- Utter insanity reigned at the Keeneland select yearling sale, with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum of Dubai spending $16 million dollars on two Storm Cat colts on Tuesday, including an all-time Keeneland September record of $9.7 million for Hip 374. In total, the Maktoums spent $58.6 million during the first two sessions, or 31% of the $187.2 million total gross, up 24% from last year.
"This was one of the very special colts," John Ferguson, the sheikh's bloodstock adviser, said of the horse, a son of Storm Cat and stakes-winning mare Tranquility Lake.Very important indeed! I wonder what the odds are that the Sheikh will break even on this purchase. He’s not likely to win it back on the racetrack. The horse has to first make it to the races, which can be an accomplishment in itself, and not only be a winner, but a winner of at least one major stakes race in order to justify a stud fee high enough to earn back the money in a timely fashion. If he takes a bad step one morning, he could become a $9.7 million hobbyhorse. At least if you spend millions on a well-bred filly, you have a chance to recoup in the breeding shed even if she never steps on a racetrack.
"Sheikh Mohammed, from the first moment he laid eyes on this horse, he felt that this was very, very important that this horse race for" Godolphin, his family's racing stable. [Louisville Courier-Journal]
The colt is the second registered foal out of Tranquility Lake (Rahy), a multiple graded stakes winner on turf who earned over $1.6 million. He’s inbred 3x4 to Northern Dancer. Tranquility Lake is a half to stakes winner Benchmark, and she’s out of a half sister to Belmont Stakes winner Cavaet.
- The other big ticket Storm Cat purchased by Maktoum ($6.3 million) is out of Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Status, and is also a second registered foal, and he’s inbred 3x4 to Secretariat. Secret Status is a half-sister to Alumni Hall, who won the G3 Ben Ali Stakes this year.
- The $9.7 million colt was bred and sold by none other than Marty Wygod, who we last heard whining that he was going to leave the business after the Sweet Catomine mess. I guess he’s still in. But the Wygods have pledged to donate part of the proceeds to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.
- NYRA is off the prosecution hook. For now, anyway. In a decision that was telegraphed earlier this summer, the federal monitor recommended that the prosecution be dropped, citing the improvements by the new management, and commending steps taken regarding drug use, offshore wagering, and conditions for backstretch workers. But state Comptroller Alan Hevesi warned that more indictments could be coming.
"The story of the bad acts is not over," he said. "All the bad news about NYRA may not be out yet. There may be prosecutions."But for now, NYRA is most definitely a player in the bidding for the New York racing franchise.
Hevesi still has audits pending involving NYRA's franchise fee payments and backstretch operations. NYRA revealed that a draft of the franchise fee audit reveals Hevesi found NYRA shorted the state more than $40 million between 2000 and 2003. The two sides disagree on how expenses are accounted for. An IRS audit into the issue is pending.
Also, the attorney general's office has been investigating alleged inaccurate jockey weights registered by NYRA officials. [Albany Times Union]
- The Maryland Racing Commission heard testimony from horsemen and Magna regarding the latter’s request to drastically cut racing days in the state, and deferred their decision until October 6. While Magna spoke about staying competitive by cutting dates and raising purses, speakers representing horsemen blasted the company.
In a withering breakdown of Magna finances and decisions that brought a large ovation from the crowd in Laurel Park’s Ruffian Room, [former racing commissioner Jack] Mosner questioned some of Magna’s investments in Maryland, including $24-million for the construction of huge, new dirt and turf courses and the installment of the Horse Wizard room at Laurel, which attracts very few fans.And Alan Foreman, legal council for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, brandished the main leverage that the horsemen have.
"For $38-million, you could have repaved I-95 to Aberdeen," Mosner said. "And I don’t see anyone in there at Horse Wizards. I think it’s a great place to go for repose. I think [Magna is] suffering from a case of financial indigestion." [Thoroughbred Times]
“It is true Magna can go ahead with its plans without an agreement with the horsemen….But if it comes to that, we control simulcasting. When two-thirds or more of your business is simulcasting, it is a significant penalty. It is in the best interest of the tracks to have an agreement with us." [Baltimore Sun]