Nervous Optimism at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky

Auction starts yearling sale season July 15 in Lexington with 258 select youngsters.

With anticipation building for the first yearling sale of the season at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July, the pleasant 70-degree weather July 13 in Lexington provided comfort to the nervous energy surrounding the July 15 sale.

Consignor Rosilyn Polan noted that if this year's sale had been scheduled a week earlier, everyone would have battled "about six inches of rain." And plenty of buyers and consignors alike recalled sweltering heat and humidity last year trying the patience of all involved. But this year the most pleasant of days greeted potential buyers walking the grounds.

Perhaps the good feelings will carry into the sale's ring after last year's event registered a 16.3% increase in average price to $81,291 and a 15.1% spike in gross to $15,364,000. The performance in the average category would prove bellwether. The 2012 yearling sales saw a 13.3% increase in average price, although gross at those sales would finish up just 2.9%.

While no one quite wanted to shout it out in the days leading up to this year's sale, plenty expressed quiet confidence in the slimmer and sleeker Thoroughbred industry that has regained its footing the past two years. The estimated North American foal crop for this year's yearlings is 24,700, down 3.1% from the 2011 estimate. That number would make it the smallest foal crop since 1971.

Those reduced numbers figure to continue to impact yearling sales. Fasig-Tipton has cataloged 258 selected yearlings for the July auction, following last year's sale where 189 yearlings sold and 283 were offered. But those reductions in numbers have forced breeders to emphasize quality, creating opportunities for buyers.

"The theme for July is right time, right horse, right result; and our yearlings continue to support those claims," said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning. "Racing performance is the ultimate measurement of a sale and data from The Blood-Horse's MarketWatch shows grads from July lead all North American auctions in several major performance categories."

From 2007-09 Fasig Tipton July ranked second in percentage of horses to earn more than $50,000 racing and in average earnings at $57,867.

Reiley McDonald, of Eaton Sales, said the reduced numbers may prove advantageous for sellers.

"Five years ago this sale had the reputation as a pinhooker's sale, but we're seeing more end-users buying horses here," McDonald said. "Typically, buyers are looking for horses who are more physically developed at this sale."

Pat Costello, managing officer of Paramount Sales, believes momentum could carry over from this year's 2-year-old sales, which saw increases in average at every single sale.

"I think all of the 2-year-old boys, most of them, made money. They're standing again. And racing is as good as it's been for a while as well," Costello said. "Then you have the shortage of horses on the track. So to me, anyway, it all leads to what I think will be a very positive year."

Fasig-Tipton vice president of sales Bayne Welker Jr. said the July sale will continue its tradition of offering physically developed horses.

"The one thing the July sale does offer is an early, more precocious horse," Welker said. "These horses have been selected by a very good selection staff, so wherever they want to go following that, they usually don't have any problem. If it's a select (2-year-old) sale, they're pretty much guaranteed they're going to get in, and they're guaranteed they're going to be a pretty good individual even if you have to sell later in the year."

Sales graduates on this year's catalog cover promote the diversity of the sale in recent years. High-profile females such as two-time grade I winners Lady of Shamrock and Include Me Out along with multiple graded stakes winner Summer Applause share the stage with proven older males such as two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (gr. I) winner Flat Out  and grade I-winning sprinter Camp Victory. The cover also includes grade II winners Bourbon Courage  and Vyjack.

Last year's Fasig-Tipton July leading sire by average was Malibu Moon , who saw five horses sell for an average price of $211,000. At $141,250, Colonel John finished second by average and topped the list of first-year sires. In this year's catalog, Malibu Moon—fresh off 3-year-old son Orb  winning the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I)—has three colts and three fillies cataloged, while Colonel John has two colts and four fillies.

Taylor Made Sales Agency has consigned a Malibu Moon colt out of the Storm Cat mare Sweet and Savory, who is a full sister to Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner Sweet Catomine and Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) winner Life Is Sweet.

New sire Blame , who saw 13 weanlings sell at public auction last year for an average price of $128,718, will have one horse offered. The 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner and champion older male is the sire of a filly named Seeking Paradise, who is out of the Stormy Atlantic  mare Eden's Storm.

Stuart Morris, director of sales for Mike Akers' Dapple Stud, said Seeking Paradise had garnered a lot of interest from potential buyers in the days leading up to the sale.

"We're really excited about her future. Hopefully she can sell well and get to a good home and go on out and help that good pedigree get even better," Morris said. "I think those Claiborne freshman sires are very special because there's only so many mares bred over there. When you get a nice one by one of their sires, you end up with some exclusivity by default because there are only so many.

"We feel very fortunate to have her and (breeder Helen Andrews) is a great lady. She's been a top client for Mike for 25 years now—she's like a family member for us—and we hope we can do some good for her."

The other two new sires who saw weanling averages reach six figures are Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner and champion 2-year-old and 3-year-old male Lookin At Lucky , who has a filly out of the Tactical Advantage mare Happybirthdaygirl; and multiple grade I winner and track-record setter Quality Road , who has six yearlings cataloged.

Other new sires include juvenile season grade II winners Desert Party  and Kantharos , grade I-winning sprinter Discreetly Mine, Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) winner Eskendereya, grade II winner Hold Me Back, Arkansas Derby (gr. I) winner Line of David, grade I winner Majesticperfection , champion 2-year-old male and Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner Midshipman , multiple grade II-winning sprinter Munnings , champion 3-year-old male and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Summer Bird, Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver , multiple grade II winner Tizdejavu, grade I winner Warrior's Reward , and multiple grade I-winning sprinter Zensational.