After suffering significant setbacks in prices on its opening night, the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale experienced a welcome surge in business during its second and final session Aug. 7 in upstate New York. Thanks to the rebound, the auction finished with final results for three important statistics that weren't too far below last year's figures.
The gross declined 2.7% to $32 million. The average fell 6.3% to $299,065. And the median dropped 10% to $225,000.
Meanwhile, the number of horses that were sold rose 3.9% to 107 while the buy-back rate increased to 34% from 22%.
"All in all, I think we mounted a furious comeback in the second half," said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning. "Statistically we still didn't quite catch up with last year. But we certainly had a more energetic and a more vibrant sale session tonight. Overall, we had better quality horses (from the first evening). Buyers seemed to bid with more confidence tonight and bid more aggressively."
Big spender Sheikh Mohammed attended the opening session, but he wasn't on hand the second night and neither was his bloodstock manager, John Ferguson. However, the sale results for the second session listed three purchases in Ferguson's name.
Ferguson spent more money than any other buyer, but not as much as a year ago, paying $3,325,000 for eight yearlings. Shadwell Estate Co., headed by Sheikh Mohammed's brother, Sheikh Hamdan, spent $1.5 million for three yearlings. In 2011, Ferguson alone had invested $8,530,000 to acquire 13 head.
This year, Sheikh Mohammed's friends, associates, and other relatives seemed to be less active.
When asked if Sheikh Mohammed's absence from the Fasig-Tipton sale grounds during the second session made other bidders feel less intimidated, Browning said: "Probably more significant than him not being here tonight was that for buyers who may have had concerns about a dominance in the marketplace, those fears were unfounded last night. That led to them having more confidence to bid tonight. It became clear that there were buying opportunities for a wide number of buyers."
The results for the Saratoga auction's second session included a gross of $18,410,000 for the 55 yearlings that were sold. The average was $334,727 and the median was $250,000. Compared to a year ago, the number sold and gross rose 1.9% and 10%, respectively. The averge was up 8% and the median grew 11.1%.
The buy-back rate increased to 34.5% from 19.4% in 2011.
"It feels like a different sale tonight," said consignor Michael Hernon of Gainesway. "There are better horses today; there are no questions about that. They are cataloged alphabetically by dam, so it's just the way the horses fell. Possibly, buyers felt it was time to step in (because it was the final night) and buy one because they were going to go home with no horse. The fact that Sheikh Mohammed wasn't here probably encouraged people to think maybe they had a better chance to buy; the figures seemed to indicate that."
The number of yearlings bringing seven-figure prices grew to three from two in 2011.
"I think the yearling market is very similar to last year," Browning said. "There continues to be restraint at the upper end. There certainly is a lot of activity, but people are selective and they do stop bidding when they reach the levels that they have established on their evaluations of horses. You may see them bid once or twice beyond where they thought they were going to bid, and you can see people consulting with their advisers and whispering throughout the evening. But very rarely do you see people just unbuckle and say, 'Bid, bid, bid, bid, bid, bid, bid.' It's a little bit different world we live in now. The market is healthy, and it isn't in any distress, but it's not exuberant."
Wait No More, an exquisite long-legged daughter of Medaglia d'Oro topped the sale, bringing $1,575,000 during the second session. The amount exceeded last year's price peak of $1.2 million.
Multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher signed the sale ticket for the gray/roan filly as agent. He declined to reveal the identity of the client he was representing in the transaction.
Wait No More is the second foal out of Wait a While (by Maria's Mon), who was the champion 3-year-old filly of 2006. Alan and Karen Cohen's Arindel Farm, which raced Wait a While, bred Wait No More in Florida. Pletcher conditioned Wait a While for Arindel.
"We were stretching to our limit, but obviously we know the mare (Wait a While) really well, and she's one of the best that we've ever had," Pletcher said. "She (Wait No More) is a beautiful filly, and she reminded us a lot of Wait a While. We're really happy to get her. She's one that regardless of what she does on the racetrack, she's worth a lot as a broodmare. She has a lot of racing potential. She'll probably go down to my dad's place in Ocala (Florida) and then we'll take it from there."
Robert and Blythe Clay's Three Chimneys Farm consigned Wait No More to the Saratoga auction for Arindel.
"We're very happy; we're ecstatic," said Guinness McFadden, the sales director for Three Chimneys Farm. "We had a ton of activity at the barn. She is a really nice filly. She has a great walk, a nice, good, strong hind leg, and a big shoulder. She just looks like a racehorse to me. It was a great price and we thank Todd for his purchase."
Wait No More was injured prior to the Saratoga auction.
"She had had a little paddock accident at the farm down in Florida before she came up to the sale grounds," McFadden said. "She had scar on her (right front) knee and a little ding on her (left hind) hock. They definitely drew a lot of attention and there were a lot of questions. But the vet said she was OK, so no harm, no foul."