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Will Astaire Reach Sport's Big Dances?

Published: November 8, 2017 9:32 pm ET

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When he was a young child, John Como, Jr. would sit on his father’s shoulders to see over the crowd and share in the excitement of watching horses battle down the stretch. As an adult, Como has enjoyed the exhilaration of seeing his own horses, such as stakes winner Bolt The Duer, charge to victory.

Now he hopes the future will be filled with more trips to the sport’s big dances with Astaire.

Como bought Astaire, a New York-eligible pacing colt by American Ideal out of the stakes-winning mare Dancinwiththestarz, for $115,000 during Wednesday’s session of the Standardbred Horse Sale at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg. It was the third and final yearling session at the sale, which will begin its two-day mixed sale on Thursday.

Astaire was Wednesday’s second-highest priced horse, following only trotting filly Amanda Blue Chip, who sold for $130,000 to Ken Jacobs.

“We liked his look and I like American Ideal,” said Como, who competes under the name All Star Racing. “And we wanted a New York-bred. We tried for a few others and didn’t get them, so I got lucky and got (Astaire) today.

“He’s a really nice-looking colt, well built. And (consignor) Concord Stud does a great job with their yearlings. I’m real happy to get him.”

Amanda Blue Chip and Astaire were the only horses to bring six figures on Wednesday, but 10 others sold for at least $70,000, which helped produce a near-record yearling average for the sale. The three days averaged $39,675 for 851 horses, a 2.64 per cent increase over last year’s $38,652 for 867 horses. The top average came in 2007, when 1,048 yearlings sold for an average of $40,824.

Trotting colts (196 sold) led the average, at $42,069. They were followed by pacing colts (251) at $41,984, trotting fillies (186) at $38,546 and pacing fillies (216) at $35,938.

This year’s gross of $33.76 million surpassed last year’s $33.51 million.

“We certainly made a great recovery from a somewhat slow Monday,” Standardbred Horse Sales Company President and CEO President Pete Spears said, referring to a 4.28 per cent dip in the first day’s average compared to 2016.

“We’re very pleased with the results. I think the entire day today was very strong. Most Wednesdays have some fairly significant lulls in the action, but I think it was quite strong throughout the day. If anything, it seemed to pick up as the day went on.

“Now, of course, we’re hoping for an equally strong mixed sale. The momentum should carry through. If everything is dictated by supply and demand, not only are yearlings in relative short supply, but broodmares and broodmare prospects are in fairly short supply too. I would hope the very attractive broodmares and broodmare prospects offered (Thursday) and Friday will be in big demand.”

Como knew he would have to pay a price for a potential stakes-calibre yearling. He hopes Astaire, who will be trained by Pete Foley, can find his way to success.

“Quality was going for good money; it really was,” Como said. “My father started this business in ’69, and one thing he told me all along was that you have to buy top breeding and quality if you want to have a chance in stakes races. I had a taste with Bolt The Duer, and once you have that taste, you want to get it back again.”

Como and his father, who passed away in 2013, saw Bolt The Duer win the 2012 Adios and several years earlier also enjoyed stakes victories with female pacer Shanghai Lil.

“I love the horse business,” said Como, who has 15 horses. “I’ll always have horses. I basically grew up with it and it’s always a thrill to have a good one. You always have something to shoot for. I’ve been lucky. I’ve always had a few horses that can compete at the higher levels. That’s what makes it fun.”

Jacobs’ Amanda Blue Chip is a daughter of Chapter Seven out of the mare Cantata. Her family includes stakes winners Creamy Mimi, Pizza Dolce (a Dan Patch Award winner) and Mars Bar.

Two horses brought $85,000 on Wednesday: colt pacer Woodside Cody, purchased by Linda Toscano, and filly pacer Highmoon Sunshine, purchased by Paul Reid, as agent.

Woodside Cody is a son of American Ideal out of the mare Filly Buster. His second dam is multiple Dan Patch Award winner Loyal Opposition. Highmoon Sunshine is a daughter of Sunshine Beach out of the mare Ozone. Her family includes stakes winners Wind Me Up and Northern Sky.

A total of 170 Ontario-sired yearlings sold for an average $32,703 over the past three days. Progeny of trotting stallions E L Titan and Kadabra commanded average prices of $62,500 and $50,538 respectively. Bettors Delight yearlings averaged $39,510, Sunshine Beach offspring averaged $36,066, and Mach Three rounded out the top five top-yielding Ontario sires at an average purchase price of $30,385.

This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit

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