08/05/2004 11:00PM

Conditions ripe for strong Fasig-Tipton sale


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Fasig-Tipton auction house hopes history will repeat itself at its Saratoga selected yearling sale, which runs Tuesday through Thursday.

Certainly recent history bodes well for the auction. Fasig-Tipton's July yearling sale produced sharp double-digit gains across the board. More significantly, prices were pumped up by new buyers at the middle and top of the market. That ingredient alone could add plenty of spice to the Saratoga sale, which features Fasig-Tipton's best yearling catalog of the season.

A healthy market needs a wide population of bidders, and the yearling sales right now seem to have just that. New buyers such as Jeffrey and Francesca Cooper, John Connelly, and Ukrainian banker Alexander Garese weren't the only ones throwing money around in July. The market's old money, belonging to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum and Coolmore, among others, was also flowing. And pinhookers, fresh off booming trade at the spring 2-year-old sales, spent freely in the middle price ranges, too.

At the Saratoga sale, typically dominated by racehorse owners eager to buy into some of the best pedigrees available at public auction, pinhookers may have a tougher time buying. But their presence can only help the marketplace, which is widely expected to produce gains, even if less dramatic than those seen in July.

The yearling market started on such a lofty note in July that some, most notably market analyst Michael S. Brown of Racing Update, are predicting the Saratoga sale could even top its 2001 record level this year. The newsletter accurately predicted that the July sale would be up significantly, and Brown sees little reason to think there will be any downturn at the Spa, where the pedigrees generally are better and the buyers plentiful. And the cancellation of Keeneland's tony July yearling sale for the second consecutive year may have gilded the lily for a Saratoga catalog one agent called "fabulous."

"It contains several Keeneland July-style pedigrees," Brown said of the Spa catalog. "In that sense, this sale could have taken away from Keeneland's September sale in a small way. Given how good the July sale was, it seems there's a lot of momentum and enthusiasm for the yearling market at the moment. That could be partly attributable to the Funny Cide and Smarty Jones factor, or maybe the NTRA has helped by getting racing on TV more. And look at the oil business. Prices there are at record highs, and when the oil business is good, that always seems to help the Thoroughbred business. At least, it doesn't hurt."

Whether they spend petrodollars, Irish punts, or Ukrainian hryvnias, buyers at the Spa will have some collectors' items to choose from. A number of offerings are by sires whose untimely deaths may make their yearlings more precious by their rarity. The last yearlings by the great Seattle Slew sell this year, and there is one, Hip No. 190, in the Saratoga catalog. She is a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Roza Robata.

Saint Ballado, who died in 2002, also is represented by his final crop this season, as is Old Trieste, who died in early 2003. Saint Ballado has four colts and five fillies cataloged, and Old Trieste has one of each. Chester House got only three crops, of which this is the second; his lone offering is Hip No. 142, a half-brother to Grade 3-placed Glittergem. Machiavellian, a popular stallion on both sides of the Atlantic, died in June at age 17. His sole lot at Saratoga, Hip No. 90, is a daughter of Argentine Grade 1 winner Astrologica.

There are some new sires, too. Those with their first yearlings this season include Aptitude, Ecton Park, El Corredor, Monarchos, Point Given, Songandaprayer, and Tiznow.

The catalog features some attractive and interesting pedigrees, with plenty of names familiar to racing fans. A brief sample:

* Hip No. 12, an Unbridled's Song half-sister to champion sprinter Artax;

* Hip No. 37, a Storm Cat colt out of champion Sky Beauty;

* Hip No. 38, a Pulpit filly, the first foal out of Canadian champion Gandria;

* Hip No. 65, a Storm Cat half-sister to the dam of Horse of the Year Point Given;

* Hip No. 66, a Mr. Greeley filly, the first foal out of multiple stakes winner Unbridled Emotion;

* Hip No. 67, a Touch Gold filly, the first for multiple stakes winner Under the Rug;

* Hip No. 83, a Coronado's Quest half-brother to Grade 1 winner The Cliff's Edge;

* Hip No. 84, a Giant's Causeway three-quarter brother to Grade 2 winner Keats;

* Hip No. 107, an Unbridled's Song half-brother to Grade 1 winner and sire Yes It's True;

* Hip No. 111, a Forestry half-brother to Grade 2 winner Purge;

* Hip No. 120, an Unbridled's Song filly from the family of champion Housebuster;

* Hip No. 132, a Fusaichi Pegasus half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Keeper Hill and to Grade 2 winner and sire Golden Gear;

* Hip No. 159, a Giant's Causeway half-sister to champion Storm Song;

* Hip No. 166, a Saint Ballado filly out of millionaire Irish Linnet;

* Hip No. 170, a Storm Cat filly out of champion Jewel Princess;

* Hip No. 181, a Silver Deputy colt out of champion Life's Magic;

* Hip No. 191, a Thunder Gulch half-brother to Grade 2 winner Private Emblem;

* Hip No. 194, a Woodman half-brother to Canadian champion Free Vacation;

* Hip No. 197, a Hennessy half-brother to Grade 2 winner Fire Slam;

* Hip No. 203, a Pulpit half-brother to Grade 2 winner Desert Hero; and

* Hip No. 207, an A.P. Indy filly, first foal for Grade 1 winner Nany's Sweep.

Sessions begin each day at 7:30 p.m. Eastern in the Finney pavilion in Saratoga.