Wednesday night's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale ended not with a bang but a whimper, as the highly anticipated Storm Cat colt--the last yearling through the ring--was bought back by consignor Robert Evans for $3.8 million. The buy-back of a horse many people thought could be the sale topper punctuated a disappointing second session of the three-night sale, with major economic indicators declining from 22% to 41%.
For the night, Fasig-Tipton reported selling 44 yearlings for $11,820,000, an average of $268,636 and a median of $195,000. The gross was down 40.6% from night two of the record-breaking 2001 sale, when 50 yearlings sold for $19,900,000. The average fell 32.5% from last year's $398,000, while the median price dropped 22.0% from $250,000.
As in the opening session, buy-backs were up, with 20 of the 64 offered bought back by consignors unwilling to accept market prices, an RNA rate of 31.2%. Last year, 24.2% were bought back during the second session.
The cumulative numbers for the first two nights are as follows: 90 sold for $22,932,000, an average of $254,800 and median of $195,000. Those figures are down 39.1% in gross, 26.9% in average, and 11.4% in median from the first two sessions last year.
"We feel there is a chill in the economic air generally," Fasig-Tipton chairman D.G. Van Clief Jr. said after the session ended. "It appears to be taking somewhat of a toll. Also there is a lack of the extraordinarily high-priced horse this year compared to last year, and we believe there is a little bit of a lack of energy at the top of the market."
Van Clief said the sale maintained a "cadre of buyers that was strong, professional, and positive." He also said the buy-back rate, though 31.1% after two nights, was lower than the two July yearling sales at Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton Kentucky.
The Storm Cat colt out of grade I winner Shared Interest is a full brother to grade I winner and sire Forestry, whose first yearlings are selling this year. He was bred by Evans and consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency. Bidding opened at $1 million, with at least two other entities, both on the telephone, bidding against the reserve price. Agent Buzz Chace was bidding on behalf of Aaron Jones, who stands Forestry at Taylor Made, while J.B. McKathan bid while speaking with an unknown client. After the hammer fell at $3.8 million, Evans, seated in the sale pavilion, was congratulated by onlookers, but said, "I didn't sell him."
"The owner wanted more than the market would give," said Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson. "We knew it would take a lot of money to get the horse sold. It was a nice horse and it took a lot of money to buy him. It was that simple. You certainly cannot blame an owner of a full brother to Forestry expecting a lot of a horse. But 31% of the time tonight owners thought their horses were worth more than the buyers did."
While the $3.8 million buy-back was the highest in years, it was not an all-time high for a yearling. That distinction belongs to Ajdal, a Northern Dancer colt bought back by Ralph Wilson's Oxford Stable for $7.5 million at the 1985 Keeneland July Sale. Ajdal was sold privately and went on to be a multiple group I winner.
The highest-priced yearling to find a new home was a $1.3 million filly by Storm Cat out of champion Sacahuista, purchased by Hill 'n' Dale Farm's John Sikura from Eaton Sales. Sikura opened the bidding at $1 million and outbid trainer D. Wayne Lukas, bidding for a partnership. Sikura said he would give the filly to Josie Carroll to train and eventually add her to the broodmare band at his Central Kentucky farm. "I didn't think I'd be able to buy her, but I'm thrilled," Silura said. "I thought she would bring double that."
Lukas also was underbidder on the second-highest-priced lot of the night and the top-priced colt, a son of Honour and Glory out of Ruby Wedding, by Rubiano. That colt was purchased by Lukas' former client, Satish Sanan's Padua Stable, which dropped Lukas as trainer and adviser last year. Taylor Made sold the colt.
The final session begins Thursday at 7:30 p.m.