I wasn’t and neither should you. Horses of all ages seldom win anything important after running an opening furlong in 10 seconds, that’s if they win anything at all, or even make it to the races.
The study attempted to measure the success rate of Barretts March Sale graduates over an eight-year period. The 2007 class, this year’s two-year-olds, were not included. Most of those youngsters have yet to race.
Critics of the report will claim the data is skewed, or incomplete, even just plain wrong. I’m willing to concede that some criticisms might be justified. But an overwhelming preponderance of evidence shows a clear trend, an alarming one to say the least, but not uncommon.
The research was conducted and is verifiable by visiting the Barretts and Pedigree Query websites, whose data was used to compile the following results. The samples included only the fastest best-of-preview workouts at one, two and three furlongs.
Some terrific race horses were Barretts Sales graduates, among them, Officer, Brother Derek, Queenie Belle, Dubai Escapade, Henny Hughes, River’s Prayer, Habibti and Notional, an impressive group indeed.
But the study was meant to correlate the “fastest” workers with racetrack profitability. By that criterion Dubai Escapade hasn’t justified his $2 million price tag on the racetrack. He’s won six of eight starts according to the data, but earned $427,000.
Henny Hughes and River’s Prayer made money, but not really. They weren’t sold. They were “buy-backs” a.k.a. “RNAs,” horses whose reserve price--the value placed on them by their breeder(s), was not attained.
Actually, most results were counter-intuitive: The higher the sales price, the lower the earnings. After working a quarter mile in :21.6 seconds, Morocco was sold in 1999 for $2-million, and earned $134,000 at the races, winning four of 16 starts.
After working an eighth of a mile in :10-flat the following year, Gotham City sold for $2-million but came $1,998,000 short of winning back his purchase price, going winless in two lifetime starts.
Atlantic Ocean, a 2002 Barretts graduate, had a decent racetrack career, earning $680,000 on five wins from 19 career starts, but well short of his $1.9 million purchase price. Diamond Fury sold for $2.7 million the following year, but won back only $128,000, going 3-for-15.
Even a successful career--if short lived--is no guarantor of racetrack profitability. In addition to the Dubai Escapade example, What A Song, who “zipped a quarter mile in :20.6” in 2005 and undefeated in three starts, came up short of his purchase price by $1,720,000.
In all, 28 of the fastest two-year-olds in America sold at auction over eight years for a grand total of $26,675,000 collectively earned back $3,878,000. This is not an easy game.
But things like this are bound to happen when $2 billion worth of speed and pedigreed bloodstock race for a total of $1 billion in purses over the course of the racing year. It probably easier to make money by leasing them for one minute, 11 seconds at a time.
One suitably quirky result of the study shows that consignors were a better judge of earning talent than the buyers, but not by much. Ten horses that failed to reach their reserves earned more than the value their breeders or pinhookers placed on them.
In addition to River’s Prayer and Henny Hughes, other big winners were Water League ($190K) earned over $800,000 in Japan and Buffythecenterfold ($70K) more than $530,000. And Wild Fit is doing well, too. A three-year-old this year his reserve of $240K was not met and thus far has earned over $555,000.
But 35 proved unworthy of their consignor’s assessment and some really hurt. Miz Pickens was reserved for $290,000; earned $450. Count Midnight was expected to bring over $385,000. He never made it to the races. Neither did In Style Again; same reserve price, same result.
Many people disagree with Frank Stronach, but he gets it as a horseman. His under-tack sales place an emphasis on athleticism and attitude, not speed. So when only 49 of 301 very fast two-year-olds can win themselves out, and that’s not considered unusual, what’s the point of subjecting youngsters to this kind of stress, anyway?