By Jessica Martini
Last spring, consignor Kip Elser and a longtime client came into the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale with five horses and an old idea made new again. The five 2-year-olds bypassed the typical pre-sale breeze and instead galloped down the lane during the auction’s under-tack preview show. The experiment proved enough of a success that the two men have purchased another group of yearlings this year intent on repeating the scenario at the 2019 Gulfstream sale.
“We very happy with the first year,” Elser said. “We were very well received–both in the market, which is most important, and then with the buzz created by the whole thing. It has been very positive to the point where my friend and client is doing it again.”
In addition to the five yearlings purchased this fall for the original client, who has chosen to remain anonymous, a further four yearlings were purchased by a separate group of partners.
“[The original client] decided that he did not want any partners, but he did encourage me to put together another small group,” Elser said. “He thinks there is enough room in the market to expand it somewhat. So that is what we did. We are going with nine horses this year. It’s an exciting project. It’s a lot of fun. We are doing something a little different and we think people are getting a good look at these horses. We’re really looking forward to taking them out in public.”
Three of the five 2-year-olds purchased as yearlings in 2017 under the name Gulfstream Gallop sold at the 2018 Gulfstream auction, led by a Noble Mission (GB) colt who brought $120,000 and a filly by Blame who sold for $100,000 to Dennis O’Neill. The filly, named Splashy Kisses, was a maiden winner at Del Mar in August and finished second in the GII Pocahontas S. at Churchill Downs. She was eighth in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
“We feel great about last year’s results,” Elser said. “That vindicates the project. We have some later-developing horses who ran well first time and look like they are okay. But to have the one filly be graded placed in the first small group of relatively inexpensive horses is very gratifying. I’ve checked with everybody who has one and they are pleased enough. They are going to win their share, they think.”
After putting a toe in the water last year, Elser’s client decided to increase his investment going into the 2018 yearling sales.
“Last year was very much a, ‘Let’s throw a dart,’ experimental thing,” Elser explained. “It went very well and I think we ratcheted it up this year.”
Gulfstream Gallop opened its 2018 yearling purchases with a $50,000 colt by Bayern (hip 284) at the Fasig-Tipton July sale and purchased a colt by Flatter (hip 1756) for the same price at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. It made its biggest purchase of the year with a $65,000 daughter of Street Sense (hip 123), one of three purchased at the Fasig-Tipton October sale.
While most of the horses purchased in the group were signed for under the name Gulfstream Gallop, one who wasn’t is a colt (hip 229) who RNA’d for $100,000 at the Keeneland September sale.
“He is a More Than Ready colt who was in Book 1 at Keeneland,” Elser explained. “We partnered up with Jake Delhomme, who bred him. He’s an old friend who used to play here in Charlotte. So he is the only one in the group who wasn’t bought and signed for by the Gallop group.”
While the Gulfstream sale is still months away, Elser is already feeling positive about the 2019 gallopers.
“I’m very happy with the group,” he said. “They are all up and galloping and putting in the days and the miles.”
The Gulfstream sale will be held Mar. 27 next year and its date on the calendar makes it a perfect spot to sell these prospects, according to Elser.
“I think if you get a little later in the year, you don’t have a reason not to breeze,” Elser said. “These horses are sitting on ready to breeze and I think if you get a little bit later in the year, like for instance at Keeneland where they are already running 2-year-old races, I think people scratch their heads about not breezing.”
Elser stressed these horses will be doing exactly what was intended when they gallop in Hallandale next spring.
“I think it is important that people know what this group is,” he said. “They haven’t been tried and found wanting. Right from the start this was the plan. As we did last year, they will two-minute lick down the lane at Gulfstream. The intent is to go just fast enough that the guys with the motion analysis cameras can get a read on them. That’s it. Whether you call it an open gallop or a two-minute lick, I don’t know. It is not a fast breeze.