The barns were busy at Fasig-Tipton’s Newtown Paddocks complex in Lexington July 11, two days before the start of the Kentucky select sale, which is the yearling selling season’s first major auction.
“There’s great traffic coming through here,” said Barbara Vanlangendonck of the Summerfield sales agency. “People are looking and then coming back again with their short lists. We’re seeing end users as well as pinhookers.”
According to Kerry Cauthen of Four Star Sales, prospective buyers seem to be shopping with greater confidence than they did in 2009, when a severe domestic recession and a global financial crisis caused the prices of yearlings and other Thoroughbreds to plummet.
“There is a lot more stability in the world at this point, and some of the volatility has gone out of the Thoroughbred market; people don’t expect to buy a horse for $100,000 and then come back to Kentucky two months later and be able to buy the same type of horse for $50,000,” Cauthen said. “Everybody is dealing with the new reality, absorbing it, and moving forward, and the pinhookers and end users who are here are serious about looking for a horse to buy. They’re not thinking, ‘I’m just going through the motions;’ they’re here to get after it.”
But in the “new reality” of the Thoroughbred marketplace, prices for yearlings aren’t expected to soar because many shoppers have a budget and plan to stick to it, especially the pinhookers, who need to keep their expenses low enough to be able to make money when they resell their stock as 2-year-olds.
“We just try to find the nicer horses and buy them if we can,” said pinhooker Eddie Woods. “But there was just one seven-figure horse sold at our (juvenile) sales this year, so you have to be sensible.”
For commercial breeders, it probably will be another tough year because the 2008 stud fees that were paid to produce this year’s yearling crop were set before the auction business took a nosedive, which means the costs to produce young horses were high.
“By nature, I’m cautiously optimtistic,” said Lane’s End’s Bill Farish. “But from the sellers’ standpoint, I’m sure the pain isn’t over.”
Fasig-Tipton cataloged 407 yearlings for the July auction. As of July 11, 31 had been scratched, according to a list posted on the sale company’s Web site (www.fasigtipton.com). There will be two sessions, July 13 and 14, and each will begin at 11 a.m. (EDT). On the opening day, most of the yearlings that will be offered are members of their sires’ first crops.
“We’ve had very good feedback from potential buyers about the quality of the horses, and our consignors have generally been pleased with the level of activity,” said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning. “We think that it’s going to be a solid sale. The success of the graduates of this sale continues to be tremendous; we had another grade I winner yesterday (July 10), E Z's Gentleman. We saw some signs of stability and recovery in the 2-year-old market in 2010. And we’ve also done a lot of leg work and talking with (bloodstock) agents, owners, and trainers. We feel like there is a high level of interest.”
After renovating its sale pavilion and building new office building, Fasig-Tipton also has continued to make improvements to its Kentucky facilities. The most recent effort involved redesigning its old office building and converting a portion of it into a business center with computers, fax and scanning equipment, and four conference rooms where buyers and consignors can meet. The repository, where horses’ medical records are kept, also has been upgraded and relocated to the old office building.