister to GI Breeders' Cup F/M Turf winner Shared Account, the dam of GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and 'TDN Rising Star' Sharing (Speightstown).
“I bought him with the intention of taking him to Texas,” Pike said. “I thought he'd be a really nice horse to take to Texas and maybe top the sale there. But then we got to training him and we liked him enough to think we could bring him up here to be competitive here. And he showed up and did his job, so we were very happy.”
The colt worked a furlong in :10 2/5 during last week's under-tack preview. Since his purchase last year, his half-sister Twenty Carat (Into Mischief) won the Apr. 2 GIII Beaumont S.
“On the racetrack, he thinks he is Godzilla,” Pike said. “The farther he goes, the better he gets. And I think that's what attracted a lot of people to him. He just looked like he could keep going and going. I think he has a bright future.”
Of Gun Runner's early success, Pike added, “I think we all didn't know what to think about them, but they've come out running and everyone seems to be very excited about them. And he had a timely update, so that helped a lot, too.”