Whatever happens in the Fasig-Tipton July select yearling sale, it might not be an indication about where the overall market for young horses is headed this year.
The auction, which will be held Monday and Tuesday in Lexington, has 582 horses in its catalog, up from 477 last year. When the supply goes up, often the average price decreases as it did at Fasig-Tipton in 2005, when 679 horses, an all-time high for the July sale, were in the book. The median price and gross also dropped that year even though the general market for yearlings was upbeat. With a smaller catalog in 2006, the average and median rebounded, rising to sale record levels.
Another reason why the results of the July sale could be difficult to interpret is that it offers a new sire show case, so the auction has large number of yearlings by young stallions in its catalog, according to consignor John Stuart of Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services.
"I don't really think you’re going to be able to look at the results of this sale and tell what the market is like because this sale is unique," he said. "What if the first year sires (with progeny in the auction) aren't as good (in terms of pedigree and race performance) as last year's first year sires? What if they don't stand for as much? If the prices are down, does that always mean the market is bad? My sense is that it probably doesn't. I think you can't really say what is going on in the market until the Keeneland September yearling sale."
Heading into the July auction, which marks the start of the yearling selling season in Kentucky, Fasig-Tipton officials are optimistic, according to Boyd Browning, the company's chief operating officer and executive vice president. The sale will be conducted in a newly renovated sale pavilion, the result of a multi-million-dollar project.
"We're ready to get kicked off," Browning said. "Like a football team, we've been practicing and scrimmaging, and now we’re ready to get started. (As a sale official), you’re always optimistic. To participate in this game, you have to be an optimistic person, I believe. We think we've got a good group of horses, and we had another grade I winner (from sale graduates) this past weekend (July 7-8) in Panty Raid. The horses that have come out of this sale run well; it's got a great reputation; and I think the market is going to be good."
One the downside for Fasig-Tipton, yearling-to-juvenile pinhookers, who make up an important part of the buying force at the July sale, didn't do as well financially in 2007 at sales of 2-year-olds in training as they did the previous year.
"I think probably some of the pinhookers are going to be backing off a little bit," said New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace, who buys for both for end users and pinhookers. "They could be not as aggressive as they have in the past. But it seems like we say that every year, and people still come out swinging. I don't think they'll pay the premium for the average horse, and I think that's happened in the past."
Browning expressed confidence that the buying participation of pinhookers would be solid.
"The sellers of 2-year-olds need to buy good physical yearlings," he said. "That's what's worked for them in the past, and we have an emphasis in this sale on athletic, strong, and mature horses that are the type of horses that pinhookers have enjoyed a high level of success with. I think pinhookers are going to be active and try to buy a lot of these horses."
The July auction begins each day at 10 a.m. (EDT).