The Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale fizzled more than it sizzled in its opening session Aug. 6 in upstate New York. Two horses, which sold near the end of the evening, commanded seven-figure prices, but before then the auction sputtered along and lacked pizzazz.
The night ended with declines of 15.8% in gross revenue and 20.7% in average price from the previous year. The median price dropped 29.8% while the buy-back rate rose to 33.3% from 24.6% in 2011.
"You're always disappointed when you see reductions in the average price and the median price from one year to the next," said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning during a post-sale press conference. "We have high expectations, and we want to see positive results and positive momentum in everything we do. But I would caution myself and you all that it's only halfway through the sale. We sell horses alphabetically (by their dams' names) and the quality of horses (in the auction's two sessions) can shift from one year to the next. Last year the first night was stronger than the second night. Hopefully, in 2012, the second night will be stronger than the first night from a horse perspective and maybe we'll build a little bit more momentum in the auction arena as the result of having some better horses."
The 52 yearlings that were sold grossed $13,590,000 and averaged $261,346. The median price was $200,000. Last year, the first-session results included a gross of $16,155,000 for the 49 horses that were sold. The average and median were $329,694 and $285,000, respectively.
An elegant son of Street Cry (IRE) topped the session, bringing $1.2 million from John Ferguson, who is the bloodstock manager for Sheikh Mohammed. The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed attended the Saratoga auction for the fourth year in a row and spent much of his time in the outside bidding area behind the sale pavilion.
"Obviously, Street Cry has done great things for us," said Ferguson of the successful sire who stands at Sheikh Mohammed's Darley operation in Kentucky. "He (the yearling) is a horse with a seriously good pedigree, and he's a very athletic horse. It made sense, you know."
The bay colt is the first foal out of Serenading (by A.P. Indy), who was 2009's champion handicap mare in Canada.
"The great thing about him is that, being from that family, he is a horse that can run over here," Ferguson said. "We've got a lot of nice homebreds to race over here next year (as 2-year-olds), but it's nice to be able to pick up a horse like him that we can add to the program. He's a good-looking horse with a great pedigree."
John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency, agent, consigned the colt. Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings and N.E.T.P. bred the yearling in Kentucky.
"I'm very proud of the colt; I think he is a special horse," Sikura said. "The family goes way back for us, and his dam was a magnificent and wonderful race mare. He is a beautiful representative of his sire. He's a wonderful, smooth, great-walking classic horse. I don't think you could fault him. You never know if they will run, but certainly everything you could hope for in a horse you saw in him."
"I thought he was a million-dollar horse, up or down," Sikura continued. "If it had been one less bid or twice more, neither would have surprised me. We had 10 scopes (endoscopic throat examinations) on the horse."
A dapper bay son of Empire Maker was the second-most-expensive yearling at $1.1 million. Barbara Banke of Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton, who sat in the sale pavilion with Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan, bought the Kentucky-bred colt. He is a full-brother to 2009 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (gr. I) winner Mushka.
"He's a beautiful horse, he's by a great stallion, and he's a full brother to a really good horse; the mating has worked," Moynihan said. "He looks like he could be fast, and he looks like he can run far. And if he does those things, he's certainly got a lot of stallion potential, especially with Bodemeister (by Empire Maker) just selling the way he did (as a stud prospect)."
Plans for the yearling, according to Moynihan, are to ship him to Stonestreet Farm in Kentucky. He will remain there for about a month before being sent to Ocala, Fla., to be broken.
Craig and Holly Bandoroff's Denali Stud consigned the colt for his breeders, Guy and Diane Snowden. The yearling is out of Sluice (by Seeking the Gold), who captured the 2001 Misty Isle Stakes at Arlington Park.
"He is a beautiful, beautiful colt, and he was beautifully prepared (for the sale)," Diane Snowden said. "I'm very pleased. That was about the range we were looking at (for his price). Judging by the family and the wonderful record of Mushka, we thought it would be around there."
The second and final session of the Saratoga sale will be held Aug. 7. It is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. (EDT).