For months the officers at Fasig-Tipton tried reassuring consignors that they had not expanded this year's Kentucky select yearling catalog by more than 100 horses at the expense of quality.
On Thursday, they proved it.
Helped by a strong late rally of six-figure horses, which included the two-day auction's top-selling horse, the sale ended with a slight but impressive increase in average price. Fasig-Tipton sold 325 head, an increase of 37.1% over the 2001 sale, and averaged $97,815 compared with $97,671 a year ago. Gross sales climbed 37.3% to $31,790,000, up from $23,148,000 last year. The median was unchanged at $70,000.
"I know people wondered, but we truthfully believed we had a chance of holding the average," said Boyd Browning, Fasig-Tipton's executive vice president and chief operating officer.
"Truthfully, I would have been disappointed if we'd gone down," said Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson. "It is all about the horse and we had the horse."
The quality was particularly evident during the last hour of the sale when, out of 30 horses sold, 15 brought more than $100,000, four sold for more than $200,000, and one was the sale-topper at $700,000. During the final hour, the horses averaged $138,333.
Agent John Moynihan bought the highest-priced horse, an Unbridled's Song colt out of Artic Valley, for leading California owners Bob and Beverly Lewis.
"I didn't know if he would bring that much," Moynihan said. "He is one of the best prospects I saw between here and Keeneland." Across town, Keeneland held its July select yearling sale Monday and Tuesday nights.
Ed Turlington and his son, Stuart, sold the Unbridled's Song colt through Maryland agent Marshall Silverman. They bought the horse privately after it failed to sell as a weanling at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
"He was light-boned with spindly legs, but he had the kind of conformation I like," said Ed Turlington, who owns Stoney Lane Farm near Lexington. "I felt he was going to improve."
"He's been getting better and better, and will keep getting better," said Silverman, who had expected the colt to sell between $350,000 and $500,000. "This horse had everything."
Moynihan said the colt will be sent to Ocala to be broken and trained. He didn't know which trainer would ultimately race the horse.
Unbridled's Song, the sire of Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Buddha and Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) winner Unbridled Elaine, was particularly hot at this sale. Three of his offspring averaged nearly $327,000 and one was bought back for $340,000. Artic Valley, by Arctic Tern, was unplaced in two starts, but she has produced four winners out of six to race including Da Devil, who won the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) and the West Virginia Derby.
The sale's top-selling filly was a $425,000 daughter of Cherokee Run, out of Ruby Glows, bought by Jay Em Ess Stable, which is owned by the Siegel family of California. Samantha Siegel attended the sale.
"She is a well-balanced, beautiful filly," Siegel said. "When I first saw her, I knew she was one of my top picks. I had to pay more than I usually pay, but if she runs it'll be worth it."
The filly was sold by Gainesway Farm, who owns and bred Ruby Glows. Though the mare never made it to the track, her dam, Rub al Khali, produced stakes winners Gallant Talent and Resounder. The family also includes Lead Kindly Light who produced grade I winner Gold Fever and stakes winner Emanating, who also finished third in the Test Stakes (gr. I).
For Thursday's session, the gross was up 41.9% to $15,987,000 and the average was up 2.6% to $100,547 compared with the same session a year ago. The median rose 7.1% to $75,000.