With the Experimental Free Handicap released today, it makes sense to take a quick look at 2011 American Graded Stakes results for those foals born in 2009.
Todd Pletcher leads the list of trainers with the most individual 2-year-old AGS winners last year, with five. Steve Asmussen and Bob Baffert each have three, and a trio of trainers, Mark Casse, Michael Matz, and Dale Romans, have two apiece.
There are five owners that each were represented by two individual 2-year-old AGS winners in 2011: Donegal Racing; Klaravich Stbles and Lawrence; Coolmore partners Magnier and Tabor et al; John Oxley; and Arnold Zetcher.
Giant's Causeway, Indian Charlie, Pure Prize and Scat Daddy were the only four sires to have more than one individual 2-year-old AGS winners in 2011, each of them with two.
From an auction standpoint, 35 of the 45 individual 2-year-old Graded Stakes winners passed through an auction ring, or 78%. That's a much higher percentage than I would have expected, since only about 12,500 of the 2009 North American foal crop of 34,000 was offered at public auction as yearlings. That's about 34% of the foal crop offered for sale as yearlings.
Why the disparity? One might suggest that the cream of the crop goes into the commercial market, thus those horses have a much higher probability of winning the best races. Another point of view, perhaps more cynical, is that individuals who buy at public auction are looking for a quicker return on their investment than a breed-to-race operation, and they might be more inclined to push trainers to have those horses compete earlier as 2-year-olds.
It's an interesting subject and one that deserves further investigation. Have previous years' Graded Stakes for 2-year-olds been won in a disproportionate percentage by auction graduates?
Of those 35 sale graduates that won 2011 AGS races for 2-year-olds, 10 of them were sold as juveniles. Twenty-two made their most recent auction ring appearance as yearlings, and three as weanlings.
The most expensive of the 2-year-old AGS winners of 2011 was filly champion My Miss Aurelia, purchased for $550,000 by George Bolton from Gainesway, agent for Stonestreet Thoroughbreds, at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale. My Miss Aurelia, named for Bolton's mother, was undefeated in four starts for Bolton and Stonestreet, which kept a percentage of the filly after she went through the ring. She capped off her year with a three-lengths victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
The lowest-priced AGS 2-year-old winner of 2011 was Stoney Fleece, the winner of the G3 Generous on the Hollywood Park turf course. Stoney Fleece, who raced for Gary and Cecil Barber, was originally purchased for only $1,200 by Richard Vasak at the January 2011 Barretts mixed sale.
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