John Ferguson evaluates a prospect.

John Ferguson evaluates a prospect.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Ferguson Dominates Opening Session of Saratoga Sale

Agent John Ferguson, representing Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, dominated the first session of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale, which saw double-digit drops in average and median prices.

Agent John Ferguson, representing Sheikh Mohammed, dominated the first session of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale Aug. 6, which saw double-digit drops in average and median prices.

With only one $330,000 purchase from the Coolmore group that generally provides the stiffest competition to Sheikh Mohammed’s buying power, Ferguson was by far the night’s leading buyer.

Ferguson bought five yearlings for a total of $3,657,000, which was 18.5% of the session gross of $19,867,000.

Fasig-Tipton reported the 76 horses sold averaged $261,408, down 16.5% from the session average of $313,167 last year, when 60 horses grossed $18,790,000. The session median fell 18.6% to $207,500, compared with $255,000 for the 2006 first session. One bright spot was that the 21 horses that did not sell represented an RNA rate of 22%, compared with 25% last year, when 20 went unsold.

"Basically, do we want to be up every year? Yes, but I thought it was a pretty solid horse sale straight across the board, and a high percentage of (the yearlings) found new homes," said Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson.  He noted that since the results were consistent with other auctions this year, he was not surprised at the outcome.

Robertson attributed the decline to a minimal number of buyers at the top of the market and to some degree the lack of bidding wars between Sheikh Mohammed and Coolmore.

“When you get up to top there are fewer players, and we’ve got the same players,” Robertson said. “You never know when those two (Coolmore and Sheikh Mohammed) are going to hook up.”

Topping the session at $1.05 million was an Unbridled's Song colt produced from the champion mare Riboletta, who was an accomplished runner in her native Brazil before coming to North America.

"He's a horse by a talented, proven sire out of a champion," Ferguson said. "One has to accept the fact that the South American mares' pedigrees have really stepped up in the last few years and have given some real stamina to the breed. . . . He's not too heavy, and he has a good way about him. He's balanced, with a good head, and just generally the package was good."

Ferguson said the colt’s breeding was better suited to American racing than the European circuit. “Being by Unbridled's Song, obviously, (the stallion) has got more of a record on the main track than he would have on the grass," he said.

Taylor Made Sales Agency consigned the colt for Aaron U. Jones and Marie Jones, who raced Riboletta in the U.S.

Taylor Made’s Mark Taylor said colt has the potential to be among the best horses sired by Unbridled’s Song, who is represented by 49 black type winners from eight crops of racing age.

“He was a big, beautiful colt,” Taylor said. “This horse was perfectly balanced, even though he was a big colt. And he has a great mind.”

The session's second-highest price of $875,000 was paid by B. Wayne Hughes for a Distorted Humor  colt consigned by John Stuart's Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services on behalf of Mueller Farms.

"To me, he was the fastest-looking horse in the sale, and I looked at almost all of them," Stuart said. "It was clear that he was one of (the best). And he has a good mind. (He's) a classy horse. He got scoped 11 times, and that's the most I've ever had one scoped."

Ferguson purchased two colts for $800,000 each in quick succession. The first, a Distorted Humor colt consigned by Derry Meeting Farm, was produced from the Storm Bird mare Just a Bird, a daughter of grade II winner Ratings and a half-sister of stakes winners Smart Growth and Recording. The colt was bred in Pennsylvania by George Strawbridge.

Ferguson said Derry Meeting Farm’s reputation for breeding racehorses was a factor in the purchase.

“They bred a number of great horses off the place,” Ferguson said.

Although Sheikh Mohammed does not decide until later in the year which yearling acquisitions remain in the U.S. and which are sent to Europe, Ferguson said the colt would likely be sent overseas.

"I think, at this stage, he's a horse that could go either way (remain in this country or go to Europe),” the agent said. “My bet is when Sheikh Mohammed sees him in September, he'll want him to go to Europe; (the colt) has just got a lovely action."

Sheikh Mohammed’s agent also paid $800,000 for a Vindication colt produced from the Gone West mare Dance Swiftly. Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, the colt benefited from a significant development Aug. 5, when West Coast Swing, a daughter of second dam Dance Swiftly, set a new track record at Arlington Park. The colt was bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm.

Ferguson’s other purchase was an A. P. Indy colt from the Eaton Sales consignment for $750,000. Bred by the Swettenham Stud and Ben Sangster, the colt is out of the winning Deputy Minister mare Private Opinion.

An Unbridled’s Song—Mycatcandance colt consigned by Dromoland Farm was purchased by William S. Farish for $700,000. Dromoland’s Gerry Dilger said the colt has a “stallion’s pedigree.” Bred by Castleton Lyons, the colt was produced from a stakes-winning full sister to grade I winner Consolidator.