10/22/2015 8:01PM

Fasig-Tipton October: Record-volume sale posts mild declines


The number of horses cataloged for the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale reached an all-time high during its 2015 renewal, but the sale could not maintain the record pace it had set over the past four editions, posting mild declines from the previous year.

A total of 854 yearlings changed hands during the four days of this year’s sale for revenues of $29,369,300, down 2 percent from last year’s edition when 837 yearlings sold over three days for a record $30,006,200.

The gross and number of horses sold were both down despite offering 178 more horses in the ring after outs, and adding an extra day of selling. However, the final gross still finished as the second highest in Fasig-Tipton October history.

The average sale price of $34,390 was the second-highest the auction has seen, down 4 percent from last year’s record figure of $35,850. The $15,000 median was the sale’s third-best result, marking a 19 percent decline compared with the all-time high $18,500 in 2014.

“Overall, I thought we concluded the fourth day of a pretty consistent overall marketplace,” said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning. “All four days were fairly similar in terms of average price, median price, and so forth. It wasn’t dramatically different from 2014 levels, and not significantly different than what we expected from what we’ve seen from the yearling season this year.”

The buyback rate finished at 31 percent, up significantly from last year’s final figure of 21 percent.

“It’s probably just an oversupply of horses at a level that nobody really needs those horses,” Headley Bell of consignor Mill Ridge Sales said, discussing the relationship between supply and demand at the sale. “There’s not enough depth of buyers to absorb all the horses. We’ve got too many horses at the lower level, it seems. People don’t have to have horses.”

Browning said he did not blame the mild downturn in figures on a record-sized catalog oversaturating the marketplace. Instead, he said the results reflected an overall trend of softening in the yearling marketplace below the $25,000 level.

“That’s what we had seen in the later parts of [Keeneland] September and other open horse sales,” he said. “The buyback had crept up in those markets this year, medians might have struggled a little bit, and those are the same trends we saw in this sale, so I don’t think it was a result of increased numbers. I thought it was a result of a slight movement in the marketplace.

Eighteen horses sold for $200,000 or more during the 2015 sale, down from 20 the previous year, while the 79 yearlings to bring six figures surpassed the 70 to do so in 2014.

“The market for a horse below $15,000 in terms of value is extremely difficult,” Browning said. “From $15,000 to $50,000, it’s sticky but still manageable, and once you get above $50,000, it was pretty dadgum good.”

The sale’s most expensive offering came during the fourth session, when John Oxley purchased a Tapit colt for $410,000, tying the price of last year’s sale-topper.

Bred in Kentucky by Jack Swain III, the colt is the third foal out of the Grade 3-placed stakes-winning Smart Strike mare Apple Charlotte, who was herself bred by Swain. He is from the family of Grade 1 winner Noble Bird, who is also owned by Oxley, as well as Grade 3 winner Mythical Gem, and Puerto Rican Group 1 winner Brother Pat.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a steal, but I think it’s a very fair price for seller and buyer,” Oxley said. “I thought he might go a little higher, but I’m okay with it.”

The colt will eventually be sent to the barn of trainer Mark Casse, who had a pair of active high-profile clients buying at the Fasig-Tipton October sale. Oxley made five purchases totaling $1,087,000, while Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell’s Conquest Stables bought 13 yearlings for a combined $1,780,000.

“We’ll bring him along carefully, and point him for a big 2-year-old season, we hope,” Oxley said. “We’ll begin at Churchill Downs, hopefully, and go from there.”

Brookdale Sales consigned the colt as agent for Swain, who has been a client of the sales agency for about 15 years. He was offered earlier this year at the Keeneland September yearling sale, but finished under his reserve with a final bid of $340,000.

“Sometimes horses benefit from a little bit more time, and I think the extra month from September to October probably helped him a lot,” said Freddy Seitz of Brookdale Sales. “He probably gets the ‘most improved’ award from a month ago as far as some of the horses that came of the farm.”

The colt was the only offering in the catalog by leading commercial sire Tapit, which Seitz said helped him stand out among the largest catalog in the sale’s history.

“That was probably the best day, when we found out he was the only one in the sale,” Seitz said. “He’s always been a real straightforward horse, a great mover, and by one of the best sires in the world. Maybe the best sire in the world, in my opinion.”

Thursday’s fourth and final session closed with 215 yearlings sold for revenues of $7,802,600. Because the fourth day of the sale was added for this year’s renewal, there are no comparable figures for the session.

The average sale price closed at $36,219 on Thursday, the second highest of the four sessions, while the median finished at $15,000. The buyback rate finished at 28 percent.