It's impossible to traverse the barn area of the Fasig-Tipton November sale without feeling a sense of awe with the broodmares, racehorses, and well-bred weanlings that will be offered during the Nov. 6 sale near Lexington that begins at 4 p.m. ET.
Included among the 203 horses in the regular and supplemental catalogs are three champions, 21 grade 1 winners or producers, 53 graded stakes winners, and foals from the first crop of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah . As of early Nov. 5, there had been more than 50 head withdrawn from the sale.
"Nearly 80% of the racing/broodmare prospects and broodmares cataloged are black-type earners or producers," Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning said. "We're obviously thrilled with the quality of the catalog and think it's one of the finest collections of horses we've had the opportunity to present to the marketplace. The marketplace craves quality and we certainly have quality on offer this November."
The Fasig-Tipton sale last year saw 88 horses sold for gross receipts of $54,152,000, an average price of $615,364 and a median of $377,500. The 2016 sale-topper was the Distorted Humor mare Baffled, in foal to leading sire Tapit , purchased by Bridlewood Farm and Don Alberto Corp. for $3.5 million.
Highlighting this year's catalog is Songbird, the 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro who won 13 of 15 career starts, including nine grade 1 races, and finished second in the other two outings. A champion at ages 2 and 3, Songbird earned more than $4.6 million for Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farm.
"Rick Porter is a seller; he's not in the breeding game," said Mark Taylor of Taylor Made Sales Agency, which consigned and is heavily promoting the filly. "He's dabbled in it a few times and that's just not his thing. He has one of the most successful racing stables in the country but he's not somebody that wants to breed foals and wait for them to get to the races. It's tough to part with them. ... She's going to be on the market and it's going to be a very fair reserve and we're going to see what anybody wants to pay for one of the best race mares of all time."
Taylor Made is marketing Songbird in a campaign called "Soar With Songbird" that includes a book-size video player distributed to buyers and a giant wooden display built by Studio 34 Productions that is in a prominent location near Barn 2.
Taylor said the agency has long marketed some of its outstanding sale offerings as individuals rather than part of the bigger consignment as a way of showcasing the horse's accomplishments.
"The goal is not to over-promote, but to celebrate the horse," Taylor said, noting that Porter and Fox Hill's Victoria Keith were supportive of the campaign. "When you own a horse like Songbird, it's not that the marketing is necessarily going to inflate her price, but you want her to have a proper tribute going out the door."
Although Songbird is the highest profiled champion in the catalog, the other champions on offer are Tepin, the $4.4 million earner in foal to Curlin consigned as Hip 130 by ELiTE, as agent for Robert Masterson; and Finest City, a 5-year-old daughter of City Zip who was voted champion female sprinter for 2016 after winning the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1), consigned as Hip 171. Catch a Glimpse, who earned more than $1.8 million and won the 2015 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1T) to notch Canadian Horse of the Year honors, is also being offered.
Included among the other grade 1 winners cataloged are Big World, Birdatthewire, Dacita, Illuminant, Miss Temple City, and Nickname, among others. Also entered in the sale is grade 1-placed American Cleopatra, a full sister to American Pharoah who is in foal to prominent sire Uncle Mo .
With all bloodstock markets trending upward this year, there is reason for optimism heading into the mixed sale season that begins at Fasig-Tipton.
"The yearling sale started off strong and finished strong and demonstrated strength throughout," Browning said following Fasig-Tipton's record-breaking October yearling sale. "It bodes well for the November sale what we saw throughout the yearling sale season, which was consistent with what we saw in the 2-year-old season. It's a pretty healthy market right now."
"We're seeing an upturn in the economy and I hope it comes back to register in the horse sales and our industry as a whole," said consignor Wayne Sweezey of Timber Town. "I feel good about everything. The economy is kicking along, everybody is positive, and hopefully they will be here to buy some horses."
With an abundance of well-bred, elite racehorses on offer, consignors are hopeful that there will be plenty of depth at the top.
"There are a lot of really nice mares in the sale and I hope there are a million-dollar plus tickets to get them all sold," said Sweezey. "To me there is a little bit of a flood in the market for really top horses.
In addition to strength at the top, the November sales provide an opportunity for breeders operating at other price levels to move stock that no longer fits their programs and/or to upgrade their bloodstock.
"I think everybody in the horse business is just trying to upgrade from wherever they are," Taylor said. "If you're on the bottom you're trying to get to the middle and if you're in the middle you're trying to get as close to the top as you can."