The Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training March 2 was as refreshing as a cool ocean breeze on a hot summer day, providing the recession-battered Thoroughbred auction business with some relief from a grueling series of steep declines.
The average price grew 9.3% from a year ago, and the median price increased a whopping 33.3% thanks, in large part, to the enthusiastic group of foreign and domestic shoppers that flocked to Calder Casino & Race Course near Miami to buy young racing prospects with fancy pedigrees. In another encouraging development, the top price for an individual horse rose to $2.3 million from $1.6 million in 2009.
“Hopefully we can get the ball rolling again in a positive direction,” Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning said. “An educated person would look at this marketplace and say, ‘There appears to be some stabilization and the beginning of a recovery. It's just like the United States economy.’ ”
The 91 juveniles that sold grossed $23,430,000 and averaged $257,473. The median price was $200,000.
The gross declined 10.4% from 2009, but that wasn’t a surprise because the catalog was smaller and the number of horses sold was down, dropping 18% from last year’s total of 111. The buy-back rate rose slightly to 37.2% from 35.5% in 2009.
“Obviously it was tough in spots, but it was great in other spots,” consignor Nick de Meric said. “I thought, overall, it was really a pretty good affirmation of the sale process. The horses were selling for a fair market value, and it was an environment in which we can ply our trade even if we aren’t able to retire anytime soon.”
A handsome son of Distorted Humor was the $2.3-million sale-topper, going to the Stonestreet Stables of Kendall-Jackson wine magnate Jess Jackson after a heated battle. The immediate underbidder was Kaleem Shah, who was with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Jim Hay, who lives in Dubai, also tried hard to buy the strapping chestnut juvenile, but stopped at $2.1 million.
“We’re swinging for the fences, and I think we have the right kind of horse to do it with,” said Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan, who is a key adviser to Jackson. “The biggest reason why we bought him was that we didn’t want to run against him even though we have some nice horses at the farm.
"We love the horse. He just has it all. He has an amazing mind. He reminds me of (2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year) Curlin.
Stacy Yagoda and Jill Julian’s Two Beaches, a new pinhooking partnership, consigned the colt to the sale, and he was the only horse they offered. He worked an eighth of a mile in :10 3/5.
“I’m finally even on wine!” Yagoda said, jokingly. “I’ve been supporting him (Jackson) for years.”
Yagoda formerly was married to Florida pinhooker Ricky Leppala, and she broke and rode the couple’s horses. Julian trained horses for and was a long-time business partner of another pinhooker, Carl Bowling, but that association ended last year. In the name of On the Sly, the two women purchased the Distorted Humor colt for $200,000 from Will Farish’s Lane’s End, agent, at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling auction.
“He was immature and fat, but he had all the right parts and he had presence,” said Yagoda, who has remarried. She called the colt’s big price “sweet redemption,” adding, “We’ve had some hard years. There were lots of personal issues for us.”
Julian had an idea it was going to be a very good day.
“I woke up at 2:22 this morning, and I had dreamed that he'd brought $2 million,” she said.
The colt is the last foal produced from the A.P. Indy mare Tomisue's Delight, who scored in the 1998 Personal Ensign Handicap (gr. I) and the 1997 Ruffian Handicap (gr. II). He is a half brother to 2009 Maker's Mark Mile Stakes (gr. IT) and Firecracker Handicap (gr. IIT) winner Mr. Sidney (by Storm Cat). Hilbert Thoroughbreds and Menard Thoroughbreds bred the colt in Kentucky. Tomisue's Delight died in July of 2008 due to complications from colic.
The Fasig-Tipton Florida auction’s second-highest-priced horse was an $825,000 Smart Strike colt out of the winning Dixieland Band mare Southern Swing. Coolmore Stud agent Demi O’Byrne purchased the bay half brother to stakes winner Mr. Pee Vee (by Eltish) from Eddie Woods, agent.
A daughter of Bernardini was the sale’s highest-priced filly, bringing $520,000 from Katsumi Yoshida of Northern Farm in Japan. The gray or roan 2-year-old, a member of her sire's first crop, is a half sister to grade I winner and successful sire Tapit (by Pulpit). Niall Brennan Stables, agent, consigned her to the auction.