Tackling the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, Fasig-Tipton’s Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training suffered some bumps and bruises, but also scored a couple of minor victories March 3 at Calder Race Course. The number of horses sold rose from a year ago while the buy-back rate declined. Meanwhile, the gross revenue fell 25.5% and the average price dropped 31.5%. The median price was down 34.8%.
“It was better than my worst fears, and it wasn’t as good as I had hoped for,” said Boyd Browning, Fasig-Tipton’s president and chief executive officer. “I have never walked into a sale expecting to be satisfied with a decline in the statistical measures like gross, average, and median. We are competitive people; we want to do well. But with what we’ve seen happen in the world since the last time we had a sale in South Florida, our decreases were not as bad as what we’ve seen in most of the other markets outside the Thoroughbred business. Are we happy? No. Is there a small sense of relief? Yes. Does it give us things to build on in the future? Absolutely.”
The 111 juveniles that sold grossed $26,151,000 and averaged $235,595. The median was $150,000. In 2008, the gross for the 102 horses that sold was $35,100,000. The average was $344,118, and the median was $230,000.
The buy-back rate was 35.5% compared to 40.4% in 2008.
Fasig-Tipton officials rolled out the red carpet for buyers and consignors this year, improving the environment at Calder with plush temporary facilities, serving meals on the backstretch, and entertaining sale participants at Gulfstream Park in conjunction with the company’s sponsorship of the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II). They also worked hard to recruit buyers here and abroad, taking care of the travel and hotel expenses for some shoppers.
“I don’t think we can evaluate it based on a single sale,” said Browning of the effort. “But those may have prevented a more significant decline in the average, and they may have been one of the factors in a decreased RNA rate. We feel very good about the efforts that we made and think they were important for what we are trying to accomplish long-term to improve the quality of customer service and attract people to the Thoroughbred game.”
Three horses sold for seven-figure prices, and Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock manager, John Ferguson purchased all of them, outlasting such formidable bidding opponents as the team of Ahmed Zayat and Satish Sanan of Padua Stables, trainer Bob Baffert's new client Kaleem Shah, and Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan, whose clients include wine mogul Jess Jackson. Dubai-based Synergy Investments, which is headed by one of Sheikh Mohammed’s close associates, bought Fasig-Tipton last year.
Cup o’ Joe, a sleek bay Medaglia d'Oro colt, brought the highest price of $1.6 million. Produced from the 18-year-old stakes-winning Bayou Hebert mare Bayou Plans, Cup o' Joe is a half-brother to Forego Handicap (gr. I) winner Midas Eyes (by Touch Gold ), grade III winner Bayou's Lassie (by Outflanker), and stakes winner Bourbon n Blues (by Lycius).
“Obviously, this horse really performed well on the racetrack, just like he had to do to make that kind of money,” Ferguson said. “He’s a brother to a very, very fast horse in Midas Eyes and by an exciting young horse. It’s very hard for the consignors to find 2-year-olds that stand out physically and on pedigree, and then go and do it on the racetrack. This horse, in my mind, was impressive in every department. This is horse we just felt could be very effective next year in the 3-year-old division.”
Ciaran and Amy Dunne’s Wavertree Stables consigned Cup o’ Joe for his breeder, Fred and Jane Brei's Florida-based Jacks or Better Farm. The colt was a $325,000 buyback at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale. He worked an eighth of a mile in :10 3/5 prior to the Fasig-Tipton Florida auction.
“All the credit goes to Fred Brei at Jacks or Better Farm,” Ciaran Dunne said. “Fred bred and raised the horse and started him. We’ve only had him for the last little bit. We got him about 30 days ago, and we just managed to stay out of his way the best we could. He’s always been a nice horse. He’s a big, rangy, two turn horse with a beautiful way of going.”
Ferguson’s other seven-figure acquisitions were gray or roan sons of Unbridled's Song that went for $1.1 million and $1 million. Sheikh Mohammed won the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) last year with Midshipman, a champion son of Unbridled’s Song that was sidelined recently by an injury.
The $1.1-million colt is named Cornerstone.
“He's a really good, strong colt,” said Ferguson of Cornerstone. “He showed himself on the racetrack really well.”
Cornerstone is the first foal out of the 7-year-old High Yield mare Amazing Buy, who scored in the Pennsylvania Oaks and the Busher, Busanda, and Wide Country Stakes in 2005. Consigned by Mike and Britt Mulligan’s Leprechaun Racing, agent, Cornerstone worked an eighth of a mile in :10 2/5 prior to the Fasig-Tipton Florida auction. Jay Rogers purchased the colt for $275,000 at the 2008 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale.
The $1-million Unbridled’s Song colt is out of the 9-year-old winning Woodman mare Rubywood, who is a half-sister champion Rubiano and stakes winner Tap Your Heels, who is the dam of the grade I winner and successful young sire Tapit .
Scanlon Training Center consigned the $1-million Unbridled's Song colt for Robert LaPenta, whose Whitehorse Stables purchased him for $450,000 at last year’s Keeneland September yearling sale. The colt worked an eighth in :10 3/5 seconds, and Ferguson said he was impressed by the 2-year-old’s fluid movement.
Fasig-Tipton included the results of private sales that were completed and reported to its office before the sale ended in its final statistics. According the auction firm, nine 2-year-olds were sold privately.