02/27/2015 2:04PM

Fasig-Tipton Florida: Sale starts new chapter

Barbara D. Livingston
The Fasig-Tipton Florida sale will be held in the walking ring at Gulfstream Park.

The Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training has been akin to a high-dollar traveling show over the past half-decade.

Known as one of the most select markets of the juvenile auction season, the boutique sale moved to Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., for its 2011 renewal, ending a 17-year stand at Calder Race Course. Three years later, the auction made a brief detour to central Florida, being held at Adena Springs South in Williston.

The Fasig-Tipton Florida sale returns to the Miami area for 2015, taking place at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach for the first time. Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning said he expects to stick around for a while at the new location.

“We’ve had a long tradition of selling horses in south Florida, beginning at Hialeah Park and Calder, and now we’re at Gulfstream,” Browning said. “I’m hoping we’ll be at Gulfstream for the next 40 to 50 years.”

The one-day Fasig-Tipton Florida sale will take place Wednesday in the Gulfstream walking ring, beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern. The presale under-tack show will be held Monday at 10 a.m.

A total of 174 horses were cataloged for this year’s sale, up 12 percent from the 156 juveniles cataloged in 2014.

The Florida sale will be the only major 2-year-olds in training auction to be held on the grounds of an active race meet in 2015. The location and timing provide a wide range of advantages.

For buyers, Browning said the venue provides an apples-to-apples comparison of ontrack performance to help forecast results over a surface that many of the horses are likely to see again.

“It gives a real level of confidence to the men and women that race and train at Gulfstream Park to be able to watch and evaluate horses both galloping and training in the mornings as well as in the breeze show,” Browning said. “It eliminates a lot of the guesswork in regards to adaptation to track surfaces, a lot of the guesswork from how a time translates from an older horse they may have to a 2-year-old in training and how they evaluate that. It gives them a much more comfortable basis for evaluating because there’s that familiarity and knowledge of the track, of the surface, and the facilities.”

For sellers, the auction grounds are located on the same property as one of the strongest platoons of owners and trainers at a single meet in North America. A high concentration of horsemen and women who would be players at a high-end boutique sale like Fasig-Tipton Florida are already located on the Gulfstream backstretch.

“Certainly, the bulk of the quality racing is taking place at Gulfstream and Santa Anita day in and day out,” Browning said. “It’s a showcase opportunity. We have some of the best owners in the world and some of the best trainers in the world there on a daily basis, so it’s got to be a positive to put those horses in front of them.”

Returning to Gulfstream also brings the Florida sale back to a region with a variety of attractions off the auction grounds, arguably more so than any other North American juvenile sale. While the high-quality meet draws potential clients from the Gulfstream barns, the lure of the Miami area could help bring in buyers from out of town, especially following a prolonged cold spell across the Midwest and East Coast.

“They’ve got the south Florida magic back, and they’re trying to capitalize on that,” said consignor Nick de Meric. “There’s no question being in the epicenter of East Coast racing at a given time is a definite plus over Palm Meadows, which was a beautiful facility but was more out of the loop. There’s no doubt with Miami’s great restaurants and entertainment options, and the racing itself, it’s an easy sell for a client up North to say, ‘Let’s go to Miami for a week and go to the 2-year-old sale.’ ”

Fasig-Tipton has had a longstanding business relationship with Frank Stronach and his various Thoroughbred operations. Stronach owns Florida sale venues Palm Meadows, Adena Springs South, and Gulfstream Park, and the auction company previously hosted a mixed sale of offerings from Adena Springs at its Lexington, Ky., base. The sale is being conducted at a Stronach-owned venue for the fifth straight year. Adena Springs will have a major presence in the sale’s proceedings, with 47 juveniles entered in the catalog.

Further demonstrating the long-term partnership between The Stronach Group and Fasig-Tipton is a $1 million bonus to any Florida sale graduate that wins the 2016 Florida Derby at Gulfstream. Horses must go through the ring to be eligible, which excludes outs and late scratches from the incentive.

Last year’s Fasig-Tipton Florida sale at Adena Springs South saw an across-the-board downturn, with 47 horses sold for $13.37 million. The gross fell 25 percent from the 2013 renewal, where 46 horses brought $17,725,000.

The average sale price fell 26 percent from $385,326 to $284,468, while the median took a 40 percent drop from $300,000 to $180,000. The buyback rate finished at 45 percent, slightly higher than the 41 percent in 2013.

Demi O’Byrne, representing the Coolmore partnership, purchased the 2014 sale-topper, a Malibu Moon colt, for $1.2 million.

The yet-to-be-named colt is out of the unraced Pine Bluff mare Lizzy’s Bluff, whose three winners include the stakes winner Please Explain and multiple-stakes-placed Nicklaus Way. He is from the family of Canadian champion Truth of It All, Grade 1 winners I Ain’t Bluffing and Borrego, and Grade 2 winners Acting Happy and Together Indy. He was bred in Kentucky by Donard and Michael Niall.

The transaction completed an outstanding pinhook for consignors Hoby and Layna Kight, who initially purchased the colt for $200,000 at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Last year’s sale also produced Grade 1 winner Competitive Edge, who sold for $750,000, as well as Grade 2 winners I Spent It ($600,000) and Blofeld ($225,000). Khozan, a half-brother to champion Royal Delta who expects to make his presence felt on the Kentucky Derby trail following a strong optional-claiming win Feb. 22, brought the second-highest price of last year’s Florida sale, going to Al Shaqab Racing for $1 million.