Uncle Mo Filly Tops Fasig Gulfstream Sale

Hip 57, a filly by Uncle Mo, topped the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale | Fasig-Tipton photo

by Jessica Martini & Marie Kizenko

Three juveniles topped the seven-figure mark during Wednesday's Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale and two of them, including the $1.5-million sale-topping daughter of Uncle Mo, were purchased by newcomer Lawrence Best's OXO Equine. Figures during the first 2-year-old auction of the sales season remained largely consistent with its 2016 results and, in a continued sign of market polarization, bidding was fast and furious for the top lots, but action fell off for the less-prized individuals.

“It was very, very hard for people to buy horses today because there was intense and broad competition on the horses that they wanted,” said Fasig-Tipton President Boyd Browning, Jr. “I don't think any of the buyers would say they bought them for less than they thought they would. They found it very difficult to buy. We continue to live in a polarized market. It's really good when you get the stars lined up, but it's not easy to get the stars lined up.”

From a catalogue of 162 juveniles, only 87 went through the ring. But of those 87, only 13 failed to find new homes for an historically low RNA rate of 14.9%.

“One of the reasons that the RNA rate was so low is because the scratch rate was high,” Browning admitted. “It would be unrealistic for people to change their expectations for the marketplace this year by saying that the RNA rate was less than 15%. That's just not the reality of the world we live in.”

In all, 74 horses sold Wednesday for a total of $25,115,000. The average was $339,392–up 3.8% from a year ago–and the median rose 8.0% to $270,000. A year ago, 66 horses changed hands for $21,590,000. The average was $327,121 and the median was $250,000.

While the middle market may have struggled, Browning noticed plenty of new faces vying for the most-prized offerings.

“There are a lot of people who want to buy a good horse, probably more faces, more activity then I've seen in recent years here,” Browning said. “So that bodes well for the rest of the 2-year-old season.”

One of the new faces was OXO Capital founder Lawrence Best, who found both of his seven-figure offerings from Cary Frommer's consignment at the Gulfstream Sale. He purchased hip 57, a daughter of Uncle Mo, early in the auction and didn't move from his seat until ultimately securing hip 156, a colt by More Than Ready, for $1.1 million. In between, Reiley McDonald, bidding on behalf of the absent M.V. Magnier, paid $1.45 million for a colt by Bernardini. There were four million-dollar sales during last year's auction.

“It's the same as it always is, feast or famine,” McDonald admitted. “The feasts are really good, it's just that there are too many famines.”

Best Buys

Lawrence Best went to a sale-topping $1.5 million for hip 57, a filly by Uncle Mo out of Flowers Atthefinish (Grand Reward), early in Wednesday's Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale, then patiently remained in his seat until almost the end of the auction to make his second big purchase of the evening, going to $1.1 million to acquire a colt by More Than Ready (hip 156).

“I like well-bred fillies,” Best, who only first started buying horses at last year's Keeneland September Yearling Sale, said. “Uncle Mo is obviously a highlight in the industry. I tend to buy fillies who I think can win graded stakes races and sometimes have some residual value.”

The filly is a full-sister to multiple stakes placed Mighty Mo and from the family of multiple graded stakes winner Lotus Pool (Spectacular Bid). Consigned by Cary Frommer, she worked a furlong Monday in :10 1/5.

Also consigned by Frommer, the colt, who is out of stakes winner Tensas Punch (War Front), was more of an impulse buy.

“I just liked the horse,” Best said. “I don't buy that many horses and when I see something special, I tend to buy it.”

Best made his first purchase at Keeneland September, going to $750,000 for a daughter of Medaglia d'Oro. His horses are currently trained by Chad Brown.

“A friend of mine, who I had invited to be my guest at my home in Florida, got me hooked on the industry,” Best explained of his sudden immersion into the racing game. “It's someone I worked with and he just intrigued me enough to look into it. I love the industry. I love the athletes, the horses. I guess I am just a little addicted.”

A native of Boston, Best founded the investment company OXO Capital LLC and he also served as chief financial officer of the medical device company Boston Scientific Corporation.

Mo Money

Twelve months ago at this venue, consignor Cary Frommer celebrated selling her first seven-figure juvenile when an Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie) filly brought an even $1-million from the partnership of Stonestreet Stables and M.V. Magnier. The South Carolina-based Frommer outdid that result Wednesday evening when a pair of her youngsters surged past the million-dollar mark, including a $1.5-million Uncle Mo miss who topped the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale. Both sold to new player OXO Equine LLC, the nom de course of Boston-based investor Lawrence Best.

Catalogued as hip 57, the daughter of Flowers Athefinish (Grand Reward) is a full-sister to the multiple stakes placed Mighty Mo. The bay filly originally brought $50,000 as a weanling at Keeneland November before being acquired by Frommer and pinhooking partner Barry Berkelhammer for $250,000 at Fasig-Tipton's July Sale in Lexington. Hip 57 posted one of the best breezes during Monday's under-tack show, covering a furlong in :10 1/5.

“She's been so popular since she got here,” Frommer said. “She's probably going to want to go and lay down for a couple of days. It doesn't always work out this well, but that was really exciting.”

Encouraged by a successful selling season in 2016, Frommer and Berkelhammer redoubled their efforts during the yearling sales season and acquired a number of young prospects.

“We're always on the lookout for really good horses, and luckily a lot of the really good horses are Uncle Mos,” Frommer said. “Sometimes we can afford them and sometimes we can't, and when we can, we buy them. We were thinking she would bring a good price. We would have been very happy to get our money back and make some more to pay some bills. But ($1.5 million) was pretty darn special.”

The first two juveniles Frommer sent to the ring Wednesday evening failed to meet their reserve, but once hip 57 got the ball rolling, it ended up being a very good night. Hip 84, a Candy Ride (Arg) colt out of Just an Inkling, sold for $200,000 to Jay Em Ess Stable. The final Frommer offering was hip 156, a More Than Ready (Southern Halo) colt produced by multiple stakes winner Tensas Punch (War Front) who was the subject of spirited bidding before finally being knocked down for $1.1 million to Best's OXO Equine.

“It's a pretty darned good day!” said a very happy Frommer. “He was a lovely horse. We knew he was going to grow, but he wasn't small. We had no idea that he would grow into the big, strapping horse he is. He's so correct, and he's the ideal horse, I thought.”

Frommer had never met Best until the Gulfstream Sale, but noted that he had been a constant presence at her barn during showing.

“He doesn't work with anybody as far as I know, it's just him,” she said. “Now I'm very fond of him. He'd been at the barn a lot and spent most of the day there yesterday. He was watching everything and paying attention. I believe the Uncle Mo is going to Chad Brown, but I don't know about (the More Than Ready).”

An April foal, the More Than Ready colt was purchased for $235,000 at Fasig-Tipton July. He covered the ground smartly during his :10 1/5 breeze Monday and showed to numerous potential buyers afterwards.

“Both of these horses had the same attribute and that's that they have really good brains,” Frommer added. “They went out there and walked the walk, and did everything they needed to do. They're two very tired horses right now.”

Understandably thrilled with the 2016 results, Frommer was hopeful with her new group of youngsters, but steeled herself in case things didn't go as smoothly.

“We knew it was going to be hard to sell horses this year, just like it was hard to sell last year,” she explained. “Everything is very polarized, everybody wants the best. So we went looking for yearlings that we thought were the best that we could afford. Both of these were bought in July at the sale at Fasig, and we stepped up while people were still figuring out what was going on (in the market). I'm glad we did because we bought some nice horses.

“I was prepared to not have any million-dollar horses, that was really exciting last year,” Frommer continued. “I was prepared that it wasn't going to be like that. But I must say that when I got here, I thought, 'You know what? We've got the goods.' I said to my partner, Barry Berkelhammer, 'We might actually pull this off again.' And I'll be darned if we didn't.” –Marie Kizenko

Magnier Makes His Presence Felt

Coolmore's M.V. Magnier wasn't at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale Wednesday, but was still an active buyer. Through bloodstock agent Reiley McDonald, Magnier purchased a colt by Bernardini (hip 135) for $1.45 million. Consigned by Hartley/DeRenzo, the youngster was one of five to work the fastest furlong time of :10 flat during Monday's under-tack preview. Out of Winner (Horse Chestnut {SAf), the bay colt is a half to graded stakes winner Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense).

“It was hard to find anything wrong with him,” McDonald said after signing the ticket. “He had pedigree. He had a beautiful work–he had bit of a slow start with his head up and then when he leveled out, he was something different.”

The price wasn't a surprise in Wednesday's competitive market, according to McDonald.

“He is a lovely colt and the good horses here bring a lot of money,” he said. “Those that have little issues or fall through the cracks don't sell well. But we thought this was the best horse in the sale.”

McDonald was also a seller Wednesday, parting with another furlong bullet worker in a Spring At Last colt (hip 35). That colt brought a final bid of $100,000 and his sale characterized the polarized market, according to his breeder.

“He was such a nice horse, but when you come in here and you have problems–and he had some chips in his ankles–I think that's what you see here,” McDonald said of hip 35. “If you don't have a horse that jumps through all the hoops, you get .25 on the dollar.”

Bloodstock agent Justin Casse was also in action for Magnier at Gulfstream Wednesday, going to $700,000 to secure a colt by Pioneerof the Nile (hip 86). Out of multiple graded stakes winner Katz Me If You Can (Storm Cat), the dark brown colt was consigned by Starting Point Thoroughbreds and worked a furlong Monday in :10 2/5.

“The sire, the dam sire, he was a beautiful mover on the track,” Casse ticked off about the colt's appeal. “He was a beautiful specimen with a stallion's pedigree. I watched him in the back chute and he seemed to find more after the breeze, so all that added up to everything we look for.”

WinStar Takes a Shine to Medaglia d'Oro Colt

The Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale got off to a solid start when Hip 6, a regally bred son of Medaglia d'Oro (El Prado {Ire}) from the family of champion Untapable (Tapit) sold for $900,000 to the partnership of WinStar Farm and Breeze Easy. Bred in New York by Gallagher's Stud, the dark bay was consigned to yesterday's auction by Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds, which acquired him for $300,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale. The colt was produced by Wild Chant (War Chant), a half-sister to 2014 Eclipse Award heroine Untapable and to millionaire Paddy O'Prado (El Prado {Ire}). In addition to his deep catalogue page and attractive physique, the handsome colt delivered a smooth drill in :10 2/5, making him an easy choice for WinStar President Elliott Walden.

“I just liked everything about him, his pedigree, the way he moved and the way he galloped out,” Walden summed up. “Very classy horse. (The price) was a little high, but those kind of colts bring that kind of range, so I thought it was okay. We bought him with Breeze Easy. We looked at him at Saratoga (sale) and he's really done well. He's a nice colt. Todd Pletcher will train him.”

Pletcher echoed Walden's sentiments.

“He's a beautiful colt and performed really well on the track, and he seems to have a great mind,” the Eclipse Award-winning conditioner added. “He really does check all the boxes. He's a very promising horse.”

Hip 6 is a sibling to three winners from three foals of racing age from Wild Chant, who has a Lemon Drop Kid yearling filly. Gallagher's Stud purchased Wild Chant in foal to Tapit for $300,000 in 2011 at Keeneland November.

WinStar also partnered with China Horse Club on two other racing prospects for $500,000 apiece. Hip 25, a son of Into Mischief (Harlan's Holiday) out of Blue Devil Bel (Gilded Time), was purchased from the Crupi's New Castle Farm consignment. Hip 144, an Orb (Malibu Moon)–Spring Awakening (In Excess {Ire}) colt will also join the partnership after selling from the Wavertree Stables draft. –Marie Kizenko

Banner Day for Hartley/De Renzo

It was a excellent day of selling for Hartley/De Renzo, which led over six youngsters and sold the sextet. In addition to the “rock star” $900,000 Medaglia d'Oro colt, the outfit fielded the sale's highest-priced colt, hip 135, a son of Bernardini–Winner (Horse Chestnut {SAf}) who brought $1.45 million from Eaton Sales as agent for M.V. Magnier.

“It was a great sale for us,” Randy Hartley said. “We stretched on some horses (last year) with great pedigrees. It's a risky move, but the reward can be so much more. We didn't buy that many, but we stretched on the ones we really liked. They breezed well. In this market you have to be at the top end. Everything we brought down here was out of a graded stakes winner or a half to one. Fasig has done a great job getting buyers here and it seemed like a really solid sale.”

The Bernardini colt was produced by Winner, a granddaughter of the peerless Personal Ensign. She has already produced graded stakes winner Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense) and graded stakes placed Private Ensign (A.P. Indy), as well as the promising 4-year-old filly Squeeze (Lemon Drop Kid). He was a particular favorite of Hartley's.

“Bernardini is my number one stallion,” Hartley explained. “I love them, they're so easy to train. They're happy to do what you want. We've been very lucky with the Bernardini colts. When we bought him he was slightly small, but he had a great walk. I told Dean, 'He's a bit small and maybe not everyone will go for him because of his size, but he walked so good that we still had to pay $350,000. He grew well and he's got a lot of leg under him. And he just had a beautiful way of moving, just tremendous.”

The duo's strategy of placing a premium on a yearling's pedigree has paid off.

“Years ago, Dean and I were the first ones to step out and bring really expensive horses to a 2-year-old sale,” Hartley added. “I'll never forget when we paid $150,000 for one and everyone said, 'What are y'all doing?' But we got $450,000 for him and we thought that's where the market needs to be. Those well-bred horses always seem to attract more attention. But it is risky, and we have to be very careful training them. It's just different when you've already paid a lot of money for them. Between the both of us we find a happy medium.”

The Ocala-based Hartley said the Gulfstream location gave the auction a certain panache.

“It just feels rich here, and I think that brings excitement to the sale,” Hartley said.

Hartley/De Renzo also sold a trio of fillies to Breeze Easy: Hip 1, an Into Mischief (Harlan's Holiday) filly for $450,000; Hip 40, a daughter of Scat Daddy (Johannesburg) for $550,000; and Hip 145, a Medaglia d'Oro miss for $450,000. Their group was rounded out by Hip 91, a Tiznow colt out of La Suena (Storm Cat) that sold for $265,000 to the partnership of Spendthrift Farm and Town & Country Racing.

The Into Mischief filly is a full-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Vicar's In Trouble, while the Scat Daddy filly is a half to Grade I winner Union Strike (Union Rags) and a full to graded winner Handsome Mike. The Medaglia d'Oro filly is a half to multiple Grade I winner Weemissfrankie (Sunriver).

“We're happy with what we bought and we think we got some nice horses,” Breeze Easy's Mike Hall said. “We watched them all work. The fillies that we bought we will race and then turn them into broodmares later. I think the prices were good, it was about what we expected. We were bidding on the Bernardini. We bought a horse with WinStar today. We know WinStar is good people and we want to partner with some good people and try to grow our business. So we felt it was a good move for us.” –Marie Kizenko

Starting Point Strong out of Gate

W.D. North has been absent from selling horses for five years, but made a strong return to the auction scene Wednesday with a pair of impressive results at the Fasig Gulfstream sale.

North paid $280,000 for a colt by Pioneerof the Nile at last year's Keeneland September sale. Returned to the sales ring Wednesday, hip 86 rewarded his investment when selling for $700,000 to M.V. Magnier.

“I loved everything about him; he had wonderful conformation,” North explained. “I liked his size and the way he walked. He had an incredible walk on him when I bought him and then he trained on well.”

Starting Point also sold a filly by Bernardini (hip 45) for $425,000 to Live Oak Plantation. That 2-year-old, a half to graded stakes winner Dancing Solo (Giant's Causeway), cost $280,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October Yearling Sale.

“These are the type of horses that deserve to come here,” North said. “This is the big sale for 2-year-olds and we wanted to be a part of it. We thought we had the goods to come here.”

North never stopped training horses, but has left consigning duties to Eddie Woods in the last few years.

“I stopped selling horses because I had two young children, twins, and my wife is a veterinarian and she had started a new clinic,” North explained. “So I didn't have the time to be on the road from sale to sale. Eddie Woods did a great job for us, but now that the kids are eight and grandma retired to Ocala, I have more time. We decided to get back at it. And it's good to be back. It's a lot of fun, I enjoy it.”

Pinhooking Coup for Antonucci, Rices

Jena Antonucci, with the help of consignors Alexandra and Brandon Rice of Ricehorse Stables, put together a four-horse pinhooking partnership last fall and enjoyed quick success Wednesday at Gulfstream when selling hip 54, a son of Exchange Rate, for $550,000 to John Ferguson. Antonucci's Bella Inizio Farm purchased the gray for $180,000 at last year's Keeneland September Yearling Sale (Thoro-Stride video).

“It's a partnership of just two people,” Antonucci said. “This was the first partnership I'd put together using this business model. Brandon, Ali and I were a shopping team. And this horse just ticked all the boxes. He looked like a super athlete. We knew Exchange Rate wasn't the sexiest sire, but this is an individual with so much right. Ali and Brandon and their team did everything right to get him here and that's why we're in business with them.”

While the Rices both come from families who have enjoyed success at Fasig-Tipton's boutique 2-year-old sale, this was the first time Ricehorse has offered a horse at the venue.

“We were really proud that Jena selected Ali and I to represent her partnership as consignors and help her through the process of finding four horses that fit her pinhook strategy,” Brandon Rice said. “This horse was the highest priced of the four. He was raw, rugged and exactly what we were looking for physically. He had all the attributes of a big, strong handsome colt that belonged here in the Miami Sale.”

Rice continued, “This is the first time that Ali and I have presented horses here. Of course, our families have been here for years. We've been looking for the right horse for this sale and Jena and her partnership helped us acquire the horse for this.”

Antonucci's partnership group still has three juveniles to offer through March and April at OBS, according to Rice.

“It's a great way to kick things off,” he said. “We knew we had a good horse, but you can never predict great sales. You just try your hardest. The colt did his job. We feel like we did our job trying to buy the right kind of horse and present him as well as we could. And we sure thank a healthy market down here at Fasig Tipton.”

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