Regardless of the amount of money leading buyer Sheikh Mohammed spends at this year's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of yearlings, both consignors and buyers expect plenty of interest.
Sheikh Mohammed spent less money on yearlings at last year's Saratoga sale following three years of especially strong buying. In the three years after Dubai-based Synergy Investments, headed by Abdulla Al Habbai, purchased Fasig-Tipton Co. in 2008, Sheikh Mohammed, through agent John Ferguson, purchased 39 yearlings for $26.825 million at the Saratoga sale.
During the three-year run, he spent an average of $8.94 million at each edition of the Saratoga select sale.
Last year, Sheikh Mohammed left after the first day of the sale and, through Ferguson, purchased eight yearlings for a total of $3.325 million. That purchasing level matched 2008 when Sheikh Mohammed landed six yearlings for $3.325 million. That 2008 sale came just months after Fasig-Tipton was purchased by Synergy Investments.
While plans could change, this year Sheikh Mohammed is expected to not attend the sale although Ferguson has arrived and has been busy looking at yearlings.
If Sheikh Mohammed's buying level is similar to last year, consignors are confident there will still be plenty of interest. As a start, they point to last year's Saratoga sale, which posted a 1.2% increase in gross to $33.3 million, although average did decline 11.6% to $282,203. This year, North American 2-year-old sales were strong and numbers were up at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale.
Kerry Cauthen, of consignor Four Star Sales, said that on the second day of last year's Saratoga sale new buyers stepped up. He said he always welcomes Sheikh Mohammed's participation but noted that he is such a big player that sometimes other buyers may lose enthusiasm.
"What I think happens, and I think it's an unfortunate thing because I'm delighted to have him anytime he's interested, is people think they're going to be wasting their time," Cauthen said.
Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm went to $700,000 last year to land a Bernardini colt who has since been named The Sandman. Porter does not expect Sheikh Mohammed to be as active this year as he was in the sales from 2009-2011. He expects plenty of competition though as other buyers fill any void.
"It's pretty intimidating when he's on a horse you like. It got very frustrating up there for a couple years," Porter said. "It seemed every horse I was on he would buy."
Porter added that he understands bidding against the world's top owners is all part of the auction process.
"Whenever you're up against the big players, you just have to hope that on the horses you really like that the big players aren't there," Porter said. "Or, you just have to move onto your other horses."