Treasure Hunting Presented By Keeneland: Arcangelo Was A Self-Selected Score For Ebbert

Value can be found at every level of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, and in the “Treasure Hunting” series, we’ll be examining successful graduates of the bellwether auction who sold below the median price of their particular session.

We’ll start at Book 1 and go all the way to Book 6, talking to buyers who found horses that slipped under the commercial radar in their given segment of the marketplace. 

When a horse that sells at auction goes on to win a Triple Crown race, the list of people the owner thanks in the winner’s circle often includes the bloodstock agent who picked the horse out.

That was not the case with Arcangelo, winner of the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes. Owner Jon Ebbert of Blue Rose Farm has spurned the conventional way of doing things in favor of shopping and selecting his own horses at auction, and it has taken him to the sport’s highest levels.

Ebbert picked up the Arrogate colt for $35,000 out of Book 3 of the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale; well below the session’s median sale price of $125,000.

A Pennsylvania-based real estate investor, Ebbert said he grew up occasionally riding show horses, but the foundation of his Thoroughbred knowledge came more on the betting end than the bloodstock end. Still, he enjoyed going to Thoroughbred auctions to train his eye, and before he made his first purchase at the 2008 New York Breeders’ Sales Company October Mixed Sale, he read Hall of Fame trainer Carl Nafzger’s book “Traits of a Winner: The Formula for Developing Thoroughbred Racehorses” to better understand what makes a horse tick.

Though he was self-taught, that does not mean Ebbert was instantly a prodigy when it came to selecting racehorses. His first purchase at the New York sale was a yearling Mayakovsky colt named Daydreamin Boy who missed the board in all 20 of his career starts.

“He was slow as hell,” Ebbert said. “I didn’t know anything, and I just kind of kept training my eye. That was it.”

Ebbert was a quick study, and each auction and purchase was another opportunity to learn. He was buying both to race and pinhook, and it hadn’t led to much success – his response when asked about his second-most successful purchase behind Arcangelo was “nothing worth mentioning” – but over the course of the past 15 years of buying horses and watching young horses mature into racehorses, he was absorbing plenty of information that would one day pay huge dividends.

“I just know more now what it takes to make a racehorse, just a better idea as far as muscularity and conformation, and stride length,” he said. “You’re looking at a whole picture. You’re looking at maturity, and thinking of what he will grow into.”

When Ebbert was shopping the 2021 Keeneland September sale, he had two separate goals: find a pinhook prospect, or find a well-bred horse he could hopefully develop into an Unbridled’s Song-line stallion to stand in Pennsylvania. He typically buys just one or two yearlings per year, so the margin for error was slim.

He zeroed in on Hip 1182, a colt out of the unraced Tapit mare Modeling, from the Gainesway consignment. His third dam was the mighty Better Than Honour, which put him in a rich family that included champion Rags to Riches, Belmont Stakes winner Jazil, and Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Man of Iron, among many other notable names. Arrogate was a son of Unbridled’s Song, which meant the colt was checking a lot of boxes.

The problem? Arcangelo was a May 11 foal, and he looked like it.

“I saw how immature he was, and I just kind of knew how he’d develop because I’d watched some of those babies grow up,” he said. “I had an eye for watching those babies grow up, and I knew there wasn’t much to him, but they always come out bigger and stronger. He looked leggy and athletic, and I just knew what I was looking at.”

Ebbert had gotten good at predicting a horse’s hammer price before they went through the ring, and he expected Arcangelo would hammer for $40,000. He was off by $5,000, but as buyer, it’s often better to have your guess be too high and get them for less than the other way around.

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Arcangelo has rewarded Ebbert handsomely from there. Placed in the barn of trainer Jena Antonucci, the colt has arguably become the horse to beat in the Eclipse Award race for champion 3-year-old male, starting with a win in the G3 Peter Pan Stakes, and following with signature victories in the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes.

The colt has won four of six starts, with total earnings of $1,754,900.

An owner on the sales grounds without a trainer or bloodstock agent to guide them might be an uncommon sight, but Ebbert said he wouldn’t have it any other way. Having that level of skin in the game makes the big moments even sweeter.

“I think I’ve got to put faith in what I’m buying,” he said. “I put faith in myself and faith in what I’m buying, and I just love it. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the industry, just go to the auction and pick a horse. I think I’ve got an eye for it.”

For potential owners thinking about forging their path alone at Thoroughbred auctions, Ebbert said maintaining a basic business plan was crucial.

“Be small, go within your budget, but also remember that it costs the same to feed a million-dollar horse as it does to feed a $5,000 claimer,” he said. “You want to get the best horse that you believe in for the best price.”

Arcangelo_Sept 2021 Hip 1182 from Lauren Warren on Vimeo.

The post Treasure Hunting Presented By Keeneland: Arcangelo Was A Self-Selected Score For Ebbert appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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