Buyers liked the concept, as three of the five offered sold for $285,000 while in the ring at Gulfstream Park. Another sold privately post-sale for $55,000, and the fifth changed hands at a later sale for $30,000, bringing the total grossed by the group to $370,000.
That was a healthy return on the initial purchase price of $154,000 for the five horses bought under the name Gulfstream Gallop specifically for the purpose of being offered at The Gulfstream Sale without breezing.
Elser, a veteran horseman based in Camden, S.C., undertook the Gulfstream Gallop experiment after he became reacquainted with a friend from the horse industry while attending the races at Saratoga Race Course. The unnamed friend discussed the idea of buying yearlings and offering them for sale as 2-year-olds without the benefit of a presale breeze, and the two embarked on the venture that not only produced a healthy profit but also has had early success with its graduates on the track.
“It was his idea when we met at Saratoga, and he called me couple of days later and said, ‘Let’s do it,'” Esler said. “I couldn’t have done it without him. It was his idea, and he had the bravery to go ahead and give it a try.”
Based on last year’s success, Elser is returning to this year’s Gulfstream sale with a nine-strong consignment that will follow the same unorthodox presale exercise regimen undertaken last year. This year’s Kirkwood group includes four horses selling for a new partnership that also bought yearlings specifically to be sold at Gulfstream after they only gallop during the under tack show.
“I had a few other people approach me, and I asked (the original investor) if he wanted partners, and he said he’d rather do it himself and that I should put together another partnership for them,” Elser explained.
Elser said most of the individuals in the second partnership are also experienced horse people, and the four yearlings bought for their pinhooking purposes were acquired under the name Midway Gallop, a modified version of the original Gulfstream Gallop banner.
Four of Kirkwood’s five Gulfstream Gallop juveniles have won or placed on the track, with the fifth recently returning to training. The most successful of the group is Splashy Kisses, a daughter of Blame who ran second in the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs and third in the Sweet Life Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park for owners ERJ Racing, Phoenix Thoroughbreds, and Dave Kenney and trainer Doug O’Neill.
Like four of the five Gulfstream Gallop entries last year, Splashy Kisses was bought out of the one-and-done 2017 Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Yearling Sale for horses predisposed to grass racing through genetics or conformation. Kirkwood and Gulfstream Gallop paid $30,000 for the bay filly, and she was later bought by Dennis O’Neill, her trainer’s brother, and ERJ Racing for $100,000 at the Gulfstream auction.
Included in the group to be offered in this year’s Gulfstream sale by Kirkwood, agent for Midway Gallop, is a Ghostzapper half brother to grade 1 winner Time and Motion that went unsold on a final bid of $170,000 when offered by Darby Dan Farm at last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Produced from the stakes-winning Kris S. mare Ellie’s Moment, the colt consigned as Hip 26 descends from deep Darby Dan blood. His second dam is the stakes-placed Graustark mare Kelley’s Day, the dam of dual grade 1 winner and sire Brian’s Time.
The other Midway Gallop entrants are a Flatter —Deb’s Charm colt (Hip 18), a Wicked Strong —Encore Belle colt (Hip 30), and a Tonalist —Naples Dream colt (Hip 89).
On behalf of Gulfstream Gallop, Elser has entered an English Channel —Expressive Story colt (Hip 33), a Bayern —Jooma colt (Hip 63), a Munnings —Ubusuku colt (Hip 160), and a Street Sense —Andinafilly (Hip 180).
Kirkwood Stables has one other horse in the sale, a More Than Ready —My Lady Lauren colt (Hip 86).
Considering the success of last year’s Gulfstream Gallop, Elser’s program should no longer be considered an experiment but a legitimate market niche.
“We’re hearing positive things about the other horses from last year, and 11 months later people still think they have a shot to get their money’s worth,” Elser said. “Now we are expanding somewhat. We have no illusions we are going to become a major part of the market, but I think there is a niche.”