Hip 102, a Nyquist colt out of Pantanal, at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Chip Montgomery didn’t have visions of the bright lights of Book 1 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale with his Nyquist colt. In fact, he’d have probably preferred to avoid it altogether.
The colt was out of an unplaced, $70,000 broodmare with a produce record that would have a hard time standing out in one of the most top-heavy and unforgiving marketplaces in the world, and he knew it. But, he also knew this was the best horse on the farm, and that bargain-priced mare has done little else but reward the Haymarket Farm operation, so far.
When Hip 102, out of the Congrats mare Pantanal, sold to AMO Racing USA for $330,000 during Monday’s opening session, it brought the mare’s total progeny sales from the breeder to $725,000 from four foals sold, making for an incredible return on investment.
Pantanal was a long way from Book 1 when she was offered as a first-time broodmare at the 2015 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. Montgomery and farm manager Kelly Jackson were on a tightly-budgeted mission at that year’s auction, but they’d made it to the end of Book 3 without any success. They finally hit the mark with Pantanal near the end of the sixth session.
“We were looking for a mare in foal to Uncle Mo, thinking he was going to be an emerging sire, and we put our heads together, and Kelly pushed me along to go on and spend that kind of money,” Montgomery said. “Back in those days, that was a couple more shekels than I wanted to spend.”
Pantanal was pregnant for the first time to Uncle Mo, and the ensuing colt sold as a weanling to Preston Madden for $100,000. Later named Borracho, the colt finished third in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens Stakes in 2019, just a few months after Pantanal visited Nyquist for the mating that generated the yearling that sold on Monday.
Haymarket Farm has done well finding modest-priced mares and finding their potential with foals in the sale ring and the racetrack. The operation bred New York stakes winner and $170,000 yearling Miss Brazil out of a $40,000 broodmare purchase. In 2016, Haymarket Farm bought Queen’s Wood, the dam of True Timber, for $47,000 while pregnant to Quality Road, and sold the ensuing foal for $250,000. Vinery Sales consigns Haymarket Farm’s auction horses.
“We do like to buy a mare that maybe has had a couple foals, in foal to the right stallion,” Montgomery said. “I think the market tends to give up a little early on a mare. Sometimes, that’s been good for us, and sometimes it’s been bad for us.”
Given Pantanal’s relatively modest auction history up to this point, Montgomery admitted that putting the Nyquist colt in Book 1 was against form, and carried a bit of risk, but the colt’s physical and Nyquist’s rapid ascent in the stallion ranks ultimately steered the yearling’s placement.
“We actually feel more comfortable in Book 2 or 3 for a colt like this,” he said. “He does have the looks. Nyquist has done enough, and certainly, that was a factor in Keeneland wanting him in Book 1. We typically try to lobby to get into Book 2. That’s just a strategy that Kelly has, and I support him 100 percent.”
Montgomery, a longtime auto dealership owner in Louisville, Ky., is quick to heap the praise for his success on his staff, particularly Jackson. He bought the 150-acre Haymarket Farm in Simpsonville, Ky., in 2008, about a decade after buying his first Thoroughbreds with partners. About 18 mares reside on the property.
“I’m not a hands-on guy, so as I’ve done my whole life, I’ve relied on people,” Montgomery said. “I’ve delegated to get something done. The successes we’ve had, we’ll give it to them, and the failures, I guess I’ve got to pick up myself.”
Book 1 is all about the fantasy of splashy prices at the top of the market, but the transactions below that upper crust help sustain the day-to-day reality for smaller breeders.
When Pantanal’s Nyquist colt brought $330,000 on Monday, Montgomery knew it was a high point for his mare, and for the Haymarket Farm’s 2020 crop of foals, but it was still just a piece of the overall puzzle to keep the operation going.
“My view here today is, we might have eight or 10 to sell,” he said. “We sold a couple of weanlings, and we might race one or two, or vet issues are keeping them out and we’ll have to go to the 2-year-old sale. We’ve got to get to that magic overhead number, so this fills up the pitcher only so far, but you would expect the Book 1 horse to fill that pitcher up pretty darn far, because the rest of them are just kind of filling a few drops here and a couple glasses of water there.
“If you look at the numbers, for that particular horse, it is very successful, but when you’ve got a dozen and a half of them, this is the best horse on the farm, so he’s got to carry the load, and the mare’s got to carry the load,” he continued. “Maybe next year, it’s another mare and yearling that’s carrying the load.”
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