Bayne Welker, Fasig-Tipton's vice president of sales

Bayne Welker, Fasig-Tipton's vice president of sales

Anne M. Eberhardt

Conformation Is King at F-T July Sale

Good-looking horses, even if they don't have the best pedigrees, shine.

The Fasig-Tipton July select sale is where a well-conformed yearling that might not have the very best pedigree can shine. The auction, which is scheduled for July 10 in Lexington, provides "a quality market for the $75,000 to $150,000 horse," said Bayne Welker, Fasig-Tipton's vice president of sales.

Most of the yearlings with the fanciest pedigrees won't be offered until Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga select sale or until the select portion of the Keeneland September select sale. But if you're looking for a horse that is attractive physically, you'll probably find plenty of choices at the July auction.

"You've got Bill Graves (Fasig-Tipton's vice president of recruiting and selections) and the rest of his team, which have as good a set of eyes as anyone in the horse industry," said Bret Jones of Airdrie Stud. "When you've got those guys hand-picking individuals, you know there are going to be some top class racehorses that come out of there."

Tommy Eastham, sales director for Darby Dan Farm, believes a yearling needs to have certain physical qualities to do well at the Fasig-Tipton July sale.

"Most critical, of course, is it needs to be a nice-looking horse," he said. "But secondly, it has to have a strong top line. The buyers at that sale are really attuned to that. They also want a strong hind leg, but they're more forgiving on the front ends, generally. The sale is also very particular on vetting and you've got to have a horse that has a clean vet exam."

Archie St. George, of St. George Sales, likes to send yearlings to the Fasig-Tipton July sale that are among the fastest developers physically in their crop.

"You want the big, kind of forward physicals that look like they are going to be precocious racehorses, but might be a touch light on pedigree," he said. "Pinhookers buy at that sale and there are also a lot of end users. You want to take the top physical there that will meet their standards."

Guiness McFadden, sales director for Three Chimneys Farm, expressed opinions similar to those of Eastham and St. George.

"You want an early maturing horse that doesn't have any holes," he said. "It's really got to be almost perfect conformationally with a good walk and clean vetting. I think you just have to bring an athlete there, really. I focus more on the physical than the pedigree. But if a horse has a good pedigree (in addition to good conformation), it's going to do extremely well. When you have a horse that you think might be in one of the latter books in the September sale and you know is very physically mature early, I like to take that kind of horse to July."

Kitty Taylor of Warrendale Sales agreed that how a horse looks physically is important, but added that a yearling doesn't need to be especially big to command a hefty price at the Fasig-Tipton July auction. She also believes that horses by first-crop stallions aren't nearly as popular there as they used to be. Such yearlings previously were featured in a new sire showcase at the July sale, but Fasig-Tipton officials discontinued grouping them together in 2011.

"To have a good sale with a horse, it needs to be by a proven sire," she said. "It used to be that people said a horse had to be big and it had to be precocious, but they've kind of gotten away from that now. It's more important to be by a good, proven sire and to have a good, correct physical (appearance). Hopefully, the horse also will have a little bit of pedigree. You can do well with a horse like that there."

Recent graduates of the Fasig-Tipton July auction include 2010 champion 3-year-old filly Blind Luck and 2011 Canadian Horse of the Year Never Retreat, along with such standout runners as The Factor  and Flat Out .