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Friday, June 24, 2016

Buying Into Promising Colts Prior to the Classics

Harness Racing Update recently reported that Tara Hills Stud had engineered a syndication of the Well Said colt Control The Moment, which would give them 13 % of the horse and the inside track on standing him, but no guarantee of breeding rights.

Down through the years many colts have been purchased in whole or part prior to the classic races. Some of these deals have been spectacular successes, others have failed miserably, while most have fallen somewhere in between.

Control The Moment won an O’Brien last year off of an 8 of 9 record and wins in the Metro and Nassagaweya. He finished fourth as the 7-5 favorite in his Cup elimination, and was third from the nine post at 8-1 in the final, after making most of the mile. He’s staked to the Pace, Cane, BC, Matron and Progress, among others. While it wouldn’t have summarily stamped him a success, a win in the Cup is a huge plus for any horse destined to stand in Canada.

Cup winner Betting Line isn’t staked to the Pace and is taking a two-month holiday from the Grand Circuit to concentrate on the OSS, so he has a leg up in that one. Control The Moment starts from the four in Saturday’s first Hempt elimination against Boston Red Rocks and JK Will Power.

One recent example of this practice gone wrong is Go Daddy Go. The son of Ponder won four races, including the Battle of Waterloo, at two, earning more than $365,000. That inspired Adam Bowden of Diamond Creek Farms, a Ponder fanatic, to buy into the colt in March of last year. He was rated fourth in the Road to the Cup Ranking shortly before the race, but things didn’t go well for Go Daddy Go in 2015 as he won only once and earned less than $75,000. He was ultimately sold to Rene Allard for $80,000 at the January 2016 Mixed Sale and has won twice in ten starts since, earning only $21,000 for his new connections. A mainstream stallion career is probably out of the question.

Control The Moment’s uber progenitor, Meadow Skipper, was purchased by Norman Woolworth from Hugh Grant for $150,000 after impressing Woolworth’s trainer Earle Avery in the Commodore Pace at Roosevelt Raceway in June, 1963. It was money well spent. Three months later Skipper upset Overtrick in the $163,187 Cane Pace; Woolworth got a big chunk of his money back right there. And it goes without saying that Skipper proved to be a very lucrative property as a stallion.

Meadow Skipper’s first crop son Most Happy Fella, who was purchased for $12,000 by Stanley and Rachel Dancer, was sold by the pair to Blue Chip Farms for a million dollars. The agreement was entered into prior to Happy’s Jug win and one stipulation was that the Dancer’s race him and retain all of his earnings. MHF earned $387,000 at three. Blue Chip made out just fine on this deal, as Most Happy Fella became one of our greatest pacing sires. He passed prematurely after an accident at age 17, but he’d reshaped the breed by then.

The Dancers and Mac Cuddy sold Bonefish to Castleton for a million dollars right after the son of Nevele Pride beat Yankee Bambino in the Hambletonian, which turned out to be his final start. He stood in Kentucky for a dozen years before being exported to Sweden. While he failed to extend himself, Bonefish was a very productive stallion. His broodmare credits include: Valley Victory, Moni Maker, Supergill, Winky’s Goal and King Conch. He was well worth the million dollars.

 A Dancer deal that didn’t work out—for them—was selling Oil Burner and Afella Rainbow to Bill Brooks for $80,000 in May, 1976 when Oil Burner was three-years-old. Dancer felt the son of MHF was too moody and impulsive. Difficult demeanor notwithstanding, he went on to earn more than $530,000 for Ben Webster that year and the next, and while he was no great shakes as a stallion, he did give us the game changing No Nukes.

No Nukes’ first crop son Jate Lobell, who won all 15 starts at two, was syndicated for $12 million at three when Tom Crouch bought 25% of him for $3 million. He earned $1.6 million as a sophomore and won his division for the second time, but he dropped 10 of his 25 starts. Run The Table beat him in the NJSS; he lost to Frugal Gourmet in the Pace and the Messenger; and he was beaten by Call For Rain in the Slutsky and BC. He was very good, but no Niatross or Nihilator as some had projected him to be. The competition made a solid run at him, introducing him to heat the N Boys never felt. Riyadh was Jate’s greatest son, and his only sub-49 offspring. Jate Lobell stood at Kentuckiana Farms for two decades, most of the latter part of that time for $5,000. He didn’t live up to the lofty expectations couched in that $12 million syndication and failed to extend himself, but he was far from a bust.

Sonsam won 14 of his 17 starts at two and was syndicated for a record $3 million after that season, an amount that was subsequently upped to $8 million when the Guida Group purchased 5 of the 40 shares for $200,000 each. He won the Pace on a much acclaimed backstretch sweep, as well as his division the following year, and earned almost $575,000. Sonsam fit the stallion template for the sons of Albatross: some early success, then a precipitous drop from relevance. Champion two-year-old Till We Meet Again was his only millionaire.

Hot Hitter (Strike Out), from that same crop, was also caught up in the syndicating frenzy that gripped the sport during that era. His three owners sold 60% of him to Guida for $3.6 million in August of his sophomore season, but the deal wasn’t made public until late September. He captured his division off wins in the Jug, Messenger, Adios, Prix d’Ete and Confederation Cup, but Herve Filion’s charge was an abject failure at stud.

Barry Abrams paid $100,000 for Guts in the fall of his two-year-old form, when he had won once in seven starts and earned $11,000. This proved to be a great deal. The big, deliberate son of Raven Hanover did battle with shifty little On The Road Again all year, losing a neck to that one in the Pace but beating him in the Holmes. He also won the Battle of Brandywine. Guts banked more than a million dollars on 14 wins at three. He had as much interest in covering mares as he had in jumping over the Moon, but he earned $1.6 million on the track at ages three through nine.

Peter Heffering, Irving Liverman and associates scored a knockout when they purchased Kadabra for $800,000 early in his three-year-old season. The Illinois bred wasn’t staked to the Hambletonian, but he won 15 times at three and four, including the BC, CTC and Stanley Dancer, earning $1.4 million and is now a prolific stallion. He stands for $12,000 (US) in Ontario.

Harmonious was on sale prior to winning the 1990 Hambletonian. The asking price was $850,000 plus another $500,000 if he won the big one.

Grades Singing proved to be a steal when she was purchased for $13,000 at two.

Lawrence B Sheppard bought Dashing Rodney for $125,000 two days prior to the 1964 Kentucky Futurity. Sheppard’s diminutive son of Stars Pride, Ayres, won the race, completing his quest for the Triple Crown, but Dashing Rodney finished second for Harold Dancer Sr. He went on to win several European stakes, so that one worked out just fine.

We could judge the success or failure of the Control The Moment deal off of what he does in this year’s classics, but we really need several years after he retires to assess his value as a stallion. That’s assuming he doesn’t fall flat like Go Daddy Go did and put a breeding career out of reach.

Joe FitzGerald

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