When an auction's catalog increases in size, it's not unusual for the average price to decrease, which was the case during last month's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July select yearling auction. Fasig Tipton's Saratoga select yearling sale, scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, also has a bigger catalog. But that might be a good thing for business at the Upstate New York auction.
"I think it definitely helps," said Craig Bandoroff of Denali Stud. "Hopefully, some people will say, 'I'll get on an airplane and go' because there will be more horses for them to look at."
With Keeneland's July auction on ice, the Saratoga sale is the only remaining summer boutique yearling auction. Its number of horses is relatively small compared to other auctions, and the pedigrees are some of the fanciest around.
Two years ago, there were only 153 yearlings in the Saratoga catalog following a disappointing performance in 2004, and some people thought the sale was in danger of becoming so small that important buyers might pass it by. Then the average and median price rebounded, helping to attract 180 horses to the sale in 2006. This year there are 214 yearlings after last year's auction generated a record Saratoga median.
"The sale has been good for the last couple of years, and I don't have any reason to think that it's not going to be good this year," Bandoroff said. "I really came into this year looking for some kind of correction. I think we will see it, but, so far, it's business as usual. The good horses that people want will do fine."
Because of the Saratoga sale's relatively small catalog, one or two big prices can have a significant effect on the auction's performance. Last year, when the auction lacked a blockbuster colt, a filly was the sale topper at $1.6 million. This year, Boyd Browning, Fasig-Tipton's chief operating officer and executive vice president, said the sale has "some top-end physical colts with top-end pedigrees." If those horses break loose, it could help pump up Saratoga's average and gross revenue.
But Kitty Taylor of Warrendale Sales will be happy if prices hold their own.
"Hopefully, the market will be where it was last year because it seemed pretty solid to me," she said. "I don't think it will be up because the stock market's not that great right now. There's also a surplus of animals, and people know it. The 2-year-old sellers (yearling-to-juvenile pinhookers) have been very voval about pulling back and being more realistic, and I think they're kind of waiting for September (the Keeneland sale) more so than they have in the past."
The Saratoga auction's Monday start this year is one day earlier than usual, and Taylor likes the change.
"It's a 24/7 world today," she said. "Between family and business, everybody's busy. Because of the constraints, when people go out of town to sell horses, they want to get back to Lexington (as quickly as possible) to a large extent. They enjoy the atmosphere and racing, but they've got their September (sale) horses to worry about (if they are consignors). It's crunch time."
The Saratoga auction starts each evening at 7 (EDT).