It's a good time to own a horse from the Empire State. That's what everyone is saying heading into the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred Yearling Sale in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Aug. 11-12.
An auction that saw tremendous gains last year, the New York-bred sale has been bolstered by a vastly-improved purse structure in the state that came with an influx of funding from the long-awaited video lottery terminal casino at Aqueduct Racetrack at the beginning of 2012.
Lucrative financial rewards from the New York Breeding and Development Fund also have breeders, owners, and stallion owners investing back into the game, and Fasig-Tipton officials anticipate the overall upswing will carry into this sale.
"We're very optimistic about the upcoming New York-bred sale," said Fasig-Tipton president and CEO Boyd Browning. "We've received a tremendous amount of interest before the sale and we're seeing lots of new faces because of the increasing demand for New York-breds."
When the grounds at the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion open for previewing Aug. 10 at 7 a.m. EDT., bloodstock agents and prospective buyers will peruse a catalog that continues to grow. There are 260 yearlings consigned this season compared to 216 in 2011 and 175 in 2010.
"Last year's sale had dramatic increases from 2010 and we expect some of that bounce to be reflected in the 2012 results," Browning said.
In 2011, supply and demand brought a sparkling upswing to the two-day sale, with number of horses sold and gross price rising a respective 31.9% and 83%. The average advanced 38.7% and the median was up 16.7%, while the buy-back rate declined to 32.2% from 33.8% in 2010.
"For people who are buying New York-breds, the biggest incentive is earning potential," said Jeffrey Cannizzo, executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders. "A New York-bred has a whole unique set of conditions available; it can run through state-bred conditions and come back and run in open company for the exact same conditions. It's a double-layered purse structure, so there's double earning potential for someone buying an average-priced New York-bred horse."
Purses at Aqueduct were up 36% for the 2012 winter/spring meet, while stakes purses alone at Belmont Park and Saratoga rose a respective 26% and 27% this year.
"When tracks like Saratoga are setting national records for purse structure it opens a lot of people's eyes and they want to be here," Cannizzo said. "People that have operations in states where they're struggling see the current purse structure here that's double some other states. From the owners' and trainers' perspectives, the opportunity to make money greatly increases with a New York-bred."
Joe McMahon of the Saratoga Springs-based McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds said he has consigned a wide variety of New York-bred yearlings by national and state sires for this year's auction.
"We've got a great assortment. We've got a Not For Love, a Leroidesanimaux, a City Zip, an Afleet Alex, two by Songandaprayer; a great assortment of horses by different stallions including some by New York sires like Utopia and Catienus."
Those who have attended the New York-bred sale several years in a row noted the presence of new faces, including retired California-based trainer Greg Gilchrist, who conditioned champion sprinter Lost in the Fog. Several buyers who came for the Select Sale at the beginning of the week remained to view and bid on horses in this group.
"The biggest change we're going to see is that people who historically left after the select sale are staying the full week for the New York-bred sale to see what's being offered," Cannizzo said. "There's a great catalog and a lot of the horses in this weekend's sale are very commercial."
"This sale started to get a lot more national attendance last year; we had a lot of prominent stables show up that weren't there before," said Mike McMahon, Joe McMahon's son, who runs McMahon and Hill Bloodstock as well as Bourbon Lane Racing Stable in partnership with Jamie Hill. "People really want to get involved in New York-breds, even just New York racing in general, because as a business, it's feasible to run here. Parternships are very active and stables are very active."
McMahon is very familiar with the New York-bred program; he was instrumental in the Saratoga Springs foaling of 2003 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) winner Funny Cide at his parents' farm. McMahon Thoroughbreds consigned the chestnut son of Distorted Humor at the 2001 New York-bred sale.
"The quality is getting better and better each year," said the younger McMahon. "Last year, before things were even really moving along here in the state, this sale was showing real signs of progress. With the momentum and how big purses are right now, I think these horses are going to sell very well."
Session one of the New York-bred Yearling Sale begins Aug. 11 at 6:30 p.m. EDT in the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion.