TEAM ALLARD AND THE YEARLING GAMBLE

BY DAVID MATTIA

Do you remember last year when we had our great yearling giveaway sweepstakes?  The deal was that some lucky person out there would win a free 5% share in one of Team Allard's selected yearlings.  All anyone on earth needed to do was enter the no-strings-attached and totally free contest.  Over seven-hundred folks entered, and a lot of exciting prizes, including the grand prize, were given away. 

 

Of course -- just like we said - someone actually won the yearling super-prize. 

 

The lucky winner got themselves a free 5% ownership in a solidly bred yearling which had been hand-picked by Rene Allard. 

 

Actually, the winner got to choose from one of two horses:  BETTOR'S ACCOUNT, a solid colt by Bettor's Delight who sold for $55,000, or MY SWEET MEMORY, an impeccably bred filly by Sweet Lou who dropped the hammer at $50,000.  At the time, Sweet Lou's ability as a sensational sire had yet to be discovered.  My Sweet Memory is from his first crop... and what a crop it's turned out to be.  

Bettors Account My Sweet Memory Team Allard

 

So, what happened to these two horses since the contest?

 

Well, the numbers were drawn and the lucky winner was, and still is, a Canadian guy named Dave Erickson. The yearling he chose BETTOR'S ACCOUNT, trained down professionally from October 2017 through June 2018, and then he went out and won his first baby race at Pocono Downs in a speedy 1:57.3.  BOOM! 

Bettor's Account, the famed Team Allard Yearling Giveaway where Dave Erickson received 5% ownership for FREE! Off to a great start in his career, he officially has a win and a record to as he wins his qualifier with Matt Romano driving at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono for Team Allard and Rene Allard.

 

Yeah, that's what happened.  Don't you wish you'd entered that contest? 

 

Sure, babies make it to the races all the time, but it's not the usual scenario whereby a yearling is bought and broke and trained and ready to race in June, and then goes out there and crushes his opponents in his very first start.  Regardless of Bettor's Account future on the racetrack, watching him go from baby to beast was a lot of fun for everyone involved... including the lucky guy who won 5% of him.  

 

The filly that Dave Erickon did not choose, My Sweet Memory, qualified really well too.  Right on schedule.  But, like most young horses, she is being brought along slowly and carefully.  That's the way it usually goes in the yearling game.  She could very well go on to be the better of the two, but for now, Bettor's Account seems to be a little ahead of the game.  Hey, maybe My Sweet Memory is a "closer" and she catch up before you know it.  

 

Usually, buying a young one and bringing it along to the races is like a really long and treacherous steeplechase. As an owner or trainer, you have to try to keep your optimism meter set somewhere in the middle of middle as your horse approaches each hurdle.  Don't fret about getting too high or too low on a horse either.  If it's going to happen, it's going to happen.  Owning a horse in the Team Allard Stable, win or lose, usually turns out to be an action-packed adventure.  

 

If Rene is half as good at picking out yearlings as he is about picking raceway horses who win, win and win some more, there is bound to be a shakeup in the world of the Grand Circuit where only a handful of trainers seem to dominate.  

 

By the way, did you know that Rene Allard just won his 4,000th career race?  That's an incredible number of wins for a trainer.  Bob Baffert hasn't even won 3,000 yet … and he's a heck of a lot older than Rene Allard.  

Rene Allard 4000 wins

 

Anyway, getting back to the yearlings, you've got a long way to go from the October yearling sales to the June baby races. Just when you get over one hurdle, you come to another and another and another.  More often than not, you come to a hurdle that even the greatest bred, most super-duper looking 2-year-old colt or filly can't clear -- not just yet anyway.  It's okay if they don't do much of anything as 2-year old.  Some of the greatest horses of all time were slow to come around. 

 

JUSTIFY, this year's Triple Crown winner in thoroughbred racing, didn't even race as a 2-year-old.  Does that mean he wasn't any good?  On the contrary.  It probably means - as was proven to be true - that his trainers, first Rodolphe Brisette, and then the aforementioned Bob Baffert, are skilled horsemen who knew that the horse needed a little more time to grow into his greatness.  

 

Historically, there have been many horsemen who seem better or luckier or simply more gifted than others at picking the yearlings who go on to greatness.  Will Rene Allard join that elite group?  Well, if you look at his stats with racehorses in general, it stands to reason that he can pick out a baby too.  Our best guess is that Rene has added a new level of greatness and prestige to his already winning formula.

 

There's an old saying in horse racing:  "Breed the best to the best and hope for the best."  The same guy who said that probably also said, "Sored up. Needs time to grow.  Gelded and turned out."      

 

It's hard to pick a winner from a family of horses that goes back for generation after generation. Moreover, going over every yearling from head to toe, can be a back-breaking task, especially when you're taking the time to examine hundreds and hundreds of horses in the physical sense. 

 

What makes it even tougher is that the catalog doesn't have enough room to include all of the duds in a horse's family tree. You have to do that kind of research all by yourself.  It can make your head explode.  You open up a catalog, and all you see is black ink.  But, for every black-type pedigree, there are a whole lot of red ink clunkers.  Families can fool you no matter how gifted you are at weeding through pedigrees.  It's not unusual to see a $2,000 yearling go zooming past a $200,000 yearling when racing season comes along.  It doesn't happen very often, but it happens often enough to get a mention.  Don't worry, horse lovers.  It happens in human families too.

 

Way back in 18th century Germany, Mr. and Mrs. Johann van Beethoven had seven kids and a piano.  One of their kids, Ludwig, went on to be - duh - Beethoven.  You know, the composer?  Every kid in 7th grade knows how to play the first ten notes of his Moonlight Sonata, and frankly, it’s getting annoying because most families don't keep their pianos properly tuned.  The point is that the Beethoven family had seven kids and only little Ludwig amounted to anything.  In fact, the Beethoven Family Sales Catalog was so bad that most of the kids didn't even make it to the races.   Hey, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had a sister whose only claim to fame was that she had nice handwriting.  Jimi Hendrix had a brother who couldn't even hold a guitar, but he was very good at holding a gun, burglarizing houses and getting in and out of jail.  So yeah, buying a yearling that can hit the ground running and winning like Bettor's Account, can often find you wandering around in a Purple Haze.   

 

The unwritten rule about yearling prices states that the yearling who go on to be the best horses are the ones who sell from $35,000 to $55,000.  This doesn't mean you should steer clear of the yearlings who sell for $100,000 or more.  It's just that most accomplished horses purchased from select sales fall somewhere into that mid-price range simply because there are more of them. 

 

There's always someone who walks off with a $500,000 or $800,000 standardbred yearling, but that's a tough nut to crack.  You might be putting too many of your eggs in one basket.  Rene Allard sort of split this concept neatly.  He bought a filly by Muscle Hill named WHEN DOVESCRY for $205.000 and another filly by Muscle Mass name ONE MORE ROSIE, for $140,000.  Both fillies seem to be headed in the right direction. 

 

Them to everyone’s surprise, Rene plunked down a mere $16,000 for DIAMOND FAN, a flashy colt by Ponder.  Could he be the star of the barn?  Nobody knows yet. 

 

Of course, any horse who sells for big bucks must be something special, and we've all heard the horror stories about the flops, but pedigree and conformation notwithstanding, no one, regardless of experience or skill, can see inside a horse's heart -- and don't forget about all those steeplechase hurdles we talked about.  We're not speaking literally here when we talk about seeing a horse's heart, but some of the flashiest colts and fillies are just that -- all show and no go. 

 

Like the Beethoven kids, some royally-bred juveniles, don't have a whole lot of ambition or interest going on in their heads.  In racehorse language, "heart" is the same as brains and brawn and determination.  Some horses have these attributes and some horses don't.   That's where you have to hold your breath when you're sitting on the owner's side of the bench.   

 

Currently, the Allard Class of 2018 is just getting into the workforce.  It's going to take some time to see just how successful the class will be in the long run.  Are there any future champions in the Team Allard Stable?  So far, the Magic Eight Ball has two faces.  One says, "Too early to tell."  The other says, "All signs point to yes,"   As far as pure stats are concerned, and for the time being, Team Allard is way ahead of the Beethoven family.