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Buys and Blunders: Part One: Yearlings
Category: Member Blogs
 
 
 
 
With the auction season gearing up, one of my favorite things to do is “shop” the sales catalogues.Instead of looking forward to what might be, I thought it would be interesting to highlight a few sales from the past and see how it all turned out.I will be writing four articles in this series, starting with Yearlings, moving to Two Year Olds, Broodmare Prospects and The Bargain Bin.
 
 

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The excitement that people get from placing their bet at the window on race day is the picture that most everyone imagines when they think of gambling on horseracing.The gambling that takes place years before the horse even shows up at the gate is when the real action begins.
 

Blossoming in the 1980’s, partnerships and syndications have created avenues for more money and breeding opportunities that weren’t available in the past when the business of breeding, selling and buying were primarily done privately.Auctions were used to cull the lesser of their breeding crop.Currently, the auction is the primary catalyst for selling and buying the best bred horses, bringing together the best horses and the wealthiest investors willing to gamble thousands, up to millions of dollars, on bloodlines and conformation.
 
The budding of the incredible bidding wars between Coolmore Stud, and Sheikh Mohammed put a sizzle in the auction world, giving hips selling prices in the millions.In this illustrious time for the sport, money was no object to buyers.Long before the 80’s, auctions had been held, but none to the standard that the 1980’s displayed.At that time, the auctioning industry kicked off with nuclear power, producing two yearlings that sold for over ten million dollars.
 
SNAAFI DANCER:

Snaafi Dancer began the auction boom at the 1983 September Yearling Sale held at Keeneland.With seemingly perfect confirmation, this colt was sired by 1964 Kentucky Derby winner, Northern Dancer, and out of My Bupers who foaled My Juliet-a graded stakes winner who was a champion sprinter in the United States.

Northern Dancer’s offspring brought buyers from all over the globe to the Keeneland sales ring in order to get a piece of this stallion whose stud fee at its highest reached $1,000,000.The auction ring rivalry had officially begun between Sheikh Mohammed and Coolmore Stud, competing in high-stakes bidding wars over Northern Dancer’s progeny.
 
Snaafi Dancer had two crosses of Blue Larkspur, and horses in his first five generations included Black Toney, War Admiral, and legendary broodmare, La Troienne.For a yearling, he looked too good to be true.His legs were already solid, his back appeared strong, and his rump displayed impressive angulation.In a game where there is no such thing as a sure thing, he appeared pretty close to a sure thing when he stepped into the auction ring.

With an opening bid of one million dollars, the bidding war escalated from there, but was resolved by Sheikh Mohammed’s winning offer of $10.2 million.The Keeneland numbers board could not display eight figure digits at the time, and therefore returned to zero when the bidding reached ten million dollars.At the end of this titanic financial tug of war, the board showed that the colt was sold for $200,000.

At the time, $10.2 million was unimaginable for a completely untested horse who had not even begun training for racing.Like any other yearling that has ever walked through the auction ring, only time would tell.And, oh boy, did it ever.

Time would reveal that Snaafi Dancer never made it to the racetrack, and only sired four horses in the breeding shed due to infertility.Of those four mediocre horses, only one crossed the wire first and none going on to produce good runners. No doubt, to the disappointment of Sheikh Mohammed, this costly adventure is the ultimate lesson in gambling.To the relief of Coolmore Stud, losing ultimately turned them into winners.

The latest information on Snaafi Dancer, is that he is part of the witness relocation program, living somewhere in Florida.People connected to the horse have never revealed his exact location to the public.

SEATTLE DANCER:

Only two years after Snaafi Dancer walked through the Keeneland auction ring, another yearling by the name of Seattle Dancer created a ruckus in the auction world.He would break Snaafi Dancer’s record for largest priced yearling ever sold at auction, and still holds that title.Consequently, he would become the most expensive horse ever sold at public auction until the two year old, The Green Monkey, shattered that record twenty-one years later.

Seattle Dancer was a spectacular specimen from his heritage to his confirmation.He was a descendant of Equipoise, Myrtlewood, and Alsab who defeated the three year old Whirlaway in a match race.Seattle Dancer’s second dam was by Jet Action, by 1947 Kentucky Derby winner, Jet Pilot.

The yearling colt’s broodmare sire’s second dam was a full-sister to Busher, who also appears in his bloodlines.With two crosses of the legendary Nearco, he was also a descendant of Princequillo.

However, what undoubtedly got bidders most excited about this son of Nijinsky (by Northern Dancer) was that he was out of My Charmer, making him a half-brother to 1977 Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew, who was a missed opportunity for bidders, being a buyback for $17,500.Bidders would not miss the promise Seattle Slew’s little brother displayed when he entered the historic Keeneland auction ring.

When bidding opened on Seattle Dancer in Keeneland’s 1985 July sale, two spotters almost instantaneously informed auctioneer Tom Caldwell of two one million dollar bids.It took less than one minute for the price to reach seven million dollars.In a relatively sleepy time for auctions, it was not Sheikh Mohammed fighting Coolmore (because they had teamed up before that year’s yearling auction season), but it was the Eugene Klein/D. Wayne Lukas team.The bidding got so high that Robert Sangster of Coolmore who was behind the sales pavilion thought Sheikh Mohammed had broken their deal.

The sale price rocketed far beyond the recent record price for Snaafi Dancer.Reaching $11.7 million, it appeared that a sweating Eugene Klein was nearing his tipping point.After surpassing the record, Klein had pulled out of the bidding, but Lukas was representing Mel Hatley, who was absent from the sale. Lukas and Sangster implored each other with bids in the hundred thousands.

When Caldwell asked for a bid of thirteen million dollars, and Lukas accepted.However, Sangster retorted with a bid of $13.1 million which sealed the deal.

My Charmer was obviously a consistent broodmare, producing not only a Triple Crown winner, but also Seattle Dancer, who went on to perform well on the racetrack.He did not reach the quality that the bidding war implied, but respectively won two graded stakes races, and was GI placed.Out of his five starts, the bay colt who resembled his brother finished in the money in all but one start.

In 1988, Seattle Dancer entered stallion duty at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky.Afterward, the stallion stood at Coolmore’s Ireland division.In 1997, he was shipped to East Stud in Japan, and in his final five years as a stud, he stood in Germany.Seattle Dancer had a commendable breeding career, being the sire of thirty-seven stakes winners including Seattle Ryhme, winner of the 1991 Racing Post Trophy; Pike Place Dancer, winner of the 1996 Kentucky Oaks; Caffe Latte who won the 2000 Santa Barbara Handicap, as well as that year’s Romana Handicap.Seattle Dancer also sired Que Belle, who was a champion filly in Germany.

His career as a stallion probably made an honest effort at turning a profit from his initial investment through syndications and stud fees. As a twenty-three year old in 2007, he suffered a fatal heart attack in Germany.

 

 

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