The 'Big Mo' Is Rolling for Saratoga Select Yearling Auction

There's a lot of momentum going into the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling auction, which starts its two-night run Tuesday in upstate New York. Prices, in general, in the Thoroughbred marketplace have been strong, and Fasig-Tipton's Kentucky July select yearling auction turned in a record-setting performance.

"It sure feels good based on the horses that we've looked at and the feedback that we've gotten from the buyers," said Boyd Browning, Fasig-Tipton's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "I really do think we'll have a very vibrant sale."

The Saratoga auction suffered setbacks in its gross revenue, average price, and median price in 2004. But in 2005, the sale rebounded after Fasig-Tipton officials cut its length from three nights to two and offered fewer yearlings. This year the catalogue is larger, with 180 horses listed. As of Monday afternoon, nine had been scratched, including a Storm Cat -- Beckys Shirt colt. But even with the loss of that top prospect, Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson, director of yearling sales Bill Graves, and the company's other executives remained confident.

"As far as the individuals are concerned, Walt and I sat down yesterday and talked about them," Graves said. "We counted up the number of horses that we felt were on the special side, and we certainly got a higher number than we had for the last two or three years. A lot of these horses are fillies, but they're really good fillies."

Florida pinhooker Randy Hartley agreed with Graves' assessment of the auction's quality.

"I just think the sale is going to be strong," he said. "There's a nice group of horses here, and I see plenty of money here. It means I'll probably be going home the same way I came here, with no horses. The top end is going to be huge. There's a lot of fillies with a lot of pedigree. That's going to be the kicker. They're going to bring a lot because of their broodmare residual value."

Selling begins each night at 7:30 (EDT).

"I have to be confident in this marketplace, coming off our July yearling sale," Graves said. "I thought there was a fantastic market in Kentucky, and I thought there was great enthusiasm for most of the horses. There are less numbers here and it's very select, so I've got to be very optimistic."

Following are other comments heard around the Saratoga sale grounds:

Pat Costello, Paramount Sales: "It's looking like Saratoga as normal. I'm hoping it will be a great sale. There are lovely horses here. July was a great sale, and I think it will just continue on."

Buzz Chace, New Jersey bloodstock agent: "From the buyers' standpoint, there's a lot of nice individuals. There's a lot of people here with money to buy horses, so I don't think you are going to see you're going to see anything fall through the cracks. It's going to be a real good sale, I think. The quality is here.

David Greathouse, Four Star Sales: "I think the sale is going to be strong. There are only 180 horses (catalogued). It's supply and demand. There's plenty of demand here."

Walt Robertson, Fasig-Tipton president: "We're real happy with the physical horse that we've got (after inspecting the yearlings on the sale grounds). I suspected that we would be, and we are. Let's hope that the buyers see it the same way that we do. I hope they like them as well as we do. We're looking for another strong sale (following an upbeat Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July auction). Kentucky answered some questions, and hopefully it holds true at this sale. The world wants horses. There is a good market for a nice horse."

Duncan Taylor, Taylor Made Sales Agency: "I'm expecting more of the same, what it's been. I think it will be a good market. They've got individuals, and we brought some really good horses up here. They (Fasig-Tipton officials) were as strict on our horses as they were last year, so I don't think they're really lowered the standards (even though the sale catalogue is larger). I think it's going to be a good, solid sale."

Bill Farish, Lane's End: "This is always a very good sale, a solid sale. I think there's a lot of buzz in the whole market, so there's no reason to think that this won't be a success."

Richard Kent, Kaizen Sales: "It's going to be very, very strong. Fasig-Tipton has done such a good job selecting horses since Bill Graves came on board. He knows what sells well here, and he knows what the buyers here are really looking for. He provides them what they want. I haven't seen a lot of the other horses on the grounds, but I just know he likes a very strong, athletic, American-pedigreed horse. You have a lot additional expenses coming here and a lot different things that you wouldn't have when you either stay home (in Florida) or go to Keeneland, ut it seems to all work out. There's a comfort level here for both owners and buyers. I've got owners that just like to sell at Saratoga. They like to be here, and they like the action of having racing."

Brian Graves, Gainesway: "Given the strength of (the Fasig-Tipton) Kentucky sale, I'm optimistic. Given the quality of horses I've seen walking around the sale grounds, that also gives me a great deal of optimism that this will be a good horse sale. We've been extremely busy here today (Sunday). In the morning, people sleep in a little bit here in Saratoga. But, by nine o'clock, we started showing, and it didn't let up until four o'clock (in the afternoon). And they were still trickling in."

Reiley McDonald, Eaton Sales: "I think it's going to be a sale very similar to last year. There are a lot of good physicals on the grounds. In fact, I think we've brought the strongest bunch of physicals here that we ever have. The good ones will sell really well, but there will be ones that slip through the cracks as they always do at Saratoga. There are some great buys at the bottom of the market every year. They (the horses) are scrutinized so much, and everybody lands on the same horse."