07/07/2016 5:06PM

Fasig-Tipton sale, now a standalone event, kicks off yearling auction season

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The North American yearling auction season kicks off Tuesday with the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July selected yearling sale, which will be held as a standalone event for the first time since 2012.

Recent renewals had immediately preceded the auction company’s summer sale of selected horses of racing age, which could make for a long day of trade. The sessions will be held on separate days this time around.

“By the time the horses-of-racing-age sale got done last year, I think everyone was a little bleary-eyed,” said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning. “We learn from year to year and make adjustments when necessary.”

The yearling sale will take place Tuesday at Fasig-Tipton’s Newtown Paddocks base in Lexington, Ky., beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern. The catalog features 347 offerings, up 5 percent from last year’s sale, where 332 yearlings were entered. It is the largest group of July sale offerings since 2010.

“As always, I’m optimistic,” Browning said. “I think we’ve got a really good group of horses assembled, both in terms of physical conformation, which is so important in July, and we think the catalog in terms of pedigrees is also very good.”

Forecasts for the yearling market in 2016 vary from person to person, but the recurring theme is the selectivity of the marketplace, in which shortlists have become shorter and competition for the select horses becomes greater.

That trend was especially apparent at this year’s sales of 2-year-olds in training, which many described as a “feast or famine,” with high upper-market prices but increased buyback rates at most sales. With an auction as driven by physical appearance and early development as the Fasig-Tipton July sale, that can create some concern among those marketing to pinhookers.

“The 2-year-old sales weren’t gang busters, and some of the pinhookers might not have done as well as they’d done in past years, so I’m not sure if they’ll be spending as much as they did last year,” said Pat Costello of consignor Paramount Sales.

Browning was not as concerned about the juvenile market’s potential domino effect into the yearling sector, noting that the discriminating mentality among buyers is hardly a new development.

“In virtually every marketplace, whether we’re talking yearlings, 2-year-olds, or the mixed sales, we’re going to see a continued emphasis on quality; we’re going to see selectivity throughout the marketplace,” he said. “We certainly wish the middle of the market was broader and a little deeper, but the competition for the perceived quality offerings is going to be very intense and competitive. I don’t think there was anything terribly surprising about the 2-year-old marketplace, and I don’t think we’ll have a dramatic change or significant movement in the yearling marketplace.”

One point Browning and Costello agreed upon was the impact that separating the yearling and racing-age sessions would have on the yearling market, which was little to none.

“It’ll hopefully get some of the trainers in,” Costello said. “They’ll have their races done Sunday, so hopefully they’ll be in town for that and hang on for the yearling end of it.”

Despite concerns about the pinhooking segment of the marketplace, Costello said morale in the Thoroughbred industry was rising, which could draw in new buyers and eventually yield positive returns.

“I think racing right now has a good feel, off a Triple Crown win and Nyquist coming into the Derby unbeaten,” he said. “I think we’re getting more media coverage on racing than we have in the past couple of years, so I think there’s a little bit of a good feeling around, and I hope it’ll transfer into sales. It hasn’t yet, but I think it could be around the corner.”

Last year’s auction saw 205 horses sell for just over $20 million. That marked a 31 percent increase from the 2014 renewal and the highest gross since 2009.

The average sale price of $97,585 marked the fourth straight year of growth, up 4 percent, while the median rose 10 percent to $77,000. Both figures hit their highest points since 2007. The buyback rate closed at 29 percent.

The sale-topper was a $500,000 Tapit filly out of the Speightstown mare French Dip who was later named So Fancy. Bloodstock agent Stephen Young purchased the filly for owner Robert LaPenta, and she has placed in one of two starts on the New York circuit. Gainesway bred the filly in Kentucky and consigned her as agent.