The Canterbury season is soon coming to a close, but August was a good month. Our Blazing Angel pulled off an upset by winning the Minnesota Oaks at over 26 to 1 odds, which was almost as exciting as when our Ice Rocket won the Northern Lights at 52 to 1 odds a few years ago. The rest of our small four horse stable has been healthy and competitive. With 22 starts year to date, our horses have earned purse checks by coming in 4th or better 17 times.
On another subject I was asked about, we struck out at the Minnesota yearling sale, or hit a home run depending on how you should really look at auctions. (If you've read any of the articles on the ownership page of this website you'll understand what I mean.) Of the near 60 yearlings at the sale, we isolated one that we thought had as much potential as the yearlings we bred and have grazing in the pasture out at the farm.
We did not enter our bred yearlings in the sale because we expected average Minnesota prices to improve due to the great sale site at Canterbury, but remain near a $10,000 average. We believe MN yearlings should bring competitive purse earning multiples similar to geographically near major Midwest racing states like Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Oklahoma and Indiana. Based on consistent multiples, Minnesota's near $10,000 average price is not competitive and should actually approach an average yearling price closer to $20,000. ($10,458 average 2015 MN yearling price according to the Jockey Club.)
Anyway, we bid $17,000 on the good looking colt we were after but stayed disciplined in the bidding process, which allowed the top trainer in Minnesota to over bid us.
Lastly, folks have asked about the stable economics in Minnesota so here is a chart listing this year's top stables by earnings per start (an economic proxy in my view). There are currently 46 owner entities with 15 or more 2016 MN starts. The listed 17 stables have earnings per start over the $3,500 per start estimate that I believe must be earned per start to cover costs. That means nearly 40% of the owners may have generated a cash flow profit related to ongoing costs based on my "proxy" estimate of stable economic effectiveness.
These stable names typically appear on this list year in and year out, and are the folks who really understand the game.
Sunday is Minnesota's biggest day of racing when Minnesota Bred horses run in several stakes race during the Festival of Champions. We will have two horses going. A. J's Angel will run in the Northern Lights Futurity, (a race we have won twice before with The K B Kid and Ice Rocket) and our 2016 Minnesota Oaks winning Blazing Angel will go for her second stakes win in the Minnesota Distaff Classic, (a race we won a few years ago with Sasha's Fierce). Though he recently left Canterbury, we are fortunate to have Geovanni Franco, who won the Oaks for us, coming back to ride both of our horses Sunday.
Then the Minnesota yearling sale begins Sunday night at 6 PM with a preview of the yearlings. The sale actually takes place on Monday at 5 PM. I will likely be bidding at the sale this year, and have my focus already down to 8 of the 66 yearlings being presented. I look forward to evaluating the yearlings Sunday evening and Monday morning.
We look forward to seeing friends and family at Canterbury, and good luck to all the folks racing, selling and buying this weekend.
I just reviewed the 2016 Jockey Club Roundtable reports. Multiple times they referred to a 5 year old study predicting inevitable contraction in the industry, yet never produced any results to indicate the declines had been affected. A classic dysfunctional business move is to report on activity, NOT RESULTS.
Here's the link to the agenda which contains links to all the reports:
A couple more tables follow which should help explain dissatisfaction with an industry I care about, though it only seems able to shuffle deck chairs on a slowly sinking ship. As I've said for years, locally and nationally, substantive innovation in our sport and gaming attraction, not stupid tweaks, are the only answer. This is true for any industry or individual business in trouble! Meanwhile, another half decade of decline is in the books and substantive innovations related to the sport, gaming, breeding and medication reform have yet to occur.
Oh and by the way, an occasional positive data point, a microchip, a camel race, a Triple Crown winner or a one year slight uptick in anything, has nothing to do with long term economic improvement. Only "systemic" innovation will!
With questions coming in regarding the upcoming yearling auction in Minnesota I thought I would share some data that may help lead some of the new contemporary and scientific buyers in the right direction. Sure you can find all sorts of experts and literature on pedigrees, nicking, dosage, conformation, breeding and racing theory. Unfortunately, I have found that only a portion of what the experts believe is true, and often even less is practically valuable.
In the non-academic world only "results" matter and the data results have to be analyzed and turned into information. The desired result when buying a yearling is simple. Win and earn purses. So here's another something that you not find anywhere else.
Following is a minor excerpt from my data base of historical Minnesota auction files. It illustrates some of the publicly available data from the 2014 Minnesota yearling auction. I can easily create data sets with meaning so until now I may have been the only person who knew that of the 43 yearlings sold in the 2014 Minnesota auction, owners of those yearlings had already garnered 17 wins, 2 stakes wins, over $456,000 in purse earnings, and 9 have already earned over $20,000! These are pretty nice numbers considering these sale horses are only in the middle of their 3 year old racing season, and have many years left to race!
Now, this is only basic data but it answers simple questions like, can you get a good horse, can you get a stakes winner. etc., etc,. Once I scientifically analyze the full set of data, utilizing many years of auction results, pedigree data, nicking data, buyer data, HIP order and breeder data, I can find out how price correlates to results and create an auction strategy by answering some impactful questions like:
1. Does HIP order impact bidding behavior?
2. Which conformation experts (Often the Buyer or the Buyer's Trainer) are most effective?
3. Is an over-bidding emotional dynamic?
4. Is there a price point sweet spot?
5. Does all that nicking stuff really correlate to better results?
6. Can pedigree data be statistically correlated to results?
7. Do dams racing records correlate to better results?
8. Do dams produce records correlate to better results?
9. Are dams more important than sires?
10. Do some breeders produce better results, related to price, than others?
Of course the list goes on and on but understanding data variation, and then creating information, allows you to develop your own strategy for success. I hope you enjoy the data and this helps some of you start to think about your own strategy in the future.
Here's a link to our new video of Blazing Angel winning the Minnesota Oaks last Saturday. For family, you'll get a kick out of Brianna holding grandaughter Anastasia kicking away at the end of the video, during the interview with our partner Tom Lindquist.
A couple folks asked about an old blog post regarding mare racing capability as a key indicator of future success when selecting yearlings out of a sale. My data indicate that buyers and their bidding behaviors demonstrate extreme fascination with sires, even though sires only represent 50% of what any foal will eventually become. That's why so many poorly bred horses from mediocre mares exist in many sales.
You see sire information is prevalent because they sire so very many foals every year, while typical mares will have only 10 or so in their lifetime. That's why data sources related to nicking, for example, are entirely related to sire lines. Confused buyers and even breeders then foolishly think that a decent sire line combination 2, 3 or even 4 generations ago has more bearing on potential foal success than the dam herself. My many years of correlative data analysis say otherwise!
Anyway the original blog post link follows, but for those who asked how our Oaks Stakes winner last Saturday (Blazing Angel) stacked up in this regard when we purchased her for $12,000 in the 2014 MTA sale, the answer is simple. Her mare (Firecard) was little known in Minnesota but exceptional on the track, running a top end 109 Equibase speed rating and winning $289K during her career as a stakes winner. Also, her sire (Angliana) was little known in Minnesota and ran a 114 top end SR.
With this said, I'm always happy to help owners who are legitimately interested in the truth that data provides, rather than the myths so many supposed experts perpetuate without proof. You can see in the linked blog post a small but consistent local sample of how important a differentiated mare is when determining future foal success probabilities. I hope this helps.
Thanks to all the folks who sent congratulatory comments related to last weekend’s Minnesota Oaks win with Blazing Angel. Credit for this win goes to trainer Gary Scherer and jockey Geovanni Franco. Great preparation and ride can make all the difference in the world and we thank both men for doing such a great job.
I also received several messages from owners anticipating the MTA yearling sale this year. They are wondering how we purchased the Oaks winner for only $12,000, out of over 50 yearlings in the 2014 MTA sale. The answer is that statistical variation is a funny thing. There are no certainties in this business but higher “probabilities” of success are often based upon developed information and learned lessons.
Many of our buying principles are already published on this site. These principles have helped us pick out other stakes winners including The KB Kid, Timetobook, Ice Rocket, Sasha’s Fierce, as well as breeding stakes winners BJ’s Angel and Sugar Business.
I'm happy to say these concepts have helped other owners in the past and we hope they continue to help new owners looking for an honest opportunity in this great game. Here is a direct link to the updated ownership page containing many of the buying concepts.
Dave Astar is a race horse owner, stallion owner, breeder, 40 year business executive, and 50 year handicapper.