05/15/2013 5:34PM

Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale seeks more of the same


When Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic division holds its sale of 2-year-olds in training Monday and Tuesday, it will have at least three things going for it even before the first bid rolls in: an apparently fervid market for quality juveniles, new optimism about Maryland and regional racing, and excitement following Saturday’s Preakness Stakes at nearby Pimlico.

The Midlantic auction will take place in Timonium, Md., just two days after the Triple Crown’s second jewel, and it could be in line to continue the robust gains seen at 2013’s early select 2-year-old auctions.

The Midlantic sale should benefit from an improved economic outlook for Maryland’s Thoroughbred industry, including bigger, slots-fattened purses.

“Clearly, we’ve seen some increases in purses in Maryland, and from people you talk to, there seems to be some renewed interest and enthusiasm about racing in Maryland,” said Fasig-Tipton Chief Executive Boyd Browning. “It’s really a regional market as well. Maryland’s a bright spot, Pennsylvania’s very good, New York is obviously a key portion of the Mid-Atlantic racing circuit, and that scene is going great guns, and it was also encouraging to see a great start to Monmouth. There’s positive momentum for racing throughout the region.

“The entire mood in Maryland racing is much improved from what it was a year ago,” he added. “We think we’ll have a very strong sale and are really looking forward to it.”

If the Midlantic 2-year-old auction spins off more gains, it will be picking up where last year’s sale left off. The 2012 buyback rate cast a shadow, rising to 24 percent from 2011’s figure of 18 percent, but the auction house’s financial returns were firmly in the plus column. The two-day 2012 auction ended with 312  juveniles bringing $16,721,000, 3 percent higher than the previous year’s total for 343 horses. And the median and average – $28,000 and $53,953 – were up by 12 percent and 13 percent. The sale topper, the unraced Magic Daddy, brought a $575,000 final bid from Mercedes Stable.

The early spring’s select 2-year-old auctions generally performed even better than last season. The four major boutique juvenile sales – the Barretts March, Fasig-Tipton Florida, Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s March, and Keeneland April sales – all rang up double-digit gains in average and median. The OBS March auction also set records for average ($158,632) and median ($127,500) and equaled a sale record for its top price, the $1.8 million that Stonestreet Stables paid for King’s Equine agency’s Smart Strike-Mini Sermon colt.

A more recent good sign: The OBS April sale, offering a much larger catalog than any of the small, boutique auctions, also set records across the board. Its average soared by 39 percent to $60,535, and the $35,000 median was up 30 percent from last year. The one-day Barretts May sale of 2-year-olds in training continued the trend, posting double-digit increases in gross, average, and median, with a healthy 63 percent rise in gross receipts.

“I think we’re seeing the impact of supply and demand,” Browning said, referring to the 35 percent decline in the North American Thoroughbred foal crop since 2006. “There is a need for horses at the racetrack right now, and there’s a lot of momentum headed into this sale.”

The boutique auctions often produce all-or-nothing markets these days, with money flush for the horses whom bidders deem the catalog’s best, but much slimmer pickings for sellers with horses who aren’t among the chosen few. Like the OBS April sale, Fasig-Tipton Midlantic offers a larger catalog of 425 juveniles (through Tuesday, that number had dropped to 321 due to scratches). The bigger catalog could attract a wide range of buyers, including some who are returning to the Free State and the region because of the improved racing economics.

“From talking to trainers and owners there, I think there is additional interest, and some from people who may have cut back their horse production or horse racing when they got a little discouraged with Maryland racing,” Browning said. “Trainers are saying they’ve got people interested who are new to the game.”

The Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale will take place at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. Sessions begin daily at 10 a.m. Eastern. The under-tack breeze shows were scheduled for last Wednesday and Thursday.