11/07/2017 12:18AM

Fasig-Tipton November: Champions Songbird, Tepin shine brightest on star-studded night

Before a packed sale pavilion at Fasig-Tipton, two-time Eclipse Award champion Songbird sold for $9.5 million Monday night to become the second most-expensive broodmare prospect ever sold at public auction in North America.

The top of the Thoroughbred auction market has been nothing short of vibrant over the course of 2017, and the ultra-select Fasig-Tipton Kentucky select fall mixed sale lived up to that billing, with a record gross powered by $9.5-million Songbird and $8-million Tepin, as well as a pair of $1-million entries bringing the co-highest weanling price in the auction’s history.

Monday’s single-session auction closed with 115 horses sold for record revenues of $74,200,000 according to figures reported by Fasig-Tipton, up 37 percent from last year’s November sale, when 88 horses brought $54,152,000.

The average sale price increased 5 percent to its third-highest figure ever of $645,217 from $615,364, according to the auction company’s record-keeping. The median dropped 34 percent to $250,000 from last year’s record of $377,500, but still finished tied for the second-highest all-time. Monday’s buyback rate finished at an improved 18 percent, compared with 28 percent in 2016.

Eight horses sold for $2 million or more, compared to seven to cross that threshold in 2016, and overall seven-figure purchases rose to 19 from 15.

 “We had a remarkable catalog and we had remarkable results tonight,” Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning said. “When people entrust their very best with you, you get rewarded and have a great sale.

“There was a great energy before the sale,” he continued. “We knew we had a really good catalog, when you walked around the sale grounds and you looked at the horses, and you saw the people that were looking at them, it was very encouraging and very positive.”

The auction’s two marquee offerings, champions Songbird and Tepin, went through the ring with just six offerings between them on Monday night. Songbird entered first to a packed pavilion, draped in a red cooler bearing her name and the logo designed to market her for the sale before she was ‘unveiled’ by her handlers, a bit of theatricality consignor Taylor Made Sales has employed in the past with anticipated offerings.

The two-time Eclipse Award winner was a major threat to 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace’s record price for a broodmare prospect of $10 million paid at this sale five years ago. Browning said he was so nervous as the blanket was removed from the filly – with Tepin moments away from entering the ring herself - that he kept a trash can nearby should he need to throw up.

The gravity of selling a potential record-breaker was only part of the equation. Songbird’s time in the sale ring was the culmination of an emotional journey for Browning, and a pair of important people in his life who were ailing: his late father, Boyd Browning Sr., and Rick Porter, owner of Songbird. The latter does not maintain a broodmare band, and regularly sells his top fillies and mares at auction.

“The day I got the call about Songbird coming to the sale was a bad day for Rick,” Browning said. “I was at Central Baptist [Hospital in Lexington, Ky.] with my dad, and he’d followed Songbird, and he said, ‘Damn, this is really going to stink.’ I said, ‘What do you mean, dad? We just got Songbird.’ He said ‘Yeah, I’m not going to be here to see her.’”

The elder Browning died on Sept. 11 at age 84. Porter has made an extraordinary recovery from his battle with cancer, and was in the building when Songbird sold to Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm for $9.5 million.

“Songbird was a kind of bittersweet, but for one of my good friends, it was one of the most magnificent horses that we ever had the privilege to sell, and it was a great experience.” Browning said. “I was thrilled with how she sold, and I think Rick was thrilled with how she sold, so I’m good now.”

Songbird's price ranked her second among North American broodmare prospects sold at public auction who have never carried a foal, including horses in training offered as racing or broodmare prospects. The record-holder is another former Fox Hill colorbearer in Havre de Grace, who Pope also purchased as part of her star-studded broodmare band. Songbird will now join that older mare at Wayne and Cathy Sweezey's Timber Town Farm outside of Lexington, where Pope boards her mares and foals.

"I've been watching [Songbird] for two years at Saratoga,” Pope said. “I saw Rick Porter in Ocala a couple years ago, and I said, 'If you want a partner or you just decide it's time to retire her, let me know.' Of course, he grumbled.

"I really didn't think I'd have to go that high," Pope continued. "I really had a budget, and I really didn't keep to it. My accountant is not going to be very happy with me. ... [But] she's awesome, and Havre de Grace wanted somebody who cost about what she did. She was feeling a little lonely there."

Pope said she will need time to consider which stallion Songbird will visit for her first mating, but mentioned that top sires Frankel, Galileo, and Tapit were on the table.

:: More coverage: Songbird soars into the record books ::

Songbird, a 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro filly won 13 of 15 starts, never finishing worse than second, for earnings of $4,692,000. Her unbeaten Eclipse Award championship 2-year-old campaign in 2015 was highlighted by a score in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. The following season, the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee missed the Kentucky Oaks due to a minor illness, but romped in a pair of historic stakes for the division in summer at Saratoga, winning the Coaching Club American Oaks by 5 1/2 lengths and the Alabama Stakes by seven. She finished second by a nose to four-time Eclipse Award champion Beholder in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, but had done enough to lock up her section Eclipse title.

This year, Songbird returned to win the Ogden Phipps and the Delaware Handicap, pushing her number of Grade 1 victories to nine. However, she finished second to Forever Unbridled - who subsequently won the Breeders' Cup Distaff - in the Personal Ensign Stakes, prompting Porter to send her for a complete veterinary workup under the care of Larry Bramlage at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital. She was retired after tests revealed suspensory ligament damage and a severe bone chip.

"There hasn't been another filly in my opinion, I might be biased, that's put on a show for the public like she did, and did it so easily,” Porter said. “She won by a lot and she did it so easily, until this year, and she wasn't getting over the ground the same. I was starting to smell a rat before we could finally see that she was off. I had to get her down to [Rood and Riddle], and Larry just said, 'You have to retire her.'"

Porter said that Songbird, who he purchased for $400,000 at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sale, more than doubled her reserve price on Monday.

"If you've got one bidder, say, at $5 million, it's going to be pretty obvious if it's just the auctioneer and that other person, so there's no sense making a fool of yourself,” Porter said. “I didn't want to make a fool of myself, so the reserve was under $5 million, and I just thought it would be better if people knew it was real people that were bidding. If that's all she was going to bring, I was going to have to live with it.”

Bred in Kentucky by John Antonelli, Songbird is out of the Grade 2-winning West Acre mare Ivanavinalot, who is the dam of four winners from five runners. She is the second dam of Grade 3 winner Mico Margarita.

While Pope was initially in the running for Tepin, she ultimately did not place a bid on the turf champion, who entered the ring a few minutes later, after exhausting her budget on Songbird. This left the door open for the Coolmore partnership, which bought the mare in foal to Curlin for $8 million.

:: More coverage: 'Queen of the turf' heads overseas again ::

M.V. Magnier, speaking on behalf of the Coolmore partnership, said the 6-year-old Bernstein mare would join the operation’s broodmare band in Ireland, and would be bred to international titan Galileo in 2018. Tepin sold carrying her first foal, to the cover of two-time Horse of the Year and classic sire Curlin.

"It's a lot of money, but she's a good racehorse," said Magnier, who nodded that Coolmore had had its eye on this mare for quite some time. "She was a good 2-year-old, and she was good up to the age of 5. She's unbelievable, what she did on the track."

Tepin was retired in April, finishing a career that included 13 wins in 23 starts for $4,437,918. She was named champion turf female in 2015, when her victories included the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and 2016, when she became the first American-based runner ever to win the Queen Anne Stakes at the renowned Royal Ascot meeting. She finished first or second in each of her 15 starts over her two championship campaigns.

While best known for her exploits on the turf, Tepin also showed her mettle on the main track, with a win in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Princess Stakes.

She was consigned by the nascent Elite Sales of Bradley Weisbord and Liz Crow on behalf of owner Robert Masterson, who does not maintain a broodmare band or breeding operation. She was trained throughout her career by Mark Casse and her regular rider during her championship run was Leparoux. Masterson, Leparoux, and several members of the Casse team were in attendance to watch the mare sell.

"What I will remember most is the experience of doing the impossible - traveling to Ascot and racing under totally unfamiliar conditions and doing something no American horse had done, beating the best milers in Europe on their home turf - was something that may never be replicated," Masterson said. "Then, to be congratulated in person by the Queen created a moment for me and my family which was unimaginable to us."

Tepin, bred by Machmer Hall, was a $140,000 purchase by Masterson out of the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sale. She is out of the Stravinsky mare Life Happened, a two-time finalist for Kentucky Broodmare of the Year, and the dam of graded stakes-winning millionaire Vyjack and graded stakes placed Prime Cut.

A third Eclipse Award champion was sold later in the night, as Japan's Northern Farm went to $1.5 million to land Finest City. The City Zip mare arrived on the sale grounds after contesting Saturday's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, a race she won last year to lock up her divisional title. Ian Kruljac trained and consigned Finest City for owner Seltzer Thoroughbreds.

Earlier in the night, two weanlings sold for $1 million, tying for a record price in that category at the November sale.

Jon Clay’s Alpha Delta landed the first blow with a Street Sense filly who is a full sister to Grade 1 winner Callback.

"She's a nice filly, and a full sister to a really nice filly who brought $2.8 million here,” said Reynolds Bell, who signed for Alpha Delta. “We're glad to be in the family. This was about the only way we figured we could get into the family. We tried real hard on Callback last year, so here we are.”

Bred in Kentucky by Vincent Colbert, the bay filly is out of the unraced Forest Wildcat mare Quickest, whose five foals to race are all winners. Alongside Callback, the filly is a half to stakes winner Defy Gravity and stakes placed Miss Super Quick. The filly is from the family of champion Rhythm, Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, and Grade 1 winners Bluegrass Cat, Girolamo, Got Lucky, and Imagining.

"I wasn't going to sell if she didn't bring a million,” Colbert said. “I know the family and it just keeps getting better. Quickest is carrying a filly by Frosted and I'm going to keep her.” 

Not long after the Street Sense filly left the ring, a filly from the first crop of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah matched her price, going to Japan’s Grand Farm.

The bay filly, consigned by Eaton Sales, is out of the Grade 3-winning Storm Cat mare Untouched Talent. The mare’s five winners from as many runners are led by Grade 1 winner and dual classic-placed Bodemeister, and Grade 1 placed Fascinating. Bodemeister, who sired Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming from his first crop, is bred on the same cross as this filly. 

"We loved her as a type, but obviously, her pedigree is outstanding,” said Emmanuel de Seroux of Narvick International, who signed the ticket for Grand Farm. “Her mother sold for $5 million here a few years ago, so there's a lot of pedigree there and conformation to go with it. She's a very nice prospect for us."

:: More coverage: American Pharoah makes strong debut ::

De Seroux said the filly would be kept to breed at the conclusion of her racing career.

"I think any time you get above seven figures, you're doing pretty well, and probably above expectations, but we knew she was going to break loose,” Eaton’s Reiley McDonald said. “She was a lovely filly. She had a great way of moving, great disposition, out of a wonderful mare. 

"I'm going to tell you, these American Pharoahs are going to blow through the roof,” he continued. “The ones I've seen are outstanding, and he's stamping them. They've got huge shoulders and great hip, good length and scope, so this is just the beginning."

Untouched Talent was purchased by Coolmore – which also stands American Pharoah -  for $5 million at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton November sale. The American Pharoah filly is the mare’s third foal to sell for seven figures.

For hip-by-hip sale results, click here.

-- Additional reporting by Nicole Russo

Fasig-Tipton November, final results

Year Sold Gross Average Median Buyback
2017 115 $74,200,000 (+37%) $645,217 (+5%) $250,000 (-34%) 18%
2016 88 $54,152,000 $615,364 $377,500 28%

Fasig-Tipton November, top five mares

Price Horse Buyer Consignor
$9,500,000 Songbird - broodmare prospect by Medaglia d'Oro Whisper Hill Farm Taylor Made Sales, agent for Fox Hill Farm
$8,000,000 Tepin - broodmare by Bernstein, in foal to Curlin. M.V. Magnier Elite Sales, agent for Robert Masterson
$3,600,000 Quidura - racing/broodmare prospect by Dubawi White Birch Farm Brookdale Sales, agent
$3,000,000 Nickname - broodmare prospect by Scat Daddy Kerri Radcliffe Bloodstock Claiborne Farm, agent
$3,000,000 Catch a Glimpse - racing/broodmare prospect by City Zip K I Farm Corporation Bluewater Sales, agent

Fasig-Tipton November, top five weanlings

Price Pedigree Buyer Consignor
$1,000,000 filly by American Pharoah - Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat Narvick International Eaton Sales, agent
$1,000,000 filly by Street Sense - Quickest, by Forest Wildcat Reynolds Bell for Alpha Delta Paramount Sales, agent
$650,000 filly by Medaglia d'Oro - Glittering Tax, by Artax Baccari Bloodstock Buckland Sales, agent
$525,000 colt by American Pharoah - Dancing Trieste, by Old Trieste International Equities Holdings Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency, agent
$420,000 filly by Curlin - Hung the Moon, by Malibu Moon John Dowd, agent Bluewater Sales, agent

Top broodmare prospects sold in North America

Songbird moves onto this list, which includes mares sold as broodmare prospects, and horses in training sold as racing/broodmare prospects

Price Horse Buyer Sale
$10,000,000 Havre de Grace Whisper Hill Farm Fasig-Tipton November, 2012
$9,500,000 Songbird Whisper Hill Farm Fasig-Tipton November, 2017
$9,000,000 Ashado John Ferguson Keeneland November, 2005
$8,500,000 Royal Delta Besilu Farm Keeneland November, 2011
$6,000,000 Take Charge Brandi Hill 'n' Dale Farm Keeneland November, 2015

Top broodmares sold in North America

Tepin moves onto this list, which includes mares who had previously produced foals, or mares in foal at the time of sale

Price Horse Buyer Sale
$14,000,000 Better Than Honour (previous foals, 5) Southern Equine Stables Fasig November, 2008
$10,500,000 Playful Act (previous foals, 1) Darley Keeneland November, 2007
$8,000,000 Tepin (carrying first foal) M.V. Magnier Fasig November, 2017
$7,100,000 Cash Run (previous foals, 1) Coolmore Keeneland November, 2003
$7,000,000 Korveya (previous foals, 4) Jayeff B Stables Keeneland November, 1998
$7,000,000 Miss Oceana (carrying first foal) Foxfield Fasig November dispersal, 1985