Gross sales and buy-backs soared for opening day of the two-day Fasig-Tipton Kentucky select yearling sale that began Wednesday.
The auction company off Newtown Pike in Lexington, Ky. sold 36.1% more horses, 166, for 33.3% more money, a total of $15,803,000. Last year, 122 horses sold for $11,883,000. With the extra horses, however, came a 2.6% decline in average price. Yearlings averaged $94,838 Wednesday compared with $97,402 during the same session a year ago.
Additional horses also produced an increase in buy-backs. The percentage of horses failing to find new homes rose to 41% from 36.8% for the same session last year.
Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson wasn't overly concerned about the returns.
"The sale was fine," Robertson said. "You'd love to find a home for every horse but there isn't one. It is a selective market and buyers have a lot of choices."
Robertson said the sale company can only combat the buy-back rate by putting better horses in the sale year after year. This year, he felt the company's selection team did an excellent job.
"I feel we've got more nice horses on the sale grounds than we've ever had before," he said.
Many of those nice horses were part of Fasig-Tipton's new sire showcase, which made up about 80% of Wednesday's selection. The concentration of first-crop yearlings did exceptionally well this year. They sold for an average $98,460 compared with $94,771 last year, an increase of 3.9%. The gross sales jumped 48.3% to $13,489,000 compared with $9,098,000 last year.
The leading sires in the showcase were Airdrie Stud's Stormin' Fever whose six yearlings sold for an average $176,667, and Taylor Made Farm's Exploit whose eight yearlings averaged $171,875. Offspring by Airdrie's freshman sire Mazel Trick also sold well with 10 averaging $139,600.
A striking chestnut colt by Mazel Trick topped the session. Agent Ben Glass Jr. bought the $535,000 colt for Gary and Mary West.
"We've been watching this colt all year," Glass said. "We liked him when we first saw him and he just kept improving."
Brereton Jones, owner of Airdrie, sold the colt for a partnership that included himself. He had said all day the yearling was the best looking of the three Mazel Trick offspring in his consignment. The sire is owned by Jones and stands for $15,000. Jones also owns the session-topper's dam, Private Dish, an unraced mare that has produced six winners out of eight to race.
Tremendous interest in the horse forced Glass to pay a premium. He had expected to pay between $350,000 and $400,000.
"When the good one comes along you just have to be ready to go higher," Glass said. He was willing to pay more, in part, because the colt looked so athletic.
"He looks great running through the field," he said. "I hope he looks that good in training."
Glass said he has been impressed with all the Mazel Trick offspring.
"They are racy-looking horses," he said.
The colt will go to Jeff and Carolyn Kirk, who break and train the Wests' horses at Classic Mile Training Center west of Ocala, Fla. When the colt is ready to race, he will be sent to Dallas Stewart.
The only other horse to reach half-million dollar territory was a colt by Exploit out of Eastside Westside that sold for $500,000 to agent Jerry Bailey. Taylor Made Sales Agency sold the colt for leading California owners Bob and Beverly Lewis. The yearling was bought for a racing syndicate made up of some new owners, according to Bailey, who added that the group wished to remain anonymous.
Duncan Taylor of Taylor Made said the Lewis' retained an interest in the colt. The Lewis' own 90% of Exploit.
Another top-selling yearling came last in the day. A son of Dixieland Band out of the stakes-placed mare Classic Approval sold for $450,000 to John Fort of Peachtree Racing Stable. The underbidder was John Ferguson, who is the bloodstock agent for Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum. U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain William S. Farish, who co-owned the colt through a foal-sharing agreement with Milton and Beth Hendry of Ocala, also bid on the colt by phone, according to his son, Bill. The colt was consigned by Craig and Holly Bandoroff's Denali Stud.
The sale continues Thursday starting at 10 a.m.