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F-T Saratoga Sale Nearly Equal to 2012

Average and gross prices dipped slightly this year but the median increased.

By Ron Mitchell and Frank Angst

Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga selected yearling sale underwent a correction during the Aug. 6 second session, but the two-day sale produced results that company officials said were indicative of a healthy marketplace.

Fasig-Tipton reported 108 yearlings grossed $31,870,000, compared with the $32,000,000 paid for 107 a year ago. The average dipped slightly, from $299,065 in 2012 to $295,093. This year's median of $250,000 was up over the $225,000 number a year ago. There were two seven-figure yearlings this year, compared with three a year ago.

The 29 horses not sold this year represented a buyback rate of 21% compared with 34% a year ago.

Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning Jr. said there was near unanimity among consignors and Fasig-Tipton officials that they were pleased with an auction with such a low RNA rate, an increase in median price, and averages and gross figures about equal to last year.

"We completed a very successful 2013 Saratoga yearling sale," Browning said. "Across the board activity tonight was very, very brisk, with lots of activity. It's been a long, long time since I've been standing here after a Saratoga session with a 17% buyback rate and a 21% buyback rate for the overall sale. Sellers are realistic in setting their reserves and buyers are realistic in valuing their horses. We have a good marketplace right now between buyers and sellers.

"That makes the increase in median even more impressive. To drive the buyback rate down and the median up and have the average stay the same is a very significant combination of factors. It shows a healthy marketplace."

Browning said the bidding pattern at the Saratoga sale represented a departure from the past when two bidders would hook up and drive up the price of an individual horse.

"I think it shows increased activity but we continue to see rationality on the purchasing side of things. People stop bidding. They don't decide that they're going to bid on a horse for whatever it costs.

"We've lived through a period of time where if two people wanted a horse, they might just bid—it seemed like—forever. Now, they might not bid forever but they're certainly willing to bid and go to what they believe are rational limits for a horse."

While the sale had widespread participation from domestic buyers, the active bidding of John Ferguson, agent for Sheikh Mohammed, was missing. Last year, Sheikh Mohammed, through Ferguson, purchased eight yearlings for a total of $3.325 million. This year, Ferguson signed for one $400,000 yearling.

"It's not a shocking trend," Browning said, adding the Dubai ruler had been cutting back on his sale acquisitions in recent years. "This is no longer a sale dominated by one or two people."

During the Aug. 6 session, the 58 horses sold grossed $16,200,000, compared with $18,410,000 for 55 sold the second day in 2012. The second session average fell from $334,727 to $279,310 and the buyback rate was 17%. The second day median of $250,000 was identical to 2012.

Browning said the second session decrease, with no seven-figure horses, was not discouraging since a sale with limited offerings must be evaluated on the overall numbers, not one session.

"That's (no seven-figure sales the second day) the reason the average is down. The market is not down. It would be a misconception to say that the market is down 1%. Anytime you drive your buyback rate down—99% of the time—your average price will probably decrease as well because you're getting more horses sold."

The second session was topped by an Indian Charlie colt from the family of champion Vindication, purchased by Barbara Banke's Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton for $750,000.

"This colt comes from a top family," Banke said. "Best physical in the sale. This horse will eventually go to our training facility in Ocala where we know daily what is going on."

Consigned by John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency, the colt is from the last crop of deceased sire Indian Charlie and was produced from the unraced Storm Cat mare Queenie Cat.

The second-highest price Aug. 6 of $650,000 was paid by Steven W. Young, agent, for a War Front  filly from the Gainesway consignment. Produced from the winning Woodman mare Lerici, the filly was bred in Kentucky by the Lerici Syndicate.

The sale was topped by the $1,225,000 bid from Three Chimneys, agent for Borges Torrealba, for a Dynaformer filly from the consignment of John Stuart's Bluegrass Thoroughbreds on behalf of Brad Kelley during the first session.

Emily Walden conttibuted to this story