As yearling buyers went about their paces inspecting the horses to be offered at the Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale on a pleasant, sunny, fall day Oct. 22, the barn area at the Lexington facility was heavily populated by pinhookers. And with good reason.
Of the 163 yearlings bought at last year's October sale that were re-sold as 2-year-olds this year, the pinhooks that were purchased for a total of $8,303,000 brought an aggregate of $18,900,740 as juveniles, according to BloodHorse MarketWatch data.
With 1,461 head cataloged, this year's sale represents a 16.6% increase over the 1,250 entered last year and resulted in the sale company adding a day to the sale that totaled three sessions in 2016. With daily sessions beginning at 10 a.m. ET, the auction runs Oct. 23-26.
Mirroring the overall down market last year, the 2016 sale saw 777 head bring $25,691,500, representing a 13.4% decline from 2015. The average dropped 3.8% to $33,064 from $34,390 and the $14,500 median reflected a 3.3% drop from $15,000 the previous year.
Coming on the heels of a rebound within North American markets this year, the Fasig-Tipton October sale is the final major yearling sale of 2017 and as such offers buyers one last opportunity to buy foals of 2016. With the strength of the market to date, many buyers still have unfilled orders.
Florida-based horseman Randy Hartley said he and business partner Dean DeRenzo were making their first foray to the fall yearling sale, because the competitive environment made it difficult for them to buy the yearlings they wanted for their operation, which relies heavily upon buying young horses to re-sell.
"It's been really tough because the market has been so strong," said Hartley, adding that he and DeRenzo acquired about a dozen yearlings so far this year, compared with the approximately 20 they generally buy. "It's been a really strong market, which is what you want because you never want to buy in a weak market."
Based on the strength and size of the catalog and the steady activity as buyers go through the paces of inspecting and ordering veterinary work for prospective purchases, Fasig-Tipton officials expect the auction to continue the bull market seen elsewhere this year.
Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning said the size of the catalog is indicative of the sale's growth due to the success of sale grads in the sales ring at other auctions, and on the racetrack, and that it has broad appeal among end-users as well as pinhookers.
"Successful results in the sales ring and on the racetrack have generated a significant increase in entries for this year's October Sale, prompting us to add a fourth session on Thursday," Browning said.
Purchased for $130,000 by Brad Grady's Grand Oaks with the help of horseman Bobby Dodd, Girvin won the betfair.com Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1). Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence's Hollywood Derby (G1T) winner Annals of Time was an $80,000 October purchase by Nick de Meric. And Mor Spirit, the Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap (G1) winner for Michael Lund Petersen, sold for $85,000 as a yearling and was then bought for $650,000 as a 2-year-old.
"Traffic has been good; there seems to be plenty of interest in the sale, and I would expect it to be pretty vibrant overall," Browning said, adding that the sale will likely mirror recent trends. "I think it will be extremely competitive for what are perceived to be the quality offerings. I think there has been more trickle down this year because of a greater balance in the supply and demand. I think it will be a solid sale with some fireworks along the way.
"We have a very diverse catalog with lots of options, whether they want to spend $5,000 or $500,000. There is literally something for everybody."
Browning said there is a misperception that because the October sale is the last stop before the mixed sale season begins that the offerings have been through the sales ring before, when the reality is that most of the yearlings cataloged are in a sale for the first time.
"Over 90% of the horses in this sale have never been to a sale before," he said. "And oftentimes when a horse has been to a sale previously it may not have been at its best from a maturity standpoint. It's a fine line between making the cut and not making the cut so the additional time can make a real difference."
Consignor Archie St. George said the large number of horses on offer is reason for some concern, but that if the other yearling sales have been any indication, there should be depth in all price ranges.
"I think it has been a good market all year from July through September," he said. "Maybe it will be a little different here since it is the last sale and there are a lot of horses. There should be horses here that would suit everybody from top to bottom."
Pam Robinson, who with her husband Jim operate the Brandywine Farm consignment that has 62 head entered in the sale, said the level of activity has been very brisk.
"It's been crazy," Robinson said. "There are lots and lots of people here."
One of the more unique offerings in the Brandywine consignment is a rare white Thoroughbred—consigned as Hip 31, the Get Stormy colt is owned and bred by Denise Purvis, who helps manage the Brandywine consignment.
While the colt has attracted attention because of his color, Robinson said the yearling has a lot to offer potential buyers.
"He is not just a novelty," Robinson said. "He is a good solid horse and looks like he could be a racehorse."
Out of Packed Powder, an unraced white daughter of The White Fox, the colt has been named Blizzard Condition.
Tom VanMeter of VanMeter/Gentry Sales said he believes a lot of buyers have been unable to get all the horses they wanted in previous sales and will be active at Fasig-Tipton.
"I think a lot of people didn't get there orders filled and will be shopping hard," he said.
VanMeter said his consignment has a mixed bag, including some yearlings that had issues that precluded them from selling in earlier sales but have since been cleared.
"We're ready to rock and roll," said VanMeter, noting activity has been strong in pre-sale inspections.