August 11, 2020

Former Claimers Outperform Sales-Toppers in Challenging Game

Claiming Crown Glass Slipper Stakes
Photo by Coglianese Photos/Leslie Martin

Brisnet Betting Guide Exclusive by Ed DeRosa
This column appears in the Brisnet Betting Guide.
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By now we all know what a key race the $16,000 maiden claiming event for two-year-olds (foals of 2016) on Dec. 20, 2018, at Gulfstream Park is.

Two future Grade 1 winners, Maximum Security and Math Wizard, competed in that race, but the accomplishments of the whole group since that race is even more impressive when you stack those 11 horses against the top 9 yearlings sold from that same foal crop.

MICHAELS: Maximum Security, Math Wizard December maiden claiming race emerges as ultimate key race

The thought to compare results was not borne out of any schadenfreude. Quite the contrary, the game is healthier when buyers have confidence in the top end of the market. It’s also important to remember that high-end horses retain value that is not reflected in lifetime earnings. For example, Whisper Hill Farm’s American Pharoah filly out of Leslie’s Lady purchased for $8.2-million at the 2019 Keeneland September yearling sale will still be worth millions of dollars even if she “retires” unraced.

Indeed, it was that purchase on Sept. 11 that provided the perfect juxtaposition for 10 days later when Math Wizard became the second Grade 1 winner to emerge from the aforementioned $16,000 maiden claiming event by winning the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx. Nine months earlier, Math Wizard finished third to eventual Florida Derby and Haskell Invitational Stakes winner Maximum Security in that December maiden claimer.

Math Wizard
Math Wizard wins the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. at Parx Racing on September 21, 2019 – Photo by Equi-Photo/Bill Denver

Unlike Maximum Security, however, Math Wizard was claimed out of the race. He won his next start and was claimed again (also for $16,000). Then he won again and was claimed again—this time by his current connections—Joseph Saffie for John Fanelli—for $25,000.

Math Wizard was the only claim out of that race, but you theoretically could have had all 11 horses for $176,000 ($16,000 each). The top 9 yearlings from the same foal crop cost $15.95-million total for an average of $1.77 million.

Since that maiden claiming race, all 11 of the horses have come back to start at least once, and five of them have won. Together, they are 10-for-68 with $2.2 million in earnings.

In all of their careers, the top 10 yearlings have the same number of starters (5) as the maiden claiming race has subsequent winners with only Gun It and Cambier Parc winners among the top-priced yearlings. Gun It, a $2.6-million purchase, is 1-for-5 while Cambier Parc is a Grade 1 winner with earnings of $497,460. In all, the top 9 yearlings are 5-for-17 with lifetime earnings $592,460.

Cambier Parc is by Medaglia d’Oro out of Canadian Horse of the Year Sealy Hill, so as a Grade 1-winning filly she has likely increased her value beyond the $1.25-million purchase price and nearly half-million dollars in earnings. Of course, so too have Maximum Security and Math Wizard had their value increased by being Grade 1-winning stallion prospects.

Again, the point of this comparison is not to make it as if there’s no value in the upper end of the market or that anyone is better off focusing on claiming horses. It’s an affirmation of what a challenging game this is. Whether the gamble comes on who will have the best career or who will win a particular race, there is no greater challenge in the world than to try to beat the game of horse racing.