Domestic buyers were dominant at the top of the Fasig-Tipton Calder market last year, purchasing 51 of the 70 horses that sold for $200,000 or more. This year, foreign buyers bought most of the juveniles in that range, taking 29 of 54. They also acquired four of the seven horses sold for $500,000 and up.
The Thoroughbred Corp., headed by Prince Ahmed Salman of Saudi Arabia, was the auction's leading buyer by gross, paying $2,745,000 for eight horses.
"We sent a bunch of 2-year-olds to England this year because the prince wanted to race more over there, so we're trying to build up our American stable," said Richard Mulhall, one of The Thoroughbred Corp.'s chief advisers. "The plan is to try to buy at least two or three of the top horses at each of the important 2-year-old sales."
Yoshida was the auction's second-leading buyer, spending $2,490,000 for eight horses. Irish veterinarian Demi O'Byrne ranked third, paying $1,925,000 for two head. The domestic leaders were Californian Keith Taylor, who invested $1,030,000 in three horses; the Devil Eleven Stable of former basketball player Bobby Hurley, which spent $1,030,000 for three horses, and Gaines/Gentry Thoroughbreds, which paid $1 million for two juveniles.
Hurley is the majority partner in the ownership of 2001 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. I) winner Songandaprayer, a $1-million purchase at Fasig-Tipton Calder last year. At the same sale, O'Byrne bought eventual grade I winner Yonaguska for longtime client Michael Tabor for a sale-topping price of $1,950,000. O'Byrne, Tabor, Yonaguska, and the colt's trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, were pictured on the front cover of the 2001 Fasig-Tipton Calder catalogue.
O'Byrne, who was accompanied by Tabor and trainer Patrick Biancone, bought the two most expensive 2-year-olds at this year's Fasig-Tipton sale. He spent $1 million for a strong-looking Seattle Slew colt out of 1987 Ashland Stakes (gr. I) winner Chic Shirine (by Mr. Prospector) and $925,000 for an elegant gray daughter of French Deputy out of stakes winner Blue Avenue (by Classic Go Go).
The colt, a half-brother to grade II winners Tara Roma and Waldoboro (both by Lyphard), will be owned by Tabor and Coolmore Stud managing partner John Magnier and trained in this country by Biancone. Tabor said he probably would be the sole owner of the French Deputy filly, who is a full sister to Kurofune. That colt's owner, Kaneko, tried hard to buy her, as did Moynihan.
Both the Seattle Slew colt and French Deputy filly participated in only the first of the sale's two under tack shows. Running into a strong headwind, the filly worked an eighth of a mile in :10 2/5, equaling the fastest time for that distance on Feb. 18. The colt breezed in :10/3/5.
"The track was a little slow that day, wasn't it? So, I thought the colt worked well," O'Byrne said. "I also thought he had the best pedigree in the catalogue. The filly looks very much like Love Lock, who I bought here four years ago (for $180,000). If she does as well as Love Lock (a grade I winner), we'll be happy."
The Seattle Slew colt was consigned by Kentucky horseman Maurice Miller III, who purchased him for $400,000 at the 2000 Keeneland September yearling sale. Miller was acting on the behalf of a partnership that included himself, his father-in-law Bill Graham, and Tom VanMeter of Kentucky-based Eaton Sales.
"He matured exceptionally well through the winter," said Miller of the colt. "He was a little light as a yearling, but he grew into his frame more and filled out."
The filly was a graduate of last year's Saratoga yearling sale, where she was purchased for $100,000 by Crupi's New Castle Farm for Standardbred breeder and retired building contractor Joseph Parisi of New York. She was consigned to the Calder auction by New Castle for the partnership of J.J. Crupi and Parisi.
"We had a $650,000 offer for her privately about an hour before she sold," Crupi said. "I called Mr. Parisi, and we decided we would go ahead and roll the dice since we had already come this far. I knew we were OK with her at $700,000 to $750,000. She has always been a pretty and correct filly. She got faster as she went along in her training, and she developed muscles in all the right spots."
While the Seattle Slew colt and the French Deputy filly represented big pinhooking scores for their consignors, it was difficult for many sellers to focus on their successes when disappointments were so common. One notable pinhooking failure involved a Saint Ballado -- Metromane colt consigned by Robert Scanlon. A full brother to grade II winner Flame Thrower, the colt was bought back for $550,000. He had been purchased for $750,000 by New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace at the 2000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale.
"As pinhookers, we are definitely going to have to watch what we do at this year's yearling sales," Sequel's Becky Thomas said. "Once again, we may have to further reduce what we're planning to spend. It's going to be tough."