Alfred Nuckols walked with purpose behind the first of his four yearlings slated to sell during Monday’s opening session of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings, watched the Bernardini colt walk into the electrified atmosphere of the back walking ring like he’s been doing it his whole life and breathed a sigh of relief.
A few minutes earlier, as the sale got started in front of a smaller-than-usual but still crowded house on the sales grounds at the corners of East and Madison Avenues, Nuckols and the members of the Hurstland Farm team were ready to roll.
“I’ll be glad to get this first one out of the way,” Nuckols said as he watched the colt take a few spins around the back walking ring.
The colt showed none of the behavior of three days ago, when an ornery side came out as the Hurstland team tried to get him acquainted with his new stall in Barn 8.
He refused to enter for a solid 15 minutes before finally being coaxed in with a bucket of feed.
“He’s being a good egg,” Nuckols said. “He’s handing everything good; doing real well.”
Down the ramp and eventually into the sales pavilion, the colt took his turn in front of the crowd.
“You just never know until they come out the other door,” Nuckols said. “This market is solid . . . I hope this colt can bring $400,000, $500,000 . . . I got some late action on him, some late scopes.”
Terence Collier introduced Hip 41, a son of Bernardini out of Grade 2 winner Glorious View, by Pleasant Tap. Nuckols walked from the holding area behind the ring into the sales pavilion, stood less than 20 yards from the colt as the bidding started. After a few minutes the tote board above the auction stand read $325,000.
Outside in front of his consignment Nuckols congratulated Brant Laue, who co-bred the colt with Darley. He told him the buyer, Three Chimneys Bloodstock
“That’s a sale,” Nuckols said. “A good sale and he’s going to a good home.”
The mood was mildly celebratory. Nuckols knew there was still work to do with three more yearlings to sell.
The Hurstland crew had about an hour before Hip 77, Laue’s Stormy Atlantic colt out of Love Cove, by Not For Love, got his call to the back ring.
“The top line on this horse, he’s probably the nicest colt I’ve got up here body wise,” Nuckols said, watching the chestnut colt take his turn in front of the crowd, three and four deep around the ring, empty beer bottles and cocktail glasses everywhere.
“This guy’s doing real well, too,” Nuckols said. “Quite a difference when they all got here and we couldn’t get them in the stalls.”
Nuckols, who put a reserve of $100,000 on the colt, made the same walk he made an hour earlier as the son of Stormy Atlantic went through the door into the pavilion just before 9 p.m.
Bidding started slow and ended slow on the colt. He went to $100,000 on the tote board at one point, getting Nuckols to say, “he’s sold,” before an error was corrected and he went back down to $85,000. The bidding crawled after that, the announcer pleaded for another bid, got two but the hammer eventually fell at $95,000.
“Uh oh, speeding ticket,” Nuckols said, shaking his head and he hit the exit. “That was tough. I still thought he was a $150,000 type of horse, at least. It’s a funny market I guess. I thought it was solid earlier and I thought I had enough people on him.”
Nuckols said he hoped to get the colt sold privately, perhaps as soon as lunchtime Tuesday.
“I just hate bringing one up here and not selling,” Nuckols said. “There goes my commission, my expenses and of course Brant has his expenses on the horse, too. It’s tough. You think you have a horse for everybody and the everybodies aren’t here. He was the only Stormy Atlantic in the sale, the one chance for people to get one . . . These older sires, I guess people just chase the younger ones and forget about the others, the more established ones, sometimes.”
No rest for the weary and a little more than a half hour later Nuckols, his son Hurst, daughter Leigh and other members of the Hurstland team walked up with Hip 94, a colt by Street Sense they thought could lead the consignment.
“Try, try again,” Nuckols said, walking into the back ring.
A few minutes later a friend greeted him, “You look like you’re going to be ill.”
“No, just nervous,” Nuckols said.
Down the ramp, standing and waiting for the door to open, Hurst Nuckols put both hands on the side of the bay colt’s head, leaned in and gave him a kiss on the nose.
Bids were tough to come by again, once the action reached more than $150,000. He eventually got knocked down for $250,000, which is $50,000 above the reserve. Chilmark Bloodstock is the buyer.
“Whew, that was tough,” Nuckols said.
Back at the barn Nuckols said he hoped for a combined $750,000 for the Bernardini colt and the Street Sense colt. He got $575,000.
“This is a difficult sale tonight, kind of pedestrian,” he said.
The consignment’s final offering is Hip 110, a colt by Eskendereya out of Northern Station, by Street Cry. He handled the process like the other three, professional and without incident.
“He’s got more action than any of them,” he said. “Based on last year’s scopes and this year’s scopes it’s the same number this year. That usually means good things. I guess I just got too pumped up with all the traffic at the barn.”
Nuckols gave him a pet and a couple light taps on the forehead after he walked down the ramp. The door was about to open and he leaned in and said, “Here we go buddy, you up for it?”
Nuckols put a $100,000 reserve on the colt, selling for Tom Stull’s Tommy Town Thoroughbreds. Bidding was slow, again. It eventually climbs to the magic number and the hammer drops at $100,000.
“Whew, he’s sold but that was some pretty close shaves tonight,” Nuckols said, walking back to the consignment from the sales pavilion. “I might have some razor cuts from that one . . . We got three of the four sold and probably will get the other one done before lunch tomorrow, I hope. It’s not silly money this year at all. I still think it has to do with the economy and the election.”
Editor’s Note: This is the 10th in a multi-part series that tracks the progress of a group of yearlings and life at Hurstland Farm in Midway, Ky., to the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The series started in February during the nomination period and will continue through the summer up to the Saratoga sale.