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Backstretch With Gordon: Million-dollar babies

October 02, 2019

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I’m exhausted this morning, and not just because I didn’t get home from the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale and late-night meal at Le Deauville at 1:45 a.m. I’m mostly dragging my feet because I am worn out from the excitement generated in the first session, one that saw not one, but two million-dollar horses. I lost count of the people who remarked to me how much of a buzz was at Fasig-Tipton throughout the whole night.


Things got rolling at Hip 7, a Cantab Hall filly out of Jolene Jolene, when she brought $600,000 and made my sponsors, Steve and Cindy Stewart’s Hunterton Sales Agency very happy (as you can see in the photo I took shortly after). Hunterton also sold Hip 68, a Father Patrick filly out of Mission Brief, for $400,000, and Hip 39, a daughter of Bar Hopping out of Pleasing Lady, for $350,000. Overall, Hunterton sold 28 yearlings for $4,162,000, a nice average of $148,643.


Before I get to the million-dollar babies, let’s go back to the start of the sale. Boss Kathy pulled rank on me and I was assigned to stay in the outside back ring—the outside, very hot and humid back ring—while she grudgingly took a spot in the air-conditioned arena. As Hip 1 was in the ring, I had an ornery fly buzzing my head, which I swatted a few times. I wasn’t paying attention and when the bidding stopped at $50,000, the bid spotter was pointing right at me. When I saw the gentleman with the clipboard and young lady with the camera now coming my way, I thought my swats had led to me buying the American Ideal colt. But alas, they went directly to Doug Paul, who I didn’t realized was standing behind me. I told Doug the story later and he laughed.

Speaking of Boss Kathy, she was a happy camper when Hip 8, a son of Muscle Hill out of Kathy Parker, named for her, sold for $185,000. Boss Kathy named the colt Media Mogul upon request from breeders Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld.


Marvin and Al are the breeders of the brother of Greenshoe named Maverick who made history when he brought a price of $1.1 million as Hip 44. Speaking of happy campers, when I saw Marvin an hour later he was still grinning from ear to ear. Brad Grant signed the sale ticket with trainer Tony Alagna at his side, and when I asked Brad who the partners would be, Tony told me, with a laugh, “Hey, it’s just Brad and me, we’re 50-50.”


Hip 105, a brother to Propulsion and Dream Together, later brought a price of $1 million from Sweden-based trainer Daniel Reden, who trains Propulsion. Damien, a son of Muscle Hill out of Danae, was bred by Cane Run Farm and Bluestone Farm, and when I saw Cane Run's Elizabeth Caldwell immediately after she had a smile bigger than Marvin’s.


Former Horseman And Fair World staffers Suzanne Starbuck and Sherry Lane were in the Fasig-Tipton office helping out so it was nice to see them. I talked to a lot of people last night, but it was a surprise to see Kentucky State Senator Damon Thayer on hand. I’ve known Damon since he worked in the publicity office at Detroit Race Course and I was the PR director at Hazel Park and Northville Downs, so I get a kick that we’re both in Kentucky now, although he has a much higher profile. Damon told me this was his first-ever Standardbred Sale, but since he wrote the regulation that allows dual-eligibility for the Kentucky Sires Stakes program he wanted to check things out.


As always I saw Bill Haughton in the back ring, and he told me he forgot the leather catalog holder his father used. So this is the first sale he’s attended with just a bare sale catalog. Howie Okusko came by and grabbed me so I could say hello to Larry Rathbone, who finally arrived in town. I went to the picnic table and found Bones sitting with Jessica Okusko and Mark Ford.


Bernie Noren made his way from Sweden and we exchanged hellos. Others that stopped to chat were the Wingfield Brothers, John Fielding, Fred Hertrich, David Carr, Tom Charters, Moira and Tom Fanning, Wally Mann, Bob Marks and Bob Boni. I also ran in to Michael Carter, who I promised to give a mention.

I was standing by the outside walking ring talking to Anvil & Lace Farm’s Beth and Doug Yontz when Beth exclaimed, "Same thing happened last year.” The sprinklers suddenly went on, and Beth said the same thing happened last year.


When the sale ended I headed to Le Deauville with Dave Brower and Nick Salvi. The restaurant on Limestone is staying open extended hours to accommodate the horsemen after the sale. The restaurant was filled with horsemen, too many to name. Safe to say, pick a name and they were there.

Dave and I went for the all-you-can eat mussels Tuesday special (even if it was technically Wednesday morning when we ordered), and Nick had “Marvin’s Chicken,” named of course for frequent patron Marvin Katz. George Segal was there and he came up to Dave and I and said, “Dave, you can’t drink anymore,” before looking at me and saying, “You, you can have all you want to drink.”


Eating at 1 a.m. isn’t the greatest idea, and getting to sleep at 2 a.m. isn’t either, but I popped up this morning at 6:05. I made my way to the track and as I got out of the car Mark Harder came by and we talked about the excitement at the sale. Mark said he bought three last night.


There were about 50 people surrounding the barn of Ake Svanstedt so I walked over to see what was happening. Somebody was asking Ake questions and he was giving answers. At least I think that’s what was going on as it was all in Swedish so I didn’t understand a word that was said.


A group of people were under the Tree of Knowledge so I walked over and saw Winbak Farm’s Joe Thomson—also a co-owner of The Red Mile—and we talked about the sale. Jeff Fout, the colt trainer for Winbak, was also there. Nick Salvi and John Butenschoen were also there and then Wendy Ross came over and said she wanted to see if she could glean some knowledge while under the tree. Myron Bell came walking up and introduced us all to Steve Head, who has horses in the Alagna barn. Steve said he bought a couple last night.


I’ll be back at Fasig-Tipton again tonight for the open bar cocktail party and the charity breeding auction that starts at 6:45. Gas prices remain pretty much the same in the $2.20s, some a bit higher and some a bit lower.

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