Two highly respected entities in Thoroughbred training and racing have announced they are joining forces: Pike Racing will be relocating its base of operation to Highlander Training Center in Sulphur Springs, Texas, effective July 1.
Owned by Al and Salley Pike, Pike Racing has become a fixture at the nation’s most prominent sales of 2-year-olds in training, and their graduates have experienced conspicuous success in the sales ring and at the racetrack. In 2016, they sold their first million-dollar 2-year-old, an Uncle Mo filly later named Modest Maven. She’s the dam of the stakes-winning Arctic Arrogance and the stakes-placed Overstep. In 2020, Pike Racing sold Shaaz for $1.1 million. At the most recent OBS March sale, the Pikes sold a Constitution colt for $625,000, and at the recent Texas auction of 2-year-olds, they had the sale-topper, a Tapwrit filly that brought $300,000.
Over the most recent four years, Pike Racing has sold more than $10.6 million in 2-year-olds, focusing on such auctions as OBS March, Fasig-Tipton Midlantic, and the Texas 2-year-old in-training sale.
Among Pike Racing’s graduates have been three Kentucky Derby (G1) starters — Vyjack, who won the Gotham (G2), Jerome (G3), and Kelso (G2) while earning $1.4 million in his career; Vicar’s In Trouble, who won the Louisiana Derby (G2( and Super Derby (G2) while earning more than $1.2 million; and Frammento, who earned more than $420,000. Mimi Kakushi, winner of the most recent UAE Oaks (G3), also received her earliest training with Pike Racing before selling for $250,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale.
“I’m very excited about this,” Al Pike said, referring to the agreement to relocate his operation to the facilities at Highlander. A native Texan from Palestine, which is literally just down the road (Hwy. 19) from Highlander. Pike said he has been eager “to come back to Texas” for years. “Salley and I are both Texans, and it’s great to be able to come home. I think this is going to work perfectly, for both Highlander and for us.”
Just as Pike Racing has risen dramatically in prominence in recent years, so too has the Highlander Training Center. Established in 2017 by owner Larry Hirsch, Highlander offers state-of-the-art facilities and a top team of horsemen, including resident trainers Shannon Ritter and Jon Newbold. Ritter leads Highlander’s training of horses returning to the track after layoffs as well as HTC’s Fitness & Therapy Center. Newbold heads up the breaking-to-race division of young horses at Highlander.
Last year also saw Highlander bring a major consignment to the Texas Yearling Sale at Lone Star Park, having the highest sales average of any consignor, and selling the sales topper. This year Highlander will return to the Texas Yearling Sale (August 28) at Lone Star Park with a major consignment.
“We see having Al and Salley base their 2-year-old in-training operation at Highlander as an exceptional opportunity for everyone involved,” said Jeff Hooper, chairman and CEO of Highlander. “We have fielded numerous requests from clients to add preparing horses for 2-year-old in-training sales to our operations. There is a market demand for premium service in this sector, and the opportunity to align with Al and Salley for them to base their operations here at Highlander was a perfect fit.
“This truly makes Highlander a full-service operation for horse owners and trainers seeking the highest level of horsemanship and customer service,” Hooper continued.
“Shannon (Ritter) is respected by her fellow trainers nationwide for her horsemanship skills and attention to detail. She has been a professional jockey, worked with top horses as a trainer at the track, and headed up the Therapy Center at WinStar Farm prior to coming to HTC. Jon Newbold has over 30 years of experiencing with the breaking and pre-training of young horses preparing them for a successful career at the track. Now with our relationship with Pike Racing, we can offer clients similar premium service when they participate in the country’s top 2-year-old in-training sales,” said Hooper.
Describing Highlander as a first-class facility, Pike said, “We look forward to continuing our relationship with our existing clients, as well as getting to know new clients who would like to participate in the 2-year-old in-training sales with us. This represents a great opportunity for everyone.”
Highlander Training Center rests on 190 acres near Sulphur Springs, Texas, 80 miles east of Dallas. The facilities feature a newly remodeled five-furlong training track; a 1 3/8-mile turf gallop, a full fitness and therapy center, three state-of-the-art barns, 11 pastures and 16 paddocks and turn out pens.