Saratoga Yearling Diary No. 11: Curtain Call

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As the final horses were led from their stalls to the walking ring the crew from Hurstland Farm gathered around the stall of Hip 248, waiting for the call over the public address system.

Alfred Nuckols stood a few feet away, decked out in a colorful plaid jacket, bright green pants and a bow tie, quietly watching the tote board above the outside bid spotter near the back walking ring. Nuckols was nearly finished selling his Saratoga consignment – the first of his two yearlings to go through the ring sold less than a half-hour earlier for $235,000 – and admitted to being a bit worried about the last member of his consignment.

“Man, this place really cleared out,” Nuckols said. “There was hardly anybody in the pavilion when we sold the last one.”

A few minutes later a voice from the public address called for Hips 248 and 252, the last two offerings of the 2016 Saratoga sale with 249, 250 and 251 withdrawn.

“All right, last hip,” Nuckols’ son Hurst said as the Brian Cain led the chestnut colt by Broken Vow out of his stall and down the walkway between Barns 4 and 5 to the walking ring.

“Last one, we all get to go,” Nuckols’ daughter Leigh said as the other members of the crew joined the line behind the colt.

In the walking ring Nuckols kept a close eye on the colt, the last foal out of the late Critics Acclaim, by Theatrical. He was on his toes a bit, not giving Cain much trouble, but enough to catch Nuckols’ eye.

“Hey Brian, is that a colt or a filly?” Nuckols said, looking at Hip 252 walking a few yards in front of the Broken Vow colt. “Keep your distance.”

Nuckols scanned his catalog, found that Hip 252 was indeed a filly, a daughter of Lonhro. Cain slowed the pace of his walk just a bit, got a little gap between himself and the woman walking the Lonhro filly.

A few minutes later Cain led the colt into the holding ring, then down the ramp toward the back door of the pavilion. The crew gathered around. Nuckols grabbed a rag and gave a few swipes of the colt’s body, head and hooves.

“I’m really going to miss this guy,” he said. “He’s the end of the line for that mare. … But I already have two. I told (partner) Jamie (Green) that we don’t need three.”

Nuckols slipped inside the sales pavilion to watch the bidding. The crowd, already sparse when he sold the Giant’s Causeway filly, was even thinner. He put a reserve of $72,000 on the colt, who he bred with Greene and wanted to sell.

The bidding started slowly, climbed to $40,000, $45,000 and $50,000. It eventually reached $70,000 and stopped. The announcer didn’t break in as they sometimes do, pleading with buyers to take one more look and make one more bid. The hammer fell at $70,000.

“Well, I guess we get to try him in the October sale,” Nuckols said, referring to the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall sale. “It will actually help him a bit. Physically it will help and he’ll stand out there. He’ll be different by the time we get there, right now he’s just a big, sloppy colt.”

The Broken Vow colt was one of two RNAs of the six yearlings Nuckols brought to Saratoga, along with a Stormy Atlantic colt out of Love Cove, by Not For Love, bought back for $95,000. He left the sales grounds Tuesday afternoon and was en route back to Hurstland Farm in Midway, Ky., when the bidding started for the second session just before 6:45 p.m.

Nuckols wasn’t thrilled at the thought of putting the colt on a van back to Kentucky, but veterinary issues, namely in the form of some tarsitis in a hock, forced his hand and kept a potential private buyer from making an offer.

“I’ll probably run him back through the October sale,” Nuckols said before Tuesday night’s session started. “Hopefully by then he’ll be over those physical issues and be a better horse. He scoped well when they came today but he had some tarcitis, which was on the repository report.”

Nuckols and his crew waited nearly three hours into the session before their two yearlings got their turns in the ring.

The Giant’s Causeway filly was first up and she was on her toes walking up and in the back ring just after 9:25.

“She looks good; the other ones up here last night were just loping along … like they were doing it their whole lives,” Nuckols said. “She’s doing well … I just hope I don’t get another speeding ticket with her.”

The bidding opened and quickly climbed to $150,000 on the filly, who was bred on a foal-share by longtime Hurstland client Brant Laue and Ashford Stud. She reached $220,000 and Nuckols breathed a sigh of relief.

“This is a good sale,” he said, right before she got a $230,000 bid from Fasig-Tipton’s Peter Penny sitting upstairs on the phone with a bidder. Downstairs Mike Riccio lodged a bid at $235,000, Penny’s bidder didn’t counter and the hammer fell.

“Mike, he was one of the last ones to scope her today,” Nuckols said.

Back at the barn Laue and Spencer Crowther, who works at Laue Ranch in Kansas and working his first Saratoga sale on the Hurstland team, beamed.

“Right on, right on, right on,” Crowther said, clapping Nuckols on the back.

Officially listed as purchased by Rockbridge Bloodstock, agent, the filly helped Nuckols avoid that speeding ticket and was one of four yearlings to sell for a total of $910,000.

“It’s been a mixed kind of sale overall,” Nuckols said as he walked back after the Broken Vow colt failed to sell. “Maybe I got a little strong, but I hated to give him away. … Overall it was a good sale. After going home last night and thinking about it and then seeing what horses are bringing today I have to say it was a good sale. I got some commissions and we got four horses sold. Maybe next year I’ll try to limit the consignment to three, four horses.”

Editor’s Note: This is the 11th and final installment in the multi-part series that started in February and followed 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.