Seeking the Gold, Claiborne Farm stallion and sire of $1-million colt at Fasig-Tipton's 2-year-old sale.

Seeking the Gold, Claiborne Farm stallion and sire of $1-million colt at Fasig-Tipton's 2-year-old sale.

Fasig-Tipton Gross, Average Increase; Buy-Back Rate Soars To 45.3%

The Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training turned in one of its most successful performances ever on Tuesday at Calder Race Course. Gross revenue increased. The average price reached its second-highest level ever. And the median established an auction record. But the sale also was a treacherous experience for consignors as the buy-back rate soared to 45.3%.

"We're not terribly happy, and we're not terribly unhappy," said Boyd Browning, Fasig-Tipton's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "It was a really strong market for 100 to 150 horses, and it wasn't a very strong market for 100 to 150 horses. But the 2-year-old sales don't lend themselves to providing a consistent marketplace. Instead, it's a marketplace that is inherently up and down, with either more buyers than you can use or not nearly enough buyers on your horse."

The 139 juveniles sold grossed $29,479,000, up by 4.6% from 2001, and averaged $212,079, up by 2.3%. The median of $175,000 increased by 16.7%. Last year, 136 horses sold for a gross of $28,186,000, an average of $207,250, and a median of $150,000. The buy-back rate was 42.6%.

Going into the sale, consignors' spirits were high because buyers praised the quality of the horses. Some called the group the best ever offered at Calder. But after the sale started, it quickly became apparent that buyers were still being very selective about their purchases. Only three of the first 12 horses through the ring sold. According to two consignors interviewed later in the day, several of their horses failed to attract a live bid.

"We all were optimistically hopeful going into the sale; now we are realistically awakened," said Barry Berkelhammer of AbraCadabra Farms. "This is the way it's going to be. We're just going to have to live with it. Post September 11, people are a little careful, and they are not quite as free flowing with their money."

A strong-looking Seeking the Gold colt named Mardo's Honor brought the auction's top price of $1 million. Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan, who handled the bidding, said the sturdy chestnut would go to Michael Tabor, a member of the Coolmore Stud team. Moynihan signed Irish veterinarian Demi O'Byrne's name to the ticket and spoke with O'Byrne via a cell phone while the colt was in the ring.

"He was the best horse in the sale by many lengths, I thought, and I'm sure Demi did, too," said Moynihan of Mardo's Honor. "He had a great pedigree. He's a beautiful horse. And he went like a million dollars on the racetrack, too. When you have all three of those ingredients at these 2-year-olds sales, they sell well. We thought if we were going to try and buy him, we had to be prepared to give that much."

Mardo's Honor is the first foal produced from the 7-year-old Last Tycoon mare Bounteous, who is a half-sister to European champion White Muzzle (by Dancing Brave), German group II winner Fair Question (by Rainbow Quest), and Irish stakes winner Elfaslah (by Green Desert). Elfaslah is the dam of Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner Almutawakel (by Machiavellian).

Bred in Kentucky by Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm, Mardo's Honor was consigned to the 2001 Keeneland September yearling sale, but was bought back for $230,000. New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace said he purchased the colt privately afterward for Ernie Paragallo. Mardo's Honor was consigned to the Fasig-Tipton Florida auction by Robert Scanlon, agent.

"Ernie's reserve was $999,000," Chace said. "The horse was the most outstanding horse in the sale, and he has a chance to be a real good horse. Ernie knew that, and he wasn't going to take any less."

Chace could not recall the exact price he paid to acquire the colt privately for Paragallo as a yearling.

"It was probably $230,000, the buy-back price, that we did pay for him," Chace said. "It was in that range, anyway. It was between $200,000 and $300,000. It was no more than $300,000."

The sale attracted a large and enthusiastic group of Japanese buyers. But Sheikh Mohammed's name was missing from the sale summary even though his bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, attended the first under tack show and inspected horses afterward.

"I can't say for sure, but I think that he (Ferguson) might have bid on one or two horses," Browning said.

Results from Fasig-Tipton