09/24/2012 12:24PM

Bergman: Cautious optimisim approaching Lexington yearling sale

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The first crop of Hambletonian winner Muscle Hill will be sold next week in Lexington.

Uncertainty has a way of causing tremors in the breeding business. Such was the case last week when the year's first major yearling sale for Standardbreds in North America took place. The Canadian Yearling Sale included mostly Ontario-bred stock, which given the current unease in the province left buyers and bidders in a bind.

Politics was primarily on the minds of horsemen as they looked at horses but pondered what the landscape would be like in the near future.

Questions abound.

What will the Ontario Sire Stakes program look like in 2013 and beyond?

How many racetracks will remain in Ontario once the slots at racetracks partnership ends early next year?

What will the purse structure be when and if a solution is found to keep horse racing a viable entity in Ontario?

David Reid, the head of Preferred Equine Marketing, sold 55 yearlings at the Canadian auction. He will sell more for clients next week when the Lexington Selected Sale kicks off at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion in Bluegrass Country.

Reid, who has a dual responsibility of preparing yearlings for auctions and trying to explain to breeders what a fair outlook is for their stock, drew some conclusions from the results in Canada.

“Most people up there believe something is going to get done,” said Reid. “What’s difficult for them is not knowing what level the Sire Stakes program will be at.”

Such unpredictability led to the sale being down a whopping 45 percent. One could expect that those numbers would make Reid and his clients jittery as the first major sale in this country approaches.

“Breeders as a whole are not real healthy now,” said Reid.

Yet for someone consigning 110 yearlings to the Lexington auction, he seems calm and confident that things will be all right. Perhaps Reid has borrowed that calming influence from the late Geoff Stein. For years Stein and Reid built Preferred Equine and then ran the Tattersalls Sale before it became the Lexington Selected Sale. In a business as volatile as the horse business, Stein had a way of being realistic and optimistic at the same time.

Reid obviously shares Stein’s passion for the business and has adapted the skill to recognize the market and prepare his clients for the realities they may face at auction.

Much of the modern day realities are for breeders to set reserves on their horses as to not let them go too cheaply. While Reid understands his business is to sell, quite often he must respect that breeders have to weigh whether it’s better to hold than to sell. “I don’t have a problem when a breeder wants to set a reserve” said Reid. “I just have to make sure they are realistic about what the horse might bring in this market.”

Reid believes the Lexington Selected Sale, scheduled to run Oct. 2-6 will be somewhat flat, but he doesn’t expect anywhere near the drop seen in Canada a week ago. While there will be Ontario-breds in the mix in Kentucky, the majority of horses are from the States.

“I think what we might see is for some Canadian buyers to buy less from Ontario and more American horses,” said Reid.

At the same time Reid is confident that Canadian owners will be responsible for 20 percent of the gross sale as they generally are.

First-crop sires always attract great speculation and in 2012 the first offerings of Muscle Hill figure to be impressive. The Horse of the Year in 2009 and Hambletonian winner looked to be the perfect trotter on the racetrack and early reviews of his yearling crop have been favorable.

A total of 29 yearlings by Muscle Hill have been cataloged. Included in that group is Hip No. 25, a colt named Posterized consigned by Cameo Hills out of a half-sister to champion Donato Hanover. Continental Divide, Hip No. 72, is the eighth foal from Hambletonian winner Continentalvictory and was consigned by Diamond Creek Farm.

On the pacing side, Well Said, a colt with impeccable bloodlines and performance to match, should be well received with his first yearlings expected to draw attention.Two dozen yearlings by the son of Western Hanover will be offered including Hip No. 15, a colt named Well Did that’s out of the 1:49 mare Marnie Hall. It’s the dam’s second foal. On the filly side there is Hip No. 47 Uffizi Hanover, the second foal of 1:49 4/5 performer Up Front Dragonfly.

The sale will have a large complement of yearlings from the leading pacing stallion Rocknroll Hanover. Reid sells horses for White Birch Farm. That nursery raised and sold last year’s $250,000 prize Captaintreacherous, the winner of this year’s Wilson and Metro and a likely participant this week in Grand Circuit action at The Red Mile on Saturday. The farm may have a potential sales topper in Rock N Delight. The colt, selling as Hip No. 75 on opening night, is the first foal from the $2.9 million winner Darlins Delight and is by the aforementioned Rocknroll Hanover. This maternal family has been responsible for a host of current and past stakes performers. A total of 37 yearlings by Rocknroll Hanover have been entered in the sale.

Somebeachsomewhere, perhaps the most electrifying pacer to come along in the most recent generation, is in the midst of an outstanding first year with his colts and fillies on the racetrack. Of his 27 yearlings in the 2012 auction 18 are colts. Among the colts is Hip No. 85 Bondi Hanover, the sixth foal from 2001 Horse of the Year Bunny Lake.

Reid’s Preferred Equine has an exceptional looking colt from Somebeachsomewhere named That’s Some Plan. He’s Hip No. 86 and hails from a maternal family that includes Meadowlands Pace winner A Rocknroll Dance.

For those who can’t be in Kentucky to attend the sale the auction will be streamed live at www.lexingtonselected.com.