Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga yearling sale is on pace to break last year's all-time record average price of $305,847, defying the conventional wisdom that many observers took into this year's start of the yearling sale season in July. Wednesday evening's second session, in which 50 yearlings sold for gross revenues of $19,900,000, an average price of $398,000 and median of $250,000, is believed to be the highest average for a single session in the sale's history.
Wednesday's numbers--buoyed by three $2-million-plus yearlings--were up 70% from the second night session's gross in 2000, the average was up 56%, and the median 29%. Buybacks this year were at 24%, down from 26% last year. It follows a pattern of higher prices set at the Keeneland July sale and Fasig-Tipton Kentucky's July sale.
"Looking back six weeks, I wouldn't have, and I don't think anyone else would have imagined the depth and strength in the marketplace," said D.G. Van Clief Jr., chairman of Fasig-Tipton. Van Clief cited a soft economy and a decline in major stock indices that threatened to slow down the relentless growth of bloodstock prices in the late 1990s and in 2000. Van Clief said he believes optimism in the horse industry has overcome the economic gloom that has affected other industries. "The direction the industry is taking is a positive one," he said.
"We've lived through this a long time," added the company's president, Walt Robertson. "The horse market hasn't always paralleled the stock market or the economy. The game's good right now, and we've had some good horses."
Through the first two nights, the company has sold 108 horses for $37,625,000, an average price of $348,380 and a median of $220,000. That compares favorably in all categories to the first two nights from 2000, when 91 had been sold for $23,731,000, $260,780, and $185,000 in the respective categories. Last year's final numbers included a gross of $41,901,000, average of $305,847, and median of $190,000.
In addition to a likely record average price, the sale is on target to deliver an all-time record in gross revenue, established in 1985 when 196 head were sold for $50,760,000. The bloodstock market subsequently plummeted, with the Saratoga sale dropping to as low as $11,951,000 in gross revenue in 1993.
"It's a very solid market at this point," said Robertson. "It's a lot of fun right now."
The session got off to a quick start when the eighth yearling in the ring, a full brother to grade II stakes winner Saudi Poetry sold for $3.3 million. Saudi Poetry sold for $1.7 million to The Thoroughbred Corp. at the same venue in 1998.
John Ferguson, acting on behalf of the Maktoum family's Godolphin Racing, was the winning bidder. Ferguson, standing in the back ring area of the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion, was resolute in his bidding, particularly when it came down to a one-on-one battle with Dr. Robert McMartin, a Canadian veterinarian representing Eugene Melnyk. McMartin was also in the back ring area, only steps away from Ferguson, speaking by telephone with Melnyk.
Ferguson was not surprised by the price he had to pay for the son of Storm Cat out of the Gone West mare Gone to Venus. "He was a nice correct Storm Cat," Ferguson said. "He's a horse that can either go to Europe or race in North America. Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Maktoum will get talk it over later this year and will decide where to send him."
The nearly black colt was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency on behalf of Ed and Patricia Pavlish. If the price holds up as the sale topper, it will mark the fourth consecutive year that Taylor Made has sold the sale's top-priced offering. Saudi Poetry topped the sale in 1998, followed by a $3-million Mr. Prospector colt in 1999, and a $4.2-million Seattle Slew colt in 2000.
Melnyk turned the tables on Ferguson later in the evening Wednesday, when he outbid the Godolphin agent on a Canadian-bred daughter of A.P. Indy out of Larkwhistle, by Silver Deputy, paying $2 million and making her the top-priced filly of the sale thus far. The Canadian native did his bidding in the back ring area, standing next to a tree and trying to shield his bids from Ferguson, who was close by. Melnyk arrived at the sale a short time earlier after bidding on the full brother to Saudi Poetry from his Gulfstream IV aircraft, in which he flew from New York City.
"She was a beautiful individual, fantastically bred," Melnyk said of the A.P. Indy miss. "I'm trying to build a big stable in Canada, and she'll be part of that program. One of the reasons I wanted to buy her is she's a Canadian-bred and can run in the restricted stakes up there. It's fairly easy to get black type with a filly in those kind of races."
The filly's dam was a champion in Canada at two, and this is her second foal. She was bred by the partnership of Rod Ferguson, A.M. Cuddy, and Anderson Farms, and was consigned by Robert Andersond's Anderson Farms as agent.
A third $2-million-plus yearling sold on Wednesday was a Storm Cat colt purchased for $2.4-million by Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation. Weber, seated alongside trainer Bill Mott, outbid B. Wayne Hughes for the colt, who is the second foal produced by the grade III stakes winner Miss Caerleona, by Caerleon. "He has all the tools to be a racehorse," Mott said. "He's got a sire's pedigree. Obviously you wouldn't pay that much money for one if you didn't." He was bred and owned by Stonerside, with Lane's End selling as agent.Complete Results from bloodhorse.comCatalog, Results from Fasig-Tipton