Release McCraken, shown winning Saturday’s $100,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Derby, was last year’s highest-priced colt at the TTA Two-Year-Olds in Training sale. Coady Photography
Proving Upward Trend in Texas Racing and Breeding
It is a book of better pedigrees this year,” says Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen
By Jennie Rees, National Turf Journalist
Grand Prairie, Tx. — For evidence that HB 2463 is fulfilling its mission to boost the horse racing industry in the Lone Star State, the Texas Legislature need only look to the Texas Thoroughbred Association’s Two-Year-Olds in Training sale at Lone Star Park on April 5.
Starting in 2020, through HB 2463, a portion of the sales tax on horse feed, tack and other equine products has been channeled into beefing up race purses for which owners compete and providing funds for other equine incentives and events. More money has meant more and better horses for the auction.
The 186 2-year-olds in the 2023 catalog are up from 144 in last year’s catalog and the 122 in 2021, with the sale’s Covid-forced cancelation in 2020. These 2-year-olds are the first to be born since HB 2463’s passage. The sale’s breeze show — during which most of the horses will have timed workouts for generally an eighth mile — will be Monday, April 3 at Lone Star Park. The sale and breeze show are open to the public.
Landon Jordan said he attended his first horse sale at the TTA 2-year-old sale two years ago. While he bought a couple of fillies last year at Ocala, the 2022 TTA 2-year-old sale was Jordan’s coming out party for launching his Mansfield Racing Stable. He bought four horses, including sales-topper Free Drop Maddy for $200,000 and the top-priced colt Release McCraken for $125,000. All four are winners, three have won at least twice. Kentucky-bred Release McCraken made it three straight victories by taking the $100,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Derby at Sam Houston Race Park last Saturday. Louisiana-bred El Deal Me Aces ($78,000 purchase) won a Fair Grounds allowance race, while Cajun Crazy, a Louisiana-bred son of 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing, is a Fair Grounds maiden winner bought for $65,000.
“We’re excited about what we did over there,” Jordan said, speaking of horses he bought at last August’s Texas Summer Yearling Sale, “We have a lot that we’re really happy with. Obviously, we’ll be back at the 2-year-old sale. That was a heck of a sale for us…. I think if you’re starting out, it’s a lot easier to go regional, buy at a sale like the TTA because you’re going to be running in Texas, in Louisiana, Oklahoma, maybe Arkansas. If you do buy a Kentucky-bred, you have the safeguard of being able to run them in these TTA sales races. You’re kind of protecting yourself.”
From buying his first horses a year ago, Jordan now has 14 horses, half being 2-year-olds.
“It’s been a great sale for everyone, consignors and buyers alike,” said Jordan’s trainer, Bret Calhoun. “I think there’s a horse for everybody, for every price range. The Texas-breds have been at a premium because obviously the foal crop has been less, and the purse structure has come up. It’s supply and demand – not enough of them to go around, and you’ll pay a premium for a good one.
“You have other benefits for horses in that sale. You have the Sale Futurity that’s been very popular, the Texas Stallion Stakes. There’s a tremendous amount of Louisiana-breds, and there’s a big market for those as well there. A lot of people shopping that sale race in Texas and Louisiana, so some of the Louisiana people have brought their better horses over, and they’ve sold extremely well. Then you filter in some ‘open’ horses, too, some Kentucky-breds who have fared very well. You can get some value out of that sale.”
Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, North America’s first trainer to top 10,000 victories, agreed.
“It’s a sale that has made a nice little resurgence, a direct result, I believe, of the supplement to the Texas purses that the state has provided,” he said. ” ome very solid racehorses came out of it last year, and it’s a book of better pedigrees this year.”
While Asmussen will be at the sale to buy, his family will be there to sell.
Just under 20 percent of the horses in the catalog are being sold by Asmussen Horse Center for its clients, with a sales-leading 36 horses in the original catalog. That’s about twice the number the Laredo operation had last year. It reflects progeny of Texas stalwarts such as Too Much Bling and also noteworthy Kentucky sires such as Uncle Mo, Frosted, Munnings and the late Bernardini, as well as the promising young stud City of Light. But even more important to Keith Asmussen, patriarch of the first family of thoroughbred racing and Steve’s father, is the youngsters’ conformation.
“We’re going to have some nice horses with fast works,” he said. “We’re not one to go to extremes, but we like to show their ability.”
Asmussen said he’s seeing more of his clients opting to foal their mares in Texas to get Accredited Texas-breds. More also want to sell at the TTA auctions, and he sees future sales just getting better as those Texas foals reach racing age. Forty-four of the 316 registered Texas-bred foals of 2021 are in the 2023 sales catalogue, not counting any that might be supplemental entries.
“Naturally, more money, more everything – and especially better-bred horses will come from this,” Keith Asmussen said.
The productive stallions Tapiture (a multiple graded-stakes winner standing in Kentucky), Grade 1 winner El Deal (Louisiana) and Grade 1-sire Custom for Carlos (Louisiana) lead the catalog with six entrants apiece. Other prominent racehorses and proven sires represented by their progeny include 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, Bolt d’Oro, Classic Empire, Good Magic, Kantharos, Malibu Moon, Midshipman and Practical Joke. First-crop stallions are well-represented through champions Vino Rosso and Mitole, along with Grade 1 winners Catholic Boy and Yoshida. Also with progeny in the catalog: five-time Grade 2 winner Catalina Cruiser, major winners Copper Bullet and Maximus Mischief (a son of internationally prominent sire Into Mischief).
As always, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma stallions are represented in the catalog, including leading Texas stallion Bradester. In his second season at stud in Texas at Forks of the Paluxy, the Grade 1-winning Mr Speaker, already the sire of two Grade 1 winners, has the accredited Texas-bred filly She Speaks in the sale as Hip No. 103, consigned by Asmussen Horse Center.
Mark Collinsworth, who with wife Lori bought and stands Mr Speaker, will be at the sale as both a buyer and seller. He expects to purchase several fillies that they ultimately can breed to Mr Speaker. He’s also a minority partner in CJ Thoroughbreds’ pinhooking venture that will be selling a handful of horses bought last summer as yearlings.
“These sales are great,” Collinsworth said. “There’s so much enthusiasm now, just with the house bill they passed a few years ago that redirected $25 million to the Texas horse industry.… There’s just a lot of positive indications for this sale, and there are some
very nice-looking horses in there. The Texas Thoroughbred Association has done a great job. All the owners and breeders have stepped up.”
Last year, 88 horses sold at the auction for a total of $3,050,700, compared with 89 horses selling for $2.91 million in 2021, then a record for the sale under TTA leadership. The 2022 average price was $34,667 and the median $28,000, compared with $32,671 and $20,000 in 2021.
Accredited Texas-breds proved a hot commodity. Overall, the 31 Texas-bred 2-year-olds that sold at auction last year, most but not necessarily all at the TTA sale, averaged $47,506. That was up a whopping 60 percent over the then-record $29,674 for the 23 Texas-bred 2-year-olds sold at auction in 2021.
“This is the largest catalog we’ve had in a while,” said Al Pike, whose family’s Opelousas, La.-based Pike Racing was last year’s leading consignor by total sales at $664,000. “There seems to be a good market there for the right horses. I think we’re bringing a really good group that will be well-received. We’ve got some really good Texas-breds for the first time in a while. We’ve got some good Louisiana-breds. We try to have something for everybody.”
The 2023 Two-Year-Olds In Training Sale catalog can be downloaded at www.TTASales.com