Updated on 09/17/2011 10:58AM

Fasig starts strong


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Skipping its traditional opening at the now-canceled Keeneland July select sale, the summer's major yearling sales got under way 's Newtown Paddocks facility. The two-day auction's first day yielded a session-topping $800,000 Fusaichi Pegasus filly bought by Sunland Park owner Stanley Fulton. The absence of Keeneland's often spectacular two-night auction doused some of the summer fireworks, but Fasig-Tipton's opening day got some of the sport's big buyers warmed up with some competitive bidding and plenty of six-figure prices.

Fulton's Fusaichi Pegasus-La Chaposa filly, a half-sister to Grade 1 winners Chaposa Springs and You and I, was consigned by Paramount Sales, agent.

"A fool and his money are soon parted," Fulton said. "Her sire didn't hurt her any, but a dam that throws Grade 1 winners, come on!"

Fulton acknowledged he had bought the filly at his limit and would have given in if pushed further by other bidders. Fulton said the filly would stay at Bruce Gibbs's farm in Kentucky until September, then ship to New Mexico.

Other top prices included a pair of $600,000 colts - a Cat Thief-Langara colt that James McIngvale bought from the Hill'n'Dale agency, and a Golden Missile-American River colt that Angus Glen Farm sold to Bruce Headley.

Normally, Fasig-Tipton's two-day stand follows the Keeneland July sale, so well known for producing multi-million-dollar prices for individual horses. But Keeneland opted to put its boutique summer sale on a one-year hiatus for 2003, citing a lack of suitable horses due largely to 2001's devastating round of abortions caused by mare reproductive loss syndrome. If anyone wondered whether the loss of Keeneland July, a major lure for the sport's most indomitable bidders, would dampen prices at Fasig-Tipton's more workmanlike auction, they need not have worried. In the days before the auction, agents combing the sale grounds included representatives for Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, Michael Tabor, B. Wayne Hughes, Bob and Beverly Lewis, Aaron and Marie Jones, and numerous other pillars of the select Thoroughbred yearling market.

Lane's End returns with 13 lots

Another pillar of the Thoroughbred market, but on the seller's side of the gavel, also showed up for the Fasig-Tipton auction. The Farish family's Lane's End Farm, a stalwart Keeneland seller, returned to the Fasig-Tipton July sale after a 23-year absence. Lane's End had 13 lots in the catalog, including a $500,000 Lemon Drop Kid-April Starlight colt bought by Bill Mott, agent.

"The main reason we came is that we have three first-year sires that we thought would fit the sale well: Stephen Got Even, Dixie Union, and Lemon Drop Kid," said Bill Farish of Lane's End. "This sale, with its New Sire Showcase, has gotten the reputation of a good place to showcase young stallions."

But despite the high prices, Farish and other sellers felt buyers were selective.

"Certainly there are a lot of people here, and we've shown horses a tremendous amount," he said. "But it's a pretty picky marketplace."

J.B. and Kevin McKathan, who often represent moneyed buyers and are always a soul-stirring sight for auctioneers, got the ball rolling almost immediately, paying $600,000 for the Cat Thief-Langara colt on McIngvale's behalf.

"We're looking for really special horses, and this was a really special horse," said J.B. McKathan, who was sporting a khaki Fasig-Tipton cap, said after signing the ticket. "I think we were very fortunate that this horse was early in the sale. We weren't going to go much farther to get him, and I think the fact he was so early, everyone was still kind of trying to figure out what might happen."

Headley followed several hours later, paying $600,000 for the Golden Missile colt. "I just liked his body," he said. "Textbook body for speed."

Fasig-Tipton's July catalog was significantly smaller this year, a reduction Fasig-Tipton officials attributed to the MRLS losses that apparently helped scuttle Keeneland's flagship summer auction. The numbers dropped from 563 offered last year to 462 cataloged in 2003, but buyers generally agreed that quality was still plentiful.

"These are nice horses," J.B. McKathan said. "Fasig-Tipton has a great selection committee and always is very good at putting together a great group of athletic horses. The fact they have a smaller catalog this year proves they decided not to lower their bar at all when they selected horses. Even with the MRLS, they still could have fielded 600 horses easily, but they decided not to."

In the end, the loss of Keeneland July may have left a hole in the boutique sale calendar, but neither buyers nor sellers seemed overly concerned.

"Between Keeneland September and Saratoga," J. B. NcKathan said, "I think there will be plenty of opportunities to find nice, well-bred horses."