Peter Vegso, who describes the horse business as an emotional roller coaster, went on a wild ride at Keeneland Nov. 8. He and Gary Seidler sold their homebred Unrivaled Belle, through Eaton Sales, for $2.8 million to Betty Moran’s Brushwood Stable during the second session of the November breeding stock auction.
Offered as a broodmare prospect, the 5-year-old daughter of Unbridled's Song won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I).
“I’m just an emotional wreck for some reason or another,” said Vegso, wiping away tears after the auctioneer dropped the hammer. “We’ve had so much enjoyment and she’s such a unique horse. I don’t know what it is. I’ve been crying for 15 minutes and I can’t get myself to stop. I should be joyous. It’s a great price and I know she’s going to be in good hands. Obviously, anybody who pays that for her is going to take good care of her. But she just brought a lot of joy to our lives. I’m missing her already.”
Seidler didn’t show his feelings as much outwardly, but admitted to experiencing mixed emotions.
“I’m happy with the sale,” Seidler said. “I’m very sad to lose her. She is family, and I do mean family. My point of view, maybe different than Peter, is that I’m really reducing my involvement in racing, period. I saw this as a major opportunity to do that.
“This is what I’ve always wanted with a horse like this,” continued Seidler, referring to Unrivaled Belle’s racing success. “But on the other hand, this is a horse that I can make a graceful exit from the business with.”
Added Vegso: “I knew Gary did (wanted to sell her) and that really figured big into it the decision, you know, as well as getting the best possible price for her. I didn’t really want to pay that much to buy his half out.”
Vegso and Seidler still have Unrivaled Belle’s dam, Queenie Belle, a 14-year-old daughter of Bertrando. She is in foal to Bernardini . That offspring probably will be sold as a yearling, according to Vegso.
But, Seilder said: “We’ll never get rid of Queenie Belle, that’s for sure. We hope she’ll drop another championship caliber horse like this one (Unrivaled Belle) was.”
Unrivaled Belle captured six of her 14 career races and earned $1,854,706. In addition to the Ladies' Classic, she won three added-money events, including the La Troienne (gr. II) and Rampart (gr. III) stakes last year.
This past June, Unrivaled Belle was scheduled to compete in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I), but she fell backward in the Belmont Park paddock prior to the race and broke her withers. Because of the time it would take for the injury to heal, she was retired from racing.
Unrivaled Belle fell because the race had been delayed and she was anxious, according to Vegso.
“When’s it race time, look out,” he said. “She wants to go right to the (starting) gate and get going. That’s all she wants to do.”
Unrivaled Belle reared and bounced around in the Keeneland sale ring after the bidding on her started started because she thought she was about to race, Vegso said. Auctioneer Scott Caldwell stopped the proceedings briefly and told her handler to take her out. The bidding resumed and concluded without the mare’s presence.
Eaton Sales’ Reiley McDonald serves as an advisor to Moran, who purchased Unrivaled Belle. But Keeneland auctioneer Justin Holmberg did the bidding for Moran from behind the auction stand while talking to her on a cell phone.
“We sent her (Moran) pictures and we sent her videos (of Unrivaled Belle,) so she got a really good look at the mare,” McDonald said. “I was pleased for Mr. Vegso and his partner, Mr. Seidler, and I was pleased for Betty. It was good trade.”
Looking at Unrivaled Belle’s sale from the viewpoint of a consignor, McDonald added: “When you get that kind of money for any horse, it’s a good sale. At the same time, she was arguably the best mare in the country last year and she was absolutely a picture. I thought she was well-valued on this market and hopefully she’ll produce babies that look like her.”