Updated on 09/16/2011 9:00AM

Artax filly leads first Spa session

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - New York-breds were well received at the first session of Fasig-Tipton's preferred sale on Sunday, with eight yearlings bringing six-figure bids. The sales topper at $170,000 was a filly from the first crop of champion sprinter and Kentucky sire Artax.

The sale, which was expanded for the first time to two days this year to accommodate the more than 180 horses in the catalogue, produced an average of $48,588 with 51 horses sold for a gross of $2,478,000. Twenty-nine horses left the ring unsold for a buy-back rate of 36 percent, which was even with last year's one-day sale. The median price was $35,000.

Under the new two-day format, the gross understandably was down from last year's $3,557,000 since 31 fewer horses were sold at the first session. The 2001 sale produced an average of $43,378 from 82 horses sold, including seven horses who fell under the hammer for six figures.

Boyd Browning Jr., the chief operating officer at Fasig-Tipton, said he felt confident that the across-the-board declines seen at last week's boutique select sale would not impact the preferred auction, which attracts a different set of buyers.

"Obviously, there was a little change in the market last week that almost entirely was at the top end of the market," Browning said. "I was confident that the affordable horses that fit in the New York-bred sale would be well received. I had consignors tell me they hadn't seen that many people here looking at horses before."

Jim Crupi and Joe Parisi of New Castle Farm bought the sales topper. The bay filly was consigned by the Pennsylvania-based Becky Merkel, agent. It was a homerun for Merkel, a regular at Fasig-Tipton's Midlantic sale in Maryland, who had never sold a horse at Saratoga before Sunday.

"We were hoping for $75,000 to $100,000," said a nearly speechless Merkel, who was flanked by family members after the sale, including her husband, Glenn Brok, a van agent for Brookledge.

The filly, out of the Premiership mare Made for Satin, was by bred Aron Yagoda and Louis Albertrani, who was Artax's trainer when the horse won the 1999 Breeders' Cup Sprint.

The highest-priced colt in the sale was a son of Forest Wildcat, who was bought for $130,000 by Klaravich Stables. The colt, who was out of the Deputy Minister mare Deputy Dear, was consigned by Summerfield, agent.

The second session of the sale was scheduled for Monday evening.