Steve Castagnola stood in the back walking ring at Keeneland Sept. 12, chuckling to himself as he recalled the moment two years ago when he questioned whether a certain decision he had made inside that pavilion would come back to bite him.
"We were looking to buy a mare in foal to Uncle Mo ," Castagnola, bloodstock manager of Albaugh Family Stables, recalled of the decision to pay $325,000 for the Street Sense mare Free Money at the 2015 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. "At the time that night, I second-guessed that I maybe paid a little too much for her."
As the first Book 2 session of the Keeneland September yearling sale got rolling Tuesday, Castagnola and the Albaugh team were reminded their instincts within the auction arena are more often than not on point.
The Uncle Mo colt Free Money, foaled Feb. 15, 2016, became another Albaugh success tale when he sold to Peter Brant's White Birch Farm and Coolmore's M.V. Magnier for $675,000 during the second day of action at the world's largest yearling sale.
Albaugh Family Stables is the Iowa-based racing operation of Dennis Albaugh and his son-in-law Jason Loutsch that has already made waves during the relatively short time they have been in the industry. Since purchasing eight yearlings during the 2014 Keeneland sale, the Albaugh colors have been carried at racing's upper echelon by the likes of multiple grade 1 winner Brody's Cause , Eclipse Award finalist Not This Time , and graded stakes winner J Boys Echo.
They have also enjoyed commercial success on all ends of the spectrum, purchasing Brody's Cause for $350,000 out of that 2014 auction and selling future Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Liam's Map for $800,000 at the 2012 September sale. While the latter decision is one they still shake their heads at given what Liam's Map became, the return on investment on Free Money's first foal was a cause for celebration.
"(The Uncle Mo colt) was reserved a lot lower and I can tell you Dennis Albaugh told me as we watched him sell, he said 'Steve, this as exciting as watching a horse race,' " Castagnola said. "I'm excited for the Albaugh family. (When we bought the mare) I thought you're either right or you're wrong, and she had a lovely colt who did nothing but get better. We've acquired some broodmares, we have a larger broodmare band now. So when you sell one like this, it helps pay the bills."
Consigned by Lane's End, the Uncle Mo colt is from the female family of grade 1 winner A. P. Indian and stakes winners Ender's Shadow and Ender's Sister.
"Uncle Mo is obviously very hot and this is a very nice colt," said Bill Farish of Lane's End. "The Albaughs brought him here to sell. ... but he definitely exceeded our expectations."
Castagnola said the Albaugh broodmare band currently stands at "about 16 to 17 mares" with a majority of them going to support Not This Time, their homebred half brother to Liam's Map, who stood his first season at Taylor Made Farm in 2017 for an advertised fee of $15,000.
"Some (of the foals) we'll sell back, some we'll keep," Castagnola said. "We have a very, very good team and it takes a good team. We all have to agree and sometimes it's hard to get everyone to agree, but we all work well together. I think the Albaugh family has been very smart with putting a team together that does work well. And so far, it's working."