Excitement was high going into the Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training at Calder Race Course. The auction had a strong catalogue; the horses worked fast; and virtually every major buyer of juveniles showed up or sent a representative.
But when the final figures were calculated Tuesday, business was down across the board from a year ago, when sale records were established in numerous statistical categories and the auction became the highest-grossing juvenile sale in history. According to Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson, the declines were not unexpected because of downturns in both the American economy and the Thoroughbred marketplace.
"If you ask me if I'm happy being down, I'll tell you no, I want to be up," he said. "But everything that had gone on in the stock market, the broodmare market, and the first 2-year-old sale of the year told us that we would be damn lucky to hold on to what we got last year."
The 136 horses sold brought a gross of $28,186,000, an average price of $207,250, and a median price of $150,000. Compared to last year's figures, the number sold and the gross were down by 12.8% and 16.3%, respectively. The average and median fell by 4.0% and 8.3%, respectively.
This year's buy-back rate was 42.6%, with 101 of the 237 horses offered failing to find new homes. In 2000, 40.9% of the horses that passed through the sale ring were bought back by their consignors.
Last year, four juveniles were sold for seven figures. This year, there was only one, a $1-million son of Seattle Slew. Consigned by M. W. Miller III, agent, the colt was purchased by Irish veterinarian Demi O'Byrne for Coolmore Stud managing partner John Magnier and Michael Tabor. The sale topper will be trained by Patrick Biancone.
Produced from grade I winner Chic Shirine (by Mr. Prospector), the colt is a half-brother to grade II winners Tara Roma and Waldoboro, who both were sired by Lyphard. The son of Seattle Slew participated in only the first of the sale's two under tack shows, working an eighth of a mile in :10 3/5 on Feb. 18, when the fastest time recorded at that distance was :10 2/5.
O'Byrne said he was impressed both by the work and the colt's pedigree. The son of Seattle Slew was bought for $400,000 by Miller at the 2000 Keeneland September yearling sale. Members of the partnership that owned the colt prior to the Fasig-Tipton Calder auction included Miller, his father-in-law Bill Graham, and Tom VanMeter.
The sale's second-highest-priced juvenile, a $925,000 daughter of French Deputy, also was purchased by O'Byrne. Produced from the stakes-winning Classic Go Go mare Blue Avenue, the filly is a full sister to Kurofone, one of the most promising 3-year-olds in Japan. The immediate underbidder was Makoto Kaneko, who races Kurofone.
A $100,000 Saratoga sale yearling in 2000, the filly was consigned to the Fasig-Tipton Calder auction by Crupi's New Castle Farm. Like the sale-topping Seattle Slew colt, she only participated in the first under tack show. She breezed an eighth of a mile in :10 2/5, equaling the day's fastest time for the distance.
(Complete Results, Fasig-Tipton