07/20/2009 11:00PM

Fasig-Tipton sale numbers down

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - As sales figures continued to slump versus last year's numbers, Medaglia d'Oro proved golden Tuesday at Fasig-Tipton's July select yearling sale here.

Medaglia d'Oro, relocated earlier this summer from Stonewall Stallions to Darley, sired the sale-topping $425,000 filly out of Argentine Grade 2 winner Ting a Folie. Darley owner Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum bought the sale topper from David and Anne Hanley's Whitechurch Farm (Warrendale Sales, agent). He also bought Hip No. 428, a $230,000 Stormy Atlantic-Luluwa filly from Bedouin Bloodstock agency, and Hip No. 491, a $150,000 Proud Citizen-Rimini Road filly from Airdrie, agent. Maktoum also bought Monday's session topper, a $400,000 Birdstone-Slew Smarts colt sold by Dapple Stud, agent.

The sale-topping filly, Hip No. 250, is a half-sister to stakes-placed Bastakiya, who raced for Maktoum's wife, Princess Haya of Jordan.

Tuesday's final session fared better than Monday's opening day, when gross and median both fell 33 percent and average price declined by 24 percent. On Tuesday, 132 yearlings brought $11,499,500, down 23 percent from last year when 163 horses sold. Tuesday's average of $87,117 was 4 percent lower than last year, and the $63,500 median was down 15 percent. Buy-backs increased slightly, from 33 percent last year to 36 percent.

Cumulatively, the two-day auction sold 268 horses for $20,828,000, down 26 percent from last year's gross for 305 horses. The two-day average of $77,716 was down 15 percent, and the $55,000 median was off by 27 percent. Buy-backs were 37 percent, down from 39 percent in 2008.

"The market isn't terrible, because horses are trading," pointed out Terry Arnold, general manager for William Shively's Dixiana Farm, a first-time consignor. "It's a good market for buyers who want to race, and it's a good market for people who want the option to sell these horses as 2-year-olds, because I think they're getting pretty good value."

In addition to the sale topper, Medaglia d'Oro also sired a $250,000 son of Honeycomb Gus that Gainesway, agent, sold to Team Valor; a $370,000 filly out of Peridot that Bert Wellker (Warrendale, agent) sold to Twin Creeks Racing; a $135,000 son of Romantic Romance that Taylor Made, agent, sold to Tim Kegel, agent; and a $125,000 daughter of Courtly Kathy that Taylor Made, agent, sold to Fox Hill Farm, among others.

Other sires with yearlings selling for $200,000 or more included Speightstown, Harlan's Holiday, Tapit, Stormy Atlantic, Malibu Moon, and Unbridled's Song. Pinhookers were in action, too. B.C.3. Thoroughbreds paid $335,000 for Hunter Valley agency's Speightstown-Motel Lass colt, and Murray Smith's Divine Assetts Inc. bought five yearlings Tuesday for a total of $470,000. Those two were among the day's biggest spenders.

Kitty Taylor, owner of Warrendale Sales, said that the sale topper's price was "about what we had hoped," with the emphasis on "hope" rather than expectation.

"It's going a little bit better than everyone expected, because it's not down 40 percent," Taylor said of the market. "And a really good horse is still going to sell well. But the rest of them are going to struggle, or you better be prepared to put them in training."

Many consignors had predicted the sale would be down between 25 percent and 30 percent, believing the market would be down but better than the severe downturns seen at 2008's Keeneland November sale, where gross receipts plunged 46 percent, the average fell 39 percent, and the median dropped 43 percent.

Last year's select yearling sales suffered milder declines but were down roughly 10 to 12 percent, while this year's select juvenile sales saw losses in the 30 percent range.

"The sale figures really reset in November with the breeding stock and the babies," said Dapple Stud's Mike Akers, "and the yearlings have to readjust now as well. I think we'll be okay, you've just got to suffer through the resetting of the market. We have some overproduction and a lot of product on the market, so it's an accumulation of things. It's not a lot of fun, but there are spots where you can get a little lucky."

The downturns in the fall and winter all-ages markets presented opportunities that paid off for some sellers at Fasig-Tipton. Both the Monday and Tuesday session toppers were pinhooks, yearlings who had been bought at the Keeneland January sale for resale here. Dapple Stud paid $37,000 for the Birdstone colt it sold Monday for $400,000 (then reinvested some of those returns Tuesday buying a $225,000 Unbridled's Song-King Shooting Star colt from Eaton Sales, agent). Whitechurch Farm picked up its Medaglia d'Oro filly for $85,000 before collecting $425,000 for her Tuesday.

Tuesday's session featured a larger number of horses by established sires, a factor that Fasig-Tipton officials believed buffered it from the bigger losses seen Monday at the "new sire showcase," which promotes first- and second-crop sires. Buyers' renewed interest in proven sires reversed a near-craze for first-crop stallions in the earlier part of the decade. Consignors and sales officials attributed that to buyers hedging bets in an uncertain economy, when winners can contribute to a racing stable's bottom line and horses who don't perform well will be harder to sell later.

"I think it's a safe haven," Warrendale's Taylor said. "People want to go to the familiar, they want to go to something they know has proven it on the racetrack.

"You can still sell a really good physical horse by a first-year sire, but it's got to be a really good physical," she added, referring to yearlings whose conformation rates highly. "A second-year sire that has 2-year-olds and they haven't really started performing yet, they are really brutal to those horses."