Hightstown, NJ — Jim Avritt Sr. bought his first Standardbred in 1963 when he was a senior at Xavier University and nearly 60 years later continues to enjoy the thrills of racing and breeding.
On Feb. 23 in Orlando, Fla., Avritt’s Precocious Beauty will be honored as the Pacing Broodmare of the Year at the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Award banquet. Precocious Beauty is the dam of Tall Dark Stranger, who that same night will receive the Dan Patch Award for best 2-year-old male pacer. Earlier this month, Tall Dark Stranger picked up the O’Brien Award in Canada.
Avritt bred and raced Precocious Beauty, who in 2013 also captured O’Brien and Dan Patch awards. Tall Dark Stranger, a Bettor’s Delight-sired colt who sold for $330,000 at the 2018 Lexington Selected Sale, was her second foal. Her first foal, an Avritt-owned filly by Somebeachsomewhere named Beautyonthebeach, was a two-time Kentucky Sire Stakes champion. She was retired following the 2019 season and will be bred to Bettor’s Delight this week.
“It’s incredible, really incredible,” the 79-year-old Avritt said. “I never thought when I started out that I’d reach this point, that’s for sure. I never dreamed at that time I would have something like Precocious Beauty down the road, either as a race filly or a broodmare.
“I can’t wait (for the awards weekend). I’m going to hit some of the training centers on Saturday morning before heading to Orlando. I’m looking forward to it.”
Avritt traces his successes to the purchase of Dominique Semalu as a broodmare in 1995. Dominque Semalu is the dam of Precious Beauty, whose offspring in addition to Precocious Beauty include O’Brien and Dan Patch awards winner Sportswriter and Grand Circuit winner Prescient Beauty. The family also includes the grandam of Dan Patch Award winner Downbytheseaside.
“I’ve said it before, if I hadn’t been lucky enough to buy Dominique Semalu nobody would have ever heard of me,” Avritt said. “I’ve sold some high-priced yearlings out of her. Although she didn’t produce any really top stakes winners, she had good raceway horses that earned quite a bit of money, and every daughter she ever had turned out to be a tremendous producer.”
Avritt generally keeps fillies out of his broodmares and sells the colts. Precocious Beauty’s third foal, a colt by Somebeachsomewhere named Beach Party, sold for $190,000 last fall at Lexington. Avritt has kept a yearling filly out of Precocious Beauty, by American Ideal, named Elegant Beauty.
He also has a 2-year-old homebred filly out of Barefoot Beauty that he is training. She is by Shadow Play and named Barefoot’npregnant.
“She is a really, really nice filly,” Avritt said. “She’s probably as nice as anything I’ve trained. If she’s good enough, she’ll go up to Gregg (McNair) when he goes north from Florida. Otherwise, she’ll stay down here and I’ll race her some at the fairs and see how much she can improve.”
Avritt still likes to drive in races, although he does not do it often.
“Every now and then I drive,” he said. “I really enjoy that part of it. There is no feeling in the world like going behind the gate.”
Even if he does not get on the track, the Kentucky resident still gets to enjoy watching his small broodmare band’s offspring compete.
“I’m hoping it’s not over yet,” Avritt said. “I just wish I was younger so I could enjoy it a lot longer.”