Alan Cohen and David Nowicki decided to be contrarians last fall. With the Thoroughbred market still struggling in the wake of economic downturns and many people reducing the number of horses they owned, they decided to build up the broodmare band at Arindel Farms, the 500-acre Central Florida-based operation owned by Cohen and his wife, Karen.
Ready to make a big buying push, Cohen and Nowicki attended the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November select mixed and Keeneland November breeding stock sales. In the Arindel name, they purchased four head for $210,000 at Fasig-Tipton and another 11 head for $815,000 at Keeneland. They bought all but three of their Keeneland mares on the auction’s opening day.
“He (Cohen) came to me and said, ‘Now is the time to start gearing back up,’ so we sat down and went over the catalogs two or three times,” remembered Nowicki, who is Arindel’s general manager. “When we went up to Kentucky, we were prepared to buy some nice mares, and we were like two kids in a candy store. We tried to pick out the sweetest pieces of candy at the most reasonable prices. We got almost everything we wanted to get, and we ended up being under budget.”
The Arindel purchases included Sara’s Success, who is the dam of 2010 Santa Ynez (gr. II) and Davona Dale (gr. II) stakes winner Amen Hallelujah (by Montbrook), and Hear This, who is the dam of 2010 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) and Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) runner-up Schoolyard Dreams (by Stephen Got Even). Added-money winner Sara’s Success (by Concorde’s Tune), acquired for $40,000 at Keeneland, had been bred to Distorted Humor but was not in foal, and Hear This (by Prospector’s Music), bought for $55,000 at Fasig-Tipton, was carrying a full sibling to Schoolyard Dreams.
But the mare Nowicki is the most excited about is Miss Doolittle, the dam of Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) winner and Triple Crown nominee Dialed In (by Mineshaft). Her other offspring include Broadway Gold (by Seeking the Gold), who captured the 2004 Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park. Acquired for $85,000, Miss Doolittle was in foal to Curlin and she produced a filly earlier this year.
A 13-year-old daughter of Storm Cat, Miss Doolittle won twice and finished third in the 2000 Schuylerville Stakes (gr. II), and she is a half sister to Irish stakes winner Samuel Morse (by Danehill Dancer). Their dam is 1992’s champion 2-year-old filly, Eliza (by Mt. Livermore).
“Miss Doolittle reminded me of those old Elmendorf Farm blue hen mares that had some presence and substance about them,” said Nowicki, who once was the general manager at the historic Elmendorf Farm. “She’s not a real big mare and she’s not a small mare; she’s just put together nicely. She’s very classy. We thought the bidders were going to go crazy about her—after all, her dam is Eliza—but we got her at a respectable price.”
Dialed In made his career debut four days after Arindel bought his dam, winning a 61⁄2-furlong maiden special-weight race at Churchill Downs by a half-length. The dark bay or brown colt started his 2011 campaign by taking the Holy Bull by 11⁄2 lengths and most recently finished second, beaten a half-length by an older stablemate, Equestrio, in an allowance/optional claiming event March 6 at Gulfstream Park.
Dialed In’s Hall of Fame trainer, Nick Zito, indicated afterward that the April 3 Florida Derby (gr. I) might be the 3-year-old’s next race.
Dialed In’s half sister by Curlin, the 2007-08 Horse of the Year, was foaled Feb. 13.
“She looks just like her dad,” Nowicki said, “and Dialed In looks just like his dam. The mare is throwing some really nice babies.”
Arindel’s broodmare band has approximately 30 members, including one purchased at this year’s Keeneland January horses of all ages sale, according to Nowicki. Cohen and his wife plan primarily to breed to race. However, the Cohens might sell some of the offspring of their best mares, among them 2006’s champion 3-year-old filly, Wait a While (by Maria’s Mon), who carried Arindel’s colors.
Reflecting on the November mare buying spree, Nowicki expressed confidence in the contrarian strategy even though racing has suffered downturns in purses and handle in recent years.
“If you can hang in there, raise good stock, and put your horses in the right hands, I think you’ll be fine,” Nowicki said. “Once you see the economy get better, everything in the Thoroughbred industry will come back. I don’t want to say it will be the way it used to be, but it will be better than it is now. And then, you just never know what’s going to jump up like Dialed In did. We’re riding a big wave with him.”
The Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training, which was the first major juvenile auction of the year, produced mixed results March 3 at Palm Meadows Training Center. The median price was stable, but the number of horses sold, gross revenue, and average price all declined from 2010 while the buy-back rate rose above the 40% level.
Eight juveniles brought prices of $500,000 or more apiece compared to 11 last year. For the second year in a row, only one horse commanded a seven-figure price. But the $1.35 million brought by this year’s sale topper, an Empire Maker—Half A. P. filly, fell short of 2010’s highest price: $2.3 million.
Brock, who was 2010’s most expensive sale 2-year-old, had raced only once as of March 9. He finished eighth in a six-furlong maiden race last Aug. 14 at Saratoga. The winner was Stay Thirsty, who recently captured the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) and is a nominee to the Triple Crown.
Brock, also a Triple Crown nominee, is a son of Distorted Humor and is out of the grade I winner Tomisue’s Delight (by A.P. Indy). The 3-year-old colt is a half brother to 2009 Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes (gr. IT) winner Mr. Sidney (by Storm Cat).
Even though many consignors reported they were busier than usual this year showing horses to buyers at the Florida sale’s new location, Fasig-Tipton officials had an idea before the auction started that there might be difficulty finding horses new homes based on what they were hearing about veterinary exams, according to the company’s president Boyd Browning.
“We knew the vetting was polarized,” he said. “When you talked to consignors, there was deep, deep vetting on a horse or very little vetting. There was not a whole lot of middle of the road in terms of the number of veterinary exams on a horse, so we had an indication by the morning of the sale that the market was going to continue to be very selective and somewhat polarized.”
Pinhookers had a more difficult time making money with their horses, based on The Blood-Horse’s calculations that take into account the Fasig-Tipton’s commission and the cost of upkeep.
Forty-seven percent of the horses offered by pinhookers were profitable compared to 58% in 2010. Pinhookers’ rate of return on investment was 89%, down from 92%.
The pinhooked horses that were sold at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale were purchased as yearlings at public auction for an average price of $108,914, which was down 13.1% from the figure for the 2010 Florida sale’s pinhooked horses. They were resold as juveniles for an average of $252,534, which represented a 12.8% decline.
The buy-back rate for pinhooked horses was 41%, up significantly from 30% in 2010.
Spending by Japanese shoppers declined at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale. They purchased no fewer than three 2-year-olds for no less than $650,000 and acquired another two privately for undisclosed prices after the auction ended, according to sale company officials. Last year Japanese buyers paid no less than $3,005,000 for no fewer than nine 2-year-olds.
Earlier this year and last fall the Japanese were big spenders at Kentucky’s mixed sales, pursuing broodmares and broodmare prospects with enthusiasm, so why weren’t they as eager to purchase top juveniles even though the yen remains strong against the American dollar? Naohiro Goda of the Tokyo-based Regent Co. had some answers.
According to Goda, Japan’s economy was not especially robust and racing handle and attendance had suffered setbacks even prior to the devastating earthquake that rocked Japan March 11.
“The big breeders are running a business, and they need to upgrade their broodmare bands even in a difficult economy,” he said. “On the other hand, for many horse owners, ownership is kind of a hobby, and when the economy is bad, they do not need to buy.”
Goda said he worked with four groups of Japanese buyers at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale. The most expensive Japanese purchase was a $470,000 Bernardini colt that is the first foal out of Argentine champion Miss Terrible. Katsumi Yoshida of Northern Farm was his buyer.