With a bullish juvenile sale market on the move, Fasig-Tipton enters its annual Florida sale of select 2-year-olds in training March 24 at Adena Springs South near Williston, Fla.
Following a 2013 season of gains, the select sales market has continued its uptrend through the first two auctions this year.
The Barretts March 2-year-old sale and the OBS selected sale of 2-year-olds in training both showed spikes in gross, average, and median prices, signaling that demand for juveniles in training at public auction has momentum and market strength.
"It's always more encouraging to sell in an optimistic world full of life and activity than selling in a depressed market," said Boyd Browning, president of Fasig-Tipton, "and we're certainly not playing in a depressed market."
Following a well-attended breeze show March 21 and solid traffic from prospective buyers on the grounds since, Fasig-Tipton sale officials have plenty of reason for optimism on the eve of this year's auction.
"We had a terrific breeze show," Browning said. "There's been a lot of activity in the barns, and we're very optimistic. We're pleased with everything we've heard. We've received a lot of positive feedback about the quality of horses in the catalog. All signs are positive."
Held in recent years at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, the sale has been relocated to Frank Stronach's Adena Springs South this year to accommodate horses entered in the auction. The move was necessitated by the complexion of the South Florida racing scene with both Calder Casino & Race Course and Gulfstream Park running simultaneously.
"This is a lovely facility," said Browning of Adena Springs South. "It's a great place for horses and a good environment. It's calm, safe, and from a horse sale perspective, it's very efficient and well laid out. It makes it easy to work."
Consignors echoed Browning's thoughts on the facility.
"We've very happy here," said Alfredo Lichoa of Northwest Stud. "The horses love it. They have been relaxed and calm the entire time."
Ciaran Dunne of Wavertree Stables said, "The track surface was kind and fair, and our horses came back really well. The setting is wonderful for the horses, and the barns are big and airy."
"The facility is as good as you can get," added Dean De Renzo. "It's quiet, and the racetrack felt good."
"The peaceful setting here is like being at home for our horses," noted Niall Brennan.
A total of 157 horses were cataloged for the sale. With 40 hip numbers listed as out of the sale as of press time, there are 117 juveniles slated to go through the ring.
Forty-six juveniles sold at last year's Florida sale for total receipts of $17,725,000, down 7.8% from total sales of $19,215,000 on 60 head sold the previous year. Last year's average price escalated 20.3% to $385,326 from $320,250 in 2012. Thirty-two horses failed to sell in the ring last year compared to 24 in 2012.
Two horses sold for seven figures at last year's auction, including the $1.6-million sale topper, a Bernardini colt consigned by Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds. Steven Young, agent, signed the ticket for Robert LaPenta.
"We've been fortunate that we have landed on these types of horses and are able to purchase them as yearlings," said De Renzo. "We turn over every stone at the yearling sales and Randy (Hartley) and I are prepared to spend to get them. The harder we work the luckier we get."
The second-most expensive 2-year-old sold at public auction in 2013, last year's sale-topping colt, now named Sassicaia, finished second in a maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park March 8 for trainer Chad Brown.
Hartley/De Renzo appears to have another well-stocked consignment this year. Among the outfit's leading prospects is Hip No. 83, a half-brother to multiple Eclipse Award champion and back-to-back Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I) winner Royal Delta.
By Distorted Humor —Delta Princess, by A.P. Indy, the colt worked a co-bullet eighth of a mile in :09 4/5 at the breeze show.
"He's an amazing horse," said De Renzo of the $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale graduate. "He has done everything you would expect from a horse with a pedigree like that. Everyone here on the sales grounds has been introduced to his quality. He's by far one of the best horses in the sale."
The most expensive pinhook in the sale resides in the barn of Wavertree Stables. Hip No. 75, a filly by Smart Strike—Clay's Rocket, by American Chance, sold to John Greathouse for $775,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale. Denali Stud sold the filly at Keeneland as agent for Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings.
"She has a huge female family and she's by a pre-eminent sire," said Dunne of the half sister to stakes winners Laurie's Rocket, who was multiple graded-placed, and Greeley's Rocket. "She couldn't have done any better on the racetrack."
Northwest Stud, fresh off selling a $1.6-million co-sale topper at OBS, returns with another strong consignment. Among the standouts is Hip No. 134, a gray or roan colt by Unbridled's Song--Miss Cort'n, by A.P. Indy, named Cort'n Asong.
"I've never seen a horse that resembles Unbridled's Song as much as this colt," said Lichoa of the youngster who breezed an eighth in :10 1/5 at the under tack preview. "He's going to be a very good horse."
Donald Dizney's Double Diamond Farm returns to the 2-year-olds in training sales marketplace as a consignor for the first time in 18 years with three horses, including Hip No. 8, a half brother to First Dude by first-crop sire Blame .
Winner of the 2011 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) in Double Diamond's colors, First Dude earned $1,442,140 in a stellar racing career. He finished second in the 2010 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and third in that year's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) for trainer Bob Baffert.
"We're trying to sell some good, quality horses," said Roger Brand, vice president and general manager of Double Diamond Farm. "We're excited.
"The Blame colt is a really good horse. He's always acted very professionally and has an easy-going attitude. He's been popular."
Produced from the stakes-placed Smart Strike mare Run Sarah Run, the colt, also a half to stakes winner Via Veneto, worked an eighth in :10 at the under-tack preview.
Buyer confidence in sales is often powered by accomplishments of graduates on the racetrack, and the Florida sale is not short on impact runners. Recent graduates include Union Rags , Graydar , Joyful Victory, Stay Thirsty , Dance Card and Zensational, just to name a few.
"A sale like this one is all about performance and pedigree, and the upper end of the market is good right now," said Brennan. "There is great demand for quality.
"The reality is that it's tough to attract middle market buyers," he added. "We know you have to be careful with what you bring over here. It's the nature of select sales. Without quantity, it's hard to attract a depth of buyers in all budget ranges."
With a thriving juvenile sale market and two strong select auctions in the books, Browning expects more of the same in the third select sale of the season.
"There's interest and enthusiasm for quality horses," said Browning, "and we're confident it will continue."
The sale begins at noon oand will be streamed live at bloodhorse.com/fasigtipton.