Fasig-Tipton's annual Saratoga yearling auction ended with plenty of fireworks Thursday night: a Seattle Slew colt whose $4.2 million hammer price was the second-highest in the sale's history; a filly by Hennessy selling for $1.8 million, the highest filly price since the high-flying 1980s; and a final session average of almost $400,000. Those numbers contributed to all-time highs for the sale company in gross and average price, and gave Fasig-Tipton its eighth consecutive year of solid growth.
For the night, 46 yearlings sold for $18,170,000, an average of $395,000 and median of $195,000, all substantially higher from the corresponding session in 1999, when 47 sold for $11,925,000, an average of $253,723 and median of $170,000. The record totals from all three nights are as follows: 137 sold for $41,901,000, a 7.6% increase in revenue from the record $38,957,000 set last year; average of $305,847, up 15.8% from the record average of $261,456 set last year; median of $190,000, identical to the record median of 1999. Buybacks were down, with just 36 of 173 offered, or 20.8%, not finding a buyer, compared with 25.9% last year. Fasig-Tipton chairman D. G. Van Clief Jr. and president Walt Robertson both credited the selection team, headed by Bill Graves, for much of the sale's success. "Tonight's sale is indicative of the success of Fasig-Tipton's selection process," Van Clief said. "We brought the right horses for the right niche, and you can see where the demand is." Said Robertson: "I've got to think this is an impressive sale to recruit off of. This has got to give a consignor some comfort to bring a top horse here."
The demand was fueled by several key buyers, including Californian David Shimmon, who outbid a representative of the Ahmad Salman Thoroughbred Corp. to purchase the $4.2 million Seattle Slew colt, the first foal out of grade III winner Omi, a 7-year-old by Wild Again. Shimmon, seated alongside his trainer, Bob Hess, will race the colt in partnership with Bill Bianco, who founded the technology company, Kinetics, that Shimmon now heads. The company, based in Saratoga, Calif., is a $1-billion business with more than 7,000 employees. Kentucky-based Taylor Made Farm sold the Florida-bred colt on behalf of Donald Dizney's Double Diamond Farm, which purchased Omi from Three Chimneys Farm (where both Seattle Slew and Wild Again have stood at stud) for $75,000 at the 1994 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale. Taylor Made has sold the Saratoga sale topper each of the last three years. "This was a special Slew, as good as one gets," said Duncan Taylor. "We knew the interest was pretty strong. A lot of the right people wanted the horse." The all-time Saratoga record is $4.6 million, set in 1984 on a colt by Northern Dancer out of the Stage Door Johnny mare Bubbling.
Eugene Melnyk, making telephone bids to agent Dan Kenny, purchased the $1.8 million sale-topping Hennessy filly, the first foal out of the stakes winning Pleasant Colony filly Mary McGlinchy. D. Wayne Lukas was the underbidder on the filly sold by Dinwiddie Farm. The filly record at Saratoga is $2.7 million for an Alydar filly out of Priceless Fame, by Irish Castle, sold in 1985. A third million-dollar plus yearling sold on Thursday (making five for the sale overall), a colt by Unbridled's Song out of Michele Royale, by Groovy, was purchased by Shimmon for $1.4 million.
Shimmon, who became active in Thoroughbred racing just two years ago, was the sale's leading buyer, with five purchases overall for $6,785,000. Lisa Troutt, wife of WinStar Farm co-owner Ken Troutt, purchased seven yearlings for $2,265,000 to rank second. Taylor Made was leading consignor and Seattle Slew was the sale's leading sire by average, with three selling for an average of $1,641,667.