The yearling selling season opens Monday in Central Kentucky with the Fasig-Tipton select auction, which has its largest catalogue ever. Will the supply outstrip demand? That was the big question on the minds of sellers on the weekend before the sale.
David Hager of Idle Hour Farm called the catalogue's 37.2% increase in size (from 495 yearlings last year to 679 this year) a positive development.
"It's going to bring in more buyers because there's more variety and more selection," he said. "I'm very excited."
But Reiley McDonald of Eaton Sales wasn't nearly as optimistic.
"This market won't absorb the extra horses," he predicted. "There are a lot of good people here looking, but I haven't seen the numbers of people come through that you really need to sell this many yearlings. It's going to be a good horse sale for the upper 50% of the catalogue, but there are going to be 300 horses that are going to fall on hard times. There are a lot of buyers here who are very capable of buying in the $100,000 to $200,000 range, but we don't have enough people in the $20,000 to $60,000 range – and there are a whole lot of horses that are going to fall into that lower range."
Another concern for consignors is the slowdown in the market for 2-year-olds in training earlier this year. As a result, pinhookers might be more cautious, and that could be bad news for a sale that depends heavily on their buying support.
"The pinhookers had a spotty year; there were highs and there were lows," said Mark Taylor of the Taylor Made Sales Agency. "I think a big part of this sale's success is going to depend on the pinhookers' willingness to go ahead and jump in with both feet early in the market. If they don't get aggressive early, then I think you're going to see a higher buy-back rate."
Florida pinhooker Randy Hartley plans to buy more carefully this year and expects his colleagues in the resale business to do the same.
"Everybody is kind of cutting back in numbers this year and so are we," said Hartley, whose partner is Dean De Renzo. "We're going for more quality. We're going to try to stick to the horses that are going to be appealing to the upper end buyers."
"I think this sale is going to be down," he added. "I just don't see enough money here."
However, Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson was "cautiously optimistic," saying that for "every pinhooker that stubbed his toe in the 2-year-old market, there was another one that had a record year."
And, he added, there are other reasons to be positive, including the success of the auction, which generated record-setting statistics a year ago, and the racing success of its graduates, including Captain Steve, Elloluv, and Take Charge Lady.
"The racing game is good, and the horses out of this sale have run exceptionally well; they've also sold well at later sales," Robertson said. "The buying public ought to like the horses that we've got because they've sure been successful with them. – whether they're people wanting to resell or end users. It was good last year, and the horses have done what they are supposed to do. We're also fortunate to have a bunch of yearlings in this catalogue by young sires that have done real well: Songandaprayer, El Corredor, Trippi, and Five Star Day."
Most consignors said they were busy showing horses, and many of the last year's biggest-spending yearling buyers were spotted over the weekend in the Fasig-Tipton barn area. The buying teams for Sheikh Mohammed and Coolmore Stud were active. So were Mike Ryan, Buzz Chace, and B. Wayne Hughes.
Monday's session begins at 10 a.m. (EDT), and there is a second session Tuesday that starts at the same time.
Here's what some other people had to say about the prospects for the auction's success.
Brereton C. Jones, Airdrie Stud.: "I feel great. I think they know how to put on a good horse sale here. They get good individuals. Bill Graves has got as good an eye as anybody in the business, and that pays great dividends. They've got the individuals and they've got enough numbers to attract a lot of people who come from a lot of different places, so I think it's going to be a strong sale."
Pat Costello, Paramount Sales: "There are nearly 200 more horses in here than last year, and that makes me a little nervous. But I think our horses have very good physicals, and I'm very optimistic I can find buyers for them. Talking to the 2-year-old consignors, a lot of them did well, even though you saw a high buy-back rate. The ones I've talked to said they made money."
Meg Levy, Bluewater Sales: "Demand feels like it's there, but with more horses (in the catalogue), you don't know how the law of supply and demand is going to work out. The pinhookers are all talking about backing up except for Hoby Kight. But they might find some bargains in this sale."