On a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 600 points, the opening session of Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga select yearling auction showed surprising strength in upstate New York Aug. 8.
With a big summer evening buying push by Sheikh Mohammed helping to boost business and some enthusiastic American buyers playing supporting roles, the gross revenue increased 9.5% from last year while the average price and median price rose 29.6% and 25.3%, respectively. In addition, the buy-back rate was down, falling to 24.6% from 27.5% in 2010.
“I think it would be the understatement of the past probably five years of my professional career or maybe the last 10 years to say we are pleased with the results tonight,” said a relieved Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning after the session ended only hours after the plunging stock market closed. “In light of the adversity that we’ve all seen in the world’s financial markets of late, I think it (the session’s performance) demonstrates the resiliency of the participants in the Thoroughbred industry, their eternal sense of optimism, and their desire to have the very best horses in the world. But we would not have had the sale like we had tonight if we hadn’t been supported with outstanding horses. The reason the sale was so successful tonight was that the men and women who own them and the men and women who sell them entrusted us with their high quality horses.”
The session’s final figures included a gross of $16,155,000 and average of $329,694 for the 49 horses that were sold. The median price was $285,000. The gross was especially impressive, considering that nine more yearlings were sold during 2010’s first session.
Sheikh Mohammed, shopping through his bloodstock manager John Ferguson, paid $4,125,000 for six yearlings, all by sires that stand at the Dubai ruler’s Darley operation in Kentucky. Sheikh Mohammed’s expenditures accounted for 25.5% of the session’s gross, and there was evidence that he might have purchased horses through others, as buyers such as trainers Mark Johnston and John Gosden and Tom Goff of Blandford Bloodstock spent a lot of time with the big spender’s entourage.
“Obviously, Sheikh Mohammed was a significant participant in the marketplace and he was a major buyer,” Browning said. “But it wasn’t a one-man sale tonight. There were a lot of other significant and familiar faces that have been long-time supporters of not only Fasig-Tipton and this marketplace, but of racing and sales in North America. It’s refreshing and reassuring to see them step up and continue to seek the highest quality racing prospects in the world.”
Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation was active and so were other prominent players in the domestic Thoroughbred business such as Centennial Farms, John Fort, Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm, Robert LaPenta, and Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables.
Superfection, a half brother to 2010 Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Super Saver (by Maria’s Mon), was the most expensive horse sold during the opening session, bringing $1.2 million from Ferguson. Produced from the winning 16-year-old A.P. Indy mare Supercharger, the grand chestnut son of Medaglia d'Oro also is a half brother to grade III winner Brethren (by Distorted Humor ). Kenny Troutt’s WinStar Farm bred Superfection in Kentucky.
“I’ve said it before, but it’s incredibly difficult to breed a horse that looks like that,” Ferguson declared. “Obviously, the mare has produced a Kentucky Derby winner. But not only that, we also have (gr. I winner) Girolamo (by A.P. Indy), who is one of our most exciting future stallion prospects at Jonabell (Darley’s American base). He’s in the pedigree; it’s a fantastic family.
“Sheikh Mohammed loved the horse (Superfection) the moment he saw him,” Ferguson continued. “They (WinStar) sent the mare to Medaglia d’Oro and he’s had an outstanding start, so it’s the combination of a great stallion and a breeder being brave enough to send a fantastic mare to Medaglia d’Oro at a time no one was sure (how good a sire he would be). All credit and well done to them. I think they got a very good price for a lovely horse.”
Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, consigned Superfection, whose other family members include champion Rhythm and grade I winner Bluegrass Cat .
“He’s just an outstanding athlete, who showed himself off time and again,” said Ferguson of Superfection. “He marched up and down the shed row without a care in the world.”
The second and final session of the Saratoga sale is scheduled for Aug. 9, beginning at 7 p.m. (EDT).
Sheikh Mohammed and Ferguson stood behind the sale pavilion during the bidding and soon after it ended, they were joined by Troutt and WinStar’s CEO, president, and racing manager Elliott Walden, who offered their congratulations and thanks.
“We loved this colt from day one; it’s a beautiful thing when a plan comes together,” Walden said. “Obviously, there is a little bit of mixed emotions about selling him, but John and Sheikh Mohammed have been very supportive of our program every year and I hope he wins the Derby for them.
“We were pleased with the price,” Walden added. “I think this horse was potentially the best horse that’s going to go to the market this year. I wouldn’t say John got a good buy as far the price goes, but in years past, it would have been a whole lot more. I think he got good value for the top of the market,and I think he recognizes that.”
Ireland-based bloodstock agent John McCormack purchased the session’s second-highest-priced yearling and most expensive filly, a $950,000 daughter of Bernardini . McCormack declined to reveal who would own the bay yearling, but said he was representing “an established client.” The filly, he added, will remain in this country to race.
John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency, agent, consigned the filly, which was bred in Kentucky by SF Bloodstock. She is the first foal out of 2007 Santa Maria Handicap (gr. I) winner Sugar Shake, an 8-year-old daughter of Awesome Again .
"I am very pleased right now,” said Taylor Made’s Mark Taylor as the session neared its end. “If we can keep up the roll we’re on right now, I’ll be doing cartwheels. The elite horses with really, really good physicals and some pedigree are going to be able to still come through for us even though things look like doom and gloom. Our business is about people wanting to win the big races and if you’ve got those special, special horses, then most likely there are going to be people there for them. That’s the recipe for survival.”