08/06/2010 2:08PM

Several prominent pinhookers take chances at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga select yearling sale is generally the playground of racehorse buyers rather than speculative yearling-to-juvenile resellers. This year those resellers – called pinhookers – had cautioned that they would continue to be conservative in their bidding for yearling resale prospects all season, so it was a surprise to see some prominent resellers making some splashy bids at Saratoga.

Murray Smith signed receipts for five yearlings totaling $1,050,000. The most expensive were a $435,000 Empire Maker-Half A. P. filly from the Lane’s End agency and a $300,000 Awesome Again-Our Wildirish Rose filly from Taylor Made; the others she bought for between $60,000 and $150,000.

“We won’t know if they’re deals until next spring,” said Smith. “But there’s certainly plenty of horseflesh here to choose from. But I believe as a buyer you must have done your homework. You’ve got to cover your bases and be a savvy buyer.”

The pinhooking team of Randy Hartley and Dean DeRenzo spent $380,000 for a pair of colts: a Tapit-Chief’s Honey for $230,000 and an Indian Charlie-Teenage Temper for $150,000. Taylor Made consigned both.

Hartley and DeRenzo, who operate Florida’s Hartley/DeRenzo Thoroughbreds, are most famous for selling The Green Monkey as a 2006 juvenile for a world-record $16 million after paying $425,000 for him as a yearling. It looked like they might be thinking along those lines again at the Saratoga select sale’s final session on Tuesday. Bidding from a corner outside the sale pavilion that was sheltered from a steady rain, Hartley went to $420,000 for the Hill ’n’ Dale agency’s Mr. Greeley colt out of Grade 3 winner Silver Tornado. But Hartley shook his head when the Hugo Merry Bloodstock Agency responded with a final offer of $430,000, and Merry got the colt, whose dam is a half-sister to Grade 1-winning sires Roman Ruler and El Corredor and of Grade 1-placed Maimonides.

“He was just a beautiful horse,” Hartley said with apparent regret after the hammer fell. “They got a million for that FuPeg down in Miami.”

The FuPeg is Silver Tornado’s 2006 Fusaichi Pegasus colt named V Jack, a half-brother to the Saratoga yearling. Hoby and Layna Kight bought him for $435,000 in 2007 and sold him to Southern Equine Stables the following season for $1 million at Fasig-Tipton’s Calder sale.

“We loved him and bid on him, too, when he was a yearling,” Hartley said. “This colt’s got a stallion’s pedigree, and we were just giving it a shot. You gotta keep playing the game. We’re trying to get a boutique consignment of maybe six horses.”

That’s up from last year, Hartley said. “We’ve decided to step up and try to get some of these horses in a market that maybe isn’t as strong.”

Whether pinhookers’ high-end gambles pay off will be determined at the spring 2-year-old sales, and Smith said resellers aren’t taking those results for granted.

“We’re all worried,” she said. “If you’re not worried right now, then you’re careless. This year, especially, you need to feel confident about your ability to train what you buy.”

Only one yearling from European sire sells

There were three yearlings by English- or Irish-based sires in the select catalog, part of Fasig-Tipton’s effort to increase the auction’s international appeal. But only one, a Dubawi-Fawaayid filly offered by Paramount Sales, sold. That bay filly is a half-sister to Group 3-placed stakes winner and producer Green Lady, stakes-placed Entisar, and Thats Your Opinion, now the dam of a champion in Balthazar’s Gift. The filly brought $200,000 from Blandford Bloodstock of Newmarket.

The other two, an Oasis Dream-Devout filly and a Cape Cross-Two Clubs colt, failed the reach their reserves on final bids of $290,000 and $295,000.

At least one British buyer, trainer Mark Johnston, felt the added international flavor was still beneficial.

“To some extent, yes, those are the kind of horses I’d look at,” he said. “Really, we have to have something with a bit of European blood in there. Not because I necessarily feel American-bred horses couldn’t go win in Europe, but more because I assume anything we like here that is entirely dirt-bred is going to have greater value to an American trainer than it is to me.”

Johnston looked at 30 horses but went home empty-handed and said he will return for Keeneland’s September sale.

“There were several horses here that I would have loved to take home,” he said. “But, realistically, in such a small select sale, the chances of getting a bargain are perhaps slim.”

Silver Charm’s dam dies at 28

Bonnie’s Poker, the 28-year-old dam of champion and Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm, was euthanized Thursday at the Old Friends equine retirement farm in Georgetown, Ky.

A daughter of Poker, Bonnie’s Poker had been diagnosed with equine protozoal myelitis. Her owners, Kristie and Bill Jakeman, donated her to Old Friends in 2004.

“Bonnie was doing very well until the last few weeks,” Old Friends president Michael Blowen said. “Then she started to develop some problems with rear-end mobility.”

Old Friends consulted with veterinarian Dr. Doug Byars, and they decided to euthanize her before her loss of coordination deteriorated to a dangerous degree.

“She was one of our big stars,” Blowen said. “She was proud and dignified until the very end.”

Bonnie’s Poker was a claimer who earned $153,960 with 11 wins from 63 starts. She produced six winners but only one stakes winner, and that was Silver Charm. Now at stud in Japan, Silver Charm won the 1997 Derby and Preakness en route to his 3-year-old championship title. He also won the 1998 Dubai World Cup and earned $6.9 million.