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High-priced yearlings: some great ones, some duds
Thursday, November 2, 2006 - by Dean A. Hoffman

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It’s one of the oldest axioms in racing that horses don’t know how much they cost.


One scene has been played out at yearling sales over many decades: An owner falls in love with a blueblood yearling, and has visions of stakes wins and syndications dancing in his head. He spends a small fortune to acquire this dream colt. After investing money and hopes the owner finds that he’s bought a dud.


It’s happened before. And it will happen again.


Some expensive yearlings never pay back their owners. Others pay them back many times over.


Andover Hall was the most expensive yearling in 2000, at $482,000. He earned $870,510 on the track, and the stud fees he’s already generated makes his racing earnings look paltry. Two decades ago, Supergill, another colt that developed into a top horse on the track and in the stud barn, was the most expensive in the sport, at $500,000.


Perhaps the most prominent example of a high-priced yearling paying off in spades is Bret Hanover, the most expensive yearling of 1963, at $50,000. He earned over $900,000 on the track and millions in the stud barn.


There are always, however, some high-priced yearlings that fail to live up to standards or that take some time to find their best stride.


Last year, the five most expensive Standardbred yearlings cost a total of $1,315,000, and to date they have earned a total of $19,416. Of course, they still have racing opportunities ahead of them, and residual value for breeding, but they have a long way to go to earn back their purchase prices.


In 2005, a trio of yearlings sold for $270,000. They were The Liquidator, Caprino Hanover, and Allstar Hall.


Caprino Hanover was purchased by Gino Toscani of Ontario and he’s started the colt in a series of qualifiers and one purse race at Mohawk this year. The Western Hanover--Cathedra colt paced in 1:58.4 in his purse start, but was beaten by 25-1/2 lengths. He’s yet to earn a check.


Allstar Hall is from the first crop by Like A Prayer, and out of the resplendent broodmare Amour Angus. He’s owned by the ACL Stuteri, a Swedish training and breeding operation with an American base in Kentucky.


Allstar Hall raced eight times with two wins and he’s banked $15,000. His 1:58.4 mark came in late September at Lexington in a qualifier, when he was fitted with trotting hobbles for the first time.


The Liquidator, a son of Andover Hall, has not raced yet.


Around And Over was a $250,000 purchase last year at Harrisburg by Monte Gelrod. The son of Andover Hall is now owned by Fred Monteleone Stable and trained by Trond Smedshammer. Like Allstar Hall, Around And Over has a 1:58.4 qualifying mark and he’s banked $4,416.


While the accomplishments of the five most expensive yearlings of 2005 leave a lot to be desired at this date, it should be noted that two expensive Andover Hall fillies have done very well.


Pampered Princess 2, 1:54.4 ($616,244)  was a $240,000 yearling, while Michelle’s Angel 2, 1:56.3 ($185,730) was a $230,000 acquisition.


This year’s Hambletonian winner, Glidemaster, was a $10,000 yearling, and he’s banked more than $1.5 million this year.


So yearling sales are very much a crapshoot. Some expensive yearlings pay off; some don’t. Some modestly priced yearlings pay off; some don’t. It’s always been that way and likely always will be that way.

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