F-T's Future: Bigger and Better

Fasig-Tipton will pay the nomination and entry fees for the horses sold at its recent Saratoga select yearling auction that are pointed to any of the six graded stakes for juveniles at Saratoga in 2009. It’s just one of what could be many initiatives as the company attempts to reinvent itself.

“Hopefully, that’s just a baby step,” Fasig-Tipton executive Boyd Browning said of the incentive program, which was announced prior to the sale held Aug. 4-5 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Browning vowed Fasig-Tipton would make other efforts in the future to increase the quality of the horses in the Saratoga auction, which enjoyed increases in average and median prices but suffered a downturn in gross revenue.

“We still need more elite pedigrees to attract more competitive bidding at the very top end,” Browning said. “We’re going to try to be creative; we’re going to try to be innovative; and we’re going to be more customer-friendly to the buyers and more user-friendly to the sellers. What exactly will be on our menu of options, I don’t know. But I can almost guarantee you that I won’t be sitting here 12 months from now and saying, ‘I wish we could have tried a little harder.’ ”

Fasig-Tipton would like to have more horses in the Saratoga auction, said Browning, who is the company’s chief operating officer and executive vice president. This year, 195 yearlings were cataloged.
“We’re not going to say the sale is going to be 50% bigger next year, but we would like to have 200-and-some horses,” he said.

Earlier this year, Fasig-Tipton was sold to Dubai-based Synergy Investments, which is headed by Abdulla Al Habbai, a close associate of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed.

“I think Abdulla Al Habbai was interested in Fasig-Tipton because, obviously, Dubai has a great interest in horse racing generally, and he felt that buying Fasig-Tipton would make a contribution to the industry that is going to help everybody,” said Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock manager John Ferguson.

There has been speculation in the wake of Synergy’s purchase of Fasig-Tipton that Sheikh Mohammed might shop less or not at all at Keeneland. “We’ll still buy at Keeneland, and we’ll still sell at Keeneland,” Ferguson said.