A Street Cry colt topped the first session, bringing $800,000.

A Street Cry colt topped the first session, bringing $800,000.

Skip Dickstein

Saratoga Slip: Sale Average Declines 13.8%

Gross plunges 47.3% while buy-back rate rises to 35%.

“I think tonight reality has set back in,” said consignor Mark Toothaker of Legacy Bloodstock after the average price declined 13.8% and the gross plunged 47.3% from a year ago during the opening session of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale Aug. 2 in upstate New York. The buy-back rate rose to 35% from 19.8% in 2009.

It was a disappointing start to an auction that had bucked the prevailing negative trends in 2009 and posted significant increases. No horses commanded seven-figure prices during the sale’s first evening in the newly renovated sale pavilion compared to four last year. The one bright spot was the median price, which increased 8.7%.

“We’re in a very, very tough market, there’s no doubt, and this is what we’re going to have to deal with until things change economically,” Toothaker said. “The problem is that nobody has got any money. Financing is impossible to get right now, and everybody has got a ceiling on what they’re willing to spend.”

The 52 yearlings that sold, down 38.8% from the 85 that sold in 2009, grossed $14,120,000. The average was $271,538 and the median was $250,000.

“I don’t think we were surprised,” said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning of the results. “But I think we were hopeful that it might not be workmanlike, and it was workmanlike tonight. There isn’t a whole lot of electricity in the world we live in right now and that includes the auction business.”

Added Fasig-Tipton chairman Walt Robertson, “There was a kind of wait-and-see attitude.”

A handsome Street Cry colt, by the same sire as the sensational undefeated champion Zenyatta, topped the session, bringing $800,000. Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock manager, John Ferguson purchased the dark bay or brown yearling.

“He’s a very athletic horse and he’s been a good horse throughout the year,” said Ferguson, whose buying team frequently inspects yearlings at the farms where they are being raised and watches them develop. “He’s by a sire that has done great things, and he’s a very smart colt.”

Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, consigned the yearling, which was bred in Kentucky by Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt’s WinStar Farm. The colt is out of the unraced A.P. Indy mare Don’t Tacha Me, who is a half sister to European champion One Cool Cat (by Storm Cat).

Street Cry stands at Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley operation in Lexington. Dubai’s ruler bred the grade I winner and campaigned him in the name of Godolphin Racing.

Ferguson spent $3,155,000 for eight yearlings. During last year’s first session, he paid $5.5 million for six head. Sheikh Mohammed is attending the Saratoga sale for the second year in a row.

“Thank goodness he’s here,” Toothaker said. “If he wasn’t here, we would all be looking to climb up on the new pavilion and jump off.”

A $775,000 daughter of Street Cry was the highest-priced filly and the second-most-expensive yearling sold overall. Helen K. Groves, who signed the sale ticket, said she bred the bay yearling in partnership and was buying out the ownership interests of her daughters and co-breeders, Helen Alexander and Dorothy (D.D.) Alexander Matz, in the filly.

“I owned a little piece of her and my daughters owned bigger pieces,” Groves said. “I thought she was worth $1 million, and they didn’t think so. I didn’t want to sell her, so I’m afraid I bought her. That’s probably a dumb thing to do, but I’m 82 going on 83, I’m still here, and how many more fillies like her am I going to hope to get to the races? I can’t ride cutting horses anymore, and I can’t touch a horse and can’t go inside the sale pavilion because I’m allergic (to horses) and it gives me asthma, but I can watch the races.”

Consigned by Eaton Sales, agent, the Kentucky-bred filly is out of the winning A.P. Indy mare Alchemist, who finished third in the 2003 Anne Arundel Stakes (gr. III) and is a full sister to 2008 Turnback the Alarm Handicap (gr. III) winner Altesse. The yearling is a half sister to the winners Atwitter and Burj Dubai, both by Distorted Humor . Burj Dubai finished second in this year's S.W. Randall Plate Handicap in Canada.

“The nicer horses, if they sold, it went pretty good,” said New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace. “But people didn’t seem to want to go that extra $50,000 or $100,000 (when they were bidding).”

According to Browning and Robertson, the yearlings in the Saratoga auction’s second and final session Aug. 3 are a more commercially appealing group overall than the first session horses.

“We anticipate the sale being stronger tomorrow,” Browning said. “Whether it’s sufficiently strong enough to recoup the decrease in average, I don’t know. We’ll see.”