The bar has been set very high for the Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training, which is scheduled for Tuesday at Calder Race Course.
In recent times, the planet's swankiest juvenile auction has enjoyed unprecedented growth. Last year's gross revenue and average price were world records for a sale of 2-year-olds, and the median price equaled the world mark that had been established at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale in 2005. In addition, The Green Monkey became the most expensive Thoroughbred ever sold at public auction when he brought the astounding price of $16 million.
The question on just about everybody's mind heading into this year's edition of the Fasig-Tipton sale is will the market expand even further? Kentucky-based bloodstock agent and pinhooker Pete Bradley predicted it wouldn't, even though big spenders like Demi O'Byrne and Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, were on hand Sunday for the auction's second and final under tack show.
"I think it can maintain last year's level, but I find it hard to believe it can get better," said Bradley, during a break for track maintenance between the workouts.
Even Boyd Browning, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Fasig-Tipton, stopped short of predicting another upswing. But he also expressed optimism that buyer demand for elite juveniles would continue to be strong.
"The $16-million horse obviously had a tremendous impact on some of the statistical categories last year," Browning said. '"While I think we'll have a very, very good marketplace, it’s very possible that we could have a decline in average and a decline in gross because there's not likely to be another $16 million horse thrown into the equation again."
According to Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson, the quality of the auction's horses remains high and there has been plenty of interest from a large group of international buyers. In another positive development, Sunday's under tack show was conducted under ideal conditions that helped generate a slew of very fast workout times.
But there's also uncertainty surrounding the auction because of recent stock market instability. In addition, one of last year's top purchasers of 2-year-olds, Ahmed Zayat, has become a seller, which could cut down on his buying activity. Japanese bloodstock agent Nobutaka Tada, who bought two Fasig-Tipton Florida horses for seven-figure prices in 2006, won't be attending this year's auction.
Consignor Becky Thomas of Sequel Bloodstock was worried that the high amounts paid by pinhookers for their Fasig-Tipton Florida stock as yearlings would make it difficult for many consignors to turn a profit.
"All of us have a lot of money in these horses, so I think the competition will be very, very stiff," she said, "The reality is, in our sales historically, there haven't been enough buyers to go around for those upper level horses, and now we all have upper level horses. There are going to be some unhappy pinhookers or some horses that don't get sold. There are a lot of horses that need to bring $250,000 or $300,000 just to break even."
Selling begins Tuesday at 11 a.m. (EST).
Following are some pre-auction comments from other people:
John Moynihan, Kentucky bloodstock agent: "There are good horses here; there's no reason why the s ale shouldn't be strong. The good ones will be very difficult to buy."
Eddie Woods, consignor: "There appears to be a fabulous amount of really nice horses. But I don't know if we have the population of buyers here to support everybody. It will be very good for some. There was a steady flow of people in the barn area all last week, the usual culprits. We’ve seen some fresh faces today (Sunday), but they're the same faces that we've seen every other year."
Doug Cauthen, WinStar Farm: "There are a lot of nice horses here, so it should go well. I expect it will be a good, solid sale. I thought the February (select juvenile) sale in Ocala was consistent with last year. Good horses brought good money, and it looked like there were a lot of people there. "
David Scanlon, Scanlon Training Center: "I think it's going to be great. We had little bit harder conditions in our first breeze show, and then we came back and had a very ideal day yesterday. It's going to really give the buyers a wide spectrum of horses to look at. I hope the buyers won't discount them (the large number of fast works). I actually think all the consignors got a fair day to showcase their horses, and there is a lot of talent in this sale. The track was fast, but it was honest. There are a lot of good horses in this sale that got to showcase their talent."
John Ferguson, bloodstock manager for Sheikh Mohammed: "There are lots of horses to choose from, and I'm sure there a number of buyers around the complex. I'm sure it’s going to be a good sale.
Niall Brennan, consignor: "We've been steady showing. We weren't swamped, but it was steady. I don’t think there will be any big surprises. It remains to be seen what will happen because there are some people selling horses here who are normally buyers. Everybody seems to be getting into the selling end in the 2-year-old market. We’re losing end users more and more every year, it seems, because everybody wants to be in on the action."
Layna Kight, consignor: "Every horse is getting looked at, not just one or two. Each one is getting asked for specifically. It's not just 'all shows.' I think it’s going to be a good sale."
Don Graham, consignor: "I think it should be as strong as ever. There are some real good horses in the sale. The right people are here, so if you've got a good horse, it will sell well."