By Michael Compton
Move aside college hoops. The Thoroughbred industry has experienced its own run of March Madness this month with the 2-year-olds in training sales thriving in a booming juvenile market. On the eve of the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale at Palm Meadows on Monday, March 25, in Boynton Beach, Fla., auction officials and consignors, alike, would be delighted for more of the same.
"We feel real good based on how the horses performed at the breeze show and judging by the traffic we're seeing at the barns," said Dan Pride, Fasig-Tipton's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "We're cautiously optimistic heading into the sale."
The season's first two juvenile auctions, the Barretts March sale and Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s select sale, both showed sharp increases across the board. Average price at the Barretts sale rose 31.1% from the previous year and also witnessed gains in median and gross. The OBS sale set March records in both average and median prices and the $1.8 million sale topper was the sale's first million-dollar horse since 2006, equaling the sale's previous record high.
Following a well-attended breeze show March 22 and busy barns the following day, Fasig-Tipton's Florida Sale seeks to follow suit. The sale has a rich history of producing top runners and boasts such graduates as Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Union Rags , this year's Donn Handicap (gr. I) winner Graydar , as well as additional grade I winners Stay Thirsty , Dance Card, and Eden's Moon.
The sale is also represented by recent graded stakes winners Honorable Dillon , winner of the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park in February; More Chocolate, winner of the La Canada Stakes (gr. II) and most recently second in the Santa Margarita Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park to fellow sale graduate Joyful Victory; and Kauai Katie, who annexed both the Forward Gal Stakes (gr. II) and the Old Hat Stakes (gr. III) this year at Gulfstream.
"It's the success of our graduates that drive our 2-year-old sales," Pride said. "We're confident this group will add to that list."
A total of 136 head have been cataloged for this year's venue, and consignors are confident they've brought the right horses to keep the momentum rolling in the select market.
"It looks like more of the same to me," said consignor Eddie Woods who has 11 head cataloged. "I am seeing the same players and they all are landing in the same spots.
"I believe the buyers would like to have more product here, but it is the buyers who have created the situation we're in where you have to bring the product to this sale."
Consignor Bobby Dodd says the combination of limited supply with plenty of willing buyers is responsible for the strong start to the juvenile season.
"I think it's going to be another good horse sale," Dodd said. "It seems everyone wants to buy a racehorse and there are not a lot of them to buy."
Steven Venosa of SGV Thoroughbreds sold horses at Barretts and OBS this year, and he is encouraged by the amount of traffic in the barns and the feedback he has received from potential buyers.
"We tested the waters at Barretts and had a nice sale there," Venosa said. "The market is strong right now. With fewer horses to go around, I see the trend continuing here. People are comfortable buying horses. The buyers I've spoken with are really pleased with the quality of horses in this sale."
Nick de Meric of de Meric Sales added, "We could take more of the same. The 2-year-old sales have started on a positive note. The supply and demand factor is creeping into buyers' thinking right now and that has played a big part in the early sales results."
Last year's Florida Sale grossed more than $19.2 million on 60 head sold and was responsible for 30.8% of the select market, according to Blood-Horse statistics. Topping last year's sale and all select sales in 2012 was a $1.3 million Big Brown colt consigned by Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree Stables and purchased by bloodstock agent Demi O'Byrne for the partnership of John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith. All told, three juveniles sold for seven figures at last year's sale.
Dunne's Wavertree Stables appears to have another strong consignment this year, including two runners--Hip Nos. 102, a colt by Exchange Rate , and 103, a Lemon Drop Kid colt--that worked co-bullet eighths in :10 at the under tack preview.
"I'm excited about the horses we've brought here," Dunne said following Friday's breeze show. "I'm looking forward to leading them over there. If you look at every horse in this catalog you'll see it is a good, strong sale."
The sale is set to begin at noon on Monday. Watch it live at: BloodHorse.com/fasigtipton.