Two Yearlings Bring $1 Million at Spa Opener

A colt by A.P. Indy and a filly by Silver Deputy each brought final bids in excess of $1 million during Tuesday night's opening session of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., but the average, median, and gross revenues all were down from the 1999 opener. The sale company reported 45 yearlings sold for $12,032,000, an average of $267,378 and median of $180,000. Those figures were down 16.8% in total receipts, 9.5% in average, and 28.0% in median from 1999's opening session, the strongest of the sale's three nights, with 49 selling for $14,470,000, an average of $295,306 and median of $250,000. The 1999 sale ended with an all-time record average of $261,456.

"Last year's opener was stacked," said Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson, "but tonight was pretty solid right through." Robertson was especially pleased with the low, 16.7% percentage of yearlings whose reserve was not attained (9 of 54 offered), down substantially from 27.9% on the corresponding night last year. "We had a ton of people here," said Robertson. "They (buyers) obviously liked the horses better than the sellers did."

Top price of the night, $1,300,000, came late in the session when John Ferguson, acting on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing, outbid B. Wayne Hughes, seated with his trainer, Ron Ellis, for an A.P. Indy colt out of the grade I-winning Vice Regent mare Trumpet's Blare. The colt was sold as the property of the Robert P. Levy family's Muirfield East, with Meg Levy's Bluewater Sales acting as agent. "He is a lovely, athletic colt with a very serious pedigree," said Ferguson. The colt will go to Sheikh Mohammed's Raceland Farm near Paris, Ky., and then to Dubai to be broken. Ferguson said it was likely the chestnut will then be part of trainer Eoin Harty's contingent of 2-year-olds in California next year.

Earlier in the night, John C. Oxley bid $1,250,000 for a filly by Silver Deputy out of the multiple stakes producing Alydar mare Screened. Representatives of Saudi Arabia's Ahmad Salman were believed to be the underbidder. The filly, bred in New York by Dr. Frank Ariosta (best known as the surgeon who operated on Hall of Fame jockey Julie Krone's broken ankle in 1993) and Bill Garbarini, was consigned by Fred Seitz's Brookdale Farm, as agent. It was reported by an officer of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders to be a record price for a New York-bred yearling. "We love New York," said Oxley, who was accompanied at the sale by wife Debby and their trainer, John Ward. That's the same combination responsible for last year's Eclipse Award-winning older mare, Beautiful Pleasure. "If you do well against open company you get rewarded in New York," Ward said, in reference to premiums paid to owners of New York-breds. "I like that kind of program that rewards success in open company." The price was the most paid for a yearling at public auction by the Oxleys, who have homes in Florida and New York and a farm in Kentucky. "I was kicking his shins every time he bid," Debby Oxley said of her husband, who responded, "When you find the right horse, you'd better buy it."

Aside from Ferguson and the Oxleys, opening night's leading buyer was California-based David Shimmon, accompanied by trainer Bob Hess. Shimmon, shut out at the Keeneland July sale though actively bidding for several of the top-priced offerings, bought three for $1,185,000. In attendance but not active opening night were such top buyers in the past as D. Wayne Lukas, representatives of Coolmore, Satish and Anne Sanan of Padua Stables, and Jeannie Vance and Laddie Dance, who scored a major victory two days earlier when their Lemon Drop Kid won the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga.

The sale continues Wednesday and Thursday night at 8 p.m. (EDT).