As the first horse entered the ring for the final session of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale Thursday evening, the power went out. Auxiliary generators quickly restored the blacked-out conditions to the sales pavilion, but it was four big-priced horses in the ring as the evening progressed that knocked the lights out of all previous sale records for gross and average.
Strong thunderstorms moving through the area did little to dampen the overflowing enthusiasm of buyers that heartily spent $24,787,000 for 54 horses on the third and final session of the sale.
The numbers for the final session: 54 horses sold for $24,787,000, a 36% increase over last year's $18,170,000; the average was $459,019, a 16% increase over last year's $395,000; the median of $250,000 was a 28% increase over $195,000 a year ago; buy-backs were 18%, compared to last year's 19%.
The power interruption to the start of the third session had to be the sale's only glitch. The third and final session lifted the sale to un-chartered territory for Fasig-Tipton Saratoga. A record $62,412,000 was spent on the three-day sale, easily eclipsing the $50,760,000 mark set in heady days of the market in 1985. The 162 horses sold this year averaged $385,259, a 26% increase over last year's record average of $305,847. Last year's gross was $41,901,000 for 137 head sold. Median for this year's sale was $235,000, a 24% increase over last year's $190,000.
"It was 10 years ago on this very night that the industry said that this sale and this company were on life support," said D.G. Van Clief, chairmain of Fasig-Tipton. "It's been a long road, but a steady road to get to where we are. I've been coming to Saratoga for a long time and I can tell you I've never seen as strong a yearling sale as I've seen the last three days."
"Every single number was impressive," said Walt Robertson, president of Fasig-Tipton. "We had the horses. After we looked at the horses and looked at who else is looking, I would have been disappointed if we weren't up big."
The bidding the final evening was broad and spirited at the upper end of the market. Including the four million-dollar yearlings in the final session, this year's sale produced nine million-dollar yearlings. Last year, five yearlings brought seven-figure prices.
A pair of $3-million colts topped the session, followed by a $2.15 million son of Seattle Slew and two other colts that brought bids of $1.7 and $1.6 million.
Hip no. 193 was the first of two colts fetching $3 million bids. The colt was finally purchased by Demi O'Byrne after a long, and protracted bidding duel. A bay colt by Kingmambo, hip no. 193 is out of the Seattle Slew mare Seattle Way. His second dam is champion Waya. The bidding began slowly, taking some time to reach the million-dollar mark. It then moved quickly in $100,000 increments past the $2 million level as O'Byrne battled with bloodstock agent John Ferguson for the colt. The price hung at $2.8 million for a few moments before O'Byrne delivered the knockout bid at $3 million. Auctioneer Terence Collier joked the colt set a record for being in the ring the longest time at a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale.
O'Byrne said the colt will race in Europe for Michael Tabor and John Magnier and be trained by Aidan O'Brien. O'Byrne also said he thought the colt would be in the $2-3 million range.
The colt was consigned by Derry Meeting Farm, agent.
Hip no. 215, the only son from the last crop of Mr. Prospector in the sale, also brought a bid of $3 million. Trainer Bob Baffert made the winning bid by telephone. Underbidder on the colt was Nadia Sanan, who was on a telephone with her father, Satish Sanan, owner of Padua Stables. The dam, a winning daughter of Storm Bird, is a full sister to group winner Stonehatch. Reached by phone after the sale, Baffert would not disclose for whom he bought the colt. The colt was consigned by Eaton Sales, agent.
The applause barely had time to subside on the first $3-million colt before the next hip, a son of Grand Slam, brought a final bid of $1.7 million from Eugene Melnyk. Out of an unraced daughter of Deputy Minister, the bay colt is a half-brother to British stakes winner Bahamian Pirate. Underbidder on the colt was trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who was sitting next to owner David Shimmon.
"I'm not sure whether he'll race in the States or Canada," Melynk said after signing the ticket. "He's a beautiful horse. He's a stallion."
Melnyk, who was the sale's second leading buyer, purchasing six yearlings for $5,960,000, quipped, "The rain didn't scare many people off. I came down here looking for bargains."
Eleven hips into the session after power was restored to the pavilion, a colt by Saint Ballado brought a bid of $1.6 million, also by Baffert by phone for an undisclosed client. The colt is the first foal out of the stakes-winning Gone West mare Pulsatilla, coming from a Darby Dan Farm family that includes champion Soaring Softly and Plenty of Grace.
Leading the way at the sale in terms of purchases were Sanan's Padua Stables, which purchased 14 head for $6,320,000. Padua Stables were followed by Melnyk, and Bob Baffert, who as agent bought four horses for $5,200,000. John Ferguson Bloodstock bought six head for $4,975,000 and Demi O'Byrne's lone purchase at $3 million made him the fifth largest buyer in terms of gross.
Both Kingmambo and Mr. Prospector only had one sold yearling and both posted $3 million bids. Among those sires that had three or more yearlings sold, Storm Cat led the way with an average of $1,687,500 for his four yearlings sold, followed by Seattle Slew, with an average of $801,667 for six sold, and A.P. Indy, who had six of his yearlings sold for an average of $720,833.
Despite selling a pair of $3-million colts during the final session, the sale topper was a Storm Cat colt that sold during the second session for $3.3 million. Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, the full brother to graded stakes winner Saudi Poetry was purchased by John Ferguson Bloodstock.Complete Results from bloodhorse.comCatalog, Results from Fasig-Tipton