Breaking records had become routine for the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic juvenile sale. Its gross revenue peaked in 1998, and the average and median soared to all-time highs in 2000.
But this year, there were no major advances to celebrate. The most positive developments were a modest increase in gross revenue and a slight decline in the buy-back rate. Even so, Fasig-Tipton officials expressed satisfaction with the latest results.
"In a 2-year-old market that has been very spotty all year, we're pleased to have come close to holding our average while having our buy-back rate go down and our gross revenue go up," said Mason Grasty, executive vice president of Fasig-Tipton Midlantic.
One of the last juvenile auctions of the season, the sale was conducted May 21 and 22 in Timonium, Md. Details of the key business trends were:
- The number sold rose 12.1%, from 239 to 268.
- Gross revenue increased 5.9%, from $8,054,800 to $8,529,400.
- The average fell 5.6%, from $33,702 to $31,826.
- The median dropped 16%, from $25,000 to $21,000.
- The buy-back rate decreased from 33.1% to 30.9%, when 120 of the 388 horses offered failed to find new homes.
- The number of horses bringing individual prices of $100,000 or more grew from nine to 12. However, the number sold for $50,000 or more slipped from 54 to 47.
- The top price plunged from $350,000 to $270,000.
With its late position on the calendar, Fasig-Tipton Midlantic does not rank among the premier sales. Much of its stock consists of buy-backs from earlier sales and late-developing 2-year-olds.
But the auction enjoys a reputation as a good place to find useful runners for bargain prices, such as multiple graded stakes winner Xtra Heat, who sold last year for only $5,000, and 2001 UAE Derby (UAE-III) winner and Kentucky Derby (gr. I) starter Express Tour, who failed to meet his reserve at $37,000.
Such runners are helping to attract an increasing number of horsemen from outside the region to Maryland each year. They include Dogwood Stable president Cot Campbell, a first-time shopper at the sale in 2001. One of the auction's leading buyers, he paid $283,000 for five horses.
"The sale has increased in quality over the years, and I thought I might be able to get some bargains," Campbell said. "I decided to try it, and I'm glad that I did. Eighty percent of the horses weren't the kind that I was looking for, but 20% were decent individuals with decent pedigrees. I think I'll be back."
Said Grasty: "The concept of this sale has changed from a regional to a national market. Primarily, our buyers are still from this region, but we have more national buyers than ever before."
New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace spent the most of any buyer. He paid $418,000 for five head, including the $270,000 Thunder Gulch colt that topped the sale. The day before, another son of Thunder Gulch, Point Given, won the Preakness (gr. I), the muscular chestnut breezed an eighth of a mile in :11 over a dull Timonium track. Chace bought the colt for New Jersey contractor Charles Hesse, who raced 1993 Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Storm Tower in partnership. John Kimmel will train Hesse's newest racing prospect.
"I thought I would have to pay a little bit more for him," Chace said. "He was the standout of the sale."
The colt is the first foal produced from the 6-year-old St. Jovite mare Jovi San, who is a half-sister to California Juvenile Stakes (gr. III) winner Flying Victor and Remington Park Derby winner Vying Victor. The sale topper was consigned by Florida pinhooker Niall Brennan, as agent for Rachel Holden, who is the assistant manager at Lantern Hill Farm near Midway, Ky.; Vicky Williams, who works for Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital near Lexington; and a third unnamed partner.
Holden purchased the colt as a weanling for $50,000 at the 1999 Keeneland November sale. The partners originally planned to resell him in 2000, but "he wasn't quite right" physically when the fall yearling auctions rolled around, Holden said. After a private sale fell through, they sent the colt to Brennan, who began training him in mid-January.
"This is more than we hoped for; I'm still a little bit shaky," an excited Holden said.
Big spenders in addition to Chace included William Schettine of New York and Cary Findlay of Florida. Through Florida pinhooker Ciaran Dunne, Schettine paid $190,000 for a Boston Harbor filly named Boston Twist and $185,000 for a Carson City filly named Miss City Halo. A partner in Dogwood Stable's grade I stakes winner Trippi and grade II winner Distilled, Findlay spent $284,000 for three horses, including a $180,000 Unbridled's Song colt named Straphanger.