Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Looking For Success: Yearling Vs. 2-Year-Old Sales Toppers

Carpe Diem was a $1.6-million 2-year-old

From the beginning of the time when the commercial industry took over as a major part of horse racing, some horses have brought millions of dollars at a young age before it was known if they were anything more than well-bred, big walking, well-built youngsters.

The yearling market is often the beneficiary of this high-dollar trade with 58 million-dollar yearlings selling at the major Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton sales from 2010 to 2014 with 12 of those horses topping the sales. In that same time, the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic and Florida Sale, Keeneland, and OBS 2-year-old sales had 12 horses sell for $1-million or more.

It’s well known that many horses who top the sales don’t often live up to their price tag on the track, no matter what age they are but digging farther into the data and looking at the sales toppers from 2010 to 2014 at both yearling and 2-year-old sales brought some interesting data to light.

Looking at the 2-year-old sales toppers from the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic, Fasig-Tipton Florida, OBS select and spring 2-year-old sales and the Keeneland 2-year-olds in training sale (cancelled in 2015 but run during the time frame of this study), 25 sales toppers averaged $937,800. Twenty-two of the sales toppers raced with their average earnings sitting at $228,067.64 with 45 wins. Only five of those horses won graded stakes races (two won multiple Grade 1 races) but all but three horses made it to the track for at least one start. 

Eight sales toppers sold for $1-million or more in 2-year-old sales with all but three making at least two starts. While two of them didn’t break their maidens and one didn’t hit the board in his two career starts, a third (Giant Causeway’s Carpe Diem) won four of his six races and ran in the 2015 Kentucky Derby with Darwin (Big Brown) running at the group stakes level in Europe.

Looking at the yearling stats is a slightly different picture.

The sales toppers from the Fasig-Tipton July Sale, Saratoga Select and October Sales in addition to Keeneland’s September Sale were all looked at. The 22 sales toppers from these sales brought an average of $1,192,500 with 12 bringing over $1-million. Sixteen of the sales toppers made it to the track with 20 wins between the 10 horses who have broken their maidens for average earnings of $58,601.81 for the 16 horses. Surprisingly, only one of the horses has won a stakes race, that coming from Mohaymen (Tapit) in 2-year-old races this year.


Of the sales toppers who sold for over $1-million, two have never raced with one other just making one start in his career. One of the horses who hasn’t started is a 2-year-old but the other is a 5-year-old with no recent works. The 10 horses to races have made a combined 66 starts, winning 11 races and hitting the board 19 additional times.

It must be noted that the average earnings for the yearlings will also trend a little lower than the 2-year-olds as a number of them have been sold to European connections while the 2-year-old sales horses sold to United States connections.

Not surprisingly, the bloodlines seen at the top of the class in both the 2-year-old and yearling sales are fairly similar. The fairly young A.P. Indy sire line is seen on the page of nine 2-year-old sales toppers, the most of any sireline represented on the table, also taking the top spot in the yearling table with seven toppers. While Tapit is the king of the sales (and track) in America, only three toppers trace to A.P. Indy through him. 
A.P. Indy in 2010
Mr. Prospector follows A.P. Indy with seven toppers coming through his sire line, showing a surprisingly diverse choosing with only Smart Strike having more than one sales topper on the combined charts. Danzig ties Mr. Prospector in the second spot with his son War Front responsible for five toppers having his sire line, son Hard Spun providing the sixth and grandson Big Brown the seventh.

Of the sales toppers damsires, quite a few stallions have proven to be popular with both yearling and 2-year-old buyers interested in horses out of their daughters. Again A.P. Indy leads the charge with Deputy Minister, Carson City, Unaccounted For (two different foals out of the same mare) and Wild Again also represented on both the yearling and 2-year-old lists.

Overall, if someone is willing to pay the money it takes to buy a horse that will top a sale it looks like the 2-year-old sales are their best bet. Not only is the risk of the horse getting injured before making it to the track reduced by having one less year to worry about, but the top prices are overall lower with higher average earnings.

Next week, All Equine All The Time will take a look at the yearlings during the same time frame in the sales who brought $1-million or more and what they have done so far on the track.

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