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Hancock, no stranger to quality horseflesh, has high hopes for Saratoga sale-topper

Courtesy of the DRF
Nicole Russo
Aug 23, 2019
Barbara D. Livingston photo

Stone Farm consigned the co-topper at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected sale, a yearling colt by Curlin out of America.

Arthur Hancock III was standing in the darkness outside a stall in Saratoga after the Curlin colt inside, raised and consigned by his Stone Farm, sold for $1.5 million to co-top the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sale. Hancock was quick to credit the colt’s breeder, celebrity chef Bobby Flay.

“When you got one like that, and you got the opportunity to sell one like that, our job is getting him here in one piece and showing him the best we can, and he did the rest,” Hancock said. “Bobby bred a good horse. I told people Bobby breeds horses as damn near good as he cooks.”

But Hancock knows how to cook up a good one, too. Since its founding in the 1970s, his Stone Farm has served up the likes of Kentucky Derby winners Gato Del Sol and Sunday Silence, who were raised on the farm and raced in Stone’s colors to classic success in 1982 and 1989, respectively. Sunday Silence was named Horse of the Year and went on to a breed-shaping career as a sire in Japan. Hancock co-bred and consigned 2000 Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, who sold for $4 million as a yearling, making him the most expensive Derby winner sold at public auction. He also co-bred 1988 dual classic winner and champion Risen Star. More recently, Stone Farm bred and sold Grade 1 winner Roadster, and campaigned his Grade 1-winning half-brother Ascend. The farm also raised multiple Grade 1 winner Bricks and Mortar for another of its prominent clients, George Strawbridge.

Despite that long track record, however, the nerves inherent in trying to raise a dynamic animal to its best never go away.

“I’m 76, and I’ve been doing it a long time, but I’m nervous as hell,” Hancock said after the Saratoga sale. “When you do what I do, you find anything to get nervous over. That’s what keeps us on our toes and keeps us working hard. It’s 24/7 hard work, but we love it. It’s what we do.”

The Curlin colt was the lone offering shipped to Saratoga for Stone Farm, which typically earmarks its yearlings for the Keeneland September yearling sale at home in Kentucky. He was the first foal out of Flay’s homebred America, who won the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm Handicap at Aqueduct in 2015 and placed in a pair of Grade 1 events. The A.P. Indy mare’s third dam is Kentucky Oaks winner and blue hen Blush With Pride. The best-known of that mare’s multiple stakes winners is Grade 2 winner Better Than Honour, the dam of four stakes winners, including a pair of Belmont Stakes winners in champion Rags to Riches, who also won the Kentucky Oaks, and Jazil.

Champions Malinowski, Peeping Fawn, and Xaar and Grade 1/Group 1 winners Chimes of Freedom, Denon, Senure, Streaming, and Thewayyouare also appear on the catalog page for the colt, who showed himself at the sale with the confidence befitting his royal lineage. Hancock said the colt showed the same self-assurance growing up at Stone Farm.

“He’s courageous,” Hancock said. “He was the boss out in his field. We raised them in 80-, 90-acre fields. Some people say he’s a graduate of the Arthur Hancock School of Unarmed Combat. We raise them tough. Not to brag, but we raised three Kentucky Derby winners – a lot of good horses – and I hope he’s going to add to the roster.”

Hancock’s roster gave bidders confidence to stretch to $1.5 million for the colt, tying another Curlin colt for the top price at the Fasig-Tipton sale. Those included West Point Thoroughbreds principal Terry Finley, who assembled a large partnership in the moments before the hammer fell in order to secure the colt.

“Arthur Hancock is somebody that, as you grow up in the business, you come to appreciate the wisdom that he offers,” Finley said after signing the ticket with the names West Point, Woodford Racing, Siena Farm, Valdes Singleton, Sandbrook, and Freeman. “I know he really liked this colt, and that really sold me.”

The attention now turns to Keeneland September, where Stone will serve up its traditional and largest draft of yearlings. The 31 it has cataloged include, in Book 1, a Twirling Candy colt who is a half-brother to Ascend and Roadster, and a Pioneerof the Nile colt out of Flay’s graded stakes winner Super Espresso. The operation again hopes to reap the rewards of walking a quality horse up to the auction ring.

“Sometimes it’s chicken. Sometimes it’s feathers,” Hancock said of the sales business. “[At Saratoga] we got a nice, big roasted chicken, with potatoes and carrots and everything.”