Elusive Quality colt, bought by John Ferguson.

Elusive Quality colt, bought by John Ferguson.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Numbers Soar as Fasig-Tipton Gets Yearling Sale Season Off to Strong Start

Although none of the offerings reached the seven-figure level, Fasig-Tipton began the yearling sales season on a strong note with a two-day summer sale that concluded Tuesday with increases in every major statistical category.

The sales company reported 338 horses grossed $38,620,000, up 37% over 2003 when 303 horses grossed $28,202,000. This year's average price of $114,260 represented a gain of 23% over the $93,076 average last year and the $80,000 median price was up 19% over the $67,000 recorded last year. The only category that fell this year was the number of horses that did not attain their reserve prices, which was 25% of the total through the ring, compared with a 29% RNA rate in 2003.

The gross was the second-highest in sale history, the average was a record for the sale, and the median was the highest recorded since those figures became part of the sale calculations in the mid-1980s.

"It was terrific; we are ecstatic," said FTK president Walt Robertson. "The market was really strong. I can't say I expected that good of a sale but I am not surprised by it. I think this bodes well for the fall auctions."

Robertson attributed the sale's success to a number of factors -- strength of the U. S. stock market and the economies in Europe and Asia and a better effort by FTK to encourage buyers to attend the auction -- but said the number one consideration was that "we had better horses."

One factor in the sales company's ability to attract better horses was that there were more yearlings available this year who had been foaled in January and February, according to Robertson. Early yearlings were in short supply last year due to the effects of Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome. "We feed on January and February foals and were devastated by that last year," he said.

Buyers and consignors were buoyed by the strength of the season's first sale and indicated overall satisfaction with the outcome.

"There are some exceptional individuals here," said agent John Ferguson, who bought the top-priced colt of the sale when he went to $950,000 for an Elusive Quality colt on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. "They (FTK) have done a great job."

"It was a good, solid sale," said Duncan Taylor, of Taylor Made Sales. "It wasn't crazy like some thought it would be after they saw how many people were here."

Consignor Craig Bandoroff, who operates Denali Stud, echoed Taylor's sentiment that the sale was a practical exercise in buying and selling. "This is has been a strong sale," Bandoroff said. "But it's the same old story: you've got to have the individual. You have to lead something in there that will make their mouths water."

The sale-topper, consigned by Dromoland Farm, was produced from the stakes-winning Copelan mare Cercida. Elusive Quality, who has three crops to race, is North America's leading sire primarily as a result of the accomplishments of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Smarty Jones.

"He rated very highly," Ferguson said of the colt. "He is just a very good-looking yearling with a lot of presence. You have to pay that for the exceptional yearlings."

Ferguson said the colt will remain in the U.S. until Sheikh Mohammed decides in September where his latest acquisitions will go to race.

A businessman from the Ukraine using a Kentucky-based agency bought a yearling colt bred in New Jersey for $825,000 as the session's second-highest price. Consigned by Joe Dodgen's Seven Fold Farm, as agent for Gunsmith Stables, the son of Cozzene was bought by Lane's End Bloodstock as agent for Alexander Garese.

John Gasper, who represented Lane's End Bloodstock in the transaction, said the colt is Garese's first horse purchase and will be sent to Europe to race. Gasper said the colt "suits what he wants" because of the success of Cozzene offspring in Europe.

"If it is successful, this could look cheap in the long run," Gasper said. "This was the number one horse we wanted. This horse had exceptional X-rays."

Gasper said he was in contact with Garese via an interpreter while the colt was being sold.

Gasper said Garese contacted Lane's End initially via e-mail and that the agency had been in touch with the owner while going through an interpreter. Gasper said he believed Garese became aware of Lane's End through the agency and farm's owner, William S. Farish, former U. S. ambassador to Britain. "I am sure he got word that Mr. Farish was the ambassador and was in the horse business," Gasper explained.

The colt was produced from the multiple stakes winner Avie's Fancy, by Lord Avie, the dam of grade II winner St. Averil and stakes winner Our Cozzette (also by Cozzene.

The session's third-highest price of $800,000 was paid for a chestnut colt sired by Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Fusaichi Pegasus.

The colt, consigned by Paramount Sales, as agent, was purchased by Irish agent Demi O'Byrne for the Coolmore Stud interests of John Magnier and Michael Tabor. The colt, produced from the stakes-placed Vice Regent mare Regent's Walk, is a half brother to multiple grade I winner Marquetry and multiple group winner Spain Lane.

"I really didn't know what he was going to make in this market," O'Byrne said of the purchase price. "He has good legs and he looks very sound and racey."

The second horse in the ring during Tuesday's session Tuesday brought $450,000.

Consigned by The Acorn, as agent for White Oaks, the Florida-bred son of Forestry was purchased by agent Buzz Chace, agent for Aaron and Marie Jones. The colt was produced from the grade III-winning Cozzene mare Reach the Top, who has been represented by stakes winner Changing World.

Results, Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Summer Yearling Sale, Second Session, July 20