07/12/2007 11:00PM

Fasig-Tipton emphasizing the new


LEXINGTON, Ky. - What's new at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky's July yearling sale? Everything from the sires to the sale pavilion, it seems.

The summer yearling season begins at the Fasig-Tipton auction on Monday and Tuesday at Newtown Paddocks in Lexington. This year the sale features a bumper crop of 582 yearlings, more than half of whom fall in the auction's New Sire Showcase spotlighting stallions with no more than two crops to race. The auction also will mark the debut of Fasig-Tipton's newly remodeled sale pavilion, which has been renovated from top to bottom.

Buyers may enjoy the plush new seating and restyled bathrooms, but of course it's the yearlings that really bring them to Fasig-Tipton in July. The auction house has built this sale's reputation by focusing on the yearlings' physiques first and foremost. But it has found a handy niche for pedigree, too, especially in its New Sire Showcase.

Fasig-Tipton officials hope that mix, which has helped this sale grow in stature over the last 15 years, will appeal to buyers this year as much as it did last year. At last year's two-day auction, a smaller catalog of 477 yearlings resulted in gross receipts of $35,598,000 and sale records for average price ($115,954) and median ($90,000). The buy-back was a relatively low 25 percent, and the traditional middle-market sale hit a nice high note with a sale-topping price of $760,000 for a Pulpit-Mayhavebeentheone colt, now named Swath.

How the sale performs this year will depend not only on the participation of so-called "end users," the racehorse owners like Swath's buyer, Scott Guenther. It will also rest on the professional resellers who have long been a key part of the auction's middle market, purchasing in a wide range from about $75,000 to $400,000. Fasig-Tipton July has long been a crucial stop for those yearling-to-juvenile resellers, called pinhookers. But some of those who spent aggressively for 2006 yearlings failed to turn a profit on them at the 2007 juvenile sales this spring, and they are likely to trim their budgets now.

But Fasig-Tipton's chief operating officer, Boyd Browning, remains optimistic that they will continue to be important market players here.

"The pinhookers may scale back some," he said. "On some of their purchases they may have stretched a little farther than they wanted last year, and they might not have been rewarded there. But across the board what's been successful for

2-year-old sellers is to buy good,

athletic horses, and that's what we're concentrating on here in July. So I don't think we'll see a dramatic impact on our July sale."

The larger catalog might help cost-conscious buyers find bargains, but it could also result in a lower average price for the sale. Browning said that the decision to fatten the catalog this year was entirely because of consignor interest in the sale.

"We don't predetermine that we're going to catalog a particular number of horses in a given year," he said. "Our goal is to take the horses we thought fit pedigree- and conformation-wise, and we feel we're offering more better horses this year."

While the sale is best known for offering athletic individuals, there are some champion- and Grade 1-related pedigrees scattered through both days.

First-crop sires with such yearlings include champion Action This Day, who has a half-sister to Canadian champion Mobil selling as Hip No. 49; sprint champion Speightstown, the sire of Hip No. 165 who is a half-brother to Grade 1-placed Western Pride; Breeders' Cup Turf winner Johar, the sire of Hip No. 180 who is out of Grade 1 winner Toda Una Dama; and Grade 1 winner Tapit, sire of a half-sister to Pampered Princess who sells as Hip No. 281.

Other standout pedigrees by older sires include Hip No. 363, an E Dubai half-brother to Sister Act, and Hip No. 496, a Golden Missile half-brother to Great Hunter. And there are a slew of siblings to Grade 1-placed runners: Hip No. 120, a Friends Lake half-brother to American System; Hip No. 172, a Tenpins half-sister to Eye for an Eye; Hip No. 330, an Omega Code colt who is a half-brother to Kentucky Oaks third Really Polish; Hip No. 334, a Northern Afleet colt out of the dam of three stakes winners, including Grade 1-placed Top Secret; Hip No. 350, a Rossini half-brother to Grade 1-placed Roman Commander; Hip No. 372, a Lemon Drop Kid half-brother to Mother Goose runner-up Chamrousse; Hip No. 407, a More Than Ready half-brother to Grade 1-placed Bagshot; and Hip No. 426, a Gilded Time full brother to Grade 1-placed Diamond Isle.

The high percentage of young sires in the 2007 July catalog should draw attention from buyers of all stripes, whether they own a racing string or are speculative investors. The upside for a racy-looking individual by a new sire with no proven failures can be a powerful temptation for buyers hoping for a home run.

That point was driven home just nine days before the auction, when July sale graduate Panty Raid captured the Grade 1 American Oaks. A 3-year-old Include filly, she sold for just $110,000 back in 2005 as part of her sire's first yearlings in the New Sire Showcase. She turned a healthy profit for her buyer, who resold her as a juvenile for $275,000, and to date she has earned $692,275.

First-crop sires in the 2007 catalog include champions Smarty Jones, Action This Day, and Speightstown; classic winner Birdstone; and Gradeo1 winners Candy Ride, Congaree, Cuvee, Friends Lake, Johar, Lion Heart, Medgalia d'Oro, Peace Rules, Perfect Soul, Stroll, Tapit, Ten Most Wanted, The Cliff's Edge, and Toccet.

The preponderance of unproven stallions makes the 2007 July sale hard to compare with the season's other key select yearling sales, most notably Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga auction in August, the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company and California sales in August, and the Keeneland September sale. At those vendues, new sires aren't generally promoted separately, for example. But the Fasig-Tipton July auction will still provide an important clue as to how the year's middle market will fare. Browning is forecasting an overall market that looks much like last year's.

"I think the yearling market will continue to be very strong for top, top horses," Browning said. "Overall, it should be good. You'll continue to struggle with the mediocre horse that doesn't appeal to several buyers. . . . I don't think we'll continue to see double-digit increases across the board, but we've got a good market."