Getting a big boost from Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock manager John Ferguson, the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November select mixed sale posted increases in its average and median prices Sunday in Lexington. But with 63 fewer horses sold than a year ago, when the numbers in the catalog were pumped up by the ClassicStar dispersal, the gross revenue declined.
"They liked young, successful race mares, I can tell you that, and we had a lot of wonderful mares," said Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson. "I think we had a comparable market to last year."
The 107 horses sold grossed $52,036,000 and averaged $486,318. The median was $180,000. Compared to a year ago, the gross declined 18.9%, but the average and median grew 28.9% and 2.9%, respectively. The buy-back rate rose from 24.1% in 2006 to 25.7% this year. Twelve horses sold for $1 million or more apiece.
Ferguson spent $15,750,000 for one broodmare, grade I winner Indy Five Hundred, who is in foal to Kingmambo, and three grade I-winning broodmare prospects: Round Pond, Octave, and Asi Siempre.
Ferguson had to fight off the trio of Nick Zito, Leonard Riggio of My Meadowview Farm, and bloodstock agent Lincoln Collins to get Round Pond, whose $5.75 million price was the highest for a horse sold by Fasig-Tipton since grade I winner Miss Oceana brought $7 million as part of the Newstead Farm dispersal in 1985 while she was in foal to Northern Dancer.
Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, acting on behalf of Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms, Round Pond scored in last year's Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), and she won four other added-money events, including the 2005 Acorn Stakes (gr. I). She is a 5-year-old daughter of Awesome Again —Gift of Dance, by Trempolino.
"Any mare that wins a Breeders' Cup is very special," Ferguson said, "and a mare by a top stallion out of a half-sister to three group (or grade) I winners is obviously a really top prospect. Obviously, it's a lot of money to pay, but if you want to buy the best mares, you have to bid more than everybody else thinks they're worth."
The build-up of Sheikh Mohammed's stallion ranks in this country was a factor his Fasig-Tipton November purchases, according to Ferguson.
"We are collecting an array of really exciting young horses at Jonabell—Street Sense, Hard Spun, and Discreet Cat—and obviously, Street Cry has had a great start," he said. "Sheikh Mohammed is very committed to the American program. In years gone by, maybe we were concentrating more on mares that performed on the turf. But now, Darley and Jonabell are a very, very important part of our future. Sheikh Mohammed feels very strongly that we should support our American breeding operation, which you can see from the stud fees that he's set that give everybody an opportunity. In return, he's buying top quality bloodstock for those stallions. Mares like this will help in the long run."
Round Pond earned $1,998,700 while winning seven of her 13 career races.
"She's the real McCoy," Porter said. "Her price wasn't a long way from my reserve, which was under $5 million.
Octave, who brought the sale's second-highest price, $4 million, wound up with Ferguson following a controversial bidding battle. Demi O'Byrne of the Coolmore Stud team said afterward that his group thought they were in at $4 million, but the hammer slammed down and the sale ticket went to Ferguson. O'Byrne declined to comment further about the matter. Both Ferguson and the Coolmore group were making their offers in the walking ring directly behind the auction stand in the Fasig-Tipton sale pavilion.
When asked if he had any doubt that he was the winning bidder, Ferguson replied: "The man up there (in the bid-spotting stand in the back walking ring), he took my bid, so I was (the buyer) as far as I was concerned. I signed the ticket and then left, and I wasn't really sure what happened after that because I was on the phone to Australia."
A 3-year-old daughter of Unbridled's Song, Octave won the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Mother Goose Stakes (both gr. I) this year and the Adirondack Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) in 2006. She finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) last year and was third in the Oct. 27 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Monmouth Park. Starlight Stables raced her in partnership with Donald Lucarelli.
"She (Octave) ran a great race at Monmouth," Ferguson said. "She had very good fillies in front of her, and she was closing. She looked like a really exciting prospect. Sheikh Mohammed was obviously watching, so when he heard she was coming here, he was very interested in her. We got here, and (and saw that) she's a beautiful filly. Being 3-year-old and subject to everything being OK, I would think she would carry on racing next year. That's a decision Sheikh Mohammed will make. We bought her ultimately as broodmare, but the way she ran the other day would suggest there is more racing in her."
Taylor Made consigned Octave, who has earned $1,660,934.
"She's a great race filly," said Mark Taylor of Taylor Made, "and I hope they leave her in training to help Unbridled's Song (who stands at Taylor Made Farm).
"Apparently," he continued, "there was a bidder who thought they were at $4 million also, and there was some discrepancy there, but the bid spotter didn’t acknowledge him or didn’t see him. Now that the ticket is signed, there's nothing that you can do. Whenever there is an underbidder who thought they had the ticket, you know there was more money out there, but how much more, you don't know. There probably was at least one more bid, so it's unfortunate. I think the owners are a little bit bittersweet because that (the price) was right at the threshold where they wouldn’t have minded keeping her. The price was well above the reserve, but they were crying when they were leaving here, let's put it that way."
Octave is a full sister to stakes winner to stakes winner Unbridled Behavior and a half-sister to grade II winner and stakes producer Belle Cherie. Octave also is a half-sister to added-money winner Be Mine Tonight.
"Coolmore said that they thought that they had the bid, but our bid spotter never saw them and never acknowledged the bid; until it's acknowledged, it's not a bid," Robertson said. "Our hands were tied. It's not so much signing the ticket, it's whether or not the bid is made, and the bid is made when we acknowledge it. And we never accepted the bid. I wish we had. It's unfortunate. I wish we had seen them. They're pretty discreet in how they bid, and I just wished it hadn't happened on such a nice mare."
In addition, Robertson said: "There was another party that had bid up close to that number ($5.75 million), and the bid spotter had both those people, and told John Ferguson he was the bidder. And then he (the bid spotter) asked the other bidder for more money, and the other bidder said, 'No.' "
Several people who were watching the proceedings believed that the party competing against Ferguson and Coolmore for Octave was associated with Robert Naify, brother of the late Marshall Naify and the uncle of Marsha Naify.
According to Fasig-Tipton chairman D.G. Van Clief: "The procedure utilized and the process on that particular filly was strictly in accordance with the conditions of sale."
Ferguson purchased Indy Five Hundred and Asi Siempre for $3 million each.
Two-time grade I winner Dream Rush (Wild Rush—Turbo Dream, by Unbridled) was the third-highest priced horse at the sale at $3.3 million. Consigned by Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency, she was purchased by D. Easter, agent for Halsey Manor.