Boosted by Borges Torrealba's $800,000 bid for a Smart Strike filly, Fasig-Tipton's October yearling sale set records across the board on the night of Oct. 23 after three days of selling.
From a catalog that started off 9.5% smaller than last year's, the October sale achieved a 21.4% increase in gross sales after selling 818 yearlings for $27,908,000. The average price of $34,117 was 30.6% higher than last year, and the $17,000 median soared 33.3% over last year's figure. Gross, average, and median all were new records for the auction.
Buybacks, meanwhile, fell to 16.2% from 19.6% a year ago. The final session's buyback rate was an astonishingly low 13.6% for horses that went through the ring.
"The market's terrific," said Fasig-Tipton's Boyd Browning. "You lead an average horse through there and there's people bidding. You lead a pretty good horse through and there's people bidding. You lead a real good horse through there, and there's a lot of people bidding. There's enthusiasm. There's demand for horses."
On a raw, windy day in Lexington, the hottest thing around was the market, which turned up the temperature early with Hip 760, the Smart Strike filly, seventh to enter the ring. There was a lot to like about her catalog page. A May 19 foal, she is a daughter of the grade I-placed A. P. Indy mare Handpainted and is a three-quarters sister to the grade III-placed stakes winner Patena and a half sister to stakes-placed Oil Painting. Better yet, dam Handpainted is a full sister to Canadian champion Serenading and comes from a rich family studded with such names as With Approval, Touch Gold, and Brilliant Speed.
"When we feel we have a special offering, what they make is very—you're really uncertain," said Hill 'n' Dale principal John Sikura, who bred the dark bay filly in partnership with an entity listed as N.E.T.P. "Because if you really have the right people involved, anything can happen. We thought this filly was special and had a lot of quality, and a lot of people seemed to like her."
That kind of interest in a quality yearling pretty well guarantees a $500,000 sale, Sikura noted, adding that, in a burgeoning market, the price could go anywhere beyond that.
"If she brought $1 million, it wouldn't have surprised me," he said. "If she brought $550,000, it wouldn't have surprised me. It's really a matter of appealing to the right people, and the price then takes care of itself."
The price took excellent care of itself, although Borges Torrealba's $800,000 final bid was short of the sale record of $925,000. Bob and Beverly Lewis paid that in 1999 for the Storm Cat filly Pure Charm.
"Somebody was bidding on the on the telephone, somebody was bidding upstairs, and then the TNT people with Doug Cauthen were bidding downstairs, so I know those three people were there a long ways," Sikura said, referring to Borges Torrealba principal Goncalo Torrealba's South American operation, Stud TNT. "Who was there before them, I don't know…I was just sitting and watching and enjoying it."
The Torrealba family's Borges Torrealba is now a substantial partner in Three Chimneys Farm and has been buying high-class fillies with a view to future breeding. In August, they bought Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga select sale-topper, a $1,225,000 half sister to Optimizer by the late Three Chimneys sire Dynaformer. And at Keeneland's September auction, they paid $1.75 million for a Tiznow half sister to sprint champion and popular sire Speightstown.
The October sale topper was one of 15 yearlings to bring $200,000 or more at this year's auction, up from six last season, and the Smart Strike filly's price almost doubled the height of the market's ceiling; a year ago the sale-topping Speightstown colt, now named Speightshill, brought $440,000 from Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm.
The Wednesday session's top-priced colt was a $440,000 Medaglia d'Oro half brother to two-time graded winner Listen Here and to Pennsylvania Oaks winner Indy Bird. Trainer Justin Casse signed the ticket on behalf of his brother, trainer Mark Casse. The May 12 colt's dam is a half sister to dual grade I winner Listening and to graded winner Beautiful Noise.
Consignor Rodney Nardelli of the Nardelli Sales agency said the price was more than expected for the gray or roan son of the unraced Storm Bird mare Listen Here.
"I think there are some new buyers coming in, and it seems very encouraging for the whole industry," said Nardelli, who also bred the filly in partnership. "So we're all excited about it. But, you know, good horses are appreciated, and that's what we hope for."
Other lots to bring $200,000 or more on Wednesday were a $370,000 Unbridled's Son—Miss Abita filly from the family of Eight Belles, which Bill Perretti (J. J. Crupi, agent) bought from the Gainesway agency; and a $200,000 Tapit—Lady Solvig colt that Calumet Farm bought from the Taylor Made Sales agency.
"We didn't have expectations of selling a filly for $800,000 and a colt for $500,000, but we've seen throughout 2013 significant demand for quality, and that trend has continued throughout the October sale," Browning said.
"I think it's safe to say it's cemented on the calendar," he added.