Even though the stock market and the Thoroughbred marketplace have lost some of their momentum lately, the mood was upbeat on the Fasig-Tipton sale grounds in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. , over the weekend prior to the select yearling sale's start.
The auction gets under way Monday at 7 p.m. (EDT) and continues on Tuesday with the same starting time,
While it would be an exaggeration to report that prospective buyers, consignors, and Fasig-Tipton officials were elated going into the boutique sale, most were cautiously optimistic that business would be solid during the auction's two-night run.
"I think the cries of panic aren't warranted," said Kentucky bloodstock agent Davant Latham while inspecting yearlings Sunday.
"There are plenty of people here with plenty of money, and, as usual, there are nice physical horses. I think it's going to be a good sale. The market might level out some, but we’re not going to crash."
Consignor Reiley McDonald of Eaton Sales was looking forward to testing the demand for yearlings with fancy pedigrees and top conformation at Saratoga.
"I think the Fasig-Tipton July sale was a little bit of an aberration," he said. "It was soft due to too many horses following a marginal (yearling-to-juvenile) pinhooking year. I suspect that you'll see a stronger market at Saratoga because there are definitely a lot more end users on the grounds than we saw in Kentucky in July, and the horses up here, that I've seen, are good physically. I'm more pleased with my group than I've been in a long time.
McDonald was especially excited about his consignment's colts.
"We have a very solid group," he said, "and three or four should sell very well. We have a son of Storm Cat out of a Mr. Prospector mare that is exquisite; we have an Awesome Again colt, the first foal out of Victory U. S. A., that is physically an 'A,;' and we have a big, strong A.P. Indycolt that is the only colt by his sire in the sale. Any one of those could break out."
Many consignors were busy showing their horses Saturday and Sunday mornings as Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, Irish agent Demi O'Byrne, Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, Cot Campbell of Dogwood Stable, and other shoppers roamed the sale barns.
"We think we have good horses, and the world is here to buy them," said Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson. "There's no reason why the sale won't be good. There's a lot of action around here, and they (the prospective buyers) aren't here for the season, they're here for the reason. We didn't the horse strength at the top of the market that we did last year for July sale in Kentucky, but the horses that we did have there sold fine."
Kentucky bloodstock agent and pinhooker Peter Bradley predicted that while the Saratoga market probably would be solid, it might struggle to surge ahead of last year's figures, which include a sale record median price.
'I think the pinhookers from weanlings to yearlings did the same thing as the pinhookers from yearlings to 2-year-olds; they really overspent to get horses (to resell)," Bradley said. "That's going to make some yearling sales much more difficult this year, and it could affect the market here. If you have 15 of those pinhooked horses that don’t sell in a sale like this or 15 that are overpriced, it really changes the sale and could be a problem. Are the end users going to pay a premium for some of these pinhooked horses when it looks like a premium has already been paid for them when they were weanlings?" Bradley wondered.
Following are the thoughts of some other buyers and consignors:
Headley Bell, Kentucky bloodstock agent: "I was encouraged by the July sale. I thought July was a fair market with a lot of energy and enthusiasm there, and I would hope it would be much the same in Saratoga. A lot of people bought some nice horses to bring here, looking at the cost of some of them as weanlings, so there should be a good nucleus of quality horses."
David Greathouse, Four Star Sales: "I think, as long as you're not stupid or ridiculous about your expectations, it will be a very good sale. I thought that Fasig-Tipton in Kentucky was good. Horses by proven sires sold very well, which is a very good sign for this sale. The buyers pay you more probably than what the law allows for what are considered the outstanding horses in a sale. The ones that still have a chance to be racehorses, but aren't in that (outstanding) group, sometimes fall through the cracks. I feel there's a horse for every type of buyer here, but just not the quite the numbers you'll see in September (at the Keeneland yearling sale) or somewhere else."
Barry Irwin, buyer: "I've looked at about a third of the horses so far (as of Saturday morning), and I've seen a few very, very nice ones. I think the sale will hold its own. I don't think it will be down. This place has a special atmosphere, and it always makes people spend more than they plan to spend."
Bill Farish, Lane's End: "I think the market will be strong and carry on from where it was at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky in July. I don't think the July market was as bad as everybody likes to say it was. It was pretty strong for the (quality of) horses that were there. There were a lot of yearlings by first- and second-year sires that you wouldn't expect to bring huge amounts. I thought it was a really good sale. Somebody asked me about the stock market, but I think this industry is like the art industry. It's insulated a little bit from the daily fluctuations."
Bill Reightler, consignor: "The market will probably be exactly what we had last year. It's one of the premier select sales, so the good horses are going to sell well. All the same buyers and significant people from last year are here. I think it will be a little bit better than the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale just because of the mere fact that there are higher quality horses here. In July, we didn't have any seven-figure yearlings, and here we probably will, which is probably going to help things as far as the average and median go. For the July sale not having any seven-figure horses, I thought it did pretty well."
Randy Hartley, Florida pinhooker: "I think the market is going to be good. I think the good horses are going to sell well, and there's a lot of good horses here. It's going to be tough to buy the ones you want. All the big owners want to come here, purchase a yearling while they're here, and get to see it and play the game."
Peter O'Callaghan, Wood's Edge Farm: "I'd say it would be a good sale in certain spots. If you make the cut, pass the vet, and get on the big lists, you'll do well, but after that it will be thin. It's the same for all these sales nowadays. If a horse jumps through all the hoops, he'll sell well. If he doesn’t, you can't sell him,"
Joe Littrell, Viking Stud: "They always have a really select group of horses here, and I think that the buyers here are very optimistic and seem to like the product that's here. I think it will be a very strong sale. There are plenty of buyers for the 214 yearlings here. The catalog is strong, and it's not very big. For a two-night sale, it's a good number of horses. We've been very busy. We had about 45 or 50 shows yesterday (Saturday). Most of them were 'all shows;' they (the buyers) wanted to see both of our horses. It seems like there's plenty of action."
Robert Clay, Three Chimneys Sales: "I'm encouraged by the action here. It’s been good. I think we're in a situation where a lot of agents are looking at horses and developing short lists that are the same. You used to see more trainers here, and I love to see them because different trainers like different horses. But I'm expecting a pretty solid market up here."
Duncan Taylor, Taylor Made Sales Agency: "I think it's going to be a good sale, but I'm not expecting bust out numbers. I think it will probably be picky on vetting, but there are a lot of good horses here, so even if the market is a little weak, that will keep the sale close to what the average was last year. It will be down by 10%, I'd say. The stock market has dropped a little bit, so people might be a little tentative, and the pinhookers didn't have as good a year as in the past. But the market may catch up on the top end if a horse breaks out and brings $2 million, $3 million, or $4 million, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that the sale would be up."
Buzz Chace, New Jersey bloodstock agent: "I think the smaller catalog (compared to the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July select sale's book) will help. The horses here are selected better probably. It's always an enthusiastic sale. People really like to come to his sale."
Wayne Sweezey, Darby Dan Farm: "I'm anticipating a good sale. Personally, I think we brought good horses up, and we’ve got a good selection of product here. I think that people are going to like what we have, and they're going to sell well. I think the market will be every bit as good as it was last year."
Dogwood's Campbell: "I think the sale is going to be good. I don't know why I would think otherwise. There is absolutely no reason to have any feeling that it would be awful good or awful bad. I think it will be quite satisfactory for everybody. The stock market never seems to affect the sale. The yearlings look good from what I've seen; the pedigrees are mighty fine; and the people are here. I don't think there's absolutely any reason to have any drastic thoughts about it."
John Stuart, Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services: "I think it will be a good sale because of the limited number of horses, and there a lot of people around. It's the last time this year we're going to see that (the limited number). The stock market is only a few percent off its high, and there's still so much cash around. I feel a good sale coming."