Just three years ago, Fasig-Tipton's October yearling sale was on the chopping block. That March, the Lexington auction house announced it would cancel the sale, citing feedback from constituents that the the sale wasn't "viable for consignors, buyers, and lastly for the sales company."
It took less than a month for the company, after even more feedback from perhaps more constituents, to restore the October yearling sale to its auction calendar–a reversal that has since been fully justified by the results. Between 2009 and 2012, the sale's average price has risen by 87%, from $13,949 to $26,127, and its median price has more than doubled, climbing from $6,000 in 2009 to $12,750 last year.
The 2013 October sale, which takes place Oct. 21-23 at Fasig-Tipton's Newtown Paddocks headquarters in Lexington, has a catalog of 1,103 yearlings, 12% thinner than last year's book of 1,254. And the outlook for those young horses appears even brighter than it was last year.
Keeneland's 12-day yearling sale posted across-the-board increases and a record $50,000 median in September, and sellers there reported an often vigorous aftermarket for horses who initially failed to reach their reserves in the auction ring. That was a hint that buyers, facing a still-shrinking supply of yearlings, were beginning to scramble to fill their lists and were finding sellers, some perhaps chastened for overly optimistic reserves, still interested in making a sale.
On the heels of Keeneland's September success, Fasig-Tipton Midlantic's one-day Eastern fall yearling sale continued a general trend of gains, posting its highest average and median prices in a decade. The Barretts October yearling sale saw declines in both average and median, though English auction company Tattersalls saw bullish results at both its upscale October Book One and its more middle-class Book Two segments.
Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning noted that the overall market for yearlings has remained strong, following a buoyant juvenile sale season. And he expects the 2013 Fasig-Tipton October sale to fit buyers' demands.
"The quality of the catalog is (more) outstanding, probably overall than it has ever been, in terms of the some of the quality pedigrees and quality physicals that are coming to the sale," Browning said. "The market has been very strong throughout 2013 in the yearling marketplace, and we certainly expect that trend to continue.
"And our sales graduates have continued to perform extremely well out of this sale, which always gives people hope and encouragement to come back and shop at this sale or to come shop here for the first time."
Browning said the company's initial decision to axe the October sale was partly borne out of the economic turmoil–or, as Browning put it, "significant transformation"–surrounding the global financial crisis. Urged to restore the auction, the company also asked for consignors' support, Browning said.
"We asked the consignors to help support the sale as well, to give us better quality horses to sell," he said. "They responded in kind, and we had some very successful graduates that came out of the sale in that timeframe, too, with back-to-back (Kentucky) Derby winners with Mine That Bird and Big Brown ."
The auction's timing also could benefit sellers with later-maturing yearlings or horses that might have been overlooked in Keeneland's mammoth September catalog. And for buyers still looking for future runners as national supply dwindles and prices increase, October could be a good last stop for the season.
"There has been some movement toward later sales for a large portion of the yearlings to give them some additional time to mature, and that's worked in our favor," Browning said. "But, by and large, it's just indicative of the confidence that people have in this marketplace. It's a viable option if your horse is not going to be ready for a July, August, or September auction, you've got a real, viable option in late October.
"The buyers are comfortable coming here, because the sellers are realistic. It's their kind of last opportunity, as well."
The Fasig-Tipton October sale takes place in Lexington Oct. 21-23, with sessions beginning each day at 10 a.m. EDT.