The Auction Angle – Another Way To Play

Auction season is just around the corner and offers HRC partners another angle on racing fun.
A link at the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders & Owner Association lists many auction dates in the coming months: http://www.washingtonthoroughbred.com/General/Dates.htm
Veterans of the auction scene will know all this already, but I put together a few impressions on my first auction experience:
First off, if you read or watch the headlines from racing sources, you’d think all thoroughbred auctions are for six and seven figure royally bred 2 year olds. Those do exist at major auctions, but just like in racing, there are different levels.
Small, regional auctions, and even later rounds of major auctions, sale many well bred yearlings at more attractive price points: $5,000- $15,000 for example. The yearlings are priced at a discount to two year olds, often a major discount, and often offer the better value.
Consider, for instance, HRC’s multiple stakes placed Glamoride (a $5,500 purchase at Keeneland, Sept, 2012) and our promising filly working up to her first start, Lemonsgonemad (a $5,200 purcahse at Fasig Tipton, Texas, Aug, 2013), just to name two.
And as always, HRC does not mark up the yearling. What they pay is what you pay. Furthermore, I was at first hesitant about paying for a horse almost a year away from racing, but the farm and initial training rates (off track) were quite reasonable (ask Scott as prices vary by state).
While I enjoyed claiming as much as anyone (and had done five claiming partnerships) I started to eye the auctions when I saw some of the logic to purchasing a yearling. From an ownership perspective, the yearling auctions offer some interesting opportunities.
Maybe the biggest draw is the unlimited potential. While it is always possible your $5,000 claimer could go on to stakes glory, it is not extremely likely. A well-bred two year old, however, could be the next star. Moreover, your colt or filly can compete against a cohort of 2 or 3 year olds in lucrative state-bred maiden and (hopefully) stakes races. HRC also has some top trainers of young horses, increasing your chances of success.
A second draw is that more auctions have become interactive. They are streamed live (especially the major auction firms like Fasig Tipton and Keeneland). The catalogs are up well in advance. So you can study pedigrees, progeny, sires and broodmares. HRC also has trainers or agents that can be on site for inspections. I have found Scott is also excited and passionate about pedigrees and prospects, so you have someone to share ideas.  Of course, be realistic. If the sire fee is 100K, the yearling will probably not be in our price range. So have a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th choice.
A third benefit can carry over in handicapping, especially maiden races with unraced or lightly raced company. Getting an idea about auction price points, and the interaction of pedigree with distances and surfaces can be helpful. There is more information than ever online about stallion statistics, for example.  You may spot the unraced progeny of the best turf sprinter in your region and get a leg up on the competition at the betting window.
Finally, the auctions are probably the best way to get a handle on the residual values of our fillies and mares (the prospect of a stallion being more rare–but plausible). Some partnerships have gotten large paydays for their fillies and mares (especially with earnings breaking into the six figures and some black type in the bank). Following auctions lets you see which pedigrees and types of track performance can lead to higher sales (and higher values).  This is the ultimate second payday for partners.
I enjoyed being involved with my first yearling auction purchase so much last summer, I am eagerly looking forward to the catalogs for this season. If a day (or multi-day) auction is not exciting, you can usually buy in after the auction purchase, but the good ones seem to go fast. And don’t forget, HRC also has some great home-breds that will open and offer many of the same opportunities.
If you are interested in a yearling auction, ask Scott how you can get involved and perhaps we can join in acquiring another promising colt or fill in 2014.
Mike Boyer – river@acsalaska.net

California Chrome – Everybody’s Horse

California Chrome is deservedly the favorite in tomorrow’s 146th running of the Belmont Stakes.  I can’t tell you how badly I want this over achieving 3 year old colt of such humble origins to win the first Triple Crown in 36 years.  It would be one for all of us working class stiffs – who don’t have the big names, the big money, the fancy cars, the super bloodlines.  This horse, its owners, its trainer & its jockey are one of us.  Somebody i could go have a beer with, tell an off color joke to, maybe belch at the table & nobody would mind.

Still, I likely won’t bet more than a $2 ticket to win – which I will not cash.  If Chrome wins, I’ll keep it with the program & racing form so I can frame them & stick them on my wall.

Chrome will be badly overbet in this race.  Chrome is this ailing sport’s best hope.  He’s everybody’s horse. People will bet Chrome just because they want him to win so badly.  How terrible would it be for Chrome to win & you have a bet on some other horse?

Still – even though Chrome is a deserving favorite, there are reasons for caution:

1)  None of the previous Triple Crown winners ever beat more than seven horses.  Chrome is being asked to beat 10 horses; 2)  Chrome’s parents won a total of 4 races between them & Chrome’s breeding does not indicate much ability to do well at long distance races such as this; 3)  running three demanding long distance races in a 5 week period is very taxing on any horse, increasing the likelihood Chrome will not produce his best effort; 4)  Chrome is racing against 8 fresh horses whose blue blood owners will be embarrassed if Chrome wins, so expect racing tactics designed to make Chrome work very hard for this win (very fast early pace, keeping Chrome in tight quarters, pinning Chrome on the rail, boxing Chrome in, forcing Chrome very wide around the turns if possible, etc. ….; 5)  Chrome, like all of these horses, has never been asked to run this far; 6) Chrome has never raced at Belmont Park before; 7) other horses in the race are better bred to race long distances; and lastly 8)  despite breaking well in each of the first two Triple Crown races, Chrome has a history of breaking poorly from the gate.

Pittsburgh Phil, perhaps the best horseplayer that ever lived, believed the horses with the most class were most likely to win stakes races.

“Birth and breeding do not appear to count so much.  It is heart, nerve and ability combined, which ignores all ordinary rules and ordinary obstacles.”

That pretty much sums up California Chrome for me.  He shouldn’t be able to do the things he does, but he does them.  I know he has the heart and the nerve to win this race.  I really hope he has the ability.

This sport needs this particular horse to win the Triple Crown.

Good luck at the races!

– Ron Classen, mytadog@comcast.net