With one day remaining until the start of the Saratoga select yearling sale, the Fasig-Tipton barn area was full of familiar faces. Buyers looking at horses Monday included Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas; John Ferguson, Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock manager; and Satish Sanan of Padua Stables.
"I don't know of anybody we're missing," said Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson. "(Oregon lumberman) Aaron Jones is back, and a lot of New York guys like Bill Mott, Todd Pletcher, Billy Badgett, and Rusty Arnold have been around."
The sale gets under way Tuesday night at 7:30 and runs through Thursday. Because Keeneland decided to cancel its July auction this year, Saratoga will be the top of the yearling' market's first test this year. Last year, the upper end suffered major setbacks. At Saratoga, the gross revenue dropped 43.5% and the average price fell 34.7%.
Fasig-Tipton officials are hopeful that this year's numbers will show improvement.
"I know you've heard me say a thousand times it's all about the horse; if that's what it's all about , we are going to do well," Robertson said. "We've never been happier with horses. For certain, they're better than last year, and the top is absolutely terrific. There are very few horses that we've looked at over the last two days and wished weren't here."
Most consignors were cautious, saying they didn't expect a major turnaround.
"I wouldn't look for a big rebound," said Bill Farish of Lane's End. That's not a negative statement; it's just that I think we will see a continuation of last year with the market at the same sort of level. I don't know that I would be happy if it stays level, it would just be what I expect. If it's up, it would be a big positive. With (the movie) "Seabiscuit," there is a lot of enthusiasm out there."
Said Bayne Welker of Mill Ridge Sales: "I am cautiously optimistic. I see all the usual players here. But at this point, I don't feel any real buzz or excitement. So think it's going to take through today to kind of shake things out and see where we are. I think things are just taking a little bit longer to develop this year."
There are 217 horses listed in the catalogue by such top sires as Storm Cat, Seattle Slew, A.P. Indy, and Danzig.
"In the last couple of years, Fasig-Tipton's strength has been its selection process, and it seems to have followed through to this year," said California bloodstock agent Rollin Baugh. "I'm seeing nice horses. I think they (Fasig-Tipton) are in a good spot. There are a lot of people here, but I don't know that there is any correlation. I've seen sales that had very few people, but the ones who were bidding were the right ones. Then I've seen sales when they had huge numbers of people and the results were modest."