Saratoga Yearling Diary No. 8: Show Time

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Prospective buyers hit the Fasig-Tipton sales grounds hard Saturday, especially in the approximately three-hour window between the end of training and the start of racing at Saratoga Race Course. A few minutes after training wrapped up at 10 a.m. the Hurstland Farm consignment is hopping. 

The six yearlings Alfred Nuckols Jr. brought to Saratoga to sell at Monday and Tuesday night’s sale are in and out of their stalls faster than customers coming and going to Starbucks for their Monday morning caffeine fix.

The brisk activity in front of Barn 8 on the storied sales grounds is pleasing to Nuckols and longtime client Brant Laue, who bred or co-bred three of the six yearlings. 

Laue especially likes the “Grand Central Station-like feel” of the open area in front of the Hurstland consignment that’s packed with lookers all morning. 

The scene is a bit stressful, too, for the horses and the humans. 

Asked to describe his mood a few days before he sells Hip 77, a colt by Stormy Atlantic he bred solely; Hip 41, a colt by Bernardini he co-bred with Darley; and Hip 232, a filly by Giant’s Causeway he co-bred with Ashford Stud, Laue answers in two words. 

“Nerve-wracking.” 

Laue, the chief counsel to the governor of Kansas and a longtime breeder and owner, draws a parallel between selling Thoroughbred yearlings to his dealings as a partner in his family’s cattle ranch. 

“You’re going to learn in two nights whether you’re going to make a profit for the whole year,” Laue says. “Of course we’re a farming and ranching family, so it’s kind of like wheat harvest. Only you’re sort of harvesting and selling all in the same day. So we’ll see. 

“The horses look great, Alfred’s done a really good job. Any one of them individually would be the best yearling I’ve ever brought to the market. It was a good group to get accepted here. I only raised five yearlings and I said, ‘Alfred, send them all three of those good ones.’ They took them all and here we are. Yes it’s nerve-wracking, but it’s a fun kind of nerve-wracking.”

Showing started early on the grounds and here’s just a portion of the day, an hour to be exact. 

10:25 a.m.: Five of the six yearlings are out of their stalls, lined up in the show area like planes on the tarmac at JFK the night before Thanksgiving. “All shows,” where buyers ask to see the entire consignment, are the common theme. Eddie Woods inspects the group in the area near the sales office, while David Ingordo and his assistant Lakota Gibson take their looks standing under the eaves of Barn 8.

10:30: Alfred’s on the end of the shank leading Hip 248, the chestnut colt by Broken Vow out of Critics Acclaim he co-bred with longtime friend Jamie Green. Alfred shows and sells the half-brother to Rosalind. 

“His half-sister’s name is Double Cast. I gave her to Leo O’Brien to train; he trained the dam. She’s working right along and worked great yesterday.” 

The train of thought changes as quickly as the agents, trainers and owners weaving in and out of the consignments.

“How’s the Scat Daddy colt doing?” asks the same group looking at the Broken Vow colt. “Is he working yet?”

10:40: Brian Cain leads out Hip 94, Tommy Town Thoroughbreds’ colt by Street Sense out of Miss Dolce, a half-brother to a Scat Daddy colt named Batdad that Nuckols sold for $600,000 at last year’s Saratoga sale. Right around the same time Hip 41, the Bernardini colt that made Nuckols’ crew work to get him in his stall the first time, is up to similar antics. 

“The feed bucket was working great earlier. I guess he’s full,” Nuckols jokes.

10:41: Gary Biszantz faces the consignment and takes a long look at Hip 232, the lone filly of the group, a daughter of Giant’s Causeway out of Cayuga’s Waters, by Langfuhr. After a quick “thank you” it’s time for her to head home and of course, the filly that Nuckols said back in March was “good if you don’t push her,” isn’t in a hurry to get back in her stall. 

“Maybe we need to get a second feed bucket going,” Nuckols cracks. 

10:43: “All shows are the popular thing today,” Spencer Crowther says, taking a quick breather while the Bernardini hesitates again. 

“He sure enjoys being out here more than in that stall,” Nuckols says. 

10:44: On cue from Crowther’s statement, bloodstock agent Mike Ryan shows up and asks to see the group. Not surprisingly because he’s still out, the Bernardini colt is first up. While the yearlings are led in and out, the Broken Vow colt paws away at the straw in the front of his stall. He eventually pushes it all back.

10:49: Bloodstock agent Tom Clark makes his way to the consignment, asks, “Can I see everything? Is it a good time, or as good as any?” 

Nuckols walks over and asks, “Tom, you want to start with the Bernardini?”

“I’ll start wherever you want,” Clark responds. He gets Hip 110, Tommy Town Thoroughbreds’ colt by Eskendereya out of Northern Station, by Street Cry, a half-brother to Grade 3 winner Barbados.

10:52: Sunrise Stallions’ Andrew Cohen walks past; headed to the courtyard between Barns 4 and 5, while Clark continues his all show looking at Hip 77, Laue’s Stormy Atlantic colt out of Love Cove. 

10:53: Gary Bell hears the Broken Vow pawing again, asks, “What is it? Do you want some more hay?” Bell disappears down the shedrow and through the breezeway. He returns a minute later with a flake. “Here you go Red, good boy,” 

10:54: Mike Ryan’s still in the midst of his all show and space to look at the yearlings is at a premium. He stands near the middle of Barn 8 as yearlings from Woodford Thoroughbreds’ nearby consignment in the same barn jockey for space with Hurstland’s group. “Go straight that way, down to there,” Ryan says, pointing. 

Bell brings the Broken Vow colt out and gets intercepted by Leigh Nuckols, “He goes to Mike Ryan next.”

10:57: Ryan’s still on the move. Now he’s back near the end of the showing area, looking at the Giant’s Causeway filly while Hurst Nuckols shows the Street Sense to Clark. 

10:59: The Broken Vow colt, getting a little studish, walks to the area nearest the back walking ring. “Let’s get him away from that filly,” Hurst Nuckols says. 

Pete Bradley, with a reporter and photographer in tow, walks up and asks for an all show. The first yearling is led out, Bradley checks out the area and asks, “Let’s walk here, somewhere.”

11:03: Leigh Nuckols greets Fasig-Tipton’s Peter Penny and Terence Collier. “We’ll look at them with Pete,” Penny says, gesturing toward Bradley as Dallas Stewart, decked out in a New Orleans Saints golf shirt, takes a shortcut through the shedrow. 

The crowded area gets more crowded. “I think we ought to come back; it’s not working right now. We can go along this side,” he says, pointing to the north side of Barn 5. “We haven’t been there yet, have we?”

11:06: Not long after Penny and Collier walk away there’s a brief moment for the Hurstland team to catch its breath. Three Chimneys’ Chris Baker, flying solo, walks up and asks for an all show. “I was waiting. This was the least busy I’ve seen it all day.” The Broken Vow colt is out, getting shown to another buyer and when he’s done he’s led to Baker. 

11:09: “Just the filly,” Marette Farrell says as she walks up to the table and grabs a card. Hurst Nuckols reminds Kristen Griffin, with a wave of the arm toward the breezeway, “Keep that filly as far that way as you can.” 

Baker’s done with the Broken Vow colt, who goes right into his stall nose deep in a green feed bucket. 

11:12: “OK Marette, she’s all yours,” Alfred Nuckols says, before mentioning to his crew, “just the filly for her. She’s our filly girl.”

11:13: Bradley finishes his looks. “Onward and upward,” he says.

11:16: Alfred and Hurst Nuckols discuss lunch. “I forgot to order lunch,” Alfred says. “Want to just order Spring Street again? It was good yesterday.”

11:20: “I’ll take the Critics Acclaim down there, he’s only seen two horses,” Alfred Nuckols tells the crew, walking toward the back walking ring with the Broken Vow colt. 

11:22: “We got dressed, got out here and have been all shows ever since,” Griffin says after she puts the Giant’s Causeway filly back in her stall. “No breakfast, no lunch, just running on water.” 

11:26: “Who’s this green guy on the shank,” Calumet’s Charlie Boden asks Alfred, holding the Broken Vow colt. 

“Can I get fired?” Nuckols cracks back. “You want to see him first?”

“Sure, where’s he walk best?” Boden says.