By every measure, the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale was a resounding success.
“We had high expectations and they were exceeded,” Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning said Oct. 26 in Lexington. “It has been a tremendous horse sale.”
During the auction’s three-day run, the gross revenue grew 81.4% from a year ago, while the average price increased 76.3%. The median price, meanwhile, rose 140%, and the buy-back rate dropped to 19.8% from 29.4% in 2010.
“There was a lot of demand for a wide variety of horses, and the sale obviously was very well-attended,” Browning said. “We even had some international participation, which helps. We had buyers from Korea, Panama, Indonesia, and Japan. And the Canadians were a big influence on this sale again.”
Fasig-Tipton reported final figures that included a gross of $17,046,800 for the 710 yearlings that were sold. The average was $24,010 and the median was $12,000. Last year, 690 horses were sold.
“I think it was a combination of factors, including a reduced supply (with a smaller catalog),” Browning said when asked to explain why business boomed at 2011’s final major yearling auction. “One comment that we heard in our own office was that we were seeing people buying horses at this sale that had not been active as buyers for the last five or 10 years. They weren’t necessarily buying at the very top end, but they were buying in the $15,000 to $50,000 range.
"Maybe the prices have come down to a level where they wanted to participate again. Maybe the world economy has gotten to the point where the level of confidence and the lack of return in other areas are making people want to participate in the horse business again. Maybe some of the positive developments in New York had a little bit of a trickle-down effect. The tax incentive (for horse buyers) has been a significant motivator.”
Said Kentucky-based trainer Kenny McPeek: “The tax break is a huge factor. The government has given people every reason to buy yearlings.”
Because of its late spot on the yearling auction calendar, the Fasig-Tipton fall sale used to be a spot where buyers could sell horses they couldn’t get sold or get ready to sell in time anywhere else. But the auction’s reputation has grown in recent years with such notable graduates as back-to-back Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) winners Big Brown (2008) and Mine That Bird (2009) and 2010 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) winner Dubai Majesty. Big Brown, who also captured the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and Dubai Majesty, won Eclipse Awards. Mine That Bird was a Canadian champion.
“We did more recruiting of buyers and made more trips before this sale than we’ve made in probably forever for this sale,” Browning said. “We knew people were bringing us some good quality horses, and so we wanted to make sure we did our part, too.”
A powerful-looking Medaglia d'Oro colt topped the auction, commanding $380,000 the during final session. The Adena Springs operation of multiple Eclipse Award-winning breeder and owner Frank Stronach purchased the bay Kentucky-bred yearling, with Adena buying team member Mark Roberts fighting off Canada-based trainer Mark Casse in a spirited bidding battle.
Roberts, general manager of Adena Springs South in Florida, made his offers from the balcony of the Fasig-Tipton sale pavilion. Casse, talking on a cell phone, crouched underneath the balcony near the pavilion’s window-filled back wall.
“We just thought he was a really nice colt,” Roberts said. “He’s a half (brother) to grade I winner and has a great, great family. Frank has had some success out of that family before. He just was a big strong colt and we really liked him a lot. He brought maybe a touch higher than what we first thought he would, but it wasn’t much more.”
Produced from the winning Diesis mare Catumbella, the colt is a half brother to Honor in War (by Lord At War), who captured the 2003 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (gr. IT) and was a group II winner in Australia. The yearling also is a half brother to the winner Dynamoor (by Dynaformer), who finished second in the Fort Marcy Stakes (gr. IIIT) and third in the Monmouth Stakes (gr. IIIT) in 2010.
Mill Ridge Farm in Lexington bred the colt in partnership with Audrey “Tolie” Otto of JAMM and the nursery's auction consignment division, Mill Ridge Sales, offered him at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall sale. He was scheduled to be sold at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling auction in August, but didn’t make it to New York for that sale.
“Unfortunately, the day he was scheduled to ship, he came up with some swelling, so we had to scratch him,” said Mill Ridge’s Headley Bell. “Thankfully, Fasig-Tipton and Bayne Welker (the company’s vice president of sales) worked with us, supported us, and gave us confidence that people would be here to support this sale. They did a heck of job. Then two of the top buyers wanted the horse. We were fortunate that it all came together. He brought what he was worth.”
A Smart Strike colt, which also was offered during the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall sale’s third session, brought the auction’s second-most expensive price of $270,000. Casse purchased him but declined to reveal the bay yearling’s new owner.
John and Debby Oxley have been among Casse’s his high-profile clients lately, but, Casse said: “I do buy horses for other people.”
The colt is the second foal out of the winning Green Dancermare Yaqeen. She is a half sister to Grand Courturier (by Grand Lodge), who captured the 2007 and 2008 editions of the Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes (gr. IT), the 2008 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (gr. IT), the 2009 Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT), and the 2006 Prix Derby du Midi in France. Yaqeen also is a half sister to Alainmaar (by Johar ), who scored in this year’s John Doyle Buckhounds Stakes in England.
“How can you not like a Smart Strike?” Casse said. “I thought this was a really pretty colt. He met all my criteria. I thought he had a great neck and shoulder and a strong back.”
Smart Strike, who stands at Will Farish's Lane's End Farm near Versailles, Ky., was North America’s leading sire by progeny earnings in 2007-08.
Shadwell Farm, which is owned by Sheikh Hamdan of Dubai, bred the $270,000 yearling in Kentucky. Bluewater Sales, agent, consigned him to the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall auction.
“He’s a beautiful horse and he is a speedier example of his sire than most,” said Bluewater’s Meg Levy. “He has a big hip and beautiful hind leg. Smart Strikes tend to be longer, taller, leggier sort of versions that look like they’ll take more time.
"This horse looks like he will bring it to the table quicker. It’s great he got with a trainer like Mark Casse because Mark Casse certainly knows how to get speed out of a horse. It looks like he might be a good 2-year-old, and quite a few pinhookers were interested in him.”
Earlier this year, Bluewater was scheduled to offer the colt at the Keeneland September yearling sale, but he was scratched.
“We just thought he might benefit from a little more time,” Levy said. “Shadwell sells horses all over the world and tries to show them in the best condition at the best venue possible.”
A daughter of Medaglia d’Oro brought the third session’s third-highest price of $250,000 and was the day’s most expensive filly. Doug Branham, who owns Hurricane Hills Farm in Central Kentucky, wrote the name of his daughter, Alaka Branham, on the sale ticket.
The president of Colonial Claims Corp., which is involved in the insurance claims adjustment business, Doug Branham attended the auction with McPeek.
Consigned by Baccari Bloodstock, agent, the Kentucky-bred filly is a half sister to the winner Keep Me Informed (by A.P. Indy), who finished third in the 2010 Arts and Letters Stakes at Belmont Park. Their dam, Awesome Humor (by Distorted Humor ), won the 2002 Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) and a trio of grade III events.
Bred by WinStar Farm, the filly was a $190,000 buy-back when offered by Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, at Keeneland in September.
A $260,000 daughter of Arch and the Royal Academy mare Royal Sanction, which was sold in the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall auction’s second session, was the sale’s most expensive filly.