by Frank Angst, Esther Marr, and Ron Mitchell
The year’s first Thoroughbred auction, the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale, affirmed a belief by many that the commercial markets are rebounding with steady growth.
With a good start providing optimism, the year ahead also promises to reveal new faces, and have some familiar faces in new roles. Lane Seliger of Baumann Stables, which landed the highest-priced broodmare prospect (or broodmare) at Keeneland January, is one of those new faces. Meanwhile, the dispersal of Fares Farm at the sale has launched respected manager Shannon White into a new venture.
As new stallions enter the market, their supporters showed confidence at Keeneland January by purchasing promising young broodmares and broodmare prospects. The sale also saw a clever Bullet Train management team targeting new broodmare owners who had not locked in breeding decisions.
Seliger Makes (Quiet) Splash
After Seliger went to $1.3 million to land American Oaks Stakes (gr. IT) winner Nereid (by Rock Hard Ten) at Keeneland January, he declined comment. It left the relatively unknown owner/breeder’s background a bit shrouded.
A resident of Amarillo, Texas, Seliger formerly served as president of the steel distributor and warehouse company Lake Steel Ltd. He sold the company in 2010 and officially retired last year. Hearing tales about the industry from a longtime friend that raced some horses at Del Mar caused the wheels in Seliger’s head to turn, and it wasn’t long before he began contacting trainers and met Peter Miller. The two men claimed several horses together and Seliger realized how enjoyable the game could be.
“He’s extremely nice with a great family, and he took a real liking to the game,” said Southern California-based Miller. “It looks like he’s really diving into the game, and I’m glad to have him as a client.”
Seliger has four horses in training with Miller, including 4-year-old filly Graser, whom they claimed for $80,000 at Del Mar last summer. After the claim, the Motivator filly followed with back-to-back runner-up finishes in stakes at Del Mar.
In partnership with Miles Childers, Seliger also owns 3-year-old Kafwain gelding Kafister, a $9,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase in 2011. Kafister won his first two starts on the West Coast last year, followed by a fourth-place Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint Preview Stakes finish at Santa Anita Park.
Seliger purchased five broodmares/broodmare prospects and one racing or stallion prospect at the sale for a combined $1,962,000. In addition to Nereid, the sale’s second-highest-priced horse sold, Seliger acquired Crazy Party, an A.P. Indy daughter and half sister to three group victors for $300,000; plus stakes-placed In Excess mare Rockin Heather for $140,000.
All of the horses were bought under the name Baumann Stables, which Seliger later said represents the well-known German, New Mexico-based artist Gustave Baumann.
“His work has a magical element, like New Mexico, and as I have recently discovered, (so) does the horse country of Kentucky,” Seliger explained.
Seliger has hired Eric Crawford as his racing manager and also has some horses in training in New Mexico with Justin Evans.
“My goal as things began to take shape was to do something I could be proud of,” said Seliger. “I had a great week at Keeneland; I’m proud of what we did there. My guess is that I’ll keep working on and enjoying this sport until they call my number. I hope to win a big race someday and enjoy that with my friends. Who knows where this will take us?”
White to Launch New Operation
Shannon White, who served as general manager of Issam Fares’ 760-acre Fares Farm near Lexington for the past dozen years, believes that when one door closes, another one opens.
In the wake of the Fares Farm Dispersal at Keeneland January, White made plans to start her own Thoroughbred venture.
“I just signed on a little farm, but I won’t officially take possession until April,” said White of the 112-acre Ballantrae Farm, located on Old Frankfort Pike near Lexington.
While there are details to iron out, White plans to operate the farm as a breeding facility. She already has hired several former Fares employees to join her, including farm manager Carrie Clark.
“A lot remains to be determined—I will figure out some of those details,” said White. “But I have faith and confidence because we have a good team. You take care of the people that take care of you. There was some anxiety at first (when it was announced that Fares Farm was dispersing its horses) and (the employees) were looking for some leadership and I didn’t have an answer, but I thought, ‘Well, we’ll find one.’ So through patience, it worked out.”
In addition to the riding horses owned by White’s three daughters, other horses that will reside on the farm include seven dispersal horses she purchased for a total of $187,000. David Thornton signed the ticket for the mares that White owns in partnership with others.
Keeneland January provided an opportunity for people with interests in new stallions to purchase mares to help those beginners to a strong start.
Mike Lauffer, who bred and raced multiple grade I winner Shackleford in partnership with Bill Cubbedge, landed for $115,000 a daughter of Bernardini , Haylie Brae, whom he plans to send to the 5-year-old Forestry stallion.
“She’s beautiful,” Lauffer said of the half sister to two stakes winners out of the Danzig mare Dance Swiftly, a full sister to Canadian Horse of the Year Dance Smartly. “She had some talent and could run. But she flipped in the paddock and was injured and was never the same when she returned to the track. I love Bernardini as a sire, and I think the A.P. Indy line will match up well with Shackleford.”
Gainesway’s Antony Beck was busy at both the Keeneland November breeding stock sale and Keeneland January looking for good matches for new stallions To Honor and Serve and Tapizar.
After purchasing seven mares in November, at least four of which will support Charlotte Weber’s two-time grade I winner To Honor and Serve , he added several at Keeneland January for that stallion as well as for Ron Winchell’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) winner Tapizar .
Through agent Debbie Easter, Beck purchased Well Deserved, a 6-year-old daughter of Cactus Ridge—Lodden Blue, by Coronado’s Quest, for $70,000; plus a 7-year-old stakes-winning daughter of Speightstown named French Dip, who is out of the grade I-winning mare Mayo On the Side (by French Deputy). In foal to Unbridled's Song , the latter mare was purchased for $160,000 in the Gainesway name.
Gainesway also landed Duke's Dream, a 4-year-old daughter of Mr. Greeley, for $25,000. Beck privately acquired 3-year-old Gravitar, by Unbridled’s Song, after she failed to meet her reserve.
“I have been shopping heavily in both the November sale and here (Keeneland January) to support them both with my own mares,” Beck said. “I have already committed almost 40 mares between the two of them and plan to acquire more.”
Bruce Hill, general manager of Weber’s Live Oak Stud, said she will send several of her top broodmares to To Honor and Serve. Live Oak purchased Big Tiz for $600,000 at Keeneland January and the grade I-placed daughter of Tiznow will be considered for the new stallion.
The promotional team behind new stallion Bullet Train offered a personal touch during Keeneland January.
Through pre-sale research, the team headed by Bullet Train LLC managing director Sean Feld determined which offered mares would be good matches for the 6-year-old Sadler’s Wells horse, a half brother to undefeated two-time European Horse of the Year Frankel.
After determining the new stallion’s best matches, a personal invitation and flyer promoting Bullet Train were delivered to any buyer who purchased one of the listed mares. The invitations, sealed in white envelopes with a Bullet Train logo and hip number of the broodmare or broodmare prospect, were delivered by attractive young women sporting white sweaters that also featured the logo, a white “BT” on a black shield.
A letter signed by Feld encouraged buyers to consider sending their new mares to Bullet Train.
“Congratulations on purchasing your new mare here at Keeneland,” said the letter, which then listed the specific mare purchased. “I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the new, exciting stallion Bullet Train.”
Feld said Spendthrift Farm, where he previously worked, had conducted similar promotions. He said the Bullet Train invitations garnered some instant interest.
“We are trying to educate American breeders about Bullet Train,” Feld said. “This is a unique opportunity. Everyone knows who Frankel is, but they don’t really know that his older brother could actually run. People who have received the envelope have called me and want to come to the farm to see him.”
Group III winner Bullet Train stands for $7,500 at Beau Greely’s Wintergreen Stallion Station near Midway, Ky.
by Frank Angst, Esther Marr, and Ron Mitchell