When the market was good, it was very, very good during the opening session of the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July select yearling sale in Lexington. And when it was bad, it was pretty grim, with 44.1% of the 254 horses offered July 14 failing to find new homes. The statistic represented a sharp increase from the 33.3% buy-back rate on the auction's first day in 2007.
According to Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson, the nation's struggling economy seemed to have the most effect on the less expensive horses.
“The top was as much fun as it’s ever been,” he said. “When they (the buyers) locked on to a really nice horse, off they went. It was a remarkable market when it got past $100,000, and they hooked up. But the lower part of the market is a tough place to be. It’s hard to find a buyer out there with $30,000 or $40,000 to spend on a horse. I would think those buyers would be the ones more affected by rising costs at the gas pump and things like that.”
All the yearlings cataloged for the session were part of the auction’s New Sire Showcase, which featured the progeny of first- and second-crop stallions. Fasig-Tipton reported that the number of horses sold fell 20.2%, from 178 last year to 142 this year. The gross, meanwhile, declined 15.9%, from $15,826,000 to $13,311,000.
In more positive developments, the average price rose 5.4%, from $88,910 to $93,739, and the median remained the same at $75,000.
Three horses sold for $300,000 or more compared to two a year ago. But the top price for the opening session fell from $350,000 in 2007 to $330,000, the amount brought by a powerful-looking colt from the first crop of the Northern Afleet stallion Unforgettable Max. Jack Brothers signed the sale ticket for Hidden Brook, which was acting as agent for Paul Pompa Jr., who races Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Big Brown in partnership with IEAH Stables.
Brothers held off John Fort, the president of Peachtree Racing Stable, in the bidding battle for the muscular bay yearling.
“He kind of fits the model, fits the prototype, of what we look for in a horse all around, top to bottom,” said Brothers of the colt. “He’s a great mover, and he has all the physical qualities that we look for.”
Unforgettable Max, an added-money winner, is a full brother to champion and dual classic winner Afleet Alex, another first-crop sire with progeny in the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July catalog.
“He was a fast horse, and I think he’s got a license to be any kind of sire,” said Brothers of Unforgettable Max. “Sometimes you’ve got to take a shot on a nice horse (by an unproven stallion), especially when he’s a nice physical like the one we bought.”
The colt might be entered in a sale of 2-year-olds in training next year.
“We really just want to find the best individual,” Brothers said, “and Paul makes the decision whether he goes to the sale or not. Traditionally, Paul has been going through the sale ring (with yearling purchases), and then, if he buys them back, he’s happy to take them back.”
The colt is out of the 13-year-old unraced Slewpy mare, Wife’s Objection, who is a half-sister to grade II winner Kingdom Found (by The Bart). Consigned by the sale division of Gainesway Farm, the colt was owned by a partnership whose members all have ties to the Kentucky nursery. They were Gainesway president Antony Beck; Brian Graves, the director of public sales; Andy Howard, son of general manager Neil Howard; and Sherri Ivanovich, yearling manager. The partnership purchased the colt in the name of Pastor Fluff Stables for $42,000 at the 2007 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
“We found him in the back ring in November,” Graves said, “and it was his walk that attracted us to him. We got him home, and he just turned into a standout. He’s an athlete. He started out good, and he finished out good.”
Equus Farm and Susan Forrester bred the colt in Kentucky.
After missing out on the session topper, Fort purchased the day’s most expensive filly, a $300,000 daughter of the late 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam, saying the amount “was right on the price we expected." The bay yearling is a member of her sire’s first and only crop. Produced from the 13-year-old unraced Gold Legend mare Chao Praya, the filly is a half-sister to grade III winner Level Playingfield (by Level Sands).
According to Fort, the limited supply of Saint Liam offspring made the yearling more attractive. A son of Saint Ballado, Saint Liam was euthanized in August 2006 after fracturing his left hind leg following his inaugural season at stud at William Farish’s Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky.
“There aren’t going to be a lot of horses coming along to dilute her value,” Fort said. “If a stallion stands for 20 years or something, maybe he does have a few great horses, but there are an awful lot of average horses that can sort of dilute his overall influence on the industry, so I thought that was an appealing factor, that she’s by a stallion that had one crop. If she turns out to be a good race mare, she’ll be special. She’s a great, big, ‘scopey’ filly; she’s the kind that looks like she would run a long way.”
The filly, which was consigned by Meg Levy’s Bluewater Sales, agent, will be shipped to Ocala, Fla., where she will be broken by Dr. Barry Eisaman and his wife, Shari.
“The market seems really down,” Fort said. “Just sitting around watching horses sell, I see a lot of $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 horses. I’ve always felt like if you could afford to own a racehorse, you should be immune to little glitches in the economy. People who are sort of on the edge of an economy that might be fluctuating up or down shouldn’t be putting their money in racehorses.”
Florida pinhooker Nick de Meric, agent, was the buyer of the session’s second-highest-priced horse, a $310,000 colt from the first crop of the grade II-winning Unbridled’s Song stallion Eurosilver. Consigned by Eaton Sales, agent, the dark bay or brown yearling is out of the 8-year-old unraced Wild Again mare Chenoa, who is a half-sister to the grade III winner Demaloot Demashoot (by Bold Ruckus).
The second and final session of the Fasig-TIpton Kentucky auction is scheduled for July 15, with selling starting at 10 a.m. (EDT). The day will begin with more yearlings in the New Sire Showcase and end with horses sired by veteran stallions.