The Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale was a bright spot last year in the struggling Thoroughbred auction business because of significant increases in its key business figures. But the boutique auction, which offers well-conformed horses with fancy pedigrees, couldn’t sustain its growth during its latest edition, which ended a two-night run Aug. 3 in upstate New York (View Results).
While the median price of $250,000 equaled 2009’s comparable figure, which was a sale record, the gross revenue declined 38.3% and the average price fell 15.6% even though Dubai’s big-spending ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, attended the auction for the second year in a row.
The buy-back rate climbed to 28.7% from 21.6% last year. The number of yearlings that brought seven-figure amounts dropped to one from five. And the top price for an individual yearling declined to $1.2 million from $2.8 million.
Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, described the setbacks as predictable.
“We have to accept the fact that there are bound to be adjustments because the American horse racing industry is linked to the economy; therefore, these dips – and obviously these are early days (in the yearling selling season) – are inevitable,” he said. “The one thing I would say, though, is that there were some very, very nice horses here and on the whole, they sold well. But the market is very selective, and I think that’s something we’re just all going to have to accept.”
The number of horses sold this year was 117, a decrease of 26.9% from 2009. The gross was $32,415,000, and the average was $277,051.
“There might have been less activity or a little more constraint at the very top of the market,” said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning. “To get the answer why, you’re truthfully going to have to ask the people who were bidding over a million dollars last year who aren’t participating this year at that level. I think it would be irresponsible for me to speculate if there is a difference in their mindset from last year to this year. That’s a question for them and not for me.”
A robust bay colt by A.P. Indy, which was the first horse offered during the final session, was the $1.2 million sale topper. The yearling is the first foal out of Maryfield (by Elusive Quality ), 2007’s champion female sprinter.
Trainer Todd Pletcher signed the sale ticket for Ben Leon's Besilu Stables.
"I thought he was the complete package," Pletcher said. "Conformationally, he was beautifully formed, and he handled himself well. He was a good-sized first foal with an excellent walk. He checked off all the boxes for what we were looking for. The price was pretty close to what we anticipated."
Mike Moreno's Southern Equine Stables bred the colt in Kentucky. Meg Levy's Bluewater Sales consigned him to the auction.
"I think you're always concerned," said Levy of the yearling's leadoff position. "But all the stars aligned and he brought what the full value is for a horse of his stature. I don't think anybody could be unhappy with that."
Southern Equine purchased Maryfield for $1.25 million at the 2007 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November select mixed sale from Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent.
The Saratoga auction’s second-highest-priced yearling and most expensive filly also was sold during the second session. An elegant chestnut daughter of Distorted Humor , she brought $875,000 from Robert and Lawana Low, with their adviser, Tom McCrocklin signing the sale ticket. Produced from the stakes-winning Turkoman mare Turko’s Turn, the filly is a half sister to 2001 Horse of the Year and stallion Point Given (by Thunder Gulch ). Turko's Turn was the 2001 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year.
“We loved her; she was our favorite horse in the sale,” McCrocklin said. “She’s a beautiful filly and has a beautiful pedigree. Mr. Low has a racing and breeding operation. He’s trying to buy high-quality racing and broodmare stock, and she certainly fits the profile. She’s a half sister to one of the best horses in the last 20 years. We thought she was outstanding. She’s by the right stallion, and she jumped through all the hoops and passed all our tests, so we’re very excited to have her.”
John Sykes’ Woodford Thoroughbreds consigned the colt for Sykes and Tony Ferguson’s Woodford Foals. She was bred in Kentucky in the name of Woodford Thoroughbreds.
“She’s just been a real classy individual since she got here (to the sale),” said Matt Lyons, Woodford Thoroughbreds’ general manager. “She came out and presented herself perfectly the whole time, she walked super, and she really commanded the attention her pedigree deserved. It was a good result.
“The pedigree speaks for itself, but she’s a beautiful filly. You hope to get rewarded when you have one that looks like that, and thankfully we did tonight.”
The results for the final session included a gross of $17,665,000 for the 59 yearlings that sold. The average was $299,407, and the median was $250,000. All were increses from the opening session. The buy-back rate was 29.8%.
“There was more energy and more consistent bidding activity on horses tonight,” Browning said. “It was probably reflective of the feedback we got from our buyers that they thought there were better horses on Tuesday (Aug. 3) than there were on Monday because of just the way the catalog fell. As a result, the sale had a better feel to it.”