Fasig-Tipton is adding a new one-day selected sale consisting of yearlings suited for grass racing to be held Sept. 10 at the company's Newtown Paddocks near Lexington.
Called the "Turf Showcase," the auction will offer yearlings approved on pedigree and physical conformation by Fasig-Tipton. Nomination forms are now available online at fasigtipton.com.
"This is an exciting addition to the sales calendar for Fasig-Tipton and provides a great opportunity for buyers from around the globe to shop for yearlings with turf appeal," said Fasig-Tipton president and CEO Boyd Browning Jr. "It should interest buyers from both North America and abroad."
Browning said Fasig-Tipton decided the timing was right for a sale focused on grass horses, considering the success of American-bred runners at the all-turf Royal Ascot meet in England last year, as well as a resurgence of grass racing and breeding in the U.S. According to Fasig-Tipton, there are 188 graded stakes in the U.S. carded for turf, which represents 40% of all graded races.
"We are always trying to evaluate what we do and where the market is headed," Browning said. "The performance of American-bred horses at Royal Ascot last year clearly demonstrated the quality of turf performers bred and raised in the United States. We have got something to talk about and something to promote. From our customers' standpoint there is a story to tell, and we want to tell that story and expose it to the entire world.
"Also, a big portion of our customers have stallion operations and a wide majority of them have made significant investments in horses that have 'turf appeal'—either turf form or turf pedigrees, and you are seeing a resurgence in interest from Kentucky stallion operations along those lines."
Browning said the Turf Showcase is comparable to the New Sires Showcase that Fasig-Tipton held in conjunction with its July yearling sale. At the time, there wasn’t as much focus paid to yearlings by new stallions as they went through the ring; now, how offspring of first- and second-year sires fare have become a focal point at yearling sales.
"I think at times there has not been as widespread acceptance of horses with turf pedigrees as they probably should have," he said. "At the time we introduced the New Sire Showcase young sires weren’t considered as fashionable or vogue. I think we helped the marketplace by generating interest in young stallions. This is what we want to accomplish over time with turf stallions. We are trying to serve the entire marketplace in a productive fashion."
The sales company said the selection of horses for the Turf Showcase would be in conjunction with its inspections for horses entered in the July, Saratoga, and New York-bred sales.
"There are stallions and female families that generally give you some indication they have turf potential," Browning said of the criteria that will used to select the yearlings, which will be primarily U.S.-bred. "From the physical and evaluation standpoint we are going to be looking at quality horses and there is not one single 'cookie cutter' approach that works for either dirt horses or turf horses. We will try to present a broad cross section of horses that we hope will have appeal to buyers from around the world. The marketplace is always in evolution. We will try to be reactive to the marketplace and try to anticipate what will be desirable coming out of the gate. The pedigree influence is going to have a significant component of that."
The sale is scheduled one day prior to the beginning of Keeneland's September yearling sale, and Browning said it is hoped the new auction will complement the Keeneland stand.
"We are very mindful of the significance of the September sale on the North American marketplace and this is not intended in any way to be disruptive to that," he said. "Hopefully it will be complementary and hopefully it will put more folks in town earlier and benefit the entire marketplace."
Not surprisingly, one Kentucky breeder who applauds the new sale is Ken Ramsey, whose Ramsey Farm near Nicholasville, Ky., stands Kitten's Joy , North America's leading turf sire each of the last four years.
“It’s right down my alley, so I will support it big-time,” Ramsey said.
Mark Taylor of leading consignor Taylor Made Sales Agency said he had not had an opportunity to completely evaluate the new venue, but that it could provide an opportunity—for yearlings sired by stallions with a propensity to throw grass runners that lack the pedigrees that get placement in the first week of the Keeneland sale.
“I have seen nice individuals by stallions like that but the mare quality is just OK, so they aren’t able to get in Books 1 or 2 at Keeneland,” Taylor said. “I think it is a launching point for a marketing effort to further show how well American runners do abroad, and it will have more international appeal.”