Cautiously Optimistic at FT Midlantic

If two words could sum up the thoughts of the consignors and sale company officials on the eve of the 2008 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall yearling sale, those words could be 'cautiously optimistic.' The sale kicks off its three-day run Sept. 29 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, Md., with sessions beginning at 10 a.m.

The caution comes from the results of the year’s previous yearling sales and the current state of the world’s financial market. The optimism comes from the belief that good horses will bring good money despite market conditions.

“I don’t think we are going to be a break out market that has been different than the rest of the yearling sales this year, particularly when you compare us to the open sales,” said Mason Grasty of Fasig-Tipton Midlantic. “It is tough to compare us to Fasig-Tipton July, Saratoga, or the first few days of Keeneland September because they are entirely different markets. You have to compare us to other open sales, and by judging by the number and quality of people I see, I think we will hold our own."

“If I had an ordinary horse I might be a little afraid,” Grasty continued. “If I had an exceptional horse, I would not be at all afraid. There are enough people who buy on the top end of their market here looking that if we have the top horses, they will buy them.”

The Midlantic sale offers buyers the opportunity to choose horses with potential to earn breeders incentive money on top of purse earnings. Many of the horses consigned to the sale are eligible for the Maryland Million sire program or were bred in Pennsylvania or New York, where breeders incentive programs are thriving.

At the close of the 2007 sale, Fasig-Tipton reported 574 horses sold for $13,331,400, a decrease in gross of 8.6% from 2006 when 658 lots realized $14,580,700. The median dropped 13% to $10,000 from $11,500 and the average was $23,226, an increase of 4.8% (from $22,159) and fell just 1.5% short of the record average of $23,577 established in 2005.

The number of horses not sold last year totaled 193 or 25.2% of the 767 hips that went through the ring. The number of horses not sold decreased 6.4% over the previous year’s figure of 31.6% for the 304 horses that did not sell.

“I kind of expected coming up here that the sale would be a little bit lighter overall, so I was trying to lessen my expectations before we ever came up,” said Kentucky-based Bayne Welker of Welker Sales Agency, which sold the 2007 Midlantic sale’s top-priced horse, a $325,000 daughter of Stormy Atlantic . “I think as we did at Keeneland, if you want to move your horses, you adjust to where the market is and go along. If you want to go up and try to appraise and see what the market says they are worth and try to press your reserve against the market, you have to be prepared to take them to the next step, either take them to a 2-year-old sale or race them. Everybody has had to readjust their expectations. You just try to move on and get through the market correction. "

Like Welker, Francis Vanlangendonck of Florida-based Summerfield, doesn’t expect to see fireworks, but he also doesn’t expect a disaster.

“I think it is going to be like the other sales. OBS was down a certain percentage, and I didn’t think Keeneland  was a horrible sale by any stretch of the imagination. There was correction, but you were able to get your horses sold,” he said. “I was worried about coming to this sale, but the number of buyers who have been here has been good. The lower end is going to be hurt, but the medium to upper-level horses are going to sell just fine. You just have to factor in the market correction.”

Maryland-based Bob Manfuso of Chanceland Farm said he was apprehensive coming into the sale, but feels the Midlantic market can easily produce and sell solid horses in the $40,000 to $60,000 range.

“I think what is happening in the financial world at the moment has an impact on buyers mindsets, but good horses are available. I am cautiously optimistic that it is going to be a solid sale.”