By Joe Nevills
Excerpt from Paulick Report
Hip 153, a Curlin colt, brings $1.5 million at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale
Craig Bandoroff of Denali Stud knew he brought a special consignment to this year's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale, but he also knew he'd need a little help from above to stand out in the auction's incredibly deep catalog.
Bandoroff and his son Conrad came to the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. on Tuesday sporting their “Bill Graves” ties, a yellow and gray garment sold at last year's Saratoga sale to memorialize the auction company's late senior vice president.
Whether your belief system lies in the spiritual or the spirit of the marketplace, the end result was the same: Denali Stud sold a pair of seven-figure sons of Curlin, including the $1.5-million co-topper, to help drive record returns in average and median sale prices.
“All week, people said we had the best consignment on the grounds,” the elder Bandoroff said. “Sometimes you bring horses that you think are very good horses, and the buyers don't agree with you. The vets started showing up yesterday, and we could tell it was going to be really good.
“I wore this tie for a reason,” he continued. “I said to the auctioneer team tonight I'm dedicating this one to Bill Graves. I know Bill is looking down and he's happy for us.”
Tuesday's session of the sale was a certified moment for Hill 'n' Dale Farms sire Curlin, who had three of the auction's four horses to trade for seven figures, and another just miss at $950,000.
Curlin also had both halves of the co-session-toppers, including Hip 153, a colt out of Chilean champion Wapi who sold to the multi-national partnership of Aquis Farm, Let's Go Stable, and Crawford Farm Racing.
Bloodstock agent Demi O'Byrne was on hand to assist the partnership, as was Todd Pletcher, who will train the colt.
“We've had Demi on board for a while, we came up here and looked at 25 colts, and he said this was the one,” said Aquis Farm CEO Shane McGrath. “I came up and looked at him, and I agreed with him. Fortunately, Todd Pletcher had him as well.”
Aquis Farm is a large operation in Australia with racing and breeding interests across the continent, and McGrath said the purchase was part of a plan to further expand the stable onto a global stage. While the colt would start with Pletcher, McGrath said sending the horse to the Southern Hemisphere was absolutely on the table if it felt like the right decision.
“The prize money is so good in Australia now, if he's good, you'd have to consider it,” he said. “We'll give him to Todd, he'll work it out, and if he says he's good enough to come down, maybe he could be an Everest horse. We've got an Everest slot, and if he's good enough to bring him down, I'd love to do it in due course.”
This year's Saratoga sale was McGrath's first time attending the auction, and while he said he enjoyed the experience, inspecting horses from a different locale took some getting used to.
“There are so many nice horses here, and they're so much different to the Australian horses, so it's hard to get your eye in, but at the end of the day, when you see a real one, you see a real one,” he said.
The colt had strong South American ties on the page, but the connections were just as strong with the operations that bred him. Wapi, a daughter of Scat Daddy, was purchased by the partnership of Don Alberto Corp. and Three Chimneys Farm for $1.05 million at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton November sale with the Curlin colt in utero.
“There was certainly an affinity from Don Alberto, for her being Chilean, and her winning the Oaks there,” said Three Chimneys COO Chris Baker. “She was a tremendous racemare there, and it's well known what Scat Daddy is. Scat Daddy brings the speed to the cross with Curlin, so the mating was very attractive, as well, with two South American owners that had appreciation for that Chilean form.”
The mare produced just two foals for the partnership before dying of colic two and a half weeks ago. She had a Gun Runner colt on April 1 to complete her produce record.
“She was on her way to becoming an important broodmare, and maybe through her two offspring, she'll prove to be one,” Baker said.
LaPenta, Bridlewood Farm Team Up For $1-Million Curlin Colt
It only took a handful of hips after the first Denali-consigned son of Curlin to ring up a seven-figure bid for the next one to drop the hammer, with frequent partners Robert LaPenta and Bridlewood Farm going in on a $1-million colt.
The bay colt, Hip 159, is out of the stakes-placed Yes It's True mare Yes Liz, and he was bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Farm, the same operation that campaigned Curlin during his on-track career.
“We thought he was the most well-balanced colt in the whole sale,” said bloodstock agent John Panagot. “We were here looking for colts, and we thought he was the best athlete here, from possibly the best dirt stallion in the country…Anytime you get a chance to buy a Stonestreet-raised horse, that's an extra incentive to buy.”
Panagot said a decision would be made later as to who would train the new purchase.
“This horse was our number-one,” he said. “It just happened to be he was in the middle of the second night. Ideally, they go through early and you see where you're at, but we saved some powder, and we're happy we did.”
The Saratoga sale has been good to the Denali Stud team, with one of the most notable recent examples being Tapwrit, who sold for $1.2 million as a yearling in upstate New York en route to winning the Belmont Stakes two years later. The colt was purchased by LaPenta and Bridlewood Farm, in partnership with Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.
“The stars have to align, and every once in a while, they do,” Craig Bandoroff said. “We're lucky we sell for great people and have a great team. Conrad's doing more all the time and he's going to be the face of the organization. It's been a special night.”
Conrad, a Darley Flying Start graduate who serves as the company's vice president, leaned over from the seat next to his father and chimed in.
“He's still heavily involved,” he said. “Don't let him fool you.”