Joseph DiOrio

F-T Florida Sale: Optimism Is in the Air

New site and fast workout times have people excited about 2-year-olds.

Scanlon Training Center’s barn at the Palm Meadows Training Center was busier than a freeway at rush hour March 1. Two days before the Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training, consignor David Scanlon and his staff were having trouble keeping up with the requests of prospective buyers and they constantly were pulling horses from their stalls just before noon.

“I had probably had 10 shows going there at one time, which is the largest consecutive string I think I’ve ever had at a 2-year-old sale,” Scanlon said later. “I feel an enthusiasm that I haven’t felt in years past.”

The Fasig-Tipton auction, which is the world’s fanciest juvenile sale, will be conducted for the first time at Palm Meadows near Boynton Beach (which is north of Miami on the East Coast), and both consignors and buyers have given the new site overwhelmingly positive reviews. An under tack show that produced some lightning fast times Feb. 28 also helped raise just about everybody’s spirits.

“I think there is an air of optimism around; there is a lot less doom and gloom,” said consignor Nick de Meric. “The American economy is better and people feel like the world is not going to fall into a hole. In addition, there are encouraging developments in racing with New York hopefully preparing to undergo a bit of a renaissance and South Florida seeming to have hammered out an agreement on racing dates. There are number of reasons why this sale could be good and we’re going to do everything we can to make it be that way.”

Because the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. February auction won’t be held this year, the Fasig-Tipton sale holds the lead-off spot in the select juvenile auction line-up,  and according to consignor Niall Brennan, a good effort is important “to build momentum and give people confidence.”

Last year, the auction’s average price of $257,473 and median price of $200,000 represented increases of 9.3% and 33.3%, respectively, from 2009. But the gross revenue dropped 10.4% to $23,430,000 while the buy-back rate rose to 37.2% from 35.5%.

“The impression I get so far is that it’s going to be a strong domestic market, which is great,” Brennan said. “We’ve been encouraged by the amount of showing that we’ve done after training every day. Prior to the breeze show, we were quite busy and it was wonderful seeing so many trainers standing up along the rail of the track every day with catalogs in their hands. You heard them shouting out, ‘Who was that? What hip number just went by?’ They couldn’t help but be interested; horses were catching their eyes.”

Top trainers such as Hall of Famer Nick Zito and Todd Pletcher have runners stabled at Palm Meadows, which is affiliated with Gulfstream Park. Many juvenile sellers believe they have a better chance of finding buyers for their stock because the best conditioners had multiple chances to view firsthand the young horses during morning training hours without having to make any special efforts.

Other reasons given by consignors for liking Palm Meadows were the peaceful environment and the well-maintained track and stable area. The auction's former site was Calder Casino & Race Course, where, according to some sellers, it was more difficult to keep 2-year-olds sound.

“There is no question that our horses are more relaxed and happier,” de Meric said. “They’re eating better, they’re resting better, and they’re looking better.”

The mood also was upbeat among Fasig-Tipton officials, according to the company’s president, Boyd Browning.

“We’re very encouraged by all the indications we’ve seen so far,” he said. “There has been an extreme amount of activity on the grounds both before and after the breeze show, and we’ve got a strong catalog because consignors have given us top horses in terms of both conformation and pedigree. It’s all positive.”

Jeffrey Seder, the founder and CEO of the Pennsylvania-based consulting firm EQB, was looking forward to the auction and expected to be shopping hard.

“Our clients are more bullish this year; they’ve got real buyers’ fever,” he said. “They want to take advantage of a market that has been lower in recent years and they think they can buy more horses for their money. We’re going to be busy all spring and we’ll probably spend more money than we’ve ever spent at the sales.”

Mike Akers of Kentucky-based Dapple Bloodstock predicted the Fasig-Tipton auction would get the juvenile selling season off to a solid start.

“We’ve bounced off the bottom and I think we’ll see the market tick up 5% or so,” he said. “People seem to be more comfortable with the overall economy, and that’s positive because they need to feel good about their other investments before they buy luxury items like horses.”

Selling is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. (EST) March 3 at Palm Meadows.

There are 240 juveniles in the auction’s catalog, and they are by such successful sires as A.P. Indy, Malibu Moon , Medaglia d'Oro , Tapit , and Unbridled's Song. As of March 1, 46 horses had been scratched based on information posted on Fasig-Tipton’s web site (