The hammer dropped at $1.8-million for a Smart Strike colt late in the afternoon Wednesday in Ocala and somewhere in the great beyond, the horseman in Ned Evans was probably quite proud.
Proud to see how well a colt that represented four generations of his breeding program at Spring Hill Farm in Casanova, Virginia, was received by the commercial market. Proud to see the colt overcome some growing pains as a weanling and yearling. Proud to see the colt join one of the leading racing operations in the world.
When the pride wore off, maybe even before, the businessman in Ned Evans was probably not too happy.
Not many businessmen would be to see how much cash was left on the table for a colt who sold as a weanling for $100,000 in November 2011 and $115,000 as a yearling in October 2012 then bring nearly 18 times that amount just five months later.
Such is life in the Thoroughbred industry.
Some bring more, or less, than others.
Others exceed expectations.
Still more fall between the cracks.
And in the end, they all surprise you at least once.
Edward P. “Ned” Evans knew it and he knew it better than most.
Chris Baker, currently the general manager at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Kentucky, spent more than a decade working with Evans and his horses at Spring Hill Farm. He watched the results of the sale with interest Wednesday and felt a sense of pride when Stonestreet Stable purchased the sharp steel gray colt by Smart Strike out of the graded stakes-winning Pulpit mare Mini Sermon for $1.8-million. The price equaled the OBS March record for a juvenile in training.
Baker felt his pride swell, too, when the hammer came down. Rightfully so, considering he not only worked with Mini Sermon during their days in Virginia but right through today as she is now a part of the WinStar broodmare band in Kentucky.
“I think he’d be happy and proud that his horses were valued that greatly by the marketplace,” Baker said of Evans Thursday in between his daily duties at WinStar. “Probably a similar feeling he would have had through the dispersal [at the 2011 Keeneland November sale] and seeing how well received they were.
“I also knew him well enough to know that when he sold Yonaguska as a yearling for $145,000 and then he brought $1.95-million, he wasn’t happy about leaving that money on the table. That’s when he jokingly started referring to Mike Ryan, the bloodstock agent [who pinhooked Yonaguska] as a ‘thief running around here without a gun.’ He always wanted to see them do well, but the businessman in him sure didn’t want to leave money on the table.”
Baker said the sale-topping colt was one of the better foals born at Spring Hill in the winter and spring of 2011. He ranked him “very highly” against the other members of his generation at about 30 days of age.
The colt dropped off a bit from there and by the time he was part of the huge Evans dispersal he was “a little backward” with “maybe a little dip in his back.”
Baker still liked him enough to recommend that WinStar owner Kenny Troutt not only buy the colt-he did, for $100,000 in the name of Maverick Racing-but also try to buy Mini Sermon. Selling the first day of the sale and in foal to Candy Ride (Arg), Mini Sermon became a member of the WinStar broodmare band on a bid of $450,000.
“I remember telling Elliott [Walden, WinStar’s president] that he’s such a nice foal, he’s going to come back,” Baker said. “We bought him and by the time he was a yearling he had only improved so much. Obviously between when he sold at the [Fasig-Tipton] October sale and this March sale, that’s when he came back to what I thought of him as a foal.”
Now the colt will face new expectations as both a sale topper and a member of the Stonestreet operation that campaigned such standouts in recent years as Curlin, Rachel Alexandra, and My Miss Aurelia to name just a few.
Judging by past success from other members of his family, the colt figures to do well when the stakes on the racetrack a higher than a presale under-tack show. The pressures of the under-tack show, and they are significant physically and mentally on a young horse, did not faze the colt and he breezed a sharp eighth-mile in 09.80 on the synthetic OBS training center surface. That move played no small part in Paul Reyes being able to turn a hefty profit for his Kings Equine when he sold five days later
Family history shows that the colt should be able to follow up on his early success and make headlines again.
Mini Sermon won the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap, placed in five other stakes, and earned $272,930 for Evans. She was a half sister to two other winners, including the dam of Grade 2 winner and Evans homebred A Little Warm. The colt is also from the family of such Evans-bred and/or raced stalwarts as Horse of the Year Saint Liam, Minstrella (his fourth dam), Colonial Minstrel, Storm Minstrel, and Unrestrained.
“It all goes back to Flight Dancer, who he bought at Tattersalls in the early 1970s,” Baker said. “She had Misty Dancer, Misty Galore, Minstrella, so many stakes winners, and most of them gray. We probably had more grays than your average farm and a lot of that had to do with her.”
“It’s great how everything turned out. I still have a sentimental and professional attachment to that horse. He was born and raised on my watch there, so it’s hard not to feel a sense of ownership. And now my involvement remains with the mare here at WinStar. The colt is in good hands now, too, so hopefully this isn’t the last headline we’ll be reading about him.”