Stakes already high for yearling

It must be nice to be able to tell somebody $7.7 million is not enough to buy my horse.

In essence, that’s what owner Michael Paulson did at the Keeneland fall sales when his royally bred yearling Vallenzeri did not reach his reserve.

A reserve is the minimum price a breeder is willing to accept for selling his horse at auction. Paulson set a reserve of $8 million.

He acknowledged being emotionally attached to the colt. But as a Hall of Fame horseman once told me: If you want to make money in the horse business, don’t make the animals your pets. They’re all for sale at the right price.

Vallenzeri is a son of two Horse of the Year champions, A.P. Indy and Azeri. If any horse had a head start in life, it would be this one.

But if I had $7.7 million to spend on equine talent, I would rather buy 11 $700,000 horses and spread the risk.

Or consider this comparison. Two Horse of the Year candidates were bought at the 2005 Keeneland fall sales for $57,000 and $60,000. If you correctly guessed Curlin and Zenyatta, move to the head of the pedigree class.

Paulson will try to sell Vallenzeri privately so he can retain a piece of the colt. Odds are this will be a good racehorse. If not, the horse could go down in history alongside The Green Monkey, a bust of Ryan Leaf proportions. The Green Monkey sold for $16 million at auction, then never won a race.

• BIG BROWN — Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown will make his final start before the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the $500,000 Monmouth Stakes on turf. I think it’s an admission that the colt has hoof problems and running on grass will be kinder on his feet.

If trainer Rick Dutrow was hoping for a cakewalk Saturday, he didn’t get it. Four graded stakes winners will battle Big Brown in the field of 11.

• BELMONT — Belmont Park will feature 2-year-olds on Saturday in the Futurity and Matron. Both fields are loaded.

My picks are Gone Astray in the Futurity and Heavenly Vision in the Matron.

• RACE BOOKS — Some news of note from the local race book industry: Carol Boyd is moving from Sam’s Town to head the Gold Coast race book. Jack Schneider will take her place at Sam’s Town.

And Binion’s has reopened its race book after a three-year hiatus.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com.

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