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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Gloomy Post (mostly)

- If you happen to be around Hollywood Park this week and notice workers installing a new turf course, don’t take that to mean that the Terminator has suddenly embraced the slots that would save the track.

"The course was in such bad shape that we'd already told Churchill Downs we wouldn't sign a contract to run horses in the fall unless the course was replaced," said [Thoroughbred Owners of California executive director Drew] Couto, whose organization has nearly 9,000 members. "So this is nothing new. We need more of a commitment than that from the new owners." [Orange County Register]
They could also probably use a little more support from the fans. The daily attendance dropped 6.6% from last year to a historic low of 7,796. The recent construction of a [Indian] casino and shopping center on a portion of Hollywood Park's parking lot already generates $4.5 million in revenue a year, $1 million more than the racetrack. [Canyon News] Whatsmore, the land is apparently growing more valuable every day.
Inglewood's assessed value rose 21 percent from fiscal years ended Sept. 30, 2000, to Sept. 30, 2004 - from $3.835 billion to $4.656 billion, including a 5 percent increase the past year.

"When Churchill Downs bought Hollywood Park (for $140 million in 1999), there were 378 acres there, but 140 acres have been sold and now we have major chains coming in like Home Depot, Costco and Wal-Mart that we didn't have before," Weinberg said. "The Renaissance at Hollywood Park, our first gated residential community, will have its first occupants moving in by September." [Bloodhorse]
And if there’s any doubt about what the new owners intend to do:
"You notice the name of the company is Bay Meadows Land Company," owner-breeder Morry Cohen said. "It's not Bay Meadows Racing Company. That tells you all you need to know about what they plan to do." [Orange County Register]
Gary West notes that it wasn’t just the numbers that were even bleaker than those at Hollywood for the recently concluded Lone Star Park meet, another track that has yet to reap the benefits of slots:
The season that concluded Sunday was by any measure the worst in Lone Star Park's brief history. The quality of racing provided occasional relief to insomniacs; the handle and attendance numbers tumbled down in an avalanche; the racing surface drove both horsemen and horseplayers mad; and even the horses themselves got sick.

Hard to believe, isn't it, that just nine months ago Lone Star was host to horse racing's championship event, the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships?
Average daily attendance fell 19.5 percent from a year ago, to 7,000, and average on-track handle 13.1 percent, to $1,077,000. [Dallas Ft-Worth Star Telegram]
Well, gee, there’s got to be some good news out there, doesn’t there?

Not at the Fasig-Tipton's Kentucky July select yearling sale, where the kickoff to the yearling sales season lost ground in the stretch.
The average and median slumped 11.8% and 6.3%, respectively, after soaring to all-time highs last year. Meanwhile, the buy-back rate advanced from 25.2% last year to 38.8% this year.

"It wasn't as easy as it was last year, but it was a good horse sale," said Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson. "Good horses sold well, but the average horses didn't seem to sell as well." [Bloodhorse]
Elaborating on the sales results, Robertson did an excellent imitation of Donald Rumsfeld in saying mostly nothing.
“Was it that we didn't have as many special horses? Possibly. Could the market be getting tighter? Possibly. I can't answer that. I do know that last year we had some obvious horses that we knew were going to bring a lot of money going in and this year everybody was scratching their heads, as you well know, trying to find out where the top was going to be. We had a fairly a good idea, but it wasn't as obvious as it was last year. Those upper horses, if you don't have them in your sale, you miss them." [Bloodhorse]
No million dollar babies here. The sales topper went for $650,000. Hip 393 is a colt by Giant’s Causeway, out of a Carson City mare. He’s named MacArthur Causeway and he has quite the interesting pedigree. He’s inbred 4x3 to Secretariat and 4x4 to Blushing Groom, and his third dam is Comely Nell, who was not only the dam of Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Bold Forbes, but also a mare from whom has descended an absolute multitude of stakes winners including Saratoga Six, Lakeway, and Life at the Top. Comely Nell and the story behind the mating to Irish Castle that resulted in a Derby winner is the subject of this interesting article at Equine Info.
Lee Eaton & Red Bull Stables, a partnership between Lee Eaton with Marvin Waldman and Sam Lyman, purchased Comely Nell as a yearling along with a Tim Tam filly named Tammy Twist as a package from Calumet Farm. Both of these fillies had physical problems and were essentially being culled. Tammy Twist was bred to Turn-to in 1965 and sold in foal that year carrying Tammy's Turn who is the 2nd dam of Belmont Stakes winner Conquistador Cielo. Comely Nell, who was blind in one eye, was retained by the partnership and bred to some of North America's leading sires. Her first foal by Vertex was sold as a yearling in 1967 at the Saratoga Yearling Sale for $11,000. Her second foal by Double Jay sold for $23,500, also at Saratoga. Her next was a colt by Double Jay, which brought $25,000 at the Keeneland Summer Sale.

Her next three foals by To Market, Ambiorix, and Drone sold at Saratoga for $15,500, $8,500, and $7,000 respectively. These horses were good enough to break their maidens in the major racing centers such as New York and California, but by 1972 it had become clear that there were no stakes winners on the horizon. Lee Eaton believed that as a market breeder if a mare fails to throw a stakes class foal in her first three breedings, it is best to cull her.

When Lee Eaton told his partners that the time had come to replace Comely Nell in the broodmare band, they were against this option. They were very fond of the partially blind mare and they thought she might have difficulty adjusting away from her familiar paddocks. Besides, she was cute. Lee then suggested that if they were to breed her too cheaper stallions in the $1,500 range that maybe they could keep her.

Since the partnership had just bought a share in Irish Castle for $6,000 which put his stud fee at $1,500, it was decided to breed Comely Nell to this speedy son of Bold Ruler.
Lee Eaton and his partners realized only $15,200 when their future Kentucky Derby winner was sold as a yearling, but they were to profit handsomely later. A return mating to Irish Castle produced Priceless Fame, a full sister to Bold Forbes. For the partnership, she produced Dunbeath by Grey Dawn II, winner of the William Hill Futurity G1. To the cover of Alydar, she produced Saratoga Six who sold as a yearling for $3,000,000.