Saratoga Yearling Diary No. 6: Final preparations

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Alfred Nuckols Jr. is feeling the heat as the days count down until the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings. He’s not warm under the collar because of any pressure with his Saratoga-bound consignment of six, quite the contrary, just feeling the effects of the rising temperatures in Central Kentucky the last few weeks.

“Man, it’s hot down here,” Nuckols said late last week as he ducked into his office not long after Hurstland Farm’s Saratoga consignment got its final X rays taken and ears and foretops trimmed. “It’s hot, muggy, steamy, probably in the mid 80s and it feels like 100.”

The yearlings don’t seem to mind; they stay in and under the shade of the barn most days, out of the sun to avoid any getting sunburned. The amount of time they’re walked – 20, 30 minutes for the most part – has gradually increased over the summer and they’re groomed daily.

Nuckols said the yearlings are handling the prepping process rather well, no serious hiccups or issues along the way, and they’re starting to adjust to loading on and off the van. They’ll need that adjustment, since they’re headed out of Midway, Kentucky, on the roughly 800-mile journey to Saratoga Springs in just over a week’s time.

“We’ll be there Wednesday night, unload everything, set up the barn Thursday,” Nuckols said. “We’ll try to go to the races Thursday and have dinner with Brant Laue Thursday night. We go to the Wishing Well, that’s our habitual Thursday night dinner. The horses get in Friday between 5:30 and 6 (a.m.), I’ll pull all the help I need over there Friday, I’m not going to show Friday. Let them settle in, bathe them and be ready for Saturday.”

The four yearlings who have been at Hurstland since they were born – colts by Bernardini, Stormy Atlantic and Broken Vow and a filly by Giant’s Causeway – were reunited July 1 with colts by Street Sense and Eskenderaya, who were partially prepped in California at Tom Stull’s Tommy Town Thoroughbreds. 

Catalogs for the Saratoga sale were published earlier this month and hip numbers assigned. Four of Hurstland’s yearlings will sell the first night, Monday, Aug. 8, with the other two set to go through the ring late in the Tuesday night session.

The first of the group will be a colt by Bernardini out of Glorious View, by Pleasant Tap, who is Hip 41. Bred by Brant Laue and Darley, the colt is the first foal out of Laue’s homebred who won the Grade 2 Vagrancy Handicap in 2013 at Belmont Park.

“The Bernardini colt, he’s doing well,” Nuckols said. “He’s carrying good flesh right now, which is probably a good thing since I’m going to ship him.”

Next up is Hip 77, Laue’s Stormy Atlantic colt out of Love Cove, by Not For Love.

Pegged by Nuckols as fairly mature for a May foal back in early February, the colt continues to improve every day.

“The Love Cove, he’s come around nice,” Nuckols said. “He’s a smart horse. He’s the easiest one to school on the van. He walks right on there. He’s as good a horse as I’ve loaded. He walks, stands, today he went right on the van and off.”

Laue, in Saratoga and hanging at his usual morning spot near Bill Mott’s barn, also said last week how impressed he was in the development of the group of yearlings headed to the sale.

“I was there a month ago and then again about a week before I got here and it’s amazing how much they’ve changed,” Laue said in the Saratoga paddock last week.

The first of the two Tommy Town yearlings, who were foaled and raised at Hurstland before heading to California last November, in the catalog is Hip 94, a colt by Street Sense out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Miss Dolce. Tommy Town’s second yearling is Hip 110, a colt by Eskendereya out of the Street Cry mare Northern Station who is a half brother to graded stakes winner Barbados.

“They both came in July and Mike Allen did a nice job with them out there,” Nuckols said. “He’d had them in a walker out there, they’re probably a little more tucked up than ours are but not showing any rib. They look good, very good. They’re both nice colts. I think the Miss Dolce probably has a little more to him than the Northern Station, but they’re both nice colts.

“They’ve been settled in a couple weeks. It was kind of fun to see them get back. They left November 28 and look like the California winter didn’t hurt them. They didn’t come back with surfboards though.”

The team from Hurstland, who enjoyed strong Saratoga sales the last several years, will need to wait until the final moments this year to find out if the trend continues with its last two to sell as Hip 232 and Hip 248.

Hip 232 is Laue’s and Ashford Stud’s filly by Giant’s Causeway out of Cayuga’s Waters, by Langfuhr. She’s a half sister to a filly by Quality Road that Hurstland sold for $210,000 at Saratoga last year.

“The Giant’s Causeway filly, she’s another one that mentally has really put it together,” Nuckols said. “She’s very easy to work with. We even trimmed her ears this morning and she was good and easy to work with. She’s such a pleasure to be around. Hopefully she’ll do well up there.”

Cataloged as the fifth to last yearling to sell is Hip 248, a colt by Broken Vow out of Critics Acclaim, by Theatrical, bred by Hurstland and James Greene Jr. He’s a half full brother Rosalind and a 2-year-old colt named Double Cast who is in training at Saratoga with Leo O’Brien.

“The Critics Acclaim colt, Rosalind’s brother, he’s grown, too,” Nuckols said.

Even though the catalogs are printed consignors are still hopeful for pedigree updates as the days count down until the start of the sale.

Double Cast, who breezed a half-mile in :49.76 on the Oklahoma Training Track Tuesday morning, could be one to give the consignment a boost with an update.

“She’s been working really well at Belmont,” Nuckols said. “There’s a race for her on the 7th, I don’t know if she’ll be quite ready, it’s a mile and a sixteenth on the turf. She’s a nice filly, I’m glad we kept her. I own her with Jamie Green, he was my old college roommate, lacrosse line teammate, fraternity brother. He’s been a very dear friend for many years.

“And it would be great if she ran. It’s always fun to watch a horse you bred run up there. I might have to come back up to watch her run, it’s just a long way to commute. But anything that can help sell this colt will be good.”

Check out the slideshow of Hurstland’s Saratoga consignment from Sunday, July 17.

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth 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.