for the first time in ten years, a seven-figure Illinois-bred

When writing (or tweeting) about Illinois-breds in the auction ring, it jumps out enough when an Illinois-bred horse commands five figures.  Six figures, for a horse bred here, is eye-popping.  It happens — recent examples include My Option and Magnetic Miss — but not often.

Seven?

Until yesterday, that had not happened since Sassy Pants commanded $4,500,000 at Keeneland November in 2006.

The OBS March sale of two-year-olds in training concluded yesterday, and the fireworks happened late in the second day of the two-day sale.   An Illinois-bred colt by Smart Strike out of Glamorista (Unbridled’s Song) sold for $1.7 million to Lane’s End Bloodstock.

Lane’s End had a very particular interest in the colt.  They stood the colt’s sire Smart Strike, who died last year. David Ingordo, the bloodstock agent who signed the ticket for Lane’s End, did not hide the fact that they were looking for an heir to Smart Strike in their stud barn, and they saw things in him that would fit the bill.

This colt drew the highest price of the sale by a clear margin.  Only one other horse sold for more than half his price, that being the the $1.3 million Uncle Mo x Setareh colt who Repole Stable and M. V. Magnier purchased Tuesday.

It was the Smart Strike colt’s first time through a sales ring.  He had been entered last fall in the Fasig-Tipton September yearling sale, but was an out.

Last week, during the breeze portion, he zipped a furlong in 9 4/5 seconds.  Just three in the sale were clocked faster.  Even aside from the speed, the way he did it exuded the sort of class one would expect in a horse who commanded that much in the ring.  He looked focused on the task, and fluid.  The strength in his hind and the length of his stride stood out.

In terms of pedigree, he is the first foal out of Glamorista.  His dam, a 2007 daughter of Unbridled’s Song, won three times in eight starts.  Glamorista did win on debut, which at first blush would fit right in with her producing such an attractive two-year-old — but that debut did not come until July of her four-year-old year.  Her three wins all came at sprint distances, one on dirt and two on the Hollywood Cushion Track.  She was also Grade II placed — second in the seven-furlong A Gleam Handicap at Hollywood in 2012.

Though Glamorista did her best going short, Glamorista’s dam Critical Crew produced a very classy horse going longer, multiple graded stakes winning dirt router Critical Eye (Dynaformer).  Critical Eye won the 2000 Gazelle (GI) going a mile and an eighth, and the Honey Bee (GIII) at Meadowlands that same year, at a mile and a sixteenth.  At five, she won the Ladies Handicap (GIII) at Aqueduct; that was a mile and a quarter trip.

Another half to Glamorista, Vanquished, produced Takeover Target (Harlan’s Holiday).  He also has done his best work going long.  He won the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (GII) at a mile and a sixteenth last year, and stretched to a mile and an eighth to win last year’s Hill Prince (GIII) as well.

Glamorista produced another foal in 2015, a filly by Arch, born on March 13 of that year.  She was bred to Awesome Again for 2016.

Particularly interesting are the facts that this $1,700,000 Illinois-bred is a colt, and that he sold as a two-year-old in training.  Though he did not set the record for the highest-priced Illinois-bred to sell at public auction, he does stand out as the only million-dollar Illinois-bred male since 19971, and the only one to sell for seven figures as a horse of racing age or younger.  Seeing the market go this high for an Illinois-bred who has neither proven himself on the racetrack nor in the breeding shed yet stands out as an anomaly.


 

There have been three other Illinois-breds to hammer for over a million dollars since 1997, but all were broodmares.

The most recent Illinois-bred to command seven figures in the auction ring was Sassy Pants (Saratoga Six – Special Portion, by Czaravich).  She sold for $4,500,000 to Hill ‘n Dale Bloodstock at Keeneland November.  A stakes winner at both Hawthorne and Sportsman’s, Sassy Pants sold in foal to Storm Cat.  That was Sassy Pants’s second time through a sales ring.  In her first visit to Keeneland, as a two-year-old at Keeneland January 2004, Sassy Pants sold for just $8,200.

By the time Sassy Pants went through the ring, she had proven herself as a producer of successful (and commercially successful) horses.  She produced Dubai Escapade (Awesome Again), a filly who sold for $2,000,000 at Barretts March 2004 as a two-year-old, and then won six times in eight starts.  Those wins included the Grade I Ballerina Stakes, a race Dubai Escapade won less than three months before her dam was so popular at auction.

Sassy Pants had also produced Madcap Escapade (Hennessy) by the time she sold.  Madcap Escapade won five graded stakes races in 2004 and 2005, including the 2004 Ashland Stakes (GI).  She was a six-figure yearling, and a seven-figure broodmare.

After her sale, another one of her foals would become a stakes winner, as well.  Real Estate (High Yield), her 2004 foal, won the listed James B. Moseley Sprint Handicap at Suffolk Downs in 2008.

After her sale, Sassy Pants has not matched her previous production, either in class or in volume.  She only has one registered foal since her sale in 2006: five-year-old The Admiral (Giant’s Causeway).  He won twice at Santa Anita for trainer Bob Baffert in 2014, sold for $110,000 later that year at the Fasig-Tipton Horses of Racing Age sale, and has won three of his last four starts in Saudi Arabia.


 

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: an Illinois-bred daughter of Saratoga Six sells for seven figures at Keeneland November while in foal to Storm Cat…no, this will not be a repeat of the section on Sassy Pants.  It has happened twice.  Now That’s Funny (Saratoga Six – Tropical Cream, by Creme dela Creme) sold for $2,650,000 at Keeneland November 1998, also in foal to Storm Cat.

She also had another thing in common with Sassy Pants: far more modest sales prices earlier in her career.  She was a $27,000 buy at Keeneland January, and her racing career was modest.  California and even Arlington never quite clicked for her.  But, Now That’s Funny did win a maiden special weight and an allowance at Hawthorne in the fall of 1990, her four-year-old year.  She concluded her racing career with two wins in nine starts.

Now That’s Funny then sold for just $19,500 at Keeneland November 1992, while in foal to Fast Play.  She proved a bargain.

Her first foal, Akiba (Tejano), won the 1995 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.  However, it was that Fast Play foal, Lucayan Prince, who really put Now That’s Funny on the map.  Lucayan Prince debuted at age 2 at Newmarket in 1995, and won that debut.  He won the Jersey Stakes (GIII – ENG) at Royal Ascot and was second in the July Cup (GI – ENG) the next year; he also finished second in the Cigar Mile (GI) in 1997.

Comic Strip (Red Ransom), Now That’s Funny’s 1995 foal, cemented her status as a broodmare in demand.  Comic Strip sold to W. S. Farish for $300,000 as a yearling, and backed that up by earning almost a million dollars on the track.  He was a solid Grade II/Grade III router on both turf and dirt during the course of his career, and he still stands stud in California.

It was during Comic Strip’s three-year-old year, 1998, that his dam sold for $2,650,000 at Keeneland.  Her record as a producer was further burnished after that sale, when her 1996 daughter Silver Comic (Silver Hawk) won the 1999 Mrs. Revere Stakes (GII) at Churchill.

Though none of her future foals were as successful on the track as Comic Strip, Lucayan Prince, Akiba, or Silver Comic, several were hot commodities in the auction ring.

Now That’s Funny’s 1999 Storm Cat foal, the one she carried when she sold for so much, was a $900,000 weanling at Keeneland.  Eventually named Costume Party, she was winless in six starts.  She has produced winners, but no Big Horse, and sold for just $24,000 while in foal to Twirling Candy at Keeneland November 2014.

Now That’s Funny’s 2000 daughter, also by Storm Cat, followed a similar pattern.  Named She’s a Beauty, she sold for $1,200,000 as a weanling, but went winless at two.  She sold for $1,100,000 at Keeneland November 2004 while in foal to Fusaichi Pegasus.  She has produced some winners, one stakes-placed (Beautiful Song), and still had enough commercial interest to sell for $140,000 at Keeneland January 2013, in foal to Candy Ride.


 

Though the name evokes South Carolina a bit more strongly, Christmas in Aiken (Affirmed – Dowager, by Honest Pleasure) was bred in Illinois.  She went through the ring at Keeneland November in 2002, and commanded a price of $1,450,000.

Her racing career was short but solid enough.  In six starts, Christmas in Aiken won a maiden special at Sportsman’s and an allowance at Arlington, and finished third twice in allowance company as well.  All of her races came in 1995, at age three, and then it was off to the breeding shed.

Unlike the other two high-dollar Illinois-bred mares, she actually produced an Illinois-bred.  Her first foal, born in 1997, was Brother Bob (Royal Roberto), a hard-knocking claimer who won three times in 52 starts.  Later that year, while in foal to Kaywaran, she sold for $15,000 at Keeneland November.  That foal, Dr. Holiday, eventually brought home some black type in a small stakes at Albuquerque — but by then, it was 2002, and another foal of hers was the talk of the town.

Her 1999 foal by Harlan is a household name for anyone who has followed racing or breeding over the last fifteen years: Harlan’s Holiday.  He sold for $97,000 as a yearling, itself a decent sum for an Ohio-bred son of an Illinois-bred — but won over $3,000,000 on the track.  In 2002, he won the Florida Derby (GI), the Blue Grass (GI), and the Pennsylvania Derby (GIII).  That November was when his dam lit up the boards at Keeneland.  He kept his success going after his dam’s sale: at four he won the Donn (GI), and he was a solid sire from 2004 until his untimely death in 2013.

The Forestry foal Christmas in Aiken carried through the sales ring with her was eventually named Bedford Falls.  He sold for $1,100,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September 2004, but only earned about a tenth of that on the track.  He did win three times in fifteen starts, and still stands stud in California.

None of the rest of her foals sold for quite that much, though four of her six later foals sold for at least $100,000 at public auction.  None were quite as successful as their brother by Harlan, however.  The best of that lot was Many Rivers.  She won twice in eighteen starts for Jerry Hollendorfer, and finished third in a listed stakes at Golden Gate Fields.

*****

1 1997 is as far back as Blood-Horse’s online sales database goes.  Neither Keeneland, Fasig-Tipton, Ocala Breeders Sales, nor Barretts has an online database that goes beyond that. Names were correlated from the Blood-Horse database, and states of breeding were correlated using Equibase.

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