Because of a malfunctioning air conditioning system, buyers were hot and sweaty at the Fasig-Tipton Texas summer yearling auction Monday. But the uncomfortably high temperature in the sale pavilion at Lone Star Park didn't seem to reduce their enthusiasm for acquiring horses. The auction enjoyed a 18.8% upswing in its average price, and the buy-back rate declined significantly.
"It was a fairly encouraging sale," said Boyd Browning, Fasig-Tipton's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "It felt better throughout this year than it has in the last two or three years here.
"I was a little anxious beforehand," he continued, "because of the activity going on in New Mexico with their slots and their racing, and the activity going on in Louisiana with their slots and their racing. There was more competition from a racing standpoint for Texas than there has been in a long time, and it could have had a negative impact on the sale. But lo and behold, it didn't have any impact whatsoever."
Fasig-Tipton reported that 219 horses were sold for a gross of $2,694,000, an average of $12,301, and a median price of $5,300. The number sold was down 16.1% from a year ago, when auction catalogued more horses and was a two-day affair, but the gross remained about the same, falling less than one percent. The median was up 6.0%. Meanwhile, the buy-back rate fell from 31.5% last year to 24.5% this year.
"We had less numbers this year, and it appears that was because we had fewer of the less commercial horses in Texas," Browning said. "The people who brought horses to the marketplace this year did a better job of preparing them. There were stronger, healthier horses overall. They had better conformation, and they had been handled more; their sales presentation was more professional. The other thing that probably helped us a little bit was (the stallion) Valid Expectations. He's a welcome addition to the stallion roster in Texas from a commercial standpoint. We had a number of nice Valid Expectations yearlings in this sale, and they sold very well."
The sale topper was a $125,000 colt sired by Valid Expectations. Named Expect Wings, he is half-brother to grade III winner Pioneer Boy (by Pioneering) and is out of the stakes-winning Northern Jove mare Jovial Wings. His consignor was Sue Dowling's Stoneview Farm, which was acting as agent for the his breeder, Ruth Brightbill and her friend, Ann Jones, who had purchased a 50% interest in Expect Wings earlier this year.
Trainer Mark Casse signed the sale ticket. However, Jones revealed later that Casse was acting on her behalf. At first, Jones and Brightbill said that Jones would become Expect Wing's majority owner and Brightbill would retain a small interest. Then, several hours later, they said Jones was buying out her partner and would race the gray colt on her own. However, Brightbill said she might become involved again in Expect Wings' ownership in the future.
Expect Wings is the first Thoroughbred owned by Jones, who became quite attached to the colt prior to the sale and was upset by possibility of losing him.
"I love him," she said. "He's my 'first born.' "
Said Brightbill: "She (Jones) has been crying on and off for two weeks."
The auction's second-highest-priced horse was another colt sired by Valid Expectations. Robert and Janice McNair's Stonerside Stables purchased him for $90,000 from William S. Farish's Lane's End Texas, agent for the colt's breeder, Joe Archer. Produced from the unraced Rahy mare Kate's Hurrahy, the colt is a half-brother to multiple stakes winner Leo's Last Hurrahy (by Leo Castelli).