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Tuesday, September 18, 2012


The Times That Try Man’s Sales


By Brendan O'Meara

Since horse sales are all the rage these days, I figure now’s as good a time as any to talk about a new one. That’s right, a new horse sale. Right here. Right here in Saratoga Springs.

On Oct. 9, Fasig-Tipton, those gavel swinging, horse toting Rasputin’s plan to host another: this one a mixed sale. The demand is brought on by the influx of ting-a-ling, 7-7-7, cherry-cherry-cherry money.

Their catalog calls for 254 horses—104 weanlings, 44 horses of racing age and 103 in-foal mares. That doesn’t add up to 254, but that’s what Fasig-Tipton says.

This drives to the center of what video lottery terminal money does. With incentive programs and performance-enhanced purses, many more horses come with New York state-bred credentials.

“The feed-back we were getting through the early summer was that the significant funding strides made to the New York-Bred program had created a need for this sale,” said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning on F-T’s website. “After discussions with New York’s major commercial breeders and with Jeff Cannizzo, executive director of New York Thoroughbred Breeders, we found an ideal time slot in October to add this sale to the calendar.”

McMahon of Saratoga has 40 horses up for sale. They famously bred 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide. Trainer Kiaran McLauglin is consigning 17 and Tom Albertrani nine. Vinery Sales put 41 head of horses. There's an A.P. Indy broodmare and two A.P. Indy's of racing age.

This sale makes it hard to argue that VLT revenue isn’t helping the breeders. At least on this level the local breeders benefit.

What can be made of this? Since more horses are up for sale with the state-bred condition, fields should be larger. That is if more days are not added to Saratoga’s already-too long meet. They’re killing the goose. No matter how high you reach up into the alimentary canal of a common migratory bird, you’re only getting dirtier, not to mention turning into a wicked creeper.

The bigger fields are the reward for the horse player. Small pennies, yes, but at least it gives the player a chance to exercise skill that 4 and 5-horse fields don’t allow. Bigger fields won’t make trainers happy. What do they care? Flashing finished second in the Grade 1 Mother Goose in 2009. That’s the beauty of a 3-horse field. The trainer gets his bank. But you-know-who gets to single a 1-20. Yippee.

The rub with extra horses is further watering down of the product.

This is great news for breeders and who can blame them for being able to sell horses in October in Upstate New York? But we’ve seen what racing can be at Saratoga: at times brilliant with its maiden special weights, grass, and grade 1s.

Some people love the nags, but lets hope it leads to more populous races instead of populous race cards.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

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