Topped by a Dynaformer filly sold for $1,225,000, Fasig-Tipton's annual Saratoga selected yearling sale soared in the first session Aug. 5, with the average increasing 19.9% from the comparable session a year ago.
Fasig-Tipton reported 50 horses were sold for $15,670,000, compared with the $13,590,000 paid for 52 yearlings during the 2012 first session. This year's session average was $313,400, compared with $261,346 a year ago. The session median price of $272,500 represented a 36% gain from the $200,000 figure a year ago.
With 17 horses not sold this year, the buy-back rate was 25%, compared with a 32% RNA figure last year for 26 not sold.
Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning Jr. attributed the first session surge to a variety of factors, including a reduction in the number of horses cataloged and a broad range of buyers active at the sale.
"I think it was a reflection, as we anticipated, of quality offerings in the catalog and on the sales grounds tonight and a quality group of buyers," he said. "(There was) very broad representation when you go through the sales results, which is very encouraging not only to this sale but to the Thoroughbred market.
"The spread of activity of the buying groups is probably the single-most encouraging sign I saw tonight. And that was reflected by the activity on the sales grounds over the weekend and today. The depth of buyers was stronger this year. The reduced numbers in the catalog were a factor. And I think buyers are cognizant of being a little broader in their range of acceptability."
Despite the strong start, Browning said Fasig-Tipton officials would wait until the Aug. 6 concluding session before declaring the sale a success.
"We had a successful opening night to the 2013 Saratoga sale," Browning said. "We're not going to prematurely celebrate. We're going to do everything we possibly can to do a great job tomorrow night. We feel like we have another outstanding group of horses tomorrow night. We'll sleep a little better tonight than we did last night, but we won't sleep real well until hopefully we have a great night tomorrow. We're off to a good start.
"If we are providing a catalog that is full of well-conformed individuals with quality pedigrees, we're going to have a terrific sale because there is a tremendous appetite at Saratoga and from the buying population for quality horses."
The session-topper is a half sister to multiple graded-stakes winner Optimizer consigned by John Stuart's Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services. She was bought by Three Chimneys Farm's Robert Clay on behalf of the Borges Torrealba family of Brazil.
The filly was produced from the A.P. Indy mare Indy Pick. Second dam Fantastic Find, a grade I-winning daughter of Mr. Prospector, also produced multiple grade I winner Finder's Fee.
"It was nice to get a Dynaformer filly," Clay said. "She's a lovely Dynaformer. (She is) really nice, has a lot of quality. There aren't many (Dynaformers) left."
The filly was the only yearling in the sale sired by Dynaformer, who stood at Three Chimneys until his death in April 2012. The session-topper was bred in Kentucky by Brad Kelley's Bluegrass Hall, which bred and raced Optimizer.
"This is a very special filly," said consignor Stuart. "Her walk was her best attribute. She had 12 scopes (veterinary exams) and was very popular. (I was) very happy with the price."
The session's second highest price of $1 million was paid by Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation for a Distorted Humor filly from the family of sterling broodmare Better Than Honour. Consigned by John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency and bred in Kentucky by Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings and Edward McGhee, the filly represents a rare opportunity for buyers to purchase a filly from one of North America's top female families.
The filly is out of the stakes-winning A.P. Indy mare Cascading. Her third dam, stakes winner Better Than Honour, produced four stakes winners, including champion Rags to Riches and fellow Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Jazil.
"She is very balanced and has plenty of sense to her," Live Oak general manager Bruce Hill said. "She is a very nice filly. She went for a little more then what we appraised her at, but we expected to pay a high price. If we find a good horse, we will go beyond our appraisal price."
"I thought she was a million-dollar filly and beyond that, I don't think you get to see a filly like that very often. If you judge her physically, she's a really good specimen," said Sikura of Hill 'n' Dale. "She really has everything, and if I wasn't in this pedigree and I was bidding on this filly, I'd give that or more for her."
"She's a unique filly in that we've retained all of the daughters, as much as we've been proud of the family, we've never presented it to auction," he said. "You're always sort of guessing when you have a great appreciation for something that's never been exposed to the marketplace, how they're going to be received and valued on pedigree. Obviously they valued her significantly and it's a real proud moment."
The final session of the sale begins at 7 p.m. EDT at the Fasig-Tipton sale pavilion. Click here to view the sale live
Frank Angst, Eric Mitchell, Ron Mitchell, Claire Novak, and Emily Walden contributed to this story.