Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga yearling sale rebounded big time in 2003. All of the major indices for the three-day venue saw marked advances over last year's down sale and returned to the general numbers seen in 2000.
By the numbers, the gross was $48,257,000, up 37% from last year's figure of $35,242,000; the average of $313,357 was up 24% over the $251,729 average of a year ago; and the median advanced 33% from $180,000 a year ago to $240,000 in 2003. Perhaps key to the sale company and consignors was the buy-back rate: 21% as compared to 29% a year ago.
"I think we can safely say that from Hip. No. 1 through Hip No. 217 we have never had as consistent, as strong a group of individuals on these grounds," said D.G. Van Clief Jr., chairman of Fasig-Tipton.
For the third night in a row, it didn't long for to register the first seven-figure final bid on the evening. Just the 11th horse in the ring on the third and last evening of the sale, $1.2 million was realized for a son of Storm Cat. The colt was purchased by Stanley Fulton, on behalf of his bloodstock advisors, Tim McMurry and Eric Anderson. It marked the highest price of the sale's third session.
The bidding moved briskly on dark bay or brown colt out of the multiple stakes-winning Broad Brush mare Broad Smile. Under bidder on the colt was bloodstock agent Buzz Chace.
Fulton, a buyer both Tuesday and Wednesday evening, went deep for the colt and also purchased a colt by Seattle Slew for $550,000 earlier in the evening. A few hips after the Storm Cat colt, Fulton spent $350,000 for a dark bay or brown filly by Unbridled's Song out of the stakes-winning Danzatore mare Chartreuse. Before the night was through, Fulton also spent $550,000 on a colt by Cozzene.
Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent for ClassicStar, the session-topping colt was bred in Kentucky by ClassicStar, an operation headed by David Plummer.
"I liked everything about him, what can I say?" said Fulton.
"We liked the Broad Brush in him -- that made him a bigger, rangier, two-turn kind of Storm Cat," said McMurry, who signed the ticket. "We're trying to get horses that will go two turns. He (Fulton) has had a Storm Cat on his wish list for a while now. We had talked about it before and said we would go after one if it wasn't a sprinter. I think he's pretty excited about it."
The top filly Thursday evening came toward the end of the session, Hip No. 211 out of the 217 in the sale. A bay filly by Unbridled, consigned by Lane's End, agent, went for $585,000 to bloodstock agent Mike Ryan. A January foal, the bay filly is out of the stakes-winning Vice Regent mare Hangin On a Star.
On the evening, 51 lots were sold for $14,270,000, good for an average of $279,804. Fifteen yearlings through the ring were reported as RNAs (reserves not attained). The median for the evening was $200,000. Last year's average for the final session was $246,200 and median was $155,000.
"We had some highlights last night and some tonight and it certainly was a solid night tonight," said Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson.
For the remarkable sale, "we felt we had the horses coming in and we'd be up because of it," Robertson said. "There may be other factors out there; the game is good right now, but I think the change in last year to this is mostly due to the quality of horses and our better pedigrees. We had good physicals this year and obviously the veterinarians approved, too."
"It's not off-the-wall great, but we haven't had any big, big surprises; we're getting them done and done comfortably past the reserve," said consignor Craig Bandoroff. "What people have to understand is that you don't bring the second string up here; I don't bring the second string up here."
"The most encouraging thing I've seen is the buy-back rate," said Meg Levy of Bluewater Sales. "I've had more activity this sale than a Saratoga sale I can remember in the five years as far as numbers. We had a couple of horses in the $150,000 range and it was nice solid market for those horses."
Fasig-Tipton's sale marked the first major yearling sale of the year, as Keeneland opted to cancel its annual July venue. They pick up the next leg of the select end of the market with their September sale next month.
"I'm sure that it's (the lack of the Keeneland July sale) brought some of the quality here, but this sale has been good to us in the past," said bloodstock agent Barry Berklehammer. "The big changes to the marketplace here is the overall economy and the tax change has helped a lot, too. I think the tax law is why we see the RNAs down."
For the three days, 154 yearlings were sold, compared to 140 a year ago. The gross, while up 37% was still off of the record $62,412,000 recorded during the electric sale in 2001.
The high price of the entire sale, $2.7 million recorded Wednesday night for the Unbridled -- Words of War colt consigned by Stone Farm and purchased by Satish Sanan's Padua Stables, was up dramatically from the $1.3 million sale-topping son of Storm Cat a year ago. The top filly, a $1.4 million daughter of Storm Cat that sold during the sale's opening night was up slightly over last year's top filly, a $1.3 million daughter of Storm Cat -- Sacahuista.