Saratoga Yearling Diary No. 9: Then & Now

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Alfred Nuckols Jr. knows every inch of every horse in his six-horse consignment. 

As hands-on as hands-on can be, Nuckols delivered each one as a foal at his farm in Midway, Ky., and was there when they were led off a horse van in Saratoga Springs Friday morning. 

Monday night he’ll watch four of the six go through the ring during the opening session of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings. He’ll still be there into the wee hours of the evening Tuesday when the remaining two go through the ring. 

Nuckols obviously hopes they all sell for a fair price, but doesn’t consider it a complete success at the drop of the hammer. 

“Hell, I pulled every one of them out of their mothers so getting them here alive was the fun part,” Nuckols said Sunday afternoon as activity around the sales grounds started to subside after a second straight day of showing. “When they sell it’s kind of like graduation day, you’re proud of them. You hate to see them go but you’re awfully proud of them. You just hope that whoever gets them you want them to be a Grade 1, black-type Saturday horse. That doesn’t always work out. 

“Sales have become so competitive that sometimes people look for the great sales horse and don’t care about the great racehorse. I’m in the business where I have the families, so I want them to be racehorses and build the family so they can be sales horses.”

Nuckols is optimistic on the eve of this year’s Saratoga sale. He’s done well here in the past, very well. 

Four of the five yearlings Hurstland brought to Saratoga last year sold for $1,175,000, including a $600,000 Scat Daddy colt purchased by Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stable. In 2014 Nuckols brought two yearlings to Saratoga – fillies by Hard Spun and Tale Of The Cat – and sold them for $200,000 and $300,000.

Hurstland’s 2016 consignment features half-siblings to some of those past sales successes. 

“Success is getting them all sold for a nice price,” Nuckols said. “I don’t have any home runs but I don’t have any dregs. We’ll probably fall somewhere from $125,000 to $300,000, $350,000. If we all get in that range it’s a good sale for me. I’m easy to please. 

“If I had some of these Tapits, after yesterday, my goodness. Frosted. Cupid. Those are the kind of updates that are big. But, a Broken Vow won the Sorrento and I’ve got one of those. Giant’s Causeway had one that hit the board in a stakes yesterday, too (Jay Gatsby in the Lure at Saratoga) and I’ve got one of those, too. It’s just a good, solid consignment. I don’t think any of them are going to completely outshine the others.”

So how did the foals he pulled out of the mares himself get to one of the most prestigious yearling sales in the world? Nuckols answered that question, going stall to stall, starting with his lone filly and then working by hip number highest to lowest. Think of his review as a Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour, yearling edition. 

– Hip 232, filly by Giant’s Causeway out of Cayuga’s Waters, by Langfuhr. “She was tough when she was first born. She liked nothing about anybody, especially with her hind end. This little filly, she was pretty slight as a baby. It’s funny, a guy that works for me, he worked with her and she kicked him with both hinds a couple times. The farrier, good God, he’d come out of her stall broken out in a sweat. He’d do two feet then would have to wait 15 minutes and do the other two. She just fought you so much. I remember (co-breeder) Ashford would come by to see her and she was tough then. Then about four months ago, all of a sudden everything clicked and she’s getting more and more mature. She was perfect going in and out of the stall. She’ll follow that feed tub anywhere.”

– Hip 248, colt by Broken Vow out of Critics Acclaim, by Theatrical. “The sad thing about him was he was an orphan. The day after he was born the mare died. He got through OK, but she hemorrhaged a day later unfortunately. That was a bad winter. He grew up with a nurse mare. We put him on a nurse mare and he was on her for about five months.” 

– Hip 110, colt by Eskendereya out of Northern Station, by Street Cry. “As a foal he was leggy. Same body style as now, just kind of leggy. He was a nice little foal to be around, all legs. Then he left, went to California, came back and he’s still all legs but he’s filled out. From being a baby he’s changed quite a bit, but he’s still kind of the same horse.”

– Hip 94, colt by Street Sense out of Miss Dolce, by Unbridled’s Song. “This guy, the way it’s shaping up, will be the stable star. He’s a nice colt. He’s really blossomed. He’s come along, just like that colt last year. The Scat Daddy was just such a lovely mover and he was a little feminine but was such a good mover and that’s what got everybody on him. This colt is the same way only he’s got a body. He was always a nice colt. The Street Senses, at least the ones I’ve had, have a nice body.”

– Hip 77, colt by Stormy Atlantic out of Love Cove, by Not For Love. “He’s always been a lovely colt. The parts have always been there and he’s always been a pretty colt. He went through a spell where he was kind of rough but everything catches up when they go through those growth spurts.”

– Hip 41, colt by Bernardini out of Glorious View, by Pleasant Tap. “The Bernardini, when he started out he was a pretty colt as a baby. He’s been consistently nice all along. No great fluctuations along the way. Steady.”

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth 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.