02/18/2015 10:18PM

Marks: The true tale of Rockeyed Optimist

Lisa Photo
Rockeyed Optimist has post six in the $59,000 Sonsam final at the Meadowlands on Saturday.

I can still remember the exact moment when Rockeyed Optimist entered the sales ring at Harrisburg in November of 2012. It was early in the sale, but given his pedigree and the fact that there were potential bidders eligible to buy him, I felt reasonably secure despite his somewhat early number in the sale.

It’s common knowledge amongst the sales savvy that early numbers on the first day can be penalized by prospective purchasers waiting for other numbers later on, but I (representing Perretti Farms) had a full brother to a half-million dollar winner and New Jersey Classic winner BG’s Folly (p,3, 1:49 1/5, $556,345). The sire was the Rocknroll Hanover, who at that time was the number one pacing sire in the business. The dam, Art Amour (Artsplace-Die Loving), was no slouch having also produced a pretty fair pacing colt by McArdle named D Mac, who would ultimately become an open type mainstay around The Meadowlands.

The immediate predecessor and full brother to Rockeyed Optimist, an absolutely stunning colt named Rockin Romeo, had sold for $120,000 the year before and while he had not raced as a 2-year-old, I didn’t think it would hurt the younger brother’s price all that much.

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As it was, after minutes of auction cadence, Rockeyed Optimist was hammered down for $10,000 and I knew we still owned him for there was not a bid in the house. Of course had we let the auctioneer back it down to say $2,000, someone, most likely Frank Chick, would have bid, but we followed the normal 5-7-10 progression and thus the horse became a buy-back.

It should be noted that at the time, New Jersey-sired yearlings were having a rough go it in the sales rings due to the absence of slot revenues which enhanced the values of those sired in Pennsylvania and New York. That was a major component in the reality of the situation.

There was no problem dividing up this $10,000 prospect afterwards as the ownership group of BG’s Folly and D Mac were thrilled to get him at that price. Given Rocknroll Hanover’s stud fee at the time—higher than his son’s buyback price—and with approximately $20,000 in expenses needed to get a horse from the moment of conception to the actual auction ring, breeder Perretti Farms suffered a loss.

And therein lies a breeder’s dilemma. Yes it’s true that we do sell yearlings far above what the market rate might call for, but those kinds tend to be few and far between. Yes the media tends to spotlight these sales-topper colts and fillies, but the grim reality is that the overwhelming majority of standardbred yearlings (approximately 75%) sell for less than $25,000. Thus those “whale” type sellers have lots of dead wood to carry up the profit mountain.

Horses like cars are commodities. They have or should have built-in values similar to any other manufactured product. No auto dealer will allow a brand new Lexus to sell for a Corolla price, but given the laws of supply and demand that govern horse sales, this constantly happens to horse breeders.

As with cars, horses often change ownership hands multiple times throughout their active lives but unfortunately there’s one fundamental difference. Just as all used cars were new cars at one time, all race horses were yearlings. And herein lies the difference. No matter how many times a car may change hands during its life on the road, the original new car dealer still got paid.

Consequently horses may be claimed and reclaimed/sold and resold on multiple occasions throughout its racing life, but the original owner/breeder likely would have sold that horse at barely a break even or a loss given the cost of raising it and getting it to market.

This brings us back to Rockeyed Optimist, one of the brighter lights of this early racing season and a strong contender in Saturday’s $59,000 Sonsam final at the Meadowlands.  Were the current owners so inclined, he probably could be sold for multitudes of his original “buy back” number seeing as how impressive he looked motoring home in 25 4/5 last Saturday. He might well turn out to be every bit the equal of his brother BG’s Folly, though I’ll defer to my master handicapping colleagues Derick Giwner and Jay Bergman as to what his potential might really be.

The breeder is super proud of Rockeyed Optimist’s accomplishments thus far and would love to see him evolve into a full-fledged free-for-aller. Ultimately it is bittersweet. We thought Rockeyed Optimist was a Lexus but were forced to buy him back at Corolla value. It turns out that we were wrong—he was a Porsche.

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