08/29/2014 3:51PM

Minnesota enjoys sales upturn


Business rolled in at a record pace during the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association’s yearling and mixed sale Aug. 11, providing a potential glimpse at the future of the state’s breeding program in the wake of a lucrative agreement between Canterbury Park and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

The MTA sale, held at the Scott County Fairgrounds in Jordan, Minn., saw 43 horses sold for revenue of $454,100, a 47 percent increase compared with last year’s returns of $308,100 from 47 horses sold. The auction’s gross surpassed the record of $434,600 set in 2007.

The average sale price rose 61 percent to a record $10,560 after finishing at $6,555 last year. The previous record average of $10,332 was set in 2012. The median price jumped 43 percent, from $4,000 to $5,700.

“It really worked out well,” said MTA president Jay Dailey. “The breeding’s improved every year, so the horses are coming out better. We had a good sale.”

Dailey described the crowd as being in high spirits throughout the auction, which was highlighted by the purchase of a $52,000 Yes It’s True filly named Girlatwerk by Mac Robertson, John Mentz, Jeff Larson, and Gary Chanen.

The chestnut filly is the first foal out of the multiple stakes-winning Straight Man mare Dee’s Rose and hails from the family of the Italian champion Esprit Du Nord, French Group 3 winner Rayonnante, and Japanese Group 3 winner Ibuki New Star.

Girlatwerk was bred in Minnesota by Wildcat Ranch, which also consigned the filly as agent.

The crop of yearlings who populated the auction ring at this year’s MTA sale was the first to be born after a landmark truce was established in June 2012 between Canterbury Park and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux, which operates the nearby Mystic Lake Casino.

After years of campaigning against one another in Canterbury’s bid to add full-fledged casino gaming to its existing card room, the two sides reached an agreement in which the track would drop its casino aspirations in return for $75 million over 10 years to go toward purses and an additional $8.5 million to be used for joint marketing initiatives. Mystic Lake Casino will be adding an estimated $8 million per year to the track’s purse pool by the end of the agreement in 2022.

On Aug. 17, Canterbury Park held a pair of maiden special weight races for 2-year-olds, one for statebreds and one for open company. The statebred race offered $31,000 in total, combining the base purse, the Minnesota Breeders’ Fund, and the Mystic Lake Purse Enhancement Fund, while the open contest offered $36,000 from the same sources.

On Aug. 18, 2011, the year before the agreement was reached, Canterbury offered an open 2-year-old maiden special weight race with $20,590 in available money.

“It was just like giving them a Christmas present,” Dailey said, describing the reaction to the new funding by the state’s breeders. “They all got excited. I think part of it’s the economy. People in all breeds are looking at breeding better horses, and the mediocre ones, they’re not breeding them like they used to. A lot of people got behind when things were looking bleak, and now that things are looking good, it’s going.”

Minnesota breeders responded to the windfall by increasing the number of mares bred to stallions in the state by 20 percent from 2012 to 2013. The 208 mares bred to Minnesota stallions last year was the most since 2009 and the first increase in mares bred since 2005.

Dailey said he already has seen an influx of new breeding stock come to the state, and he expects the number of mares bred, as well as the quality of Minnesota-bred foals, to continue to climb.

“It’s definitely on the upward swing,” he said. “It’s going to continue to grow, and it’s going to continue to take a better horse, just like anywhere else, to be a top contender.”

The difference quickly was seen on the track as well. The average field size at Canterbury Park in 2013 was 8.4 horses, the highest figure in more than a decade and the first time the state had been above the North American average field size since the mid-2000s.

After a successful MTA sale, the next opportunity to secure a Minnesota-bred at auction will come at the Keeneland September yearling sale, where there are four statebred horses cataloged, including Start a Commotion, a filly by the popular freshman sire Super Saver.

While Minnesota-breds were in demand within the state, Dailey speculated that yearlings could command a fair price in a global-level marketplace like Keeneland September if they fit the right profile, regardless of where they originate.

“I haven’t seen the horses that are going to Keeneland, but I don’t know if there’s that much difference anymore,” he said. “People are breeding better horses so they can race anywhere, [not just] Minnesota.”