Marcos Arenas came to the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale with a scant budget and having never purchased a pinhook prospect in Kentucky.
Despite how it may sound, this was far from Arenas' first rodeo. He'd spent two decades as stallion manager for Central Florida's Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds, whose consignment division is one of the largest in the 2-year-old auction sphere, and Arenas had purchased horses to pinhook with Hartley/De Renzo out of the local Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. auctions.
This sale was different, though, because it was the first time he'd brought his own trailer to Central Kentucky with an eye on resale, under the banner of his freshly-minted business, New Hope AB.
Arenas spotted a first-crop Karakontie colt in the back ring on the third-to-last day of the marathon sale and secured him for $6,000. The fall of the hammer brought to Arenas the colt that would named Sole Volante, who became a horse with a path to the Kentucky Derby after winning the Grade 2 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 8 at Tampa Bay Downs.
“We were looking to get one by a freshman sire, and I said to my brother, 'This horse looks like Karakontie, how he moves and his conformation,'” Arenas said. “I looked at him a couple times before he came to the ring, and started bidding, and being $6,000, I was so happy.”
Arenas said Sole Volante showed him the first signs that he might be a special horse during the long trailer ride from Lexington, Ky., to Ocala, Fla., in which he kept his composure and stepped into his paddock no worse for wear. The April 2 foal was on the smaller side, but Arenas kept having that good feeling about his colt once the horse was put under saddle.
“We started galloping him, we knew the horse was moving nice, but he wasn't very big – we expected him to grow up more and get more muscle – but he started training and I started seeing a lot of potential,” Arenas said. “He was very, very smart, and he did everything right.”
Sole Volante was pointed toward the OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, but Arenas said he got a bit of pushback when he initially tried to enter the colt. The colt had a good deal of international black type under his second dam, but a sale as packed-to-the-gills as OBS April had to have a cutoff point, and Arenas said the $6,000 entry price played against him.
Fortunately for Arenas, Sole Volante's dam was getting hot. Between the Keeneland September sale and OBS April, the winning Kingmambo mare Light Blow saw Explode become a stakes winner in Canada and Light of Joy earn stakes placing in England. Explode would finish the year with a Grade 3 win and a spot as a Sovereign Award finalist for champion 3-year-old male. The counterpoint was convincing enough to keep the colt in the sale.
Arenas said the “New Hope AB” business name was indicative of a new beginning, staking his own claim in the Thoroughbred industry after leaving the farm with which he had been associated for so long. The “AB” portion is a nod to his full last name: Arenas Bergara.
When it got to sale time, though, Sole Volante was Arenas' only hope, and he knew it. That meant identifying the strengths of the colt and his pedigree, and not working against those leanings, even in the high-pressure juvenile auction market where the stopwatch is often king.
“He was the only horse we had at the April sale, and we knew he had a lot of potential as a distance horse, but we didn't want to push him and try to make him go :10 flat or :10 1/5,” he said. “If we break this horse, we're done. The horse worked :10 2/5, so we were happy, and then he came back clean, the scope was an A-plus. Everything was fine.”
The colt went through the ring as Hip 270 at the OBS April sale, and he sold to trainer Patrick Biancone, as agent, for $20,000. Arenas said he expected a bit more, but the end result was satisfactory enough that he didn't have any regrets.
There even fewer regrets after the Sam F. Davis.
“When he won the race, we were screaming and happy, because the $20,000 horse beat one of the biggest undefeated horses [heavy favorite Independence Hall],” Arenas said. “He's improving. He's shown a lot of talent, and I hope I'm going to see him in the Kentucky Derby.”
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