03/01/2017 10:26PM

Competitive market drives gains at Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale

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The 2017 edition of the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale of selected 2-year-olds in training continued to grow the auction’s profile in its third renewal since moving to the south Florida racetrack, posting across-the-board gains led by a $1.5-million Uncle Mo filly.

Wednesday’s single-session auction saw 74 horses sold for revenues of $25,115,000, marking a 16 percent increase from last year’s edition, when 66 horses brought $21,590,000. The average sale price rose 4 percent to $339,392 from $327,121, while the median grew 8 percent to $270,000 after finishing at $250,000 last year. Those gains all built on the 2016 edition of the auction, which also was up compared to the sale’s first edition at Gulfstream in 2015.

Though the figures continued their upward momentum at the Gulfstream sale, Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning took precaution to temper his celebration, noting that the auction still revealed the realities of the marketplace at large, even in its boutique setting.

“It’s really good when you get the stars lined up, but it’s not easy to get the stars lined up,” he said. “It never has been, and probably never will be in a 2-year-old sale, but you can bet there’s a lot of people that want to buy a good horse.

“There was probably more faces and activity than I’ve seen in recent years here, so that bodes well for the rest of the 2-year-old season,” Browning continued. “Horses are still going to have to work well, vet well, and have decent conformation on the end of the shank in order to sell well.”

The auction finished with three horses sold for seven figures, compared to four last year. The number sold for $500,000 or more rose to 16 from 11, while horses sold for $250,000 or more rose to 41 from 35.

The buyback rate closed at 15 percent, a sharp improvement from last year’s figure of 31 percent. But Browning also noted the scratch rate, as a total of 87 horses went through the ring from a catalog of 162.

“It’s the lowest RNA rate in the history of this sale, but I think the reality is we continue to live in a polarized market,” Browning said. “One of the reasons the RNA rate was so low was because the scratch rate was high. That’s not rocket science, and it would be unrealistic to change people’s expectations by saying the RNA rate was less than 15 percent. That’s not the reality of the world that we live in. It was very hard for people to buy horses tonight because there was intense, broad competition on the horses they wanted.”

Leading trade on Wednesday was an Uncle Mo filly who sold to Larry Best’s OXO Equine for $1.5 million.

The bay filly is out of the winning Grand Reward mare Flowers Athefinish, and is a full sister to the multiple stakes-placed Mighty Mo. She is from the family of Australian Group 1 winner Moriarty, English Group 2 winner Lear Spear, Grade 3 winner Lotus Pool, and Grade 1-placed Golden Larch. The filly breezed an eighth of a mile in 10 1/5 seconds during the pre-sale under-tack show on Monday, tying for the second-fastest time of the day.

“I like well-bred fillies,” Best said. “Uncle Mo obviously is a highlight in the industry, and I tend to buy fillies that I think can win graded stakes races and at the same time have some residual value.”

Best, a relative newcomer to the industry, also purchased a More Than Ready colt for $1.1 million near the end of the sale. The owner said trainer Chad Brown gets most of his horses.

Both of Best’s purchases were consigned by bloodstock agent Cary Frommer, and the Uncle Mo filly continued her success with that sire. The pinhooker brought an Uncle Mo colt to last year’s Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale and sold him to the partnership of Coolmore and Stonestreet Stables for $1 million. Later that season, she sold another Uncle Mo colt at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. March sale of 2-year-olds in training for $1.3 million.

Frommer bought Wednesday’s sale-topping Uncle Mo filly for $250,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale. The filly, bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall, previously sold as a weanling for $50,000 at the 2015 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

"I did not see that coming,” Frommer said after the fall of the hammer. “I knew she was going to bring a lot of money, but I didn't see that coming. In fact, even my partner [Barry Berkelhammer], who's always a little more bullish than I am, didn't see it coming. I guess people just got into it with each other, and that's what we love to see.”

Well aware of the reputation she has developed with high-profile offerings by Uncle Mo, Frommer said the interest in the filly was high.

"She was so incredibly busy,” she said. “The poor thing walked, and walked, and walked for every single person who ever came to Gulfstream. She was just so popular and always walking. Sometimes that happens, and it still doesn't work out. It certainly doesn't work out this way very often.

"She is one tired puppy,” Frommer continued. “She's going to go lay down for a couple of days."

Later in the sale, a Bernardini colt nearly matched the top price, going to M.V. Magnier of the Coolmore partnership for $1.45 million.

The bay colt is out of the winning Horse Chestnut mare Winner, whose four winners from five runners include Grade 3 winner Ocho Ocho Ocho and Grade 2 placed Private Ensign.

Bred in Kentucky by Chadds Ford Stable, the colt’s third dam is unbeaten champion and Broodmare of the Year Personal Ensign, putting him in a family that includes champion Storm Flag Flying; Grade 1 winners My Flag, Miner’s Mark, Mr Speaker, Personal Flag, and Traditionally; Grade 2 winners Interactif and Parading; and Grade 3 winners Animal Spirits, Divine Oath, and Auntie Joy.

The colt was one of five horses to tie for the fastest one-furlong breeze of the under-tack show, covering the distance in 10 seconds flat.

“It wasn’t hard to find something to like about him,” said Reiley McDonald, who signed the ticket for Magnier. “He had a great pedigree, he had a beautiful work. He had a bit of a slow start with his head up, and then when he leveled out he was something different. The good horses here bring a lot of money, the ones that have the little issues or fall through the cracks don’t sell, but this colt, we thought was the best horse in the sale.”

The colt was one of five horses to tie for the fastest one-furlong breeze of the under-tack show, covering the distance in 10 seconds flat.

Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds consigned the colt, as agent, after purchasing him for $350,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale.

For complete Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream results, click here.