Sale Talk: Looking Back at Saratoga

The Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale, held Aug. 4 and 5 in New York, generated statistics that didn’t change dramatically from a year ago. The average price increased while the median price remained the same.  However, the number of horses sold and the gross revenue declined. Following are what some people had to say about the results and the yearling market in general:

Brian Graves, Gainesway: “I thought it (the market) was really fair, but it’s much of the same. You need a special horse that can jump through all the hoops, and by that, I mean the veterinary scrutiny. It just seems to me as the market tightens up, everybody is just a little more careful. And little things might have meant nothing at all in previous years, mean a little more now. But when you’ve got the special horse that passes the vets, it’s really good.

“I didn’t see a ton of action for horses worth 150,000 and less. I thought those horses were tough (to sell).  I didn’t think there was much of a safety net for anything that was lower end. Everybody’s looking for real quality, and they want it (the veterinary exam) to be extremely clean.”

Bayne Welker, Mill Ridge Sales: “It (the sale) was OK. I think it was better than what everybody expected going in. It’s still an either you have it or you don’t type of market. But based on all the indicators, people have to br pleased.”

Russell Jones, Walnut Green: “In the economic situation like we’re in nationally, for this sale to be as steady as it was, is a very good sign. Even though I realize the buy-back rate was up a little bit, I think it was still better than it was down in Kentucky. I thought the prices were solid.”

Peter Bradley, Kentucky bloodstock agent: “There’s still money for good horses. This group had its stars and its mid-range horses, and what was good to see was that the mid-range horses were selling. If they (the buyers) don’t like them (the horses), it’s still hard to sell them, but the buy-back rate was reasonable in this kind of polarized market.

“If the economy is affecting anybody, it’s the person who buys a $25,000 to $75,000 horse. If you can afford a $250,000 to $500,000 horse, you’re usually fairly recession-proof.

“It was a very solid bunch of horses. I’ve seen years when it’s been deeper on horses. But, having said that, to complain about the quality of horses would be ludicrous in view of how the market was.”

Doug Cauthen, WinStar Farm: “I thought it was a good solid sale. Good horses sold well, and, obviously, there were a number of buybacks, which seems to just be the nature of the sales now. You would like to have a 10% buy-back rate, but that’s just not going to happen. There were a lot of good horses on the grounds and I expected it to be a good sale. Fasig-Tipton did a great job of selecting the horses. There were a bunch of good physicals here.”

Mark Taylor, Taylor Made Sales Agency: “There were some nice buys people made,  but I thought it was a fair sale. Fair, to me, is a nice Fusiachi Pegasus colt bringing $210,000, I thought it was a good buy by Starlight Partners). I appraised the horse at $175,000 to $250,000, so he landed right in the middle. Fair is not on the outer reaches of what a horse could possibly bring, but it’s not a steal either. It’s fair money.”

Terry Finley, West Point Thoroughbreds: “There doesn’t seem to be as much of a buzz. Aside from the Legends Racing group, I didn’t think there was anybody new here. . But even though I’ve been here when there’s been more electricity,  that doesn’t mean it was terrible. I don’t think any of the consignors that I’ve talked to were horrified.  It could have been worse.”

Neil Howard, Gainesway: “We’re basically in the same kind of correction that we were in the (latter half of the) 1980s. Back before then, everything was going gung-ho. Stud fees were good; everybody was making money.  Then everybody got cautious -- that was when the economy got a little bit tight -- and there was a correction. People were able to buy horses for value, which they are able to do now it looks like. Then, after about seven or eight years, it all kind of came back. We got some new people in. They weren’t having to spend a lot of money; value was there; and it all went full circle.

"I don’t think (it’s as severe as it was during the ’80s crash) because we’ve learned to live with that kind of stuff.  I don’t think it feels as bad, but there are going to be some reality checks with the stud fees and the number of mares that are being bred to some of these stallions. It will all work itself out, but the fact is, we need some new players. We also need everything to adjust. Expenses are unbelievable.”

John Stuart, Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services: "I thought it was a pretty good sale. But it was a little weak when you had a really nice horse that could break out to $300,000 or $400,000, and it just seemed to kind of stop at $200,000 or $225,000.”

John Sikura, Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency: “One of the challenges is replacing that exiting capital from the horse business and the great men of the game. There aren’t that many of them and when they leave, by choice or because they reach a certain age, we misse them.  Now, a lot of syndicate groups are raising money and buying a lot of horses when a lot of horses, in the past, used to be bought by Bob Lewis and those types of people. There’s nobody new who has come in to spend $15 million a year to buy yearlings."

D. Wayne Lukas, trainer: “I thought it (the quality of the horses) was a little spotty. Obviously, every year, there are some good individuals, but (as a group), they didn’t blow me away. I’m looking for the fall sale (the Keeneland September yearling auction) to be a very serious sale.”

Robert LaPenta, Whitehorse Stable: “I think the economy will have an impact on the middle and lower end (of the market). There will definitely be an impact because the economy is suffering.”