The upheaval in the Ontario racing industry was reflected in the results from last year’s Forest City Sale. The average was down from 18,000 to 10,500; the unrest over the sire stakes program took its toll. The 71 fillies sold brought a skimpy average of 8,000. This year the sale was pushed back a month to get out from the shadow of the larger sales at Lexington and Harrisburg. That in combination with a more settled situation led to a hefty 28.6% increase in this year’s sale.
In 2012 Shadow Play’s first crop averaged about 11,600. Seventeen were sold and ten of those brought 10,000 or less. He stood for 5,000 in 2012 and that was reduced to 4,000 for this year. In that price range he was battling a crowded field for the attention of the breeders: Sportswriter, Big Jim, Badlands, No Pan Intended, Jereme’s Jet etc. Now that Arthur Blue Chip, Performing Art, Lady Shadow and company have had an opportunity to strut their stuff things have changed.
The 14 sold over the weekend averaged more than 23,000—double last year. Eight of the 14 brought at least 25,000 and the two top sellers went for 77,000 and 72,000. Five of them sold for 15,000 or less. This isn’t a great time to be raising stud fees in Ontario but that 20% cut certainly needs to be restored. Badlands Hanover, at 5,500, is the most expensive pacing stallion in Ontario right now and his sale offering of 15 yearlings averaged about 8,400. He needs to go down and Shadow Play needs to go up. How high is the question—6,000 or 7,500? The bigger question is: do they keep him in Ontario or move him to New York, Pennsylvania or Ohio?
Six more Mach Three yearlings were sold this year than last. The small group averaged 28.000 in 2012 while this year’s offering came in at about 18,500. Almost half sold for at least 25,000, however the other half went for 15,000 or less. Jack Darling purchased the top seller, a colt for 55,000. Fourteen-year-old Mach Three stands at Tara Hills Stud for 7,500. He was the overall stallion leader in the OSS this year, represented by the likes of Mach It So and Regil Elektra. Eight of them sold for a solid 50,000 average at Harrisburg with a full brother to SBSW bringing 155,000. Mach Three is a very solid OSS stallion.
Camluck, who turns 27 in a few weeks, continues to defy time and hold his own as a stallion. Gene Abbe was 30 when Big Towner was born but that’s the exception. Meadow Skipper died of a heart attack at age 22; Most Happy Fella only made it to age 17. This year 19 sold for an average of about 22,400. Camluck, who gave us last year’s Jug winner, Michael’s Power, always comes up with at least one big banger. Two years ago at Forest City a full brother to Nirvana Seelster sold for 150,000. A few weeks ago a half sister to Dynamic Youth sold for 140,000 at Harrisburg. Lucky King had some success at the Grassroots level in 2013 but Camluck didn’t have a particularly strong year in the OSS.
Six-year-old Sportswriter made his first appearance at Forest City this year. He was just OK. 73% of them brought 25,000 or less. 47% sold for 15,000 or less. Tony O’Sullivan paid 65,000 for a sister to Warrawee Needy while David Menary paid 50,000 for a colt out of Lady D M. His overall average for 15 sold was a respectable 24,000. This was in line with what happened in Harrisburg where 35 averaged 23,000. Sportswriter opened up for 6,000 in 2011 and was subsequently dropped to 5,000. I assume he’ll stay there until his first crop speaks to us.
Only one Jereme’s Jet yearling sold at Forest City last year; over the weekend 17 went for an average just below 12,000. 53% fell below the 15,000 mark and only one brought more than 25,000. The results were better than Harrisburg where 13 of them averaged 7,500. His daughter Pretty Music recently won the Cinderella, but there doesn’t seem to be much hope for JJ outside of the OSS, where he ranks fifth overall among pacing stallions and seems to be scratching out a living.
Badlands Hanover had 15 sell for an underwhelming 8,400 average. 80% of the 10 colts and 5 fillies sold for 15,000 or less. Only one, a 25,000 colt out of The Patriot purchased by Jeff Gillis, sold for more than 18,000. Badlands started off with a bang in the OSS program: Love Canal was a potential star; Tarpon Hanover was an early sensation; It’s No Secret was very good. But it didn’t last. In 2011 13 sold for a solid 22,000 average, but last year nine averaged only 12,000, and this year we have more of the same. Actually Sudoku, Tarpon and Love Canal all earned pretty good money this year but folks would obviously prefer Shadow Play or Sportswriter to Badlands.
Artistic Fella sold 15 for a 9,000 average, about the same as last year. Stonebridge Regal averaged 8,400 for 8 and Royal Mattjesty moved 9 for 8,100. What is the point? Lauren Lee recently wrote a piece in The Canadian Sportsman about the toll the 30% reduction in OSS purse money is taking on the horsemen, and she gives particular emphasis to those trying to eke out a living in the Grassroots program. The situation is such that the winner of the Grassroots Championship can make some money but everyone else walks away with ten or fifteen thousand and that isn’t enough to keep people in business. When it comes to selling yearlings some may see the break even point at 25,000 while for others it is 20,000 or even 15,000, but how can anyone make money selling the majority of their stock for under 15,000?
225 yearlings were sold at Forest City and only 30 of them, or 13%, brought 25,000 or more. That’s no way to run a railroad. And only five of them were trotters. The saddest sack among the trotting stallions was Kadabra, the sire of Bee A Magician. Four colts and five fillies brought a humbling average shy of 16,000. Only one, a 35,000 colt, brought more than 25,000. And to add insult to injury, 55% came in at 15,000 or below. In 2011 ten had averaged 28,000, but last year at this sale 14 averaged only 18,000. Kadabra has been on the skids for a while. He averaged 43,000 for 20 sold at Harrisburg but that’s deceiving. Larry Hartman helped boost the average when he spent 160,000 for a filly and David McDuffie spent 140,000 on another filly. Folks place a lot more value on his fillies. His 15,000 (U.S.) fee is 60% higher than any other in Ontario. They need to drop him to ten, or even 7,500 if he’s going to stay in Canada.
Holiday Road, a full brother to Ken Warkentin, had 13 from his first crop sell. They averaged 10,000, with a high of 19,000. Twelve of them fell into the 15,000 or less category…..The Broadway Hall stallion, Pilgrims Taj, also had his first crop sell. Four of them averaged 14,000. Dustin Jones picked up a pair, a filly for 30 and a colt for 12. And David Menary bought a colt for 9,000…..Seventeen-year-old Angus Hall, who had his fee dropped from 10,000 to 6,000 last year, had 16 sell for an average of 13,500. This was better than last year when 21 sold for a paltry average of 8,000. Still, 69% of the Angus Halls failed to top the 15,000 mark….. Nine Federal Flex yearlings averaged 5,700. Again, what’s the point?....The hot young trotting stud, Muscle Mass, who has already been relocated to New York, had seven sell for a 20,000 average, with a 54,000 colt topping the offering. On the other hand, four of the seven failed to top 15,000. Last year nine of them averaged 7,100.
I realize that this sale is being marketed as a big success, but a look inside the numbers makes one wonder if this baby can fly over the long haul.