03/01/2011 3:46PM

Fasig-Tipton sale has new sense of optimism


Fasig-Tipton’s Florida select 2-year-old sale enters a new era Thursday. After 25 years at Calder Race Course in Miami, the auction has a new home at the Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, and sale officials hope that the new setting for a new season of Thoroughbred sales might be symbolic of returning optimism in the market.

Fasig-Tipton’s single-session auction starts the boutique juvenile auction season at a time when sellers are hoping the Thoroughbred market has achieved much-needed stability after a bruising economic downturn. And if any of the year’s markets might be ready for an upturn, it could be the 2-year-olds.

This auction took a hard plunge in 2009: Gross, average, and median fell between 25 percent and 35 percent. But the 2010 sale executed a remarkable turnaround. It sold the year’s most expensive juvenile, a Distorted Humor-Tomisue’s Delight colt now named Brock for $2.3 million, easily outstripping the previous year’s sale-topping price of $1.6 million. The average price rose 9 percent to $257,473, and the median leaped by 33 percent to $200,000. Gross sales, affected partly by a smaller catalog, decreased by 10 percent as 91 horses went through the ring for $23,430,000, as compared with 111 bringing $26,151,000 the previous year.

Fasig-Tipton’s CEO, Boyd Browning, believes the Florida auction could see gains again.

“I’m the eternal optimist, and I’m encouraged by the vibe we’ve been getting over the last month,” Browning said. “We’ve had significant interest on our racetrack visits from potential buyers. I think there’s going to be a very solid market for horses in 2011. Obviously, buyers are going to continue to be selective, but I think we’ll see a little uptick in the marketplace. The trainers, owners, and agents have seemed more enthusiastic and think they’ve got more buying opportunities this year than in the last year or two. That’s indicative of the overall economy getting better and the stock improving over the last six months. People seem to have more confidence.”

Sale officials hoped to concentrate buyers’ thoughts squarely on the auction by moving the sale from its traditional Tuesday slot to a Thursday.

“We weren’t comfortable selling on a Monday coming off a big weekend of racing with the Fountain of Youth we sponsored on Saturday, and people might not have had an opportunity to do all their homework,” explained Browning. “We want to be the absolute focus of everybody’s attention. This year, we breezed on Monday, a dark day, and there’s not a lot of conflict with major racing throughout the United States. It gave folks more time to relax over the weekend, then get down to serious sale work on Monday and the next three days until the sale.”

The most obvious change, of course, is the auction’s location. The auction will take place in a temporary auction facility which features what Browning called “a pavilion-type setting in a tent.” The facility also has video-replay rooms and a sale office.

Palm Meadows hosted the sale’s under-tack show on Monday. That yielded eye-popping times as four juveniles covered an eighth-mile in under 10 seconds. The quickest of those was Hip No. 49, a filly by 2010’s leading juvenile sire, More Than Ready out of Spring Unbridled, who went in 9.6 seconds. Three others did it in 9.8 seconds. They were Hip No. 64, a Tapit-Tempting Note filly; Hip No. 67, a Hard Spun-Princess Patricia colt; and, on the grass, Hip No. 128, a Medaglia d’Oro-Bubbling Heights colt.

The fastest quarter-mile time came on the grass when Hip No. 23, an English Channel-Reach the Top colt breezed in 20.8 seconds. The fastest quarter-mile works on dirt, in 21.6 seconds, were from Hips No. 73, a Stevie Wonderboy-Tina Fleet filly, and Hip No. 112, an Empire Maker-Angel Arch colt.

“I think that’s indicative of the quality of horse people brought here,” Browning said.

The catalog has an abundance of sire-power this year. Indian Charlie has a large contingent of 12. There are four entrants by A. P. Indy, five by More Than Ready and 2010 leading freshman sire Congrats, and seven by Medaglia d’Oro. Leading general sire Giant’s Causeway has four, including a full brother to Fairbanks and half-brother to Keats (Hip No. 103) and a colt out of Dream of Summer (159). Smart Strike’s five juveniles are highlighted by a son of Clear Mandate (144). Second-crop sire Bernardini’s group of six features a half-sister Dream Rush (Hip No. 80) and a half-brother to recent Whirlaway Stakes third Preachintothedevil (99); there’s also a three-quarter-brother to Bernardini (192) by A. P. Indy.

Among offerings by first-crop sires are a Corinthian half-brother to Diplomat Lady (11); a Half Ours half-sister to Dublin (143); and Hard Spun half-brothers to Henny Hughes (222) and Friendly Island (198).

Other juveniles with Grade or Group 1-winning connections include Hip No. 5, a Songandaprayer half-brother to Haynesfield; Hip No. 7, a Distorted Humor filly out of Pampered Princess; Hip No. 27, an Unbridled’s Song filly who is the first foal out of River’s Prayer; Hip No. 37, an Unbridled’s Song-Secret Status colt who is a full brother to Dunkirk; Hip No. 59, a Hard Spun half-brother Sinister Minister; Hip No. 90, a Gulch colt who is a full brother to Court Vision; Hip No. 174, a Rockport Harbor half-sister to Black Seventeen; Hip No. 175, a Johannesburg half-sister to Gabby’s Golden Gal; and Hip No. 186, an Empire maker half-brother to Cash Included.

The sale starts at 11 a.m. Thursday at Palm Meadows.