With the auction season gearing up, one of my favorite things to do is “shop” the sales catalogues. Instead of looking forward to what might be, I thought it would be interesting to highlight a few sales from the past and see how it all turned out. I will be writing four articles in this series, starting with Yearlings, moving to Two Year Olds, Broodmare Prospects and The Bargain Bin.
Waiting to buy a two year old can be a costly decision. Yearlings are truly gambled on for their pedigree and conformation in hopes of greatness. The juveniles hitting the auction ring can compare to having a recipe that you are ready to pull out of the oven. It’s no longer just a list of great ingredients, but now you can start to see what the finished product might look like. They are developing under tack just months away from beginning their racing career.
When two year olds begin to reveal their potential is when prices can explode. The juvenile sales can be quite costly as buyers get a closer look at what could be in this prospect’s future.
The then unnamed Unbridled’s Song was a colt entered in the 1995 Barretts sale in March for two year olds in training. His seller, Erine Paragallo, had purchased him at Saratoga’s yearling sale for $200,000. New to the yearling to juvenile pinhooking business, Paragallo made people chuckle when he made wild predictions about his grey colt. “He’s going to sell for more money than any two year old ever has.” He also stated, “I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t sell for a million dollars.”
Unbridled's Song-Photo Courtesy Taylor Made Stallions
His colt did have a strong pedigree, and had nothing noticeably at fault in his conformation. Unbridled’s Song was by Kentucky Derby winner, Unbridled, and out of Trolley Song. His dam was by Caro (IRE) who sired Winning Colors, winner of the 1988 edition of the Kentucky Derby.
Though Unbridled’s offspring had never stepped foot on a racetrack, the stallion’s progeny showed great promise. Unbridled was a quick developer, winning first time out as a two year old by 10 ½ lengths. This meant that the return of investment could come quickly for potential buyers of the Unbridled colt.
Unbridled’s Song was rightfully noticed when he stepped into the auction ring in California, satisfying his seller when the winning bid was $1.4 million. He sold to a Japanese owner, Hiroshi Fujita, who ordered post-sale X-rays which revealed a bone chip. Fujita requested to return the most expensive juvenile up to that point. Paragallo surprised many when he took Unbridled’s Song back.
“They’ve just made the biggest mistake of their lives.” He said after the sale. “They’ll never find a horse as good as this one. I didn’t want to sell him anyway. We’re going to win the Breeders’ Cup, and they’re going to wish they had never brought the matter up.”
Paragallo’s flamboyant prediction yet again became reality when a massive Unbridled’s Song crossed the wire first by a neck in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Instantly, Unbridled’s Song was made the favorite for the 1996 Kentucky Derby, coming off a romp in his final Derby prep. However, he acquired a small crack in his left front hoof, and it was patched with acrylic. Many horses race perfectly normal with this issue, but it spelled disaster for Unbridled’s Song.
The behemoth colt maturing to seventeen hands came back lame from a workout six days out from the run for the roses, and it was discovered that the acrylic patch had caused a bruise and a small infection. Immediately, different shoes were placed on the colt, and his foot was soaked in a tub.
More bad luck came when he drew post position twenty, which, at the time, no horse had ever won from. The Unbridled’s Song camp experienced a stroke of good luck, as small as it was, when another horse scratched, and Unbridled’s Song was moved into gate nineteen. However, no horse has ever won from that post position either.
Despite all the hardships of Unbridled’s Song’s Derby week, he still managed to cross the wire fifth. I consider this an outstanding feat, taking into consideration all the troubles that came before the race. Even rival trainers in that year’s Kentucky Derby considered Unbridled’s Song as the best horse in the race.
After his exceptional racing career, Unbridled’s Song went on to be a brilliant sire. His progeny’s winning percentage is an astonishing forty-nine percent, and his offspring’s total earnings on the track exceed $74.5 million. He has sired eighty-seven stakes winners, thirteen of whom are GI winners. Only three other active stallions in the United States have sired more GI winners. Unbridled’s Song has had eleven or more stakes winners for eight consecutive years, and has had Eclipse Award winners or finalists for four consecutive years. In 2008 alone, he sired twenty-two stakes winners, and in 2009, twenty stakes winners were sired by Unbridled’s Song. His foals can both sprint, and have success at longer distances. His top progeny includes late 2008 Kentucky Derby placer, Eight Belles; 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, Midshipman; 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner, Unrivaled Belle; Thorn Song, Political Force, First Defence, and Songandaprayer. In the auction ring, his foals have also shined, because twenty-four of his sale horses have brought seven figure prices. Standing at Taylor Made Stallions with a stud fee of $125,000, Unbridled’s Song has proven that he was well worth the price that Hiroshi Fujita was willing to pay had the X-ray came back negative at the Barretts sale.
THE GREEN MONKEY:
Trainer Randy Hartley and Dean De Renzo had just been outbid on a yearling colt from the breeding of Forestry-Magical Masquerade, by Unbridled at Fasig-Tipton’s July Sale for yearlings when the auctioneer was in the midst of hammering down the colt to another buyer. Suddenly, De Renzo threw in a final bid on the son of Forestry for $425,000. The bid won the Hartley/De Renzo team the colt, but it was risky business buying such a pricey horse for the purpose of reselling it as a two year old in the spring.
Going into the sale, the then unnamed The Green Monkey had never breezed due to Hartley/De Renzo’s fears of injuring the horses. This created a sense of curiosity, not knowing what The Green Monkey could do on the racetrack. However, he wowed everyone at the sale when he finished his eighth of a mile work in :9.4 seconds with striking fashion. The Green Monkey was so impressive that many around the sales facility believed that the colt could go for ten million dollars at the Fasig-Tipton Calder sale.
When bidding began on the uneasy colt, constantly circling his handler, the bids shot past two million dollars in just over one minute. Yet again, it was Sheikh Mohammed represented by John Ferguson, and Coolmore Stud, represented by Demi O’Byrne.
Only the two bidders remained as the colt’s price rocketed past four million dollars, onlookers from outside stepping into the sales pavilion to watch the dispute over the striking bay.
Seattle Dancer’s big price was passed with John Ferguson’s bid of $13.5 million, but O’ Byrne countered with a fourteen million dollar offer. However, Ferguson raised the bar with a one million dollar jump to fifteen million dollars. O’Byrne, determined to get The Green Monkey, placed a bid of $15.2 million.
The bidding had slowed, but Ferguson was still willing to respond with a bid of $15.5 million. After a pause, O’Byrne threw in an offer of sixteen million which won Coolmore the colt. When the auctioneer hammered down The Green Monkey, the spectators erupted with applause that alarmed the anxious colt who had paced around the ring for ten minutes.
The Green Monkey raced in America, his greatest finish being a third place. Despite his racing record, his stride was measured at 25 ½ feet, and when galloping, his speed reached forty-five miles per hour. For his stud career, he stands at Hartley/De Renzo that also stood Mr. Prospector at the dawn of his stallion career. The Green Monkey’s offspring has yet to be tested, being yearlings of 2011.
It is yet to be determined whether Coolmore’s record breaking investment was a wise one. Keep in mind horses like Storm Cat who had a less than impressive racing career and went on to be a legendary sire. So we wait and see.