10/16/2015 5:12PM

Fasig-Tipton October features huge catalog

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It wasn’t that long ago that the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale nearly became a casualty of the industry downturn and was briefly canceled. Heading into the 2015 renewal off four straight record-setting performances, the thought seems almost inconceivable.

A catalog already large enough to stop a bullet in 2014 was expanded to four days and 1,485 entries for 2015. The yearlings on offer run a broad spectrum, from Book 1 buybacks out of the Keeneland September yearling sale to runners sired in 22 different states, two Canadian provinces, and two countries outside of North America.

“I’m very optimistic,” said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning. “It’s a terrific catalog, a large catalog with lots of quality offerings. There really is something for everyone in the October catalog, and we’ve had great success throughout 2015 with sale graduates. Hopefully, it’ll be bigger and better than ever before.”

The sale is Monday through Thursday at Fasig-Tipton’s Newtown Paddocks headquarters in Lexington, Ky., beginning each day at 10 a.m. Eastern. The catalog’s record number of entries marks a 20 percent increase from the 1,238 who filled last year’s book, which was previously the second-largest of the past decade.

“We have maxed out physically what we can fit in one catalog – literally, that’s all we can get printed in there,” Browning said. “We did have to put up additional temporary stalls that are first-class. We’re about maxed out on what you can accommodate in one catalog over four days without flipping the stalls, so I don’t see how to really expand it in the future, but our goal is to serve the marketplace, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

While Browning said the Fasig-Tipton staff did recruit heavily for the October sale, the record number of entries was more a result of sellers’ interest in the auction than efforts to draw them in. The sale’s reputation has enjoyed a significant boost in recent years with the help of Kentucky Derby winners Big Brown and Mine That Bird as well as two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents. The latter two horses each sold for less than $10,000.

“The October sale used to be kind of a mop-up sale where you just kind of clean the cupboard out, but it’s gotten to be a force in its own right in the marketplace,” said Tom VanMeter of consignor Van-Meter-Gentry Sales. “There are horses that are targeted [for the October sale]. I’ve got horses going over there where that’ll be their first yearling sale.”

VanMeter, who brings his usual small but focused draft into the Fasig-Tipton October sale, predicted the sale will continue its record-setting trend for a fifth straight year, thanks largely to its ascension as a sale that serious buyers can no longer ignore.

“More horses with the same demand ought to equate to a lower average, but I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be lower,” he said. “I think it’ll be up again to $40,000 or $50,000. I know the pinhookers are still working. I don’t think all the orders are filled, for sure.”

The October sale also serves a diverse regional marketplace, with offerings from many statebred programs. Most of those yearlings are Kentucky-sired, but the catalog features several horses bred and sired within their respective states to best take advantage of their incentives. 

Joe Robson, an Iowa-based breeder, has four yearlings by his young sire Jafmil in the catalog through consignor Hidden Brook. With opportunities to sell in his home state limited to one small mixed auction, Robson said the October sale affords his yearlings a better chance of getting into the hands of higher-profile horsemen, which could in turn help develop his stallion’s résumé.

The yearlings Robson has on offer likely will cater to a different market than those buyers looking at the sons and daughters of the breed’s traditional powerhouses, but the breeder was not concerned about them getting lost in the shuffle.

“I think they’re pretty good horses,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of yearlings from my stud, so I handpicked the ones that I thought would bring the most money. I’ve only raced two [as an owner], but one of them won the first time out, and the other won the second time out, and they’re both stakes-placed. He’s throwing good babies, that’s for sure.”

Robson said he would be in attendance for the sale and could end up bidding on a few yearlings to take back with him. As both a buyer and seller, his analysis of the marketplace struck a similar tone to those trading at the marquee levels.

“I think you have to have good stock to get good money,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll do all right.”

Last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale saw unprecedented returns for the October auction, with records achieved in total sales, average, and median for the fourth consecutive year. Further demonstrating the sale’s growth, two of the sale’s three individual sessions outgrossed the overall returns from 15 of the past 20 renewals.

A total of 837 yearlings sold during the 2014 auction for $30,006,200, surpassing the previous year’s record gross by 8 percent. The average sale price hit a record high of $35,850, up 5 percent, while the median rose 9 percent to an all-time high of $18,500. The buyback rate finished at 21 percent, up from 16 percent in 2013.

Conquest Stables purchased the sale-topper, a $410,000 Tapit filly out of the winning Tabasco Cat mare Sage Cat.

Last year’s sale also produced Airoforce, the winner of the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes on Oct. 4 at Keeneland. The Colonel John colt sold to Michael Neatherlin for $20,000 and was later pinhooked. Four Star Sales consigned the colt as agent.