12/06/2013 2:12PM

Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale closes auction calendar

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The last major auction during what has been a largely positive year in the North American bloodstock market will come on Dec. 9 when the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale is held in Timonium, Md.

The one-day auction will commence at 11 a.m. Eastern in Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic sales pavilion on the Maryland State Fairgrounds. This year’s edition features a catalog of 210 horses, making for a 11 percent smaller book than last year’s sale, which included 237 horses.

“We have some interesting horses,” said Paget Bennett, Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic sales director. “Everybody’s looking to get back in the game and looking to buy horses now. I had a call from a few people today saying that they’re planning to attend the sale, and they said, ‘We haven’t been active for a while, but we think now’s the time to get back involved.’ We were happy to get that phone call, for sure.”

One of the biggest points of optimism for the upcoming sale derives from the performance of the middle and lower markets at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Buyer demand helped drive a record-tying overall median at Keeneland, and day-to-day returns posted significant improvements into the auction’s final session.

That bodes well for the Midlantic December sale, which could be compared to the sessions toward the end of the Keeneland November sale in terms of quality. Bennett said that the number of buyers that were left wanting for horses ought to translate to more competitive bidding when the action moves to Maryland.

“I think it is going to carry over,” she said. “I’ve heard from a lot of people that they didn’t get the horses purchased that they were hoping to at Keeneland, so that’s good that they’re still looking for horses.”

Horses bred in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and New York comprise the bulk of the catalog for weanlings and yearlings, with additional offerings bred in Florida, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. The Mid-Atlantic region has become a popular target for owners and breeders looking to take advantage of the lucrative incentive programs offered in many of those states due to expanded gaming or other means.

The most recent state to boost its incentive program is Maryland, which is in the midst of a three-year process to expand owner and breeder awards to the connections of top state-bred finishers at Maryland racetracks.

Currently, breeders receive a 30 percent purse bonus for Maryland-bred horses that finish in the top three in any race at a Maryland track, and a 10 percent stallion bonus. The winning owner receives a 17.5 percent bonus.

In 2014, the owner incentive program will expand to the top three finishers in maiden, allowance, and claiming races with a tag of $10,000 and up. The four Maryland-bred yearlings cataloged in the December sale will be eligible for that incentive next year as 2-year-olds.

Maryland-bred weanlings purchased out of the sale, of which there are 28 cataloged, will be juveniles when the final stage of the program is rolled out in 2015, where both Maryland-bred breeder and owner bonuses will be set at 30 percent to the top three finishers of all races.

Bennett said that the draw of Maryland’s expanded incentive plan has already convinced some horsemen she has dealt with to consider having a presence in the state, or even to move their entire operation there.

“With what is on the table for the Maryland-breds, I think it’s definitely a good move [to buy one],” she said. “I think Maryland-breds are going to be more popular and rewarded handsomely in the coming years, so why not join the group?”

Last year’s Midlantic December sale posted significant declines compared with the 2011 edition, but that was to be expected following the high-profile dispersal of the late New York owner-breeder Carl Lizza’s Flying Zee Stable that was featured in the 2011 sale.

Fasig-Tipton reported 140 horses sold at last year’s sale for a total of $1,150,200. Factoring in the 2011 Flying Zee dispersal, that figure marked a 69 percent decline compared with the overall receipts from 2011, but was a seven percent increase when compared strictly with open-market offerings. The average sale price of $8,216 was a 43 percent decrease (a 26 percent gain versus open-market offerings), while the median fell 23 percent, from $5,200 to $4,000. The buyback rate was 28 percent.

Topping last year’s sale was a weanling half-sister to Grade 1 winner Unbridled Command, who sold to McMahon and Hill Bloodstock as agent for Edition Farm for $100,000. The Read the Footnotes filly was the only offering to sell for six figures.

With a year’s worth of generally reinvigorated trade in its wake, the 2013 renewal of the Midlantic December sale stands to improve on those numbers.

“I think we have a good group of mares, we have some nice weanlings that our consignors are very high on, and some are by first-year sires,” Bennett said. “It’s nice to see people get excited about these first-year sires and what they can bring and what they can produce, so we’re hopeful that we can carry on with them and reward our breeders well, and move on from there.”