The Saratoga select yearling sale has enjoyed one of the most impressive business upswings in the Thoroughbred auction business. In 2002, gross revenue and average price both increased for the eighth year in a row while soaring to record heights. The median price also was an all-time high, and more horses than ever before were sold for prices of $1 million and up, $500,000 and up, and $200,000 and up.
The latest edition of the Saratoga sale kicks off on Tuesday night in New York. The auction will run through Thursday, with each session beginning at 7:30 p.m. (EDT).
"Essentially, we're anticipating a pretty strong sale," said Boyd Browning, the vice president and chief operating officer of Fasig-Tipton, which conducts the auction. "We have a very good bunch of physical horses, and we've had very positive comments from the people who have seen them on the farms during their pre-sale inspections."
However, the sale not might produce the fireworks at the top end that it has in the past, according to Browning, because of a loss of sire power that has affected the top of the yearling market. There are no yearlings at Saratoga by the late Mr. Prospector or Seattle Slew. "We also have fewer Storm Cats,' Browning said. One of three Storm Cat offspring catalogued for the auction, a colt out of the multiple graded winner Colcon, has been scratched. Last year, nine yearlings sold for $1 million or more at Saratoga, topped by a $3.3-million Storm Cat--Gone to Venus colt.
Browning also said that last year's impressive 19.4% buy-back rate will be difficult to lower. In fact, he would not be surprised by an increase, in part because a slumping economy and volatile stock market could have some negative impact on buyer demand.
"If we have a 24% buy-back rate, you'll see Boyd doing back flips and talking about what a great sale it was," Browning said.
The Kentucky select yearling sales in July produced mixed results. Keeneland's auction suffered major setbacks as the gross, average, and median all plummeted by 30% or more. The buy-back rate climbed to its highest level ever, and the number of horses sold slipped to its lowest level ever. However, at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky, where the pedigrees were not as fancy, a boost in the size of the catalogue produced a big increase in gross. The average rose slightly, and the median stayed the same. Buyers praised the physical quality of the horses.
Mark Taylor of Taylor Made Sales Agency expects Saratoga to turn in a solid performance, similar to the one seen at Fasig-Tipton's Kentucky auction because "you'll have the same type of physical horses with more pedigree. There also are fewer horses at Saratoga (than at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky)."
Taylor Made has sold the sale-topping yearling at Saratoga for four consecutive years. It has another potential sale topper in a Storm Cat colt that is a full brother to grade I winner Forestry and a half-brother to Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner Cash Run (by Seeking the Gold). The chestnut colt is the last horse scheduled to go through the ring on the sale's second night.