02/26/2016 3:14PM

Fasig-Tipton Florida: Familiar locale, top graduates propel sale

Email

A sense of momentum that has not been seen in quite some time carries into the Fasig-Tipton Florida selected 2-year-olds in training sale.

The nightlife scenery of the Gulfstream Park walking ring will be a welcome refrain for the boutique sale, which had previously seen three different venues in as many years from 2013 to 2015.

Perhaps most importantly, the auction boasts a strong list of graduates from its inaugural sale at the Hallandale Beach, Fla., racetrack last year, led by champion 2-year-old male and leading Triple Crown trail contender Nyquist. Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning said this year’s sale follows up with more high-level offerings.

:: WATCH LIVE: Get live streaming video of Fasig-Tipton Florida's under-tack show and sale, plus live analysis from our staff ::

“It’s the greatest statement about the quality of the horses that come out of the sale that you can have,” Browning said. “I think we’ve got another strong group of horses that are going to be presented this year by the best consignors in the world. We just could not be any more optimistic.”

The single-day sale will be held March 2 in Gulfstream’s outdoor walking ring, beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern. The presale under-tack show will be held Monday, Feb. 29 at 10 a.m.

This year’s catalog features 152 entries, down 13 percent from last year’s renewal, which featured 175 horses cataloged.

Despite keeping a similar place on the calendar, the Florida sale is now the juvenile market’s leadoff sale, because the Barretts select 2-year-olds in training sale moved back from early February to late March.

Boutique sales are rarely the most accurate measuring stick available to test the overall health of a particular segment of the auction market, though the Florida sale’s place on the schedule will quickly show if the selectivity for high-end offerings displayed in the previous mixed and yearling seasons looks to carry over into the juvenile market.

The juvenile scene of 2015 proved quite diverse, with open sales later in the year posting record returns and all-time high-priced offerings.

While she expected the rising profile of open sales to be a continuing trend, Becky Thomas of consignor Sequel Bloodstock said the market’s rapid gravitation toward a handful of select offerings means that boutique sales are not at risk of becoming obsolete. That also means expectations of quality at select sales are as high as they’ve ever been.

“If you look at the success of those sales, I think they definitely have a place in our market, because if you are looking for a top horse, I’m not going to take something there I don’t think is a top horse,” Thomas said. “When you go to the select sales, the rate of racing return is good, but people expect the very best, so you have to be very careful.”

The Florida sale will once again be the only major juvenile event to be held on the grounds of an active race meet, with the breeze show and auction all taking place within the track’s scheduled dark days.

Last year’s under-tack show, held on both Gulfstream’s main track and turf course, did not produce a sub-10-second worker, which is increasingly uncommon for a select juvenile sale.

While the typical times were a few fifths slower than what one has come to expect at a sale of this level, the surface received positive reviews after last year’s breezes, and the experience of having held a breeze show at the location ought to help configure the expectations of those with the stopwatches and the checkbooks.

“The track is just a little deeper, a little slower, than what we’re used to with the track at OBS [made of the all-weather Safetrack surface],” said James Gladwell IV of consignor Top Line Sales, “but I think it’s a fair track and it’s going to be the same for all the horses. It’s more similar to what we’re used to at the farm. It spreads them out just a little more.”

Browning also noted that a year under the belts of the sale company and market participants ought to make the auction process smoother from the first horse off the trailer to the final hammer.

“It’s much easier being the second time around,” Browning said. “Last year was not only the inaugural sale, but we were working with Gulfstream and the primary barn used to house the sale horses and was getting finished just in time for the sale. There haven’t been those items that require attention, so it’s certainly much easier the second time around than it is the inaugural time.”

This year’s auction will see the return of the $1 million bonus for horses that go through the ring at the Florida sale, and then win the Grade 1 Florida Derby. The connections of champion Nyquist, who was a $400,000 purchase by Dennis O’Neill for owner Reddam Racing, have already declared their intentions to ship the horse from his California base and try to win the lucrative bonus.

“It creates interest, and it’s a nice incentive for buyers,” Browning said. “I think we’re going to have some nice representation. The bonus is a unique setting, with the sale there at Gulfstream and the race being held at Gulfstream. It’s just one more way to add a little sizzle and excitement to the sale, and ultimately to the Florida Derby.”

Other notable graduates from last year’s sale include Grade 1 winner Mor Spirit, Grade 2 winner Annual Report, and Grade 3 winner Flexibility.

“I expect the interest from the buying standpoint to be pretty strong, with the quality of horses that came out of the sale last year,” Gladwell said. “I think it’ll have them wanting to participate in the sale more so, hopefully.”

The 2015 edition of the sale saw some adjustments of expectations with a new setup and the most horses offered since 2011. A total of 89 horses changed hands for $20,095,500. It was also the highest gross since the 2011 sale and made for a 50 percent increase from the previous year’s auction, which was held at Adena Springs South in Williston, Fla.

The other measurables saw a marked decline, with the average sale price falling 21 percent to $225,792 and the median dipping 28 percent to $130,000. The buyback rate finished at 33 percent, improving upon the 2014 figure of 45 percent.

Last year’s sale was dominated by the Coolmore partnership, which purchased at least a share of the night’s three most expensive horses.

Leading the way was a $1.4 million Scat Daddy colt out of the unraced Thunder Gulch mare Alittlebiteearly, whose produce includes 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern. The still-unnamed colt was consigned as agent by Crupi’s New Castle Farm.