The catalog resembles the Good Book, thick and rich in pedigree and promise. And this weekend, thousands are clutching their bibles as they roam the state fairgrounds, preparing for Maryland's largest sale of thoroughbred yearlings.
If the three-day auction that begins tomorrow at Timonium follows the trend of this year's sales throughout the country, records will fall in every significant category. Already the sale has set a standard: So many yearlings were entered (the catalog lists 750) that the two-day auction was expanded for the first time to three days.
"I think the people here are very much looking forward to the sale," said Tim Capps, executive vice president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. "Based on the results of the Keeneland September sale, they're thinking this is the time to sell a horse."
At the 11-day Keeneland sale that ended 1 1/2 weeks ago, more money changed hands -- $233,075,800 -- than at any other thoroughbred auction in history. Twenty-three yearlings sold for $1 million or more.
The Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale (tomorrow through Wednesday at the fairgrounds) won't approach those figures, but it should eclipse last year's record numbers: total sales of $8,010,200 and average price of $18,848. It might even surpass last year's record price of $400,000 for a horse sold at Timonium.
Mason Grasty, executive vice president of Fasig-Tipton Midlantic, said that this year's additional yearlings (601 were cataloged last year) have come mostly from outside the region, from such states as Florida, Kentucky and New York. Standouts Smoke Glacken, Urbane and Alphabet Soup passed through Timonium sales, attracting national attention.
"There's also the realization that last year we got as much for a horse as anybody did," Grasty said. "We didn't get the highest prices. But we got top dollar for the horses we had."
Lots of October action
The three-day yearling sale kicks off a busy month of top horse racing and related events in Maryland and West Virginia.
The highlight for many is Maryland Million day Oct. 16 at Laurel Park. This will be the 14th renewal of the outstanding series for Maryland-sired horses. Pre-entries are Wednesday for the 11 races worth $1 million.
A record crowd of 24,834 watched the races last year at Laurel and on TV at Pimlico and Rosecroft Raceway. Bettors wagered a record $5,285,000 on the Maryland Million card and simulcasts.
Also last year, Edgar Prado rode four winners, padding his lead in Maryland Million races, 16 to eight, over the retired Julie Krone.
Based this summer and fall in New York, Prado may ride here this Maryland Million day, according to his agent, Steve Rushing. Prado definitely plans on riding at Laurel on Oct. 13, opening day of the fall meet, Rushing said.
Here are events associated with the Maryland Million and phone numbers for information: Maryland Racing Writers' Association "Salute to Maryland Million" crab feast Friday at Pimlico (410-252-2100), Railsitters farm tour Saturday (703-818-1644), golf tournament Oct. 11 at Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace (410-239-7022), gala Oct. 15 at Baltimore Country Club (410-252-2100) and seminar for new owners Oct. 16 at Laurel Park (410-252-2100).
Rosecroft Raceway, the harness track in Prince George's County, has launched Mane Attraction Week. The highlight is Saturday, Showcase of Champions night, when the state's top harness horses compete for more than $400,000 in sire-stakes finals.
Related events: Golf tournament Tuesday at Andrews Air Force Base benefiting Horse Lovers United, a Salisbury-based organization that finds home for retired Standardbreds; new owners' seminar Thursday at Rosecroft: promotions Thursday and Friday night at Rosecroft (post time 7: 20 p.m.); beer-and-wine festival Saturday before the races at Rosecroft, and Chesapeake Yearling sale next Sunday at Rosecroft. For information, call Greg Boehmer, 301-567-4000 ext. 296.
West Virginia's richest weekend of racing will be richer than ever next weekend when West Virginia Breeders Classics XIII takes place at Charles Town Races. Purses will total a record $460,000. The big day is Sunday, which features six stakes, including the $150,000 Breeders Classic.
Rejuvenated by slot machines, Charles Town will soon add 500 more, bringing its total to 1,500.
Big debut for Postponed
Did bettors nap as the next Triple Crown winner made his debut at Belmont Park?
After Lemon Drop Kid spoiled Charismatic's Triple Crown bid in the Belmont, Laddie Dance answered a question about the $5 million Visa bonus to the horse who sweeps the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. Dance owns Lemon Drop Kid with his wife, Jinny Vance. They own a farm in Maryland.
Dance said keep that bonus warm; they'd be back next year to collect it with their $835,000 yearling purchase, a Summer Squall colt named Postponed.
Well, Postponed, a 2-year-old, made his first start eight days ago at Belmont Park. The only first-time starter in a field of 11, he broke tardily under jockey Jose Santos, swept five wide around the turn and won the seven-furlong race by 3 1/4 lengths in 1 minute, 23.57 seconds. He paid $55 to win.
"He was really impressive," Vance said. "Gosh, he kicked into one gear and began passing horses, and then kicked into another gear and drew off. I love first starts, because you never know what you have until you see them do it."
Scotty Schulhofer, who trains Postponed as well as Lemon Drop Kid, said he was surprised Postponed went off at such high odds. "Laddie touted him all through the Saratoga meet," Schulhofer said.
Postponed was so impressive that his connections have discussed running him in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Nov. 6 at Gulfstream Park.