10/04/2012 2:44PM

Fasig-Tipton: Breeders' awards lure buyers to Saratoga mixed sale

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The New York Racing Association’s board is still a question mark as Governor Andrew Cuomo bides his time in naming its members, but breeders and sellers in the Empire State feel confident that one big factor will help draw bidders to the new Saratoga fall sale: the gaming revenues fueling big New York-bred awards.

Fasig-Tipton announced in July that it would add Tuesday’s mixed and racing-age sale to its calendar, citing a “fast-expanding” Thoroughbred population, and it’s easy to see what’s pulling those horses into the state. Since video slots and other gaming machines came online at NYRA’s Aqueduct racetrack in Queens a year ago, purses at NYRA tracks have plumped up by about 40 percent, and New York’s Thoroughbred industry has a raft of other attractive incentives to offer owners and breeders. Breeders’ awards for New York-sired runners pay 30 percent for first and 15 percent each for second- or third-place finishes, with a $40,000 cap. For non-New York-sired runners the awards pay 15 percent for a win and 7.5 percent for second or third, capped at $20,000. Owners get 20 percent awards for New York-sired statebreds who finish in the top three (capped at $20,000) or 10 percent for non-New York-sired statebreds (also capped at $20,000). And stallion owners can reap 10 percent of purse money for top-three finishes, capped at $10,000 per award.

Last month, the New York Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund mailed 691 awards checks totaling more than $2.5 million to the state’s owners, breeders, and stud owners. The lion’s share, just under $1.9 million, were breeders’ awards, so it’s not too surprising that New York Thoroughbred Breeders and New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association recently trumpeted new investments and growth in the state. In a release last month, the groups said about 500 broodmares traveled to New York to foal in 2012, adding: “According to preliminary reports, the 2012 foal crop in New York will be up 40 percent from 2011.”

New York’s Thoroughbred industry has been busy publicizing, and there’s some evidence the effort is paying off in the auction ring. Fasig-Tipton’s New York-bred preferred yearling sale, held at Saratoga in August, rang up a second year of sizable gains when the 2012 average climbed 15 percent and median climbed 43 percent. The downside at the sale was a high 38 percent buyback rate, suggesting that some sellers are more willing to hang on to New York-breds now, considering how much they can earn at the races or how much their value might appreciate with training as they near the races.

In general, New York’s Thoroughbred industry is throwing around some attractive numbers for bidders to consider when they look at New York-breds these days, even as uncertainty looms around the NYRA board and some fret that the state might try to claw back some of the industry’s gaming revenues, a situation horsemen now face in Ontario.

“I think it’s going to be in the back of people’s minds,” consignor Dan Barraclough of Saratoga Glen Farm said about concerns over NYRA and the industry’s share of slots revenue. “But I think if you go about your business always in fear of what the government’s going to do, you’ll never accomplish anything.

“The awards were good before slots, the awards were good before the increases,” he said. “They’re exceptional now, and I don’t really see how they could change them that drastically, especially seeing how it’s had such a positive effect on the industry in New York. It’ll have an effect on field sizes at racetracks down the line. The trickle-down economics of having a strong regional breeding program and strong breeders’ awards makes it a very good program for agriculture, open space, jobs, schools. It’s tied in to so many different aspects of urban and rural life in New York.”

But Barraclough and other sellers at Fasig-Tipton’s new Saratoga fall sale hope the concrete purse raises, healthy incentives, and improved yearling prices will trump any jitters and tempt a range of buyers to flock for the auction’s racing-age horses, weanling-to-yearling pinhook prospects, and broodmares.

“With the renewed interest in New York-breds, I’m very keen on the idea that we’ll have a very good sale, especially for weanlings,” consignor Harry Landry said. “I’m not as certain of what the market’s going to be in New York for mares. But the thing is, these are resident New York mares, and the people who buy them will be able to send them out of state as opposed to going to Keeneland and buying a mare and having to breed back to a New York stallion. I think there’s some reason to be optimistic. There’s a feeding frenzy for New York-breds in general, and I’ve noticed that even back in January at Keeneland it was practically impossible to buy a New York-bred weanling for anything that resembled a bargain price.”

One buyer seeking weanling pinhook prospects is Carrie Brogden of Kentucky’s Select Sales agency. Brogden was pleased with how her New York-bred sold this summer and fall at yearling sales, and she’s planning to attend the Fasig-Tipton sale to restock. Brogden is expecting to find some stiff competition, just as she did some years ago when the now-defunct New York Breeders’ Sales used to hold a fall mixed sale in Saratoga, before slots arrived.

“I rarely was able to buy anything out of there because I was always outbid past where I was comfortable as a pinhook price,” Brogden said of the former sale. “The New York program is strong, and I hope it continues to be strong. I would anticipate the weanlings being very strong again, both from bidding by trainers and pinhookers.”

But Brogden cautioned that even with increased demand for New York-bred runners, yearling buyers want only good conformation and the best pedigrees they can get. That demand at the yearling market is likely to make the weanling-to-yearling resellers very selective at the Fasig-Tipton October sale, too.

The 254-horse catalog has plenty of weanlings for the aspiring pinhooker. There are 104, almost all qualified for New York-bred registration, and some have eye-catching relations.

Hip No. 56 is a Harlington half-sister to stakes-winner Ginger Bay, and Hip No. 109 is a full brother to $305,000 earner Miss Missile. There’s also a Congrats half-brother to graded-placed Relatively Ready (67), a Posse half-brother to the dam of Sean Avery (77), an Any Given Saturday filly from a daughter of Missy’s Mirage (178), and a Pollard’s Vision colt from Gourmet Girl’s family (96). Hip No. 183 is a half-brother to stakes-winning, $507,000 earner Lady of the Future, and there also are siblings or half-siblings to stakes-winning or stakes-placed runners Rogue’s Jewel (156), Lorccan (159), Six Flings (179), Ommadon’s Frenzy (182), and Agolo (123), among others.

For racehorse owners wanting a faster trip to the races, there are 44 racing-age horses in the catalog, too, including graded stakes performers Tycoon Doby (239) and Mahubo (229); Port Conway (231), Request for Parole’s half-brother by Street Sense; Baltic Coast (242), a full brother to Grade 1-placed Folk; Sky Mesa’s half-brother Broome Street (244); Tiz Wonderful’s half-brother Define (246); and Fact (249), an A. P. Indy-Sharp Cat gelding, among others.

Barraclough of consignor Saratoga Glen Farm agrees with Landry that the market for broodmares will probably be softer than that for weanlings, but notes that quality mares have remained in demand.

“There are some mares that I think will be desirable to buyers who are looking for higher-end mares,” he said, “and there are a lot of mares here that are bred more regionally. They’re in foal to local stallions, their pedigrees aren’t filled with graded stakes horses, and they’re good, bread-and-butter, regional-type mares. Those are harder sells, but some of those middle-market mares will find people that will buy them. The breeders’ awards are so strong for the foals they’re carrying, it’s very easy for the math to work out where even if you don’t get a high-priced weanling from one of those mares, the breeders’ awards for those horses might be a real positive.

Among the mares with notable pedigrees or produce records are Sarah’s Sally, a Malibu Moon half-sister to Canadian champion Mobil (75); La Diva, a half-sister to Delaware Township (9); Unforgettableginny, a half-sister to Big Truck and Logic Way (98); Very Classy Gal (102), a Giant’s Causeway daughter of Canadian champion Gal in a Ruckus; Caprice Miss (143), a half-sister to champion Perfect Sting; Charade Queen (146), a full sister to Bodemeister’s dam; Eishin Houlton (162), a full sister to Wild Again; Irgun’s Delite (200), a half-sister to Captain Steve; graded-placed stakes winner Finlandia (176); Riboletti (215), a stakes winner out of Grade 1 winner Riboletta; Grande Armee (191), a half-sister to Commendable; and stakes-producing dams Silverbobbin (79), La Cat (8), Smoke N Shadows (82), Winloc’s Gramie (115), Besige (133), and Huntingland (196).

“I think the quality of the stock is good enough to draw people here from out of state, and I think it should be a good sale,” Barraclough said.

The one-day auction takes place at Fasig-Tipton’s Humphrey S. Finney pavilion in Saratoga Springs, starting at 11 a.m. It also will stream live at www.fasigtipton.com.