In his response to a comment in yesterday’s post about the price that August Belmont II paid for English Triple Crown winner Rock Sand, Observer asked about record prices for horses a century ago and thereabouts.
Although it’s a bit sticky to evaluate prices from that far back because of the changes we’ve seen from inflation and changes in currency valuation, prices from around 1900 through the 1930s were fairly comparable.
At the time that Belmont bought Rock Sand, the sum he paid was equal to the second-highest price for a stallion that I could find. Both Triple Crown winners Ormonde and Rock Sand are recorded as trading for that sum. They sat in second place behind the great European racer Flying Fox, who was bought for $189,000. (None of these transactions was in dollars, but for many years, the static valuation of the British pound sterling at $5 to the single pound formed a standard conversion factor.)
The top prices began to inflate somewhat through the 1920s and 1930s. According to the American Racing Manual of 1940, the top half-dozen prices stood at $300,000 for Nearco and Call Boy (Derby winner), $265,000 for Rock Sand’s son Tracery, $250,000 for Mieuxce, Blenheim, and Windsor Lad.
Prices for American stock had plummeted by this time, however, and the sale price in 1939 for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Bold Venture was $40,000. Robert Kleberg of King Ranch purchased him, and for that far-sighted sportsman, Bold Venture subsequently sired Triple Crown winner Assault, Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Middleground, and Gazelle Stakes winner On Your Own.