F-T Saratoga: An Auction Bright Spot Again?

The sale turned in a strong performance in 2009 when the overall market was down.

While the prices plummeted at many other Thoroughbred auctions last year, business boomed at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale. The gross revenue increased 45.6% from 2008 while the average price and median price rose 11.1% and 10%, respectively.

According to Mark Taylor of the Taylor Made Sales Agency, the latest edition of the auction, which is scheduled for Aug. 2 and 3 in upstate New York, could turn in another impressive performance.

“You’ve got a catalog of only about 200 horses, and they’re handpicked, so the physicals should be right,” he said. “You’ve also got a great race meet going on right across the street. It’s a formula that, in this economy and in this market, should create a bright spot.”

During the first major yearling auction of the season, the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July select sale, the declines in the key business figures weren’t as severe as they had been in 2009. The average price was down only 2.5%, and the buy-back rate dropped significantly.

“The July sale didn’t give us an incredible amount of information about how the market is going to be this year,” Taylor said, “but it did instill a little bit of confidence that there’s still a demand there for yearlings. The sky’s not falling, and if you have nice horses, people are going to show up.”

Providing a big boost to the Saratoga auction’s success in 2009 was Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, who attended the sale for the first time in many years. He, his family, and close associates spent more than $18 million for yearlings, and there was evidence that other shoppers outside Sheikh Mohammed’s entourage were acting on his behalf as well.

“In the immediate aftermath of the sale last year,” Taylor said, “there seemed to be a little bit of a backlash from some buyers who felt like they couldn’t compete with Sheikh Mohammed. I think that was just a knee jerk reaction after not getting the horses they wanted in some instances. Fasig-Tipton has really made the effort to get the word out to those people that, hey, that was only one year and only a few horses. You need to get back on board and see what the market has to offer this year. They’ve encouraged the domestic folks to stay tied on.”

John Sikura of Hill ‘n’  Dale Sales Agency is supporting the Saratoga sale with some of his top prospects, including an A.P. Indy filly from the family of this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Super Saver , champion Rhythm, and grade I winner and promising young stallion Bluegrass Cat . But Sikura expects many buyers to still be cautious as the American economy continues to struggle and racing battles a multitude of problems.

“We’ve got a handful of important high end buyers who can buy whatever they like,” he said. “When they find a horse meets all their criteria, I think they are going to bid with gusto. But the people who are looking to buy horses to resell or buy in a certain price range are going to be quite selective and they are going stop at whatever their level is. If they want to give $100,000 for a horse, that’s all they’re going to give.  In years past, they would give $140,000 or $150,000 to be able to say, ‘I bought the horse I liked.’ That’s probably going to happen more infrequently this year.”